Planning on visiting Vienna for the first time? Here are all my best tips in this beginner’s guide!
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is truly the definition of a cultural hub. It takes just minutes of walking around the city to realize this. From its remarkable historic buildings and countless museums to the rich café culture and devotion to classical music, the city oozes an unparalleled sense of sophistication. If it’s your first time in Vienna, here is a beginners guide with everything you need to know to enjoy this stunning place, including things to do, where to stay and foods you simply must try (including lots of cake)!
Getting Around Vienna
The center of Vienna is very easy to walk around. In fact, there is one main ring road that encapsulates the city center, making it hard to get lost!
There is a lot to see on different sides of the city, so the easiest way to get around is via the U-Bahn. You can buy tickets at any U-Bahn station, or if you want to be more economical, pre-purchase a Vienna Card online to get unlimited public transport use for 24, 48, or 72 hours.
Places to See in Vienna
Home to spectacular imperial architecture, masterpiece-filled museums, peaceful gardens and grand palaces, running out of places to see Vienna is simply not a possibility. Wander around the city at your own pace. Here are a few of my favorite spots around Vienna that I would recommend checking out:
State Hall in the National Library
Easily the most stunning library I’ve ever stepped foot in, Vienna’s National Library is one of the most classical and libraries around the world.
Schönbrunn Palace & Gardens
Home to the Habsburg emperors from the 18th century onwards, both the palace and gardens are a magnificent display of the baroque era. The gardens are free to wander around, but you do need to buy tickets if you want entrance to the palace. Skip the line by booking this ticket, which also includes a city tour
This charming little park was laid out in the center of the city in 1821 as part of Hofburg Palace and is the perfect spot for a picnic.
This colorful apartment house was built after the idea and concept of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It has the most amazing facade! It’s in the suburbs so is a little bit of a mission to get to, but it definitely worth checking out.
St Peter’s Church
St Stephens may be the most popular church in Vienna, but I personally found its smaller neighbor, St Peter’s, even more awe-inspiring.
Tours Around Vienna
If you’ want a more guided experience to Vienna, try one of these tours, which include most if not all of the above sights:
What to Eat/ Drink in Vienna
Possibly the most famous culinary delight of Vienna, Sacher Torte is a rich, dark chocolate cake filled with orange marmalade. It is something that must be tried when visiting the city. Although you’ll find it in cafes all over the city, Hotel Sacher claims to be the original birthplace of the dessert. Of course, this means it is the busiest and most expensive place to try it. However, it is an experience to ‘tick off the bucket list’.
There is no shortage of outstanding, locally-produced wines in Vienna so definitely take the opportunity to try a few of them out!
Austria is the birthplace of schnitzel, so make sure you try this traditional meal whilst you are here! Figlmüller is one of the most popular places to try a giant schnitzel (they even have a cheese-filled vegetarian option), but the place gets very busy so make sure you book in advance.
Another traditional sweet treat you must get your hands on when in Vienna is the ‘Apfelstrudel’. The flaky pastry and sweet apple filling are the perfect accompaniment to a hot drink from one of Vienna’s many coffee houses.
Things to Do in Vienna
Vienna is famous for its coffee culture, so don’t leave the city without checking out a few of the city’s finest establishments. Café Central, Café Imperial Wien and Café Mozart are among the most famous. For the real coffee and dessert lovers, you can even take a tour to gain a deeper insight into Vienna’s sweet side.
Check out the Naschmarkt
Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most famous market, offering a delightful selection of traditional Viennese and international specialties. It is a great spot to grab a bite to eat for lunch or pick up some fresh produce. Every Saturday, the space becomes a hub of activity as it turns into a flea market. Book a gourmet tour of Naschmarkt here
Experience a night of classical music
After exploring the sights and tastes of Vienna, it’s time to dive in to a cultural experience through sound. For lovers of classical music, the concerts at the Kursalon make for an unforgettable night. The performance showcases the rich heritage of Vienna through the flawless playing of Strauss and Mozart compositions.
If I am to be honest, I wasn’t sure how thrilling an evening of classic music would be. However, I had my expectations thoroughly exceeded. We started the night with a four-course meal at the adjacent restaurant. Then we proceeded to a gorgeous ballroom, where massive chandeliers served as the backdrop for the show. The next two hours consisted of delightful array of symphony, vocal, and ballet performances, with a quick break for sparkling wine in the interval. It really was the highlight of my time in Vienna!
Where to Stay in Vienna
Budget $- Wombats City Hotel “The Naschmarkt”
Located in a fantastic spot overlooking Vienna’s largest market, the Wombats City Hostel offers the best value-for-money accommodation in the city. The hostel itself is super modern and clean. It offers excellent facilities, including a cool communal room, luggage storage facilities, free wifi and an affordable breakfast. Check here for rates and availability.
Mid-range $$- Ruby Marie Hotel Vienna
This quirky boutique accommodation certainly pushes the boundaries of a conventional hotel experience. The hotel offers chic, modern rooms, an expansive breakfast buffet and facilities such as a yoga room, a movie theater and shared work space room with books and complimentary tea. If you want an affordable, non-generic hotel experience, this is the place for you! Check here for rates and availability.
Luxury $$$- Park Hyatt Hotel Vienna
During my visit in Vienna, I stayed at the Park Hyatt Hotel. Located very centrally within the famous museum quarter of the city, it was an ideal base to explore this beautiful city. The hotel itself was a lovely balance of grandeur and cosmopolitan flair. Marble lined the floors and chandeliers hung from the roof. Yet the walls popped with eclectic artwork, making the space feel elegant yet unpretentious.
The Park Hyatt offers 143 rooms and 35 suites plus a day spa, pool, and fitness center on site. I stayed in a twin room, which was beautifully decorated and spacious. It also offered a delightful little window terrace. Here you could easily sit and watch horse and carriages trotting through the streets below. Alongside the lovely room and central location, the staff were exceptionally helpful and would always be on call should we need something.
For example, on my last morning, I accidentally slept through my alarm. I was so excited to indulge in the lavish breakfast buffet one more time, but when I came downstairs, I found that everything had been cleared. After the initial heartbreak, one of the very kind staff offered to see if there was anything left. He ended up coming back armed with omelettes, pastries, a delicatessen platter, and coffee! It was the sweetest gesture and showed how much the staff go above and beyond! Check here for rates and availability.
Want to see more from this beautiful city? Take a peek at the video below for my top things to do in Vienna on my shiny new YouTube Channel!