Things to do in Vienna: Attractions and places to visit

Vienna International Centre (Martin Dürr)  [flickr.com]  CC BY 
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The nearly 415 km² large Austrian capital Vienna with currently approx. 2.8 million inhabitants accommodates about one third of the total population of the Alpine country. From 1804 to 1918 Vienna, as the political centre of the Austrian empire, was a metropolis of international standing.

Although its global importance was largely lost by the world wars in the 20th century, the city on the Danube, thanks to its many attractions and sights, remains a destination to be recommended in every respect to this day.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Vienna.

Vienna - Wien (Juan Llanos)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-ND 
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Vienna - Wien (Juan Llanos)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-ND 
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DSC01492 - Wien (Heribert Bechen  .. thanks for 2.6 mio. visits)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-SA 
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1. The Hofburg

The Hofburg in the first district of Vienna was the most important residence of the Habsburg monarchy for over 600 years. First mentioned in a document at the end of the 13th century, it assumed its present appearance as a mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles through various extensions and extensions, mainly until the end of the 19th century.

Today, the building complex, which has grown asymmetrically over time, comprises a total of 19 courtyards and 18 wings, in which, in addition to the official residence of the Federal President and the National Library, other sights of Vienna are also housed. The Heldenplatz in the centre of the spacious grounds is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists, especially in summer. The “Sisi-Museum” about the life of Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) is one of the most visited museums in Vienna.

2. Spanish Riding School

Also located in the Hofburg since 1565 is the internationally renowned Spanish Riding School, listed as an immaterial cultural heritage by UNESCO, in the northern Michaelertrakt. Here the members of the imperial family and later members of the high nobility learned the high art of riding exclusively on the snow-white Lippizzaner horses over centuries.

With the end of the monarchy in Austria after the First World War, the Court Riding School was also opened to the public. Extensive tours in the 1920s and 30s made the institution known throughout Europe. Today the demonstrations and the almost daily training are among the most popular sights in Vienna.

3. Schönbrunn Palace

The summer residence built in its present form in the late 18th century for Empress Maria Theresia (1717-1780) in the 13th district, together with the 160-hectare park, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Haydn and Mozart performed in the castle’s own theatre, where the last Austrian Emperor Karl I (1887-1922) declared his resignation in 1918, and in 1961 Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy discussed the tense situation in the world at the time in the rooms.

The more than 1,400 rooms of the castle house numerous art treasures of immense value and are mostly freely accessible to up to 10,000 visitors per day. Since 2002 the west wing has housed the children’s museum Schönbrunn which is well worth seeing. Since 2008, the summer night concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has been taking place in the Schlosspark at the beginning of June.

4. MuseumsQuartier

The MuseumsQuartier on Zweierlinie and Mariahilfer Straße in the 7th district is housed in the former imperial court stables of 1725 and since its opening in 2001 has been one of the most visited cultural monuments in Vienna. On the 90.000 m² large area there are among others the MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art), the Leopold-Museum, the Kunsthalle, the Architekturzentrum and the Tanzquartier Wien as well as the Theaterhaus Dschungel for a young audience and the ZOOM Kindermuseum.

In addition, the creative space Q21 for 60 different creative initiatives, artist groups as well as galleries and publishing houses resides here on an area of more than 7,000 m². The individual buildings are connected by six thematic passages, each of which is equipped with permanent and temporary exhibitions. The courtyards of the MQ are also used throughout the year for concerts, readings and other cultural events.

5. Belvedere Castle

In the baroque castle complex in the 3rd district, built between 1714 and 1723, including a garden, the State Treaty was signed in 1955, thus restoring the Republic of Austria. The striking building has also been the seat of the Austrian Belvedere Gallery since 1903, with extensive collections of local art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

There are also frequent and regular temporary exhibitions of works by Austrian and foreign artists. Since 20111, the former pavilion of the 1958 World Exposition in Brussels has housed the Belvedere 21 Museum with national art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since 2009, the Research Center for the History of Austrian Art has also been located here, currently with 120,000 media units.

6. Burgtheater

Opened in 1888, the Burgtheater an der Ringstraße and am Universitätsring in the 1st district is the second oldest theatre in Europe. The Austrian National Theatre, colloquially often abbreviated to “castle” in Vienna, was planned and built in the style of historicism and the High Renaissance and has a Baroque interior with great ceiling paintings by the Klimt brothers.

In addition to the performances celebrated by the enthusiastic audience, the assassination of a Bulgarian terrorist in May 1925 also made headlines here. After the end of the Second World War, such famous directors as Claus Peymann, Thomas Bernhard, Adolf Dresen and Thomas Langhoff worked at the Burgtheater. Souvenirs can be purchased in a bookstore in the entrance hall. In the right wing of the house many actors meet before or after the performances in a noble restaurant.

7. St Stephen’s Cathedral

The world-famous landmark of Vienna in the centre of the city was created between the 12th and 16th centuries and is today one of the most popular photo motifs among tourists. The church, which was extended several times, rebuilt and damaged in wars, is considered one of the most important Gothic buildings in Austria and is also revered by many believers as a national shrine. The 12 loud beats of the church bell “Pummerin” in the North Tower, which weighs over 20,000 kilograms, are broadcast live on radio and television every year at midnight at the end of the year.

In the “Duke’s Crypt” below the cathedral there are 30 burial chambers with the mortal remains of former Austrian rulers and dignitaries. The medieval cathedral treasure with many valuable sacral objects can be visited in the neighbouring cathedral museum Vienna. Every year in May, a flight of 343 steps takes place in the 136-metre-high South Tower.

8. Vienna Central Cemetery

The almost 2.5 km² large Viennese central cemetery in the 11th district was opened in 1874 and today has about 330,000 gravesites. Numerous monumental graves of honour on the well-kept green area make the complex a very interesting sight in Vienna. Mozart and the famous Viennese singer Falco also found their final resting place here.

Even deer and badgers still live in the wild on the area. There is also an Islamic and Buddhist section on the site. Historical events such as the March Revolution of 1848 and the Second World War are commemorated in various memorials. Since 1971, the extensive Central Cemetery has had its own bus line 106, which serves 19 bus stops during the day.

9. Danube Island

The artificial island in the 21st and 22nd district, which covers an area of almost 4 km² and was built between 1972 and 1988, is one of the most popular local recreation areas in Vienna. Every year at the end of June, the Danube Island Festival takes place here with free admission and up to 500,000 visitors per day. The bathing areas, sunbathing areas, barbecue areas, sports and play areas as well as dog zones and boat rentals can be used all year round.

Since summer 2013 there has been a large white water arena at the Steinspornbrücke with artificial obstacles for kayaks and swimmers. From the so-called lighthouse at the Reichsbrücke bridge you have a great view of the surroundings. Right next door, a large beer garden by the water offers around 300 seats.

10. Arena Vienna

The alternative cultural centre in the districts of Erdberg and Sankt Marx in the 3rd district began its career with the occupation of a former slaughterhouse in June 1976. Since the agreement with the City of Vienna on legal use in 1977, events such as concerts, readings and theatre performances have taken place on the site ever since.

On the premises there are two halls with a capacity of approx. 1,000 and 250 spectators respectively, an open-air stage for 3,000 people as well as various bars, beer gardens and sales stands for food and drinks. The Arena is also an internationally renowned meeting place for graffiti artists who redesign many of the walls again and again.

More things to do and activities for your Vienna holiday

Best time to visit Vienna

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Vienna:

May, June, July, August, and September

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Vienna.

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