If you are planning a trip to Vienna then I can assure you it’s worth a visit. Even in freezing cold winter! From the Viennese coffee and cake to the dreamy architecture and horse drawn carriages, it is such a pretty little city. Whether you are visiting for one, two or three days, I recommend fitting in as much as you can from my list of absolutely delightful things to do in Vienna below:
1. Start the day with Breakfast at Naschmarkt
Dating back to the 16th century the Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most iconic food markets. Stroll the stalls and try local Austrian cheese and wine, as well as a vast array of exotic ethnic foods. Then find breakfast at one of the many café’s along the way. The perfect way to start your day. A little tip – Saturday is the best day to visit as there is a flea market on as well.
2. Take a ride in a Horse-Drawn Carriage
I’m one of those people who enjoys just watching when it comes to some attractions. And this was one of them for me. While I wouldn’t say no to a horse-drawn carriage (or fiaker as they are locally known) ride through Vienna, sometimes you can’t do everything.
Whether or not this one is in your travel budget, you will enjoy it anyway. As you wander the cobblestoned streets or wait in line for your coffee and cake, you’ll enjoy the clip-clop sounds and pretty horses passing by all day long.
If this is a must-do for you then head here for more information.
3. Bask in the Gardens at Belvedere Palace
If you’re a sucker for pretty buildings and gardens then you must visit Belvedere Palace. The Palace dates back to the 18th century and is set among a cascading park landscape. The gardens are beautifully tiered and made up of water fountains, Baroque sculptures and perfectly trimmed hedges.
4. Wander the streets of Spittelberg
The neighbourhood of Spittelberg is the perfect place to lose your sense of direction and follow your heart through pretty little streets, lined with pastel hued buildings. Just a short walk from the city centre, you wouldn’t know it. The peaceful streets are full of cute shops and cafes. This was definitely one of my favourite things to do in Vienna. Keep in mind that most shops are shut on Sunday so try to plan this trip for another day!
5. Indulge in Viennese Coffee and Cake
It is believed that the cafes in Austria are among some of the oldest in the world. So much so that in 2011, the traditional Viennese coffee house culture became a part of the cultural heritage of UNESCO. That said, you can imagine they have their coffee making down to a delicious, creamy, close-your-eyes-in-bliss-when-you-take-a-sip, art.
You may find that the coffee menu is a little overwhelming with a long list of options. So, if you want some guidance on where to start, the Melange is the most classic variation. Similar to a cappuccino, but is made with whipped cream instead of frothed milk. But it really doesn’t matter what you pick, I can guarantee it will be drool-worthy.
Of course, no Viennese coffee would be complete without a slice of Viennese cake. Usually not on the menu, you make your selection from the cake cabinet. And oh boy, what a selection you will have. I had to take photos on my phone and go back to my seat to think about it. They all looked so good.
Happy to give you a little guidance on this one too… if you want to try a classic ask for the Sachertorte. The Sachertorte is so famous there is even a national day for it in Austria. It’s a dense chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam on top, coated in dark chocolate icing and served with whipped cream.
Two of the most iconic and beautiful coffee houses (and yes, I can personally recommend both of them) are Café Central and Demel. Don’t be put off if you see a long line winding down the street, they move very quickly. Oh and if you’ve had your fill of coffee and cake these cafes both do a delightful breakfast and lunch!
6. Shop your little heart out along Karntner Strasse
Dating back to 1257, and set amongst the stunning historical architecture of Vienna, Kartner Strasse is the city’s most famous shopping street. A pedestrian only zone, Kartner Strasse is perfect for a leisurely stroll while you soak up the romantic atmosphere and do a little bit of shopping.
7. Stand in Awe at St. Stephens Cathedral
A trip to Vienna just wouldn’t be complete without visiting St Stephen’s cathedral. The construction of St. Stephens began in the 12th century and it is now one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria. As well as gorgeously intricate medieval details the cathedral is iconic for it’s ornately tiled roof (my favourite part). Spend some time taking it all in, the exterior and interior are both worth a peek.
8. Watch A Sunset from Atop The ferris wheel at Prater
If you are a fan of nostalgia and theme parks then you’ll want to head to Prater. Dating back to 1162 Prater is the world’s oldest amusement park. Among other attractions including a nostalgic merry-go-round, ghost train, wax museum and planetarium, Prater is also home to the iconic Wiener Riesenrad (ferris wheel). Wiener Riesenrad started lifting people into the sky in 1897 and today it still offers expansive views over the city.
Once you’ve had your fill of ice-cream and fairy-floss you can spend some down time in Green Prater, the park next door. Covering six million square metres Green Prater is all meadows, woods, shady trees and quiet paths. Prater season runs from March to October, however the ferris wheel and a few other attractions are open all year round. A little tip though, in the off season it is very cold and quite empty so it doesn’t have that amusement park atmosphere you may be hoping for.
9. Join in the Fun at Rathausplatz
The Rathausplatz (city hall square) is often host to events and open-air festivals, so depending on when you are visiting you may be lucky enough to join in the fun. Here are some of the main events held every year:
- January-March / Vienna Ice Dream: Rathausplatz tranforms into a giant 8000m2 ice-skating rink. It’s no ordinary rink either, made up of two open areas connected by skating paths that wind romantically among the park and trees.
- July-August / Music Film Festival: Europe’s largest free culture and food festival hosts 60 productions covering everything from opera, operetta and classical concerts to ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, rock and pop. As well as all the music, delicacies from 26 stands take concertgoers on a culinary journey.
- November-December / Christmas Markets: The biggest Christmas Markets in Vienna full of stands overflowing with roast chestnuts, pastries, pretzels, hams, sausages, cups of warm mulled wine, hot chocolates topped with cream, artisan Christmas decorations and handicrafts.
We were lucky enough to visit when the Christmas Markets overlapped with the ice-skating rink in late December. It was magical!
Have you been to Vienna and if so what did you find delightful? Or if you’re planning a visit what’s on your Vienna bucket list?