Seven years ago I fell in love with a city in the heart of Europe – that is the Austrian capital, Vienna. I spent only two days with my family there but they were absolutely enough to become fascinated with this city. It is not only the architecture and the atmosphere that grabbed my attention immediately but also the people and their culture. It is a city that embodies art, culture, and fine food; that combines the old imperial tradition with its magnificent palaces and the most contemporary art scene with the numerous opera houses, theatres, and galleries; that is located in the beating heart of the old continent and, hence, many major historical events have happened exactly in the Austrian capital.
Naturally, when we were planning our trip in central Europe in September, we had to include Vienna as a destination along the way. I wanted to visit the city again but this time with my boyfriend and enjoy its magical atmosphere together. If you are travelling to Vienna soon and looking for some sightseeing inspiration, I have created a three-day itinerary that will guide you through the major points of interest (from a tourist’s perspective), cultural landmarks, and some charming places that would definitely offer you Instagram-perfect photo possibilities. This is exactly what we did during our three days in the city but feel free to accommodate the itinerary to your needs and preferences.
DAY 1: An evening of culture
We decided to get to Vienna by bus because that was the quickest and cheapest option from Budapest which was our previous destination. We traveled with the German bus company FlixBus which we first used last year for our trip from Milan to Bologna (you can check last year’s posts about our trip to Milan and Bologna). Our hotel had an after-14-o’clock check-in policy so we decided to take a bus that would arrive approximately at 13 o’clock local time which is a bit of a pity because we lost half a day in Vienna. The bus station that suited our needs the most was the Erdberg Bus Station, located in the Erdberg district. There is a metro station that is opposite of the bus station so we could reach practically every point of the city. We knew that the public transportation was going to be our principal mode of transportation so we bought 72 hour travel cards (worth 17.10 EUR each) right after we arrived in Vienna.
We checked in in our hotel and, unfortunately, there was not much time to explore the city before the scheduled opera performance at the Volksoper (more for our experience here). If you are lucky enough and have some time before the performance, you can explore a bit the city centre – you can take the metro to Stephansdom metrostation and see one of the most impressive cathedrals in Europe. While you are there, you can take a stroll down the long shopping street which is beautifully lit up during the night. There are a lot of cute restaurants in the small streets no matter whether you would like to have something local (like the Wiener schnitzel) or something international.
After your stroll and depending on your opera choice, you can take the metro to get to the Volksoper (Währinger Straße-Volksoper station) or simply walk to the Staatsoper and enjoy a night of culture with some of the most famous opera performances in the world. Don’t forget that you need to be in the opera a bit before the start of the performance (depending on whether you have purchased seating or standing tickets).
DAY 2: Imperial tradition and contemporary art
The second day was dedicated to exploring Vienna’s imperial history. We woke up very early and went to a bakery nearby our hotel to have our breakfast and a cup of coffee. There are numerous bakeries around the city and you can have your breakfast at a different place every morning. After that we headed to one of the symbols of the Austrian capital – the Schonbrunn Palace. The palace is very easily accessible by metro but try to be there as early as possible because usually there are many tourists.
We decided to go for the Classic Pass which gives you access to all the rooms in the palace with an audio guide, the beautiful gardens behind the palace, the glorriette with the viewing terrace, the maze, the orangery and the privy garden. The palace opens at 8 am and you will need approximately 1 hour to take the whole tour. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in the palace but even today I remember perfectly the beautifully decorated rooms, the personal belongings of the Habsburg dynasty, and all the interesting stories that you will listen to while you are taking the tour with the audio guide. Photos may not be allowed inside the palace but in the gardens you can find million picturesque places that will provide you with the perfect background for your photos. So take your time and explore the enormous gardens – it is totally worth it.
After a long walk in the Schonbrunn Palace, we decided to get back to the city center via the metro to Karlsplatz metro station. By this time it would most probably be lunchtime, so take a quick bite and stop by some of the small fast food stands selling wursts and other typical local dishes. Then take the D tram from the biggest tram station in Vienna – it is located in front of the Staatsoper and you cannot miss it. This particular tram will take you to the biggest art gallery in the Austrian capital – the Belvedere Palace.
The two Belvedere palaces were built to be used as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy but today they house the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. The collection is complemented by the work of international artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and most importantly the world’s biggest collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings, including the famous The Kiss. The Belvedere – comprising the Upper and Lower Belvedere and an extensive garden – is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is definitely worth a visit.
By this time you would most probably be too tired to do anything else. Thus, we decided to go to our hotel and enjoy a quiet night in so that we can take some good rest before our final day in Vienna.
DAY 3: Be a local
Our final day in Vienna was dedicated to exploring the atmosphere of the city and doing typical things that the locals do. We always try to find to take it easy in our trips and simply enjoy the vibrancy and normal life of the cities that we are visiting.
We started our day with a visit to one of the symbols of Vienna – the Prater. You can visit the amusement park via metro line U1 to Praterstern metro station. The locals usually go on Sundays, so if you are visiting the city on the weekend be aware that it can become quite packed not only with tourists but also many local people.
There is no other place in the city that combines the adventure, the tradition, and the charm of Vienna like the Prater. The park offers some of the most fun amusement rides for both children and adults. Of course, the famous Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel welcomes you right at the beginning of the park – if you are not really into roller coasters and haunted houses, you can definitely try the Wheel that has become a true landmark of the Austrian capital. We decided to go for the Prater Tower. At 117 m it offers a splendid view over the city even though I was a bit scared to keep my eyes open all the time.
You can check all the attractions withing the Prater here.
After half-a-day of fun, we took the 0 tram for only two stops and got off in front of the famous Hundertwasserhaus. This is an apartment building and is one of the architectural highlights of Vienna. It was designed and constructed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser between 1983 and 1985. With its colourful facade and more than 200 trees and shrubs on balconies and roof terraces, it draws the attention of numerous tourists every year. The locals prefer to drink their coffee in the Stroeck bakery just opposite of the house while admiring the artistic building.
Our final afternoon in Vienna was for a calm stroll around the city center. Take Tram 1 from the nearby tram stop to Schwedenplatz metro station which is located on the main metro line – U1. We got off Stephensplatz which goes right in front of the famous St Stephan Cathedral. Take the time to go inside and admire the beautiful interior as well – if you would like to take a walk around the whole cathedral, you would need to make a small donation.
After our visit to the cathedral, we simply got lost in the beautiful central streets of the city – don’t think of a particular route and you will find amazing places simply by strolling around like the locals. In this way we stumbled upon the magnificent Hofburg Palace – it is the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers and today serves as the official residence and work place of the President of Austria. Right behind the Palace you will find a beautiful city garden which will take you to some of the national cultural treasures of Austria – the National Library, the Natural History Museum, the Volkstheatre, and the Museums Quartier (encompassing 60 cultural institutions). I visited the Natural History Museum seven years ago and this is one of the most magnificent museums that I have visited ever since.
Usually the park behind the Hofburg Palace hosts different festivals. While we were in Vienna, the Science festival was held in the park and you could take a stroll among the numerous tents offering an insight in engineering, physics, chemistry, and many other sciences. Generally, this is the place where all types of culture and art come all together so the locals love spending their free time there.
We were really sad to leave Vienna because this is truly a magical place which combines everything that we usually search in our trips – history, architecture, culture, and most importantly amazing atmosphere. I hope that I have inspired you to explore Vienna in your next holiday 🙂
Have you ever been to Vienna? Tell me in the comments!
Photography by Kaloyan Stanev