After 2 years of expatriation, we can say that we have completely fallen under the spell of Vienna. Whatever the time of the year, there is always something to do in the Austrian capital. We have therefore concocted a great program to visit Vienna in 3 days with all the must-sees, whatever the season! A small map at the end of the article summarizes everything you should not miss. Follow the guide, and let’s go for a long weekend in Vienna with us!
- Day 1 in Vienna
- Day 2 in Vienna
- Day 3 in Vienna
- Sightseeing ideas for a longer stay
- Must-see map to visit Vienna in 3 days
We lived in the city of Vienna from 2011 to 2013 and have returned several times since. This article has been completely revised and updated in October 2022. If you notice any price changes or have additional information that might be relevant, please feel free to leave us a comment!
Day 1 in Vienna
9 a.m.: Discovering the historical city center of Vienna
If you want to explore the city center of Vienna, you’d better get up early! Indeed, this part of Vienna is very visited all year long. There, numerous sites, each one more majestic than the other, are waiting for you and testify to the past power of Austria. The entire historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Simply stroll through the pedestrian streets and let yourself be impressed by these buildings full of history! Here is a short tour of the must-see places in the center of Vienna.
The Vienna Staatsoper
The Vienna State Opera House is one of the most famous opera houses in the world! Take advantage of this opportunity to go to the box office and try to get affordable tickets (less than 50 euros) to attend the rehearsals or a performance one evening during your stay. It would be a shame to come to Austria and not attend an opera in one of the most beautiful halls in the world! You can book them on their website too, before your visit, but there are often tickets at the official prices at the box office. On the other hand, don’t buy the tickets offered by the numerous resellers in the street, they are often much more expensive!
If you don’t have tickets, we really recommend the 40-minute guided tour for 13 euros per person. This tour will take you to the heart of the Vienna State Opera House, behind the stage, and even into the musicians’ pit. It’s a great way to discover this magical place!
A little tip if you go to the opera: don’t miss the sausage stand in front of the entrance! Now you’re probably wondering if I’ve fallen for it… Actually, it’s an old and established tradition: before the opera, you should eat a Wurst mit Kern, which is sausage and horseradish! Bon appétit 😉.
The Mozart House
It’s impossible to talk about Austria without the great Mozart! His Viennese apartment has been transformed into a museum that traces his journey as a musician, but also as a man.
Admission is 12 euros with an audio guide.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, more commonly known as Stephansdom, is one of Vienna’s landmarks. Built in the 1100s, this Gothic-style building is not common by its height and its style, which stands out from the baroque buildings. Inside, it is a true work of art! Don’t miss the chance to visit it, the entrance is free!
If climbing 343 steps doesn’t scare you, explore the south tower of Stephansdom (called Steffi by the Viennese) for a nice view over Vienna. You can also access the north tower by elevator for another view of the city and the colorful geometric roof. You will then see its famous bell (named Pummerin), one of the biggest in Europe that rings only on special occasions (New Year, Easter, Whitsun…).
Tickets to the towers and catacombs are around 6 euros and only available on-site (cash only).
The Hofburg Palace
This imperial residence is one of the largest palaces in the world! For more than 600 years, the Habsburgs stayed here and brought all their refinement to this huge building, today converted into different museums. It is just huge and grandiose and there is enough to spend a good half day there! Among all the possible visits to the Hofburg palace, we recommend you to visit
- the original apartments of Emperor Franz-Joseph and Empress Sisi;
- the sublime Austrian National Library, considered one of the most beautiful in the world;
- the Vienna Imperial Treasury, located in the oldest part of the palace;
- the magnificent setting of the Spanish Riding School. If you are not a big horse fan, prefer the guided tour or the show rather than the training of the Lipizzaners. Tip: arrive early to get good seats! Please note that in summer the horses also take a “vacation” and are moved to Heldenberg in the Wetzdorf center.
Built at the end of the 19th century, don’t miss the splendid city hall! The Rathaus is one of the symbols of Vienna with its neo-gothic style and its height (98 meters). The visit is free and can be done with an audio guide or a guide in person if you are German speaking (appointment on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 pm). Also, enjoy the square and the park which is well treed with fountains and statues here and there. In the winter there is a big Christmas market which gives way to a huge ice rink in front of the Rathaus illuminated in Christmas colors.
In Vienna, there are free guided walking tours, which are a great way to start your stay. Whether by day or by night, they are 100% free but based on tips. Did you like it? Tip the guide! The amount will depend on the quality of the guide but also on the size of the group. We usually leave between 5 and 10 euros per person. The guides are often very motivated and we have always found these tours to be very good (we must have done about 15 of them in different cities around the world).
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1 p.m.: Lunch in a Heuriger
Nothing like a meal in a Heuriger or a Beisl to get you back on track after a good walk. These taverns are at the heart of Viennese culture and serve traditional Austrian food (Wiener Schnitzel, Strudel, Knödel…) in a rustic setting. We strongly recommend the Esterházystüberl, it’s our favorite Heuriger in downtown Vienna!
You can also taste the wine produced in the surroundings of Vienna which is often mixed with mineral water, they call it a Spritzer. Don’t be offended! In fact, it’s often better that way, because the Heuriger wine is often a bit sour. No mistake, there is also excellent wine in Austria 😉.
From September to October, you can also taste Sturm (literally storm), a fermented grape juice with a high alcohol content but relatively sweet… Beware, it’s misleading!
3 p.m.: Encounter with art
Since you’ll already be in the heart of the city, you might as well take advantage of the afternoon to continue visiting. It would probably take weeks to cover all the cultural possibilities in Vienna!
Visit the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum or KHM), one of the largest museums in the world! It was built in 1891 by the emperor to house the collections of the imperial family. Today, works of art spanning several millennia are exhibited in an incredible setting. It is not for nothing that it is the most visited museum in Vienna with almost 1 million visitors! The entrance fee is 18 euros per person.
An alternative to the art tour is the Belvedere Palace. This former baroque castle, the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, has been completely transformed into a rich museum divided into 3 parts. The upper Belvedere honors all the Austrian painters who made history, such as Gustav Klimt, in a fascinating permanent exhibition. Count 15.90 euros if you buy your ticket online. The other portions of the site, the Lower Belvedere and Belvedere 21, are home to temporary exhibitions, both Baroque and contemporary. If you want to do the whole palace, count 24,90 euros.
Evening: A good restaurant in Vienna
Here again, there is no lack of choice. I strongly advise you to try the Tafelspitz (the Austrian stew) at the Plachutta or the Austrian gastronomy in its chic version in the magnificent setting of the Rathauskeller. A little less focused but also more affordable, Zum Alten Fassl (the best restaurant in Vienna for us) will delight your taste buds with a typical and well-presented cuisine. By the way, we have put together a gourmet map of all the best restaurants in Vienna!
Have you considered the Vienna City Card or the Vienna Pass? To summarize, these cards offer you the possibility to travel for free by public transport throughout the city or to have discounts and/or free access to several dozens of museums and other attractions. We detail everything here about these cards which are interesting depending on the type of weekend you want to do in Vienna!
Day 2 in Vienna
9 a.m.: Breakfast on the heights of Vienna
To start the day off right, take the U4 line to its terminus and then take the bus to the top of the Kahlenberg, the hill overlooking Vienna. From there, you will have a breathtaking view of the Austrian capital and can enjoy your breakfast while admiring the panorama from the nice terrace of the small Cafe Kahlenberg. If you feel like it, you can walk back down through the vineyards and forest to the somewhat posh village of Grinzing, famous for its vineyards. From there, you can easily take a streetcar or bus to your next destination.
Noon: Direction to the Hundertwasser museum
Walking down from Kahlenberg, follow in the footsteps of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a contemporary Austrian architect, emblematic of the city of Vienna. His major work is undoubtedly the city’s waste treatment plant at the Spittelau subway stop. He has managed to transform an often ugly building into a colorful work whose round blue and gold chimney is one of the symbols of the city.
Then, go to the Hunderwasserhaus, a multicolored ecological apartment complex where no line is straight! I don’t know about you, but its style reminds me of Gaudi’s! By the way, we highly recommend you to visit the café on the first floor. The decoration is in total adequacy with the spirit of the place and it’s a nice place to take a little break from your visits!
Not far from this strange building, you can visit the Hundertwasser museum (KunstHausWien), which retraces the life of this curious character by exhibiting his main works and models. It is a very colorful museum that I particularly liked. The entrance fee is 11 euros. There too, the coffee is very colorful!
After this discovery, walk along the Danube canal towards Schwedenplatz and stop on one of the many terraces for a little drink.
Vienna is definitely an artistic city and the countless walls covered with frescoes will not confirm the contrary. There are plenty of spots in the city, but the most popular ones are along the Danube canal. If you come in the summer, the Calle libre festival is a great place for street art.
If street art is your thing, Getyourguide offers a tour of the city’s works.
3 p.m.: Stroll through the Vienna Prater and take a ride on the Ferris wheel
Then head to the mythical Prater, a huge green space of 600 hectares located in the heart of Vienna and dedicated to sports and relaxation. If you are in the city center, it is easily accessible by subway with the U2 and U1 lines in less than 5 minutes.
History of the Prater
During the 16th century, the Prater was the hunting ground of the Habsburgs (the imperial family) and it wasn’t until the 18th century that Emperor Joseph II opened the park to all Viennese as the city’s first place of relaxation. At that time people had big family picnics on the weekends and came to the park for sports in the evening. In the end, it hasn’t changed much!
The amusement park
Often, one thinks only of the amusement park when talking about the Prater. In reality, the real name given to all the rides is Wurstelprater. This term comes from the Wursteltheater, small puppet theaters that were scattered around this area of the park in the 1890s. And this name has strangely remained, at least in the expressions of the Viennese! Then, in 1887, the first attraction was installed in the park: the pony ride! In 1895, the recreation area called “Vienna’s Venice” was opened.
Today, it has little to do with the original layout. Large pedestrian walkways have replaced the canals and ice cream and kebab vendors have replaced the little puppeteer huts.
But still, the Prater is a place with a very special charm! You will have to forget your memories of Disneyland, Europaparc, and other entertainment giants. The Vienna Prater amusement park is old and it shows: it reminds me of a ghost village straight out of an old movie! On the program: haunted houses with real extras, roller coasters where the adrenaline comes more from the fact that you don’t know if the installation will last, or good old bumper cars, cotton candy sellers…
The Prater Ferris wheel
Let’s talk about one of the emblems of the city: the Vienna Prater Ferris wheel! It was built in 1897 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I. If it still exists and is still in activity, it is thanks to a combination of circumstances and also to major works of the city.
For the record, the Ferris wheel of Vienna was the property of its builder, Walter Basset. But during the First World War, he was expropriated from this property, because he was English and it was not so well seen… In 1916, the Ferris wheel received its demolition permit, but for lack of financial means, its dismantling did not take place!
In 1944, during the Second World War, the Prater Park was bombed and the Ferris wheel burned down completely. It was therefore rebuilt between 1945 and 1947, but this time with only 15 cars instead of the original 30.
Visit the Ferris wheel
Today, the Ferris wheel is one of the most visited attractions in Vienna! It also appears in a few movies, including a James Bond movie (you can guess which one 😉).
Its visit begins with a small room where old wagons are exposed and where the history of the Prater over the years is told thanks to small animated characters. Then it’s time to get on one of the 15 cars that are hanging on this iron monster of 61 meters in diameter.
Admission to the Ferris wheel costs 13.5 euros per adult and 6.5 euros per child for a ride of about 15 minutes. It offers a magnificent view of Prater Park and the whole city! You can buy your ticket on the spot or online to avoid waiting in line.
For the little anecdote, of the 15 cars, 7 are equipped with tables and chairs and are reserved for special events (weddings, romantic dinners…). By the way, we saw how one of these dinners was done in the air and it is quite funny! The guests settle in the cabin and receive a small aperitif. Then, it’s off for a spin. When it comes back down, the waiters are busy serving the appetizers and filling the glasses. And here we go again, and so on until the end of the meal!
5 p.m.: Have a drink and dinner in the Museumsquartier
The Museumsquartier boasts one of the largest museum complexes in the world. It is also a popular meeting place and often filled with a variety of entertainment. It is very pleasant to stop on a terrace in this place mixing brilliantly heritage and modernity. In summer, many people take advantage of it to perfect their tan while enjoying the constant animation of the place… A must!
Evening: Attend a concert in Vienna
Vienna is a city known worldwide for its music. If you are visiting the Austrian capital, this is the place to go to immerse yourself in the musical culture of the country.
In addition to the Vienna Opera House, there are dozens of different concerts every night. Vivaldi, Strauss, and of course Mozart are in the spotlight. Among the regular concerts known for their quality (as well as the magical setting in which they are performed), we can mention:
To stay in Vienna at a lower cost, we recommend:
- youth hostels: there are really many in Vienna but our favorites are: Hostel Ruthensteiner Vienna, Wombat’s City Hostel Vienna Naschmarkt , and Boutique Hostel Vienna;
- hotels and apartments: this is often the most expensive option but you get the service or convenience that goes with it. An apartment can sometimes be more interesting financially if you travel with several people or then save on the restaurants during your stay (avoid the overdose of Schnitzel 😉). Regarding the area, prefer the city center or then near the street dedicated to shopping, Mariahilfer Strasse. To find a hotel or apartment in Vienna at the best price, go to Booking.
If you prefer to find your way on a map, you can choose below. Feel free to enter your dates and filter according to what you are looking for (apartment, hotel…).
Day 3 in Vienna
9 a.m.: Breakfast with music
To start the day off right, head for the Gloriette Cafe, which overlooks the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace (it is to Austria what Versailles is to France). It is famous for its Sisi breakfasts, accompanied by waltzes and other Viennese classics played by excellent musicians. The meal consists of a rich buffet with a splendid view of the castle. It is held on weekends only, from 9 to 11:30 a.m., and costs 36 euros per adult. We strongly advise you to book in advance, at least 4 weeks before your visit! If you already have your ticket, climb on the panoramic terrace of the Gloriette for a nice view of Vienna and the castle park!
11 a.m.: Visit Schönbrunn Palace and its gardens
After this imperial breakfast, take the opportunity to go for a little digestive walk, it should help you feel lighter 😉.
But before visiting Schönbrunn Palace, don’t hesitate to walk through the huge French-style baroque gardens. By the way, they were designed by Jean Tréhet, a student of… Le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s gardener at the Palace of Versailles! The idea is to get lost (a little) around the Grand Parterre to discover, among other things, the fountains of Neptune, the Obelisk and the Naiads, the Roman ruins, the incredible statues of the park, the Orangery, the Palm house… To find your way around, see the map of the park of the castle.
Make way for the magnificent castle! Built in the 17th century, this former summer house of the imperial family was completely refurbished in rococo style under the orders of Empress Maria Theresa. In addition to the statesmen of the last century, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mozart, and Sissi were among the personalities who walked on the floor of this castle with 1441 rooms! Don’t worry, you don’t need to spend the whole day here, only about 40 of them are open!
As Schönbrunn Palace is the most visited monument in Vienna (and in Austria!), it is best to book online to be sure to visit it. You have the choice between combined tickets, a family package… It depends on what you want to visit! For a 3-4 hour tour through the site with the Classic Pass, count 35 euros per adult (for a guided tour at 11 am or 2 pm) or 31 euros with an audio guide.
3 p.m.: A visit to the Ernst Fuchs Museum
The Austrian architect Otto Wagner originally built this summer villa in 1888 for himself and his family. It was then bought by Ernst Fuchs, an Austrian artist and founder of the Viennese school of fantastic realism. He restored it almost from top to bottom, keeping some elements from Otto Wagner’s time.
As a result, you will discover all the splendor of Art Nouveau through the rooms! The ticket is 11 euros per adult.
Evening: Enjoy a glass of wine at WEIN & CO
We strongly recommend spending an evening in one of the WEIN & CO bars! You can find the best Austrian wines to taste at the bar for a price defying all competition. We were conquered by the atmosphere as well as by the concept: a wine bar proposing small dishes (meat platters, cheeses, steak tartars…) which can be tasted with a good bottle.
For the wine, let yourself be tempted by the reds of Burgenland, there are some gems not to be missed, like a Blaufräkisch for example. If you want to do a little tour of Austrian wines, Getyourguide offers a lot of options to taste these nectars of the vine!
If you want to extend the evening, go to the U6 stops Josephstadt or Alsergrund. Under the arcades of the subway, you’ll find plenty of bars and clubs that should satisfy both live music lovers and seasoned clubbers 😉.
Sightseeing ideas for a longer stay
If you are staying longer in Vienna or if you want more ideas about visits and activities, here is a small complementary list:
- Otto Wagner’s St. Leopold’s Church am Steinhof (Otto-Wagner Kirche): this church, Europe’s first modernist, was built in the 20th century as the chapel of the former psychiatric hospital by Austrian architect Otto Wagner. Inside, it’s pretty crazy because everything was designed for the sick at the time. It’s a little jewel of Art Nouveau to contemplate! The entrance fee is 5 euros.
- Sigmund Freud Museum: Do you really know Freud? Visit his former study and apartment, which has been converted into an exciting museum. Discover the life of the king of psychoanalysis, but also of the man through the different rooms. The museum is open every day except Tuesday and the entrance fee is 14 euros per adult.
- The Karlskirche, or the church of Saint Charles de Borromeo: it is recognizable among thousands with its green dome, framed by two imposing columns! The baroque exterior is truly magnificent. The interior is worth it just for the frescoes painted under the dome. Count 8 euros per adult.
- A sunset while sipping a drink from the terrace of the 360° Ocean Sky restaurant located on top of a rehabilitated Flakturm.
- The Flakturm of Augarten: these are the towers built during the Second World War to defend against Allied air raids but also as air raid shelters for thousands of people. Both towers have remained almost untouched since the war.
- A quick trip to Slovakia: the capital, Bratislava, is only 80 km from Vienna, so if you have time, take the opportunity to discover this beautiful city! By train or bus, it only takes 1h-1h30 for a round-trip ticket between 7 and 16 euros.
Must-see map to visit Vienna in 3 days
You will find all the must-sees in Vienna on this richly provided map.
As you can see, Vienna is a very rich city culturally speaking. Whether you are fond of history, music, or art, or simply curious to discover this beautiful city, the capital of Austria will not leave you indifferent. As for us, we loved living there for 2 years. In summer or winter, Vienna has many surprises in store…