The Ultimate Vienna Travel Guide for 2024

In the last decade, Vienna evolved into a vibrant cultural hub and a world-class destination for adventurous travelers. Before you plan your next big trip to Austria, check out this Vienna travel guide for the city’s top recommendations, including the best time to visit Vienna.

Austria’s capital city is a melting pot of European cultures and is considered the bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. It’s where the old world meets the new, traditional meets modern, and where imperialistic roots clash with the city’s edgier, hipster side.

So, before you visit Vienna, consult this Vienna travel guide to ensure you don’t miss out on the best museums in Vienna, the city’s top attractions, and the best areas to stay in Vienna.

A brief history of Vienna 

A brief history of Vienna. Statue of Archduke Charles on Heldenplatz square and Museum of Natural History dome at sunset, Vienna, Austria.
Statue of Archduke Charles on Heldenplatz square and Museum of Natural History dome at sunset, Vienna, Austria. Photo by Mistervlad on Shutterstock

Vienna has centuries of intriguing history within its walls, including from the Roman Empire. The military encampment, Vindobona, was once stationed in modern-day central Vienna. As the Roman Empire declined, power exchanged hands many times before the Habsburg dynasty took control from the 13th to the early 20th century, making it one of the greatest dynasties in the history of Europe.

When Empress Maria Theresa came to power in the 18th century, she and her son Joseph implemented widespread civil reform to expand religious freedoms, improve education, and invest in the arts. Vienna began to attract artisans, architects, and musicians, in addition to wealthy proprietaries. It became known as the ‘City of Music’ as many famous musicians lived in the city at one point, including Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, and Schubert.

However, World War I halted the city’s growth and divided the dynasty’s territories. Then, Vienna endured widespread destruction during the bombings of World War II until it was freed by Soviet troops in 1945.

Thankfully, Vienna has been on an upward trajectory since the 1970s, investing in modernizing its public transport and city skyline. Now, Vienna is home to two million people and is considered one of the most livable cities in the world.

It has a protected natural landscape, the forested Vienna Woods Biosphere Reserve, and many green spaces that make the city feel open and airy. There’s excellent public transport, low crime, and numerous leisure and cultural activities, among many other reasons to stay and visit Vienna!

The six best attractions to visit in Vienna 

1. See Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace is one of the most stunning museums in Vienna. Baroque architecture is alive and well at Belvedere, which was built in the early 1700s as a summer residence for the monarchy. There’s plenty to admire at Belvedere Palace, and visitors will see classic works like Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, Jacque Louis David’s Napoleon, and works by Van Gogh.

Belvedere Palace comprises of two buildings  – the Upper Belvedere and the Lower Belvedere, with gorgeous gardens separating the two. These tickets grant you access to the Upper Belvedere, which includes other incredible art by Renoir and Monet.

The Lower Belvedere is for contemporary art lovers. It is free to walk the grounds of the Belvedere, but any fans of art and architecture should add Belvedere Palace to their Vienna travel guide.

2. Visit Schonbrunn Palace

Vienna, Austria: Schonbrunn Palace. The former imperial summer residence is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Vienna, Austria: Schonbrunn Palace. The former imperial summer residence is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo by SCStock on Shutterstock

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an incredibly ornate palace with 1,441 rooms filled with art, golden decor, and royal flourishes. Far from its humble beginnings as a hunting lodge, this palace was a summer residence for Prince Joseph. Grab a skip-the-line ticket to avoid the crowds and get quick access to the elaborate private apartments of Franz Joseph and Elizabeth.

In addition to the incredible Schonbrunn Palace, Tiergarten Schonbrunn, the world’s oldest zoo, is located on the palace grounds. When Empress Maria Theresa ruled, she made the Palace the center of court life and decided to add a menagerie to house rare animals. Today, the zoo features polar bears, giraffes, sea lions, and giant pandas and is a top Vienna attraction for a family’s Vienna travel guide. Learn about the best ways to get to Tiergarten Schonbrunn, including the best restaurants near the zoo.

3. Enjoy a live orchestra performance 

Vienna, Austria - "The Musikverein Vienna", the Building with the world-famous Concert-Hall "Goldener Saal".
Vienna, Austria – “The Musikverein Vienna”, the Building with the world-famous Concert-Hall “Goldener Saal”. Photo by Ruediger Ettl on Shutterstock

You can’t visit the City of Music without enjoying a concert performance at Vienna’s Musikverein. The building was constructed during the late 19th century following the removal of Vienna’s city walls. It has earned its place among other famous concert halls and is known for its New Year’s concert by the Vienna Philharmonics.

With these tickets, guests will enjoy a live orchestra performance in either the famous Golden Hall or the Brahms Hall. You’ll get to listen to all the best classical composers, including Mozart, Haydn, and Vivaldi’s most famous work, “The Four Seasons.” Walk through the beautiful space, enjoy the spectacular acoustics, and appreciate an evening of music that’s sure to be one of your favorite activities on your Vienna travel guide.

4. Visit Kunsthistorisches Museum

Sumptuous staircase with Art Nouveau paintings in the interior of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.
Sumptuous staircase with Art Nouveau paintings in the interior of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Timelynx on Shutterstock

One of the world’s top art museums, Kunsthistorisches, also known as the Museum of Art History, is a must on your Vienna travel guide. The museum is home to art and artifacts ranging from ancient Greece to the Renaissance era.

The building itself is a masterpiece, decorated with marble, gold-leaf flourishes, and a grand stairway adorned with frescoes and murals. It’s the largest museum in the country and one of the best art museums in Vienna.

These skip-the-line tickets allow you to wander the museum at your leisure, so you can enjoy artifacts from ancient Egypt and antique statues from Greece and Rome. Plus, it’s the home of the largest collection of one of the Dutch masters, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. If you enjoy art on your vacation, then put the Kunsthistorisches Museum at the top of your list of Vienna attractions!

5. Ride Wiener Riesenrad

View over the Prater with the Ferris Wheel and Skyline, Vienna, Austria.
View over the Prater with the Ferris Wheel and Skyline, Vienna, Austria. Photo by mRGB on Shutterstock

This iconic Vienna attraction is fun for families, couples, or solo travelers who love adventure! The Wiener Riesenrad, or simply Riesenrad, is a 212-foot-tall Ferris wheel that was first constructed in 1897. The Ferris wheel was originally constructed to honor Emperor Franz Joseph’s rise to the throne but was burned down in 1944. It was rebuilt a couple of years later, including a refurbishment in 2016, where 15 new and true-to-the-original cabins were installed.

You’ll have to add Reisenrad to your Vienna travel guide for a unique experience with incredible city views. It’s also part of the Wurstelprater amusement park, where you can spend the afternoon riding small coasters, playing arcade games, and riding spooky trains.

6. Eat Wienerschnitzel or sip on coffee at a Kaffeehaus

Vienna is known for its imperialistic past, concert halls, and Baroque architecture, but have you tried the city’s local delicacies? Austria is known for its Wienerschnitzel, a thin, pan-fried veal cutlet that goes great with fries.

No one is entirely sure of the meal’s origins, except that Franz Joseph I reportedly requested it once and popularized the dish. It’s difficult to say where travelers can find the best Wienerschnitzel in Vienna, but Figlmüller is an iconic, historic institution that demands a visit.

In addition to Weinerschnitzel, Vienna is known for its Kaffeehaus culture. Basically, linger at a cafe’s small marble tables, read a newspaper, and be left undisturbed for hours. Drinking Viennese coffee at your leisure is encouraged in the city, and you won’t ever be asked to give up your table.

Cafes are rampant throughout Vienna, but one of the most famous and beloved cafes is Cafe Central, with its ornate ceilings and lavish furniture. Reportedly, Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky frequented here. No visit to Vienna is complete without trying these Viennese favorites, so be sure to add these foodie recommendations to your Vienna travel guide.

Best time to visit Vienna 

The best time to visit Vienna may depend on your perfect weather and favorite Vienna attractions. The Christmas markets in Vienna are unmatched and one of the highlights of the city. Even though the weather can be quite chilly during December, many visitors flock to Vienna for Christmas shopping and season splendor.

Also, did you know Vienna has a ball season? Vienna’s party and ball season lasts from November until February when locals and tourists wear stunning ball gowns, practice the waltz, and enjoy the festivities. If you’ve always dreamed of dressing up as royalty, you’ll have to visit one of the 450 balls that take place during this time.

Summer is arguably the best time to visit Vienna if you prefer the warmer months. The sun is out, and the weather reaches the high 70s°F without being unbearably hot. However, many tourists plan their trips to Vienna during this time, so flights and hotels are pricier.

The shoulder seasons, spring and fall, are the happy medium for weather and travel prices. The weather will be mild, and you won’t be overwhelmed by the crowds at this time.

Best areas to stay in Vienna 

The Graben street - one of the most famous streets in Vienna first district, the city centre.
The Graben street – one of the most famous streets in Vienna first district, the city centre. Photo by Kiev.Victor on Shutterstock

Vienna is consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in the world. Thanks to its efficient public transportation system, you can get around the city in no time at all. However, with 23 districts, you can be picky about finding the best areas to stay in Vienna. Below are a few options that may work for you, depending on the type of trip and preferences of your travel group.

District 1 or Innere Stadt

This district is considered to be the historic city center. It’s home to all the major Vienna attractions and is the perfect place to stay if you have only 24 hours in the city. You’ll get to fully appreciate the imperial history that the city is known for, and it’s easily accessible to other areas in the city as well. You’ll have your pick of hotels and coffee houses; however, this district will be more expensive due to its popularity.

District 3 or Landstrasse

This district is ideal for families or those traveling to Vienna with kids. It is on the quieter side while still being close to the city center and all the top Vienna attractions. There are plenty of green parks and playgrounds within this district and colorfully decorated residential homes, perfect for kids. This district is still central in Vienna but without the tourist crowds (and tourist prices!). It doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene, so this area is better for travelers who are eager for some peace and quiet.

District 7 or Neuabu

This district is full of the edgier, more vibrant culture that Vienna has become known for. It is one of the best areas to stay in Vienna for younger travelers who prefer the nightlife scene. In contrast to the city’s historic attractions, there are luxurious coffee houses, street art, international restaurants, and nightclubs. It’s a vibrant neighborhood with art galleries, theaters, and thrift stores and is close to the MuseumsQuartier.

Hotels in Vienna

This post was written by Emma Levin

Looking for more inspiration to make the most of your 24 hours in Vienna? Don’t forget to plan ahead by booking tickets to the top attractions in Vienna

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