Back in October, Tim and I spent 48 hours in Vienna: the beautiful capital city of Austria. It’s a place I had been to before with my parents, but going back, I was surprised by how little I remembered and how much more I loved it as an adult. The best things to do in Vienna range from wandering through parks and visiting museums to taking tours of the cathedral.
To save money and effort we invested in the Vienna Pass, which gets you free or discounted entrance into all the main things to do in Vienna. But watch out, they are only valid for calendar days meaning you can only use a 1 day card up until midnight. We didn’t realise this until we picked up our 2 day passes at 2pm and were told we only had 34 hours to cram as much of Vienna in as possible! Challenge accepted.
Let me share our list of things to do in Vienna:
The Vienna hop on and hop off bus is the perfect way to get around and learn about the city at the same time. I know people will probably mock a traveller wannabe that goes on the buses – I can imagine them saying “dude, you have to find your own way”, but all lines of the sightseeing bus are included in the Vienna Pass and they teach you far more than you’d ever care to read about in a guidebook. What’s not to love?
Like something out of Versailles, Schonbrunn is a huge and wide summer palace built for the Hapsburg monarchs over 300 years ago. I’ll be honest, the outside is much more impressive than its 1,441 indoor rooms. They won’t let you in to half of them anyway. We whizzed around the bits you can get into in about 20 minutes, and most of that was spent waiting for fascinated tourists to get out of our way. Every room is impressive, granted. But they’re all similarly impressive and it’s not good to drool over other peoples’ wealth. So we didn’t. The gardens, however, were fantastic. Pristine lawns and hedgerows, with an enormous fountain and (other building) out the back. We could have stayed there for hours.
Also on the Schonnbrun site is Café Residenz – said to be home of the apfelstrudel. Every day, almost by the hour, an apfelstrudel genius shows hungry visitors how to make the famous Viennese dish in a kitchen auditorium. While the baker is stretching the dough with their elbows (yes, really), everyone is given a piece to try. You could tell it had been sitting out for a while but it was still good. They give you a recipe and sell ingredients in the kitchen shop if you wanted to give it a try at home.
This huge cathedral looms over Vienna and is one of my favourite religious buildings in the world. Its roof is covered with yellow, green and black tiles making it much more interesting than your usual cathedral stone. As well as the grand statues and porticos in the main part of the building, you can visit the towers and look out over the city and the roof in more detail. If you’re not scared of heights, it’s definitely something for the list.
Also in the cathedral, you can visit the underground crypts and tombs. The main tomb is reserved for bishops and other significant figures from Vienna’s past, but there are smaller rooms dotted about for storing the bones of victims from the Black Plague. It’s pretty harrowing but fascinating to see. I couldn’t look at everything and the frequent reminder from the guide not to get left behind otherwise he’d lock us down there forever made it seem even scarier. Go if you dare… it ended up being one of my favourite things to do in Vienna!
State Opera House
The Staatsoper is a pretty iconic building in Vienna, one that you’ll walk past even if you didn’t mean to as it’s considered the hub of tourist activity in the city. The Pass doesn’t get you access to a show, but you can wander inside for a quick look around the foyer if you don’t look too shifty. Of course, don’t try going to a show without a ticket!
Art History Museum & Natural History Museum
These two buildings stand opposite each other in perfect symmetry – but because of the sheer magnificence of the exterior, you’d expect them to house royalty rather than pieces of art and dinosaur bone. I’ll tell you a secret – we didn’t actually go inside because the outside architecture and gardens were good enough for us. Grecian style statues and fountains stand in very neat patterns in the central courtyard.
Stadtpark & Burggarten
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the many famous parks in Vienna. Stadtpark is home to Johann Strauss and is always full of tourists trying to emulate his pose. Not that Vienna is particularly busy, but the park still came as a welcome relief from central crowds. Burggarten’s most visited sight is the famous Mozart statue, complete with a treble clef made entirely from bright red flowers. It’s one of the most iconic images of Vienna and you can see why!
The Naschmarkt mainly sells frankfurters or other sausages served in bread roll coats and bread roll hats (see photo). I managed to find plenty of falafel stalls to keep me happy. There are also a few restaurants and souvenir stands too. It’s where the locals go to enjoy a stein of beer or twelve. If I lived there, that’s absolutely where I would be.
Overall, we had a great time on our long weekend in Vienna. I would certainly recommend it as a city to explore if you’ve got a weekend free. Keep this list of things to do in Vienna close, and you’ll never be stuck for somewhere to go or see.
What have I missed? What would you do with 48 hours in Vienna? Share your ideas in the comments below!