I love planning and I love making maps. So one of the things I always do before every trip is to read up as much as I can and list out a handful of things I want to see or do while touring the city. Then I go into Google Maps and create my very own personalized walking tour. Vienna is such a beautiful city, rich with history, and filled with culture and grand architecture. I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 places to visit while in Vienna. Most of the places are within the Ringstrasse, the main tourist area of Vienna. The whole city of Vienna is quite big, but the core area is definitely walkable. It took us two and a half days to visit all these sites. Our hotel was right across from the opera house, so we started from there and followed the path to see the notable sights. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what to do when you’re planning your own trip.
A. Wiener Staatsoper – This beautiful opera house located in the heart of Vienna is world-renowned for it’s large repertoire of performances and intricate interior designs. Whether you are there for a show or a tour, it’s definitely a must-see. I’ve written extensively on the different ways you can go and see the opera house.
B. Museum Quartier – Opened in 2001, this cultural complex is located in the middle of Vienna. Considered to be one of the world’s largest spaces for modern art, it is an oasis for creativity and culture. The MQ is home to large museums like the Leopold and the MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art), it also hosts galleries, contemporary art exhibitions and a multitude of other events. Even if you don’t want to go into the museum, you can wander around the complex and check out the public art installations.
Cost: Varies (Leopold Museum – € 12, MUMOK – € 10)
C. Street Art Passage – At the MQ, art and culture is everywhere you look, even the passageways feature art installations from contemporary artists. Each vaulted walkway features art that is dedicated to different forms of expression. Tucked away above the MUMOK, leading to street, is a passage featuring a mosaic of space invaders by an anonymous French artist.
D. Rathausplatz – The Wiener Rathaus (City Hall) is a building in Vienna which serves as the seat of both the mayor and city council of Vienna. This building that houses the center of Viennese government is beautiful with many high arched ceilings and stained glass windows. Tours of City Hall take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1 pm. Since we were not there at the designated time, we were not able to tour the inside of the building, but we really enjoyed walking around outside. The building is surrounded by extensive grounds that also serve as a public park. During the festive season, the Christmas market is also set up here, attracting many locals and tourists.
Cost: Free tour
E. Heldenplatz – Also known as Heroes’ Square is the public space located in front of Hofburg Palace, through the Burgtor gate. In the plaza, you’ll see two statues of the archdukes of Austria on horseback. It was erected to glorify the Habsburg dynasty as great military leaders. Today, it functions as a park where people can rest and enjoy the scenery after walking around the Palace. Like any popular tourist spot, you’ll find street performers congregating here, attracting a crowd of admirers. While we were there, a guy was showing everyone how to create giant bubbles.
F. Hofburg Palace – This former imperial palace is located in the center of the old city of Vienna. Today, the Imperial Palace houses the office of the President of Austria as well as many museums and galleries showcasing the numerous collections representing the imperial family’s passion for art. You can take a tour and admire the splendor and opulence of the Habsburg monarchy in their heyday.
Cost: € 15,50 for guided tour through Sisi Museum and Imperial apartments
F. St. Stephen’s Cathedral – St. Stephen’s Cathedral, commonly known in German as Stephendom has been at the heart of the city of Vienna for many centuries. Built in 1147 AD, it has stood the test of time and still remains the number one attraction in Vienna. It is a Roman Catholic church and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. It is one of the city’s more recognizable symbols with its multi-colored tile roof and tall gothic towers. Stephendom has witnessed many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history. Since it is still a functioning church, services are held seven days a week. You can visit the cathedral and listen in on the service, or you can climb up the towers to take in the view of Vienna from above, or you can venture down to the catacombs below.
G. Mozart House – Located on a quaint little street just a few minutes walk from St. Stephen’s Cathedral is Mozart’s house. This elegant apartment in the middle of Vienna’s Old Town is where Mozart and his family lived during the peak of his career. It was here that he composed the world-famous opera “The Marriage of Figaro” and many of the Haydn Quartets. As you wander from room to room, you can immerse yourself in the audio tour that talks about the different parts of the famous composer’s life. Aside from information about Mozart’s music and his life, the museum also talks about other classical musicians that Mozart came into contact with. I learned that Mozart was a compulsive gambler, something I didn’t know about the great man. It’s humbling to remember that everyone has flaws, even one of the greatest classical composers of all time.
Cost: € 10
H. Hundertwasserhaus – If you have time and want to wander outside of the Ringstrasse area, about a 20 minute walk from the center if Vienna, you’ll find these colorful residential buildings designed by Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Similar to Gaudi, Hudertwasser found inspiration from nature, evident in his design that is reminiscent of Casa Batlló in Barcelona. These apartments stood out amongst the normal residential buildings with it’s quirkiness and bright colors. Walking around the building, my eyes dart around trying to pick up on all the peculiar little details such as the hilly sidewalks, the medley of colorful tiles and odd little statues. Since it is currently occupied, we are only able to see the outside.
I. Schonbrunn Palace – A short drive away from the central Ringstrasse area is the Schonbrunn Palace. Similar to the French Versailles, this magnificent castle and it’s extensive grounds were built as a summer residence for the House of Habsburg. Today, you can tour both the grounds and the house, taking you back to an opulent time. Due to time constraints, we decided to save Schonbrunn for another trip back to Vienna and have more than a few hours to spend exploring.
Cost: Grand tour of palace € 14,50, or € 22,50 combined ticket to see both palace and park.
Note: Most of the costs quoted here are for full priced adults. If you are a student, make sure you bring your student card along for discounted price.