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The Hofburg Palace
The Hofburg Palace

13 unmissable attractions in Vienna

These are the absolute best attractions in Vienna right now, from the Naschmarkt to Amalienbad to the Hofburg

Written by
Huw Oliver
,
Emma Hughes
&
Georgia Evans
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What an incredible city this is. Once referred to as the Capital of the World, Vienna is a place that resonates with the soul long before you arrive here, such is the power of its reputation and aura. You might feel familiar with much of the Austrian capital already, be it the glittering State Opera, the engaging museums, unbeatable coffee houses, and all the rest. Vienna is a place that everyone must visit at least once in their lifetime.

With a roster such as this, it can be difficult to identify exactly what the best attractions in Vienna are. Vibrant and cosmopolitan, there’s so much more to this charming capital than the picture-postcard sights and bucket-list things to do. The restaurant scene is as good as any other, for a start, and a night out in Vienna is a night you won’t forget in a hurry.

It bears repeating; what an incredible city this is.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Vienna

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Best attractions in Vienna

What is it? The symbol of the city, no less. St. Stephen’s Cathedral has been the fixed point around which Vienna turns since its building in the 12th century. Climb up the 343 steps all the way to the top and you'll be rewarded with some pretty unforgettable views.

Why go? The cathedral’s baroque interior is full of treasures, from bejewelled relics to holy books, as well as the tombs of Viennese luminaries like Emperor Friedrich III and Prince Eugene of Savoy. Make sure you don’t miss the catacombs.

What is it? This thoughtfully curated museum charts the life of the father of psychoanalysis, whose work would change the course of history and reshape psychology practices for years to come. All before being forced to flee England by the Nazis in 1938.

Why go? As well as giving fascinating insights into how Freud developed his theories, the museum is a moving window onto Jewish life in Vienna in the 20th century. The displays are accessible and immersive, and the gift shop is a corker, too – how about some Freudian slippers?

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The Hofburg Palace

What is it? Found right in the centre of Vienna, this former palace was once home to the Hasburgs (who ran a mighty empire over a century ago) until 1918 – and remains one of the grandest buildings of its kind. Reminiscent of a giant, iced cake, this is somewhere you could easily lose yourself for a few days.

Why go? If you’ve only got time to visit one attraction in Vienna, make it this. The palace complex houses paintings by the likes of Klimt and Dürer, the Spanish Riding School (home to the dancing Lipizzaner horses), a butterfly house and the Austrian Film Museum. Whew!

Central Cemetery

What is it? A short tram ride from the city centre, the Zentralfriedhof, or Central Cemetery, feels more like a beautifully maintained park than a graveyard. It’s the final resting place of a huge number of Viennese luminaries and well worth visiting for a respectful stroll.

Why go? You can pay your respects to the likes of Strauss, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert (maps and audio guides are available to help you find your way around). It’s worth visiting the Jewish section, too – vandalised by Nazi sympathisers after Austria was annexed, it’s been kept as it was left as a reminder of the horrors of fascism.

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What is it? An unbelievably gorgeous indoor pool in the 10th district. Built in the 1920s, the Amalienbad WAS architecturally inspired by Roman baths, while the interior blends Art Deco and Art Nouveau design to stunning effect (the tiling in the women’s sauna is particularly eye-catching). This ain't your run-of-the-mill leisure centre.

Why go? For a handful of euros, you can treat yourself to a leisurely swim, followed by a full spa experience. Keep an eye on the calendar for the late-night pool parties, which feature top-flight DJs and light installations.

What is it? Running in a long line between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse, Vienna’s iconic open-air market is a foodie paradise. From Austrian specialities like white wine, pickles and cheese to stuffed olives, spices and exotic fruits, it’s all here.

Why go? If you want to taste your way around the city’s diverse culinary heritage, this is the place to do it. Spend a morning wandering up and down, stocking up on goodies to take home – and don’t be shy about accepting samples offered by traders. Pause for an antipasto or piping hot falafel.

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Demel
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Adam Fagen

7. Demel

What is it? One of Vienna’s original salons, Demel has been serving confectionery masterpieces since 1786. Plush ring cakes, cream slices, the richest hot chocolate and strudels galore – if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll have to be dragged out of here.

Why go? It’s worth sticking around for a table for the full experience, but if you’re in a rush order a takeaway slice of Sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake made nearby in the Hotel Sacher and the subject of a fierce feud between it and Demel. Browse the displays of beautifully wrapped chocolates, then head to the back of the shop to watch the master confectioners at work crafting marzipan fruits.

What is it? You can see Vienna’s giant Ferris wheel for miles around. A gorgeously gaudy fin-de-siècle landmark, it has been towering 200ft over the Prater park since 1897, when it was built to mark Emperor Franz Joseph’s 50 years on the throne.

Why go? If you’re minibreaking with someone special, watching the sunset over the rooftops and into the Danube from one of the cabins is about as romantic as it gets (you can even book one to yourselves).

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What is it? The most stylish one-stop design shop in the city. Housed in an art nouveau townhouse, Supersense calls itself the ‘home of analogue delicacies’: expect to find everything from a working letterpress to hand-cut vinyl, a scent lab and a recording studio.

Why go? It’s halfway between a museum and a design boutique – so you can learn about wet-plate ambrotypes while running off some postcards in the printing press, or test-driving a beautiful typewriter. There’s even a cafe selling fabulous coffee and pastries to check out afterwards.

What is it? The world’s first museum dedicated to Jewish culture, history and religious practices opened in Vienna in 1895. It was closed and looted by the Nazis, but reopened in its current form on Dorotheergasse after extensive renovation in 2011.

Why go? Vienna’s Jewish population was decimated by Nazi rule – some 130,000 fled the country and more than 65,000 were sent to concentration camps (of whom just 2,000 survived). Miraculously, the collections are full of objects that have been carefully handed down the generations, from family photographs to copies of underground resistance newspapers.

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What is it? Vienna's outskirts are home to a number of top vineyards, as proven by the fresh, fruity wines that come out of Austria. High above the Danube, Weingut Cobenzl boasts 60 60 hectares of lovingly tended vines, producing everything from Grüner Veltliner to Riesling, and even a couple of unusual reds.

Why go? A guided tour of the winery is a fantastic way to brush up your vinous knowledge. Watch the grapes being pressed, nose around the cellar and finish up with a tasting of six of Cobenzl’s finest vintages.

What is it? If Willy Wonka had been Viennese, this is where you’d have found him. Zuckerlwerkstatt – meaning ‘sugar workshop’ – produces exquisitely handcrafted sweets. If you’re travelling with kids they’ll go bananas, but adults will find it just as enchanting.

Why go? Yes, it's the perfect souvenir shop. But you can also watch the confectioners working their magic in the demonstraction kitchen. Watch the creation of jellies, lollipops and candy canes, all using pure Austrian sugar, natural flavouring and plant extracts for colour. Plus, you can call ahead to order personalised candies.

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Temporarily closed

What is it? Trundling trams are as much of a feature of Viennese life as snowboots and teatime torte. The yellow ones do a full 25-minute circuit of the Ringstrasse boulevard – hop aboard and you’ll be able to spot some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

Why go? It’s the easiest (and most wallet-friendly) way to see the sights and get your bearings. Board at the Schwedenplatz, pop on one of the special headsets and enjoy an audio tour of the route, which takes in the Vienna State Opera, the museums, the Imperial Palace, the Burgtheater and the University of Vienna.

Need more sightseeing inspiration?

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