Colorful rooftop of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna with a bright sun glare reflecting

6 favorite things to do in vienna, austria

(Last Updated On: July 23, 2021)

Vienna officially gets my vote for the ‘Most Beautiful City in Europe’ award.  The capital of Austria is so gorgeous, it’s near impossible to narrow down a list of favorites.  Every corner I turned down every street was breathtaking. I think I whispered ‘holy shit’ to myself a dozen times in just one day.  Not that a day is nearly enough to explore the Imperial city. There are too many things to do and the city isn’t exactly small.  I’ve narrowed down a list of six of my favorite things to do in Vienna – all of which are within walking distance of each other.

AUSTRIA TRAVEL RESOURCES

spanish riding school

One of my favorite ways to spend a morning in Vienna is the Spanish Riding School, where the famed Lipizzaner horses are trained. Upon entrance into the building, you’re greeted with the soft echo of hooves and the faint, sweet smell of manure.

Three Lipizzanner stallions training in Vienna Austria at the Spanish Riding School during Morning Exercise.  Many onlookers are seated in the balconies at the Winter School.  Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and the entire building is in shades of white and cream.

Each day the horses have their Morning Exercise, which gives the public a glimpse into the training of the riders and their horses.  The young grey stallions are trained ‘by’ the fully-trained School stallions in the refinement of their performance. They practice different relaxation exercises and the targeted strengthening of muscles.  Once the horses have ‘graduated’ from their training, they perform in the Winter Riding School in the Hofburg.

Morning Exercise is performed between 10 and 12 daily with admission starting at 9:50, and the best part?  It’s set to Classical Viennese music! Standard adult ticket is 15 euro.

Click here for schedule and tickets

roof of st. stephen’s cathedral

Nowhere else in Vienna can you find these views.  From this perspective you can really see how colorful the city is.  From the street level, most buildings are shades of white, cream, pale yellow.  Everything is very light and clean. From up here, the vibrant red roofs and colored tiles create a dreamy aura in the clear skies.

You can find this spot by taking the lift up the North Tower.  Admission is 6 euro, unless you opt to take the all-inclusive tour, which also includes the South Tower and Catacombs.  The all-inclusive option is 14 euro.

When I visited, I purchased the all-inclusive and was going to tour the Catacombs first.  This is a guided tour – you cannot visit the Catacombs on your own. Just as we were descending the stairs, an employee of the Cathedral ran up to our guide and whispered something in his ear.

Our guide then turned to the crowd and told us we had to turn back, that there was an emergency, and he didn’t know what it was.  

We finished climbing the stairs to find the entire cathedral being evacuated.  Shuffled with the crowd funneling out the doors, there were a number of police outside preventing anyone else from going inside.  

I lingered for a little while, trying to figure out what had happened. Eventually I got bored and left. I returned to St. Stephen’s after a few hours to climb the North Tower – by the time I’d returned, the Catacombs tours had ended.

I never did find out what happened that day.

Click here for prices, times, and all other practical information.

figlmüller

Famous Wiener Schnitzel at Figlmuller restaurant in Vienna, Austria.  The schnitzel is so big, the edges are not on the plate.  It is served with cut lemon wedges.  There is a potato salad with dressed field greens and tomato next to the plate of schnitzel.  It is a white-linen restaurant with fine silverware and servers wearing suits.
Wiener Schnitzel at Figlmüller

I stumbled across this restaurant while wandering the streets, only to find out it’s a place pretty famous for their schnitzel.  In addition to the traditional Wiener schnitzel, the restaurant also serves their signature Figlmüller schnitzel – made of pork, whereas the traditional version is made with veal. Figlmüller definitely has some of the best schnitzel in Vienna (if not THE best).

If you’re going with another person, DO NOT ORDER TWO!  The portion is HUGE. Plus, it’s not like you could get just the schnitzel – the potato salad with pumpkin seed oil is the best thing I ate in Vienna.  I tried the traditional version made with veal. The only disappointment was the fact that it was too impractical to take the rest back to my AirBnb.  Besides a solid Wiener schnitzel, check out these other Austrian foods you have to try!

I lucked out because I was just one person, and had no issues getting a table. Still, if you’re planning on visiting, even just for lunch, I’d recommend making a reservation.  You can do that here.

vienna state opera

Interior of the Vienna State Opera overlooking the floors below.  From this view, the chandelier is at eye-level.  In each of the arches is a statue of different women.  There are many opera go-ers walking around during the intermission.
Vienna State Opera

The building alone is worth a visit, in all of its opulence and grandeur.  The opera house offers guided tours daily. You can find tickets and schedule of tours here.

But in my opinion, there’s no way you can visit Vienna without either seeing an opera or seeing a concert performance.  Standing tickets are available if you’re willing to wait until the last minute to secure your admittance. Prices range from 13 to 500 euro.  Tickets and schedule for performances can be found here.

My night at the opera was almost thwarted by feelings of social anxiety. Thankfully, I pulled my shit together and made it.

museum café

Famous apple strudel at Museum Cafe in Vienna, Austria.  The strudel is in a large, shallow bowl and sits in a pool of creme anglaise.  There is a glass bottle of water 3/4 full next to a glass of water 1/4 full.  There is a side dish with a napkin and an unused set of silverware.
Best apple strudel in Vienna

A quick Google search for ‘best apple strudel Vienna’ will show you that Museum Cafe is in the rankings when it comes to the most famous Viennese dessert.  Sacher Cafe is another popular spot – however, there was a line around the block to get in. So I wandered on a little while to find Museum Cafe. This is a bustling, popular place.  A line started to develop once I’d been seated. I (of course) ordered the apple strudel.

The strudel comes in a pool of creme anglaise (there are options without the sauce as well) with a dusting of powdered sugar.  The apples are cooked to the perfect consistency, the flavors divine without being overpowering.

roaming the streets

Ornate columns outside of the Vienna State Opera house with light and shadow play from the position of the sun.

OK, I know this isn’t a ‘place’ per se.  But wandering around in this city is a traveler’s delight, being so different from most other European capitals. Viennese streets are extremely clean and very well-kept.

Wandering around you’re able to stumble upon architectural delights, residential neighborhoods, and places of historical significance, such as Mozart’s apartment.

Be sure you have comfortable walking shoes!

There are so many amazing things to do in Vienna that depending on your time, you may not want to leave the city. If you’re spending an extended amount of time there, however, there are a ton of great day trips and weekend getaways from Vienna to satisfy every need.

What are your favorite things to do in Vienna, Austria?

Horse-drawn carriage wandering the streets of Vienna.
Vienna at night

other noteworthy places in vienna include:

  • Schönbrunn Palace – click here for practical info
Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, reflected in the water of the fountain in front.
The Belvedere in Vienna with colorful flowers in the foreground.
  • Hofburg Palace – Click here for practical info
Seafoam green-domed Hofburg in Vienna, Austria.

Spending more time in Central Europe? Check out Hungary or Slovakia while you’re there!

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