How do you fill three perfect days in Vienna, Austria? Use our guide to find the essential things to see and do on your short stay in this enchanting city.
Vienna is a city that seems to exist in something of a time warp. A city where centuries-old palaces flaunt their intricate design, opera houses bring legendary composers to life, and museums dazzle with cultural feasts and stories dating back through the centuries. No matter how many days in Vienna you’ve got to play with, it will barely seem like enough with the treasure trove of delights that awaits around every corner. Make sure you whittle the Austrian capital down to its very best sites with our itinerary for three perfect days in Vienna, and enjoy the city’s most compelling delights, even if you only have a long weekend to spare.
Day 1: Coffee, Culture, and Jazz
Begin your day of discovery at the iconic Café Prückel. With its 1950s decor and impeccable tuxedo-clad staff, it’s not only one of the best Vienna coffee houses around, it’s also a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site. Order the original Prückel crème, and you’ll be searching for the recipe to this treat the moment you leave.
Make the most of your caffeine boost with an energetic stroll through Stadtpark, the capital’s green heart. You’ll find statues and monuments in tribute to the world’s best classical musicians, such as Johann Strauss and Franz Schubert. Dotted with whimsical willow trees and segmented by the crystalline River Wien, this utopian glade is loved by locals and tourists alike.
Walk down to the Museum Quarter, and marvel at the architecture of Palais Lützow, Opernbrunnen and Vienna State Opera House as you go. On arrival, you’ll be met by the huge public square, Maria-Theresien-Platz. Next, find and enter the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien – the biggest museum in Austria. Housing some of the most astonishing paintings and exhibits in the world, it’s a sightseer’s dream.
Grab some lunch at Corbaci. This café-restaurant offers a diverse menu and gorgeous lunchtime views to boot – you just have to look up. Put together by French designers, the eatery’s tiled ceiling is lovingly crafted in a range of intricately painted blue and yellow flowers.
Take the 15-minute stroll down to Karlskirche, a baroque church with limitless angles to admire. From the cerulean dome crowning its head to the decorative frescoes of St Cecelia within, you’ll soon fall for its charms.
Whether you’ve got two days in Vienna or 20, be sure to spend a generous chunk of your afternoon wandering the gilded hallways and lush gardens of the former imperial palace, Hofburg Palace. With 18 buildings, 19 courtyards and whopping 2,600 rooms to its name, this mammoth monument is almost like another city in itself.
Dip into the State Hall of the Austrian National Library and you’ll feel as though you’ve fallen into the past itself. Everywhere you turn you’ll see something to amaze you – regal frescoes, massive marble columns, and carved wooden galleries containing more than 200,000 precious leather-bound books dating back hundreds of years.
Get ready for a sunset you’ll never forget when you head up the 343 steps of St Stephen’s Cathedral’s South Tower for a cityscape view 246 feet above street level. It’s the best in Vienna and the most spellbinding way to see the old town district.
After a day of jam-packed sightseeing, you’ve more than earned some downtime. Sink your teeth into a succulent schnitzel or apfelstrudel at Reinthaler’s Beisl, a typical Viennese bistro with a delightfully cozy atmosphere.
Discover Musical Vienna through its magnificent orchestras, classical music, and – perhaps lesser acknowledged – jazz, which will take your breath away. Take the seven-minute stroll down to Porgy and Bess to jive, hop and groove the night away. Check out the venue’s program and book your tickets in advance if you can – this popular location fills up fast.
Day 2: Royalty, Music, and Ferris Wheel Cocktails
Start the day wandering around the 120 stands of Naschmarkt – Vienna’s sprawling international market. Pick up local produce, pop into breakfast cafés or simply soak in the fragrances of globally inspired cooking that perfumes the streets like potpourri. On Saturdays you can also enjoy the local flea market.
Pretend you’re an Austrian royal with a visit to Belvedere, which comprises two palaces, an orangery and the Belvedere Palace Museum. It’s a treasure trove of visual treats, where you can feast your eyes on the two-level marble hall, lounge in the lush green gardens, and get lost in thought in front of the museum’s incredible collection of paintings. Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, The Kiss, needs to be seen in person, no matter how many days in Vienna you have.
Ride the tram to Kärntnerstrasse and enjoy some of the Austrian capital’s best shopping. When you’re ready to rest your legs, grab some typical Viennese chocolates and savor them in front of the exquisite Donnerbrunner fountain, which depicts Providentia (the symbol of good government).
Enjoy a late lunch at Cafe Central, where famous philosophers, writers, poets and even revolutionaries have dined since 1876. With its moreish cakes and gourmet dishes, it’s one of the best places to eat in Vienna – at least, according to Trotsky and Freud, among others.
Explore fascinating installations and interactive exhibits at the House of Music. Spanning five floors, get up-close to the batons of famous conductors, walk up a staircase that’s also a piano, and even channel your inner Mozart with the help of cutting-edge, face-tracking technology.
Motto Am Fluss – a luxurious boat-turned-restaurant – redefines the term dinner with a view. Step into its lounge-like cabin and enjoy plate after plate of alluring Austrian flavors as you watch the city lights reflect off the water – the ideal way to start your evening in style.
Ready to dine on a giant Ferris wheel? Yes, you read that right. Head over to Vienna’s Wiener Riesenrad to enjoy a restaurant experience in one of its incomparably romantic cabins. Buy your tickets in advance to reserve a space.
Day 3: Freshly Baked Strudel, Stellar Shopping, and Iconic Opera
With your days in Vienna coming to an end, it’s time to complete the list of sightseeing must-sees. Visit the unparalleled Schloss Schönbrunn – a beautiful, 17th-century palace – and admire its wealth of Rococo-style rooms, where a six-year-old Mozart once composed music, and where Napoleon led conferences. Its hunting grounds and baroque garden are gorgeous, too, providing plenty of space to sit and wake up with the early sun.
Fill your belly with the brunch of kings with a freshly baked Viennese apple strudel at Schönbrunn Palace’s Café Residenz. Once an hour, a master baker demonstrates – in German or English – how to create the dish, which they’ll then serve you along with a coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Ensure you have a spot by reserving online.
Time for some retail therapy. Take the U-Bahn from Schönbrunn station to Westbahnhof and crisscross the famous Mariahilfer Strasse. The capital’s longest shopping street, it’s crammed with brands, small boutiques and the best Vienna cafes as far as the eye can see. No trip is complete without it.
Travel back towards the Danube and grab a bite at Pickwick’s – an international bar, as well as book and film store. With its delicious burgers, comfy armchairs and extensive library, it’s the ideal place to refuel for the afternoon.
Laugh and be astonished by the Museum of Art Fakes. Filled with replicas of original masterpieces created by famous forgers, this tongue-in-cheek collection shows you there’s much more to faking than meets the eye.
Piled high with coffee spots, shops and even a sprawling rooftop forest, it’s hard to believe that Hundertwasser Village was once a car tire factory. Charming, eclectic and dripping with individuality, you’ll need to spare a couple of hours from your days in Vienna to explore its novel streets.
Dress up and enjoy a delicious dinner at Restaurant Anna Sacher, one of the best Vienna restaurants. Engulfed by its emerald walls and plush chairs, eating is exceptionally divine here.
For an evening you’ll never forget, take in a show at the Vienna State Opera House. Among the most prestigious opera houses in the world, the venue inspires as much awe as each world-class performance. Make sure to look up its program online and reserve your tickets in advance.
Wrap things up with live music at Albertina Passage. Once an underpass, this edgy local is perfect for dancing, talking and relaxing before heading home after a perfect three days in Vienna.
Do you have any can’t-miss stops in Vienna, not matter how short your stay? Head over to our Facebook page and share them with us.