First of all, welcome! The capital of Austria and the capital of the old Austria-Hungarian Empire, Vienna has an awesome mix of history, culture, modern and quirky attractions, and has plenty to offer, no matter where your interests lie.
As an ex-pat living in Vienna, I have loved exploring the city and experiencing everything it has to offer.
This article is part of our big guide on spending 7 days in Vienna, with the perfect itinerary for Vienna. Make sure you also read our handwritten guide to where to stay in Vienna for first-time visitors.
Here’s a quick glimpse:
- Have a coffee at one of the traditional Viennese coffeehouses
- Eat at a Wurstelstand
- Spend a summer evening on the Donau River
- Visit a rooftop bar
- Party the night away
- Sample the wine in the vineyards around Vienna
- Have a Wiener Schnitzel
- Vienna at Christmas
- See Krampus
- Party at Donauinselfest
- Visit the world’s oldest zoo
- Take in nature at the Donau-Auen National Park
- Go shopping in Naschmarkt
- Take a horse cart ride around the streets of Old Vienna
- Visit one of the museums
- Join in with the weekly rollerblade run
- Go to Oktoberfest
- Take in an Opera
List of FUN Things to do in Vienna
In detail, here are 18 of my recommendations, what I think are the best things to do while you visit Vienna, to get that true, Viennese experience.
1. Have a coffee at one of the traditional Viennese coffeehouses
Perhaps the most famous cultural aspect of Vienna (in the eyes of locals at least, and forgetting opera for just one second), are the various coffeehouses of Vienna.
These are located throughout the city, but most of them can be found in the 1st District (the old town of Vienna), with some dating back a few hundred years.
The main draw of these places these days is the atmosphere – sit back, enjoy a coffee surrounded by the grandeur of the old Austria-Hungarian Empire, and feel like a Kaiser whilst sitting under chandeliers and rooftop mosaics.
There are many to choose from. Perhaps the most famous is Café Central, and while it is worth a visit, be prepared to wait in line for some time.
My personal favorite is Café Hawelka – situated down a quiet alley, the dark, wooden interior brings feelings of late 1800’s Vienna, which is often a welcome respite from the busy streets outside.
When you take in this experience, don’t feel rushed – the coffeehouses of Vienna have no concerns over time.
So, stay as long as you want: read a newspaper or simply relax those feet, knowing that the waiters won’t bother you unless you bother them for another coffee order.
2. Eat at a Wurstelstand
Finished with your coffee? Then why not try the local street food, a Wurst (sausage)?
Vienna is renowned for its Wurstelstands, dotted throughout the city, particularly on street corners or at one of the numerous metro and tram stations.
The most popular, and the one which was recommended to me by pretty much every local when I first arrived, is in front of the Albertina Museum, at the bottom of the steps.
I’ll vouch for it, the food there is amazing!
A variety of sausages are offered, but my personal favorite is the Kaiserkrainer – basically, a sausage filled with cheese. Having a Kaiserkrainer along with a beer, had whilst leaning against the benches offered by the stand and watching the world go by is a great way to have a short break and recharge!
3. Spend a summer evening on the Donaukanal
Summer evenings in Vienna are the best.
It is warm, the sun doesn’t set until late, and there are plenty of outdoor places to hang out with friends (or strangers) and just relax.
A personal favorite of mine is the Donaukanal, which runs along the southwestern boundary of the inner district/old town (best accessed from near Schottenring and Schwedenplatz metro stations).
Sit on the steps next to the river and chat with the locals and watch the water rush by. You can even get drinks from the opportunists who buy from the supermarkets and sell on to individuals (at a mark-up of course, but I think it is worth it!)
4. Visit a rooftop bar
Don’t fancy being so close to the river?
Vienna also has a number of rooftop bars, which are perfect for a calm, mild summer evening. You can also go on an evening food tour if you like.
My personal favorite is the 25 Hours Bar, located in between Museums Quartier and Parlament.
A trendy lounge bar with ambient electronic music pulsing in the background, this bar is perfect for catching up with friends in a chilled environment, with stunning views toward Rathaus (which is beautiful as the sun goes down and the lights come on).
5. Party the night away
For those who want to carry on after their moody rooftop drink, Vienna has plenty of clubbing options, and you can, of course, party until the sun comes up.
Try Pratersauna, a converted pool and sauna complex in the Prater park, offering afternoon/evening beach vibes in the summer around their fully operational pool, with deep techno beats in multiple rooms after dark.
Or try Volksgarten, an upmarket club right next to Museumsquartier and Parlament, playing a mix of pop and retro music with a great outdoor party area in the summer.
Finally, for those interested in a darker and more eclectic style of music, go to Flex – located on the banks of the Donaukanal near Schottenring – which plays a mixture of Trance, deep house and other underground styles of music.
6. Sample the wine in the vineyards around Vienna
I have to be honest before I moved to Austria I thought its’ traditional drink was beer.
While this is true in western parts of Austria (and whilst still acknowledging that there are some decent local brews), it may come as a surprise that Vienna is actually smacked bang in the middle of the wine country.
The vineyards actually extend right up to the city boundary and are accessible by the public in many directions. These wineries in the summer open up small shops within the vineyards, where people pop in after or during a day walking the green hills, taking in the beautiful views of Vienna in the distance over a glass of wine.
Austrians love ‘spritzer’, a combination of white wine and sparkling water, which makes your drink just that little more refreshing. My personal favorite is Mayer am Nussberg, about a 20-minute hike/stroll from Grinzing (which itself is accessed via the 38 tram and 38A bus from Shottenring).
7. Have a Wiener Schnitzel
OK, so this recommendation is perhaps a bit obvious, but you really can’t visit Vienna and not have a Schnitzel.
Ironically, schnitzels are not actually Viennese – rumor has it that they originated in Italy and were brought to Vienna after an Austrian Kaiser tried one when visiting Italy a few hundred years ago.
But origins don’t matter, the Viennese have perfected this dish over the centuries. Pretty much every restaurant in town serves them, and in most places they great.
However, if you don’t mind crowds and want to eat where schnitzel is most famous, try Famous
restaurants like Figlmuller or Plachuttas – both restaurants will serve the perfect traditional schnitzel, served with rice and potato salad, in a traditional (and very upmarket) Austrian setting.
8. Vienna at Christmas
This one here is my personal favorite. Perhaps it’s because I originate from a part of the world where Christmas involves shorts, a T-shirt, and the beach.
But quite possibly, it is simply because Christmas in Vienna is A-May-Zing. Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt in German) pop up all over the city, and all of the famous buildings and landmarks decorate themselves with golden light.
This is in no way tacky or kitsch, it is simply beautiful. There are many to take in, but if you are in a rush, I would recommend starting at the Rathaus Weihnachtsmarkt (after dark, but before the crazy tourist numbers arrive), where you can shop for gifts and food, and even go Ice-skating through the trees.
From here, walk into the 1 st district, and underneath the hanging lights, shimmering in the light breeze or catching the first snows of the year. Finally, head to Karlsplatz, which has remained somewhat of a local feel despite being on the edge of the 1 st district.
Shop here for hand-made artifacts, take the kids to play with the farm animals, or simply gaze at the grand church lit up in glorious white.
Not a huge fan of the cold? Have a hot punch or Gluhwein, and warm up those hands and lips!
9. See Krampus
You have to be lucky (or plan ahead) for this next recommendation, as it only happens one day a year. Krampus is a legend unique to the Austrian mountains (although it has been brought to Vienna and its surroundings).
Krampus, a half-man, the half-goat creature is effectively St Nicholas’ evil sidekick, and over the years has earned his own parade.
This parade, or Krampuslauf, involves locals dressing up as the evil demon, whipping those they disapprove of. I am not joking – in the mountains, an innocent spectator can still walk away from the Krampuslauf with serious welts and bruises, although in Vienna things are tempered down a bit.
To see exactly when the Krampuslauf is this year, check out this link here, but as a general rule, the run is held on the 5th or 6th December.
Those dressing up as Krampus take it seriously – masks are often lovingly handmade from wood and the fur costumes are often handstitched. As one tradition which is, from my experience at least, not even remotely like anything else in the world, this is well worth seeing life, if you dare…
10. Party at Donauinselfest
Forget Tomorrowland. Forget Glastonbury.
Want to know where the world’s biggest music festival is? Right here in Vienna. And best of all, it is completely free! Every year the City of Vienna puts on this three-day event on an island in the Donau, which is visited by over 3 million people over the course of the event.
Austrian artists dominate the line-up, with a sprinkling of world-class international acts – in the past acts such as the Bloodhound Gang, Billy Idol, Sean Paul, Robin Schulz, and Macy Gray have all performed here. This event is usually in mid to late June.
11. Visit the world’s oldest zoo
Not one for festivals? Nevermind, Vienna has plenty more to offer. If you prefer animals to people, perhaps a visit to Schonbrunn Zoo (Tiergarten Schonbrunn) is in order.
First opened in 1752 as the personal zoo for the Kaiser, this zoo has been continuously operational ever since (open to the public since the 1790s).
Many of the old cages are still present, and whilst they are often not used (for good reason, some of them are verrryyyy small).
Not to appear completely archaic, a number of installations have recently been completed, including an Amazonian rainforest (where many animals, including bats, birds, and monkeys roam free), and a new polar enclosure.
The zoo is also one of the few globally with a successful panda-breeding enclosure. The zoo is situated adjacent to the magnificent Schonbrunn Palace, so if you get a bit tired with the animals, a short walk and you are in perfectly manicured gardens, walking with the royals of old.
12. Take in nature at the Donau-Auen National Park
Are zoos not your thing? Want to nature in its’ purest form? Luckily, Vienna also has National Parks in the immediate vicinity!
A short 45 minute trip from the old town on public transport, the Donau-Auen National Park protects one of the largest wetland systems in Central Europe and is home to many beautiful animal species, including beaver, eagles, and deer (along with plenty of frogs, insects and smaller reptiles if you feel like searching a little harder!).
Once inside the park, one can swim in the Donau itself, or hike one of the many trails connecting various parts of the wetlands. A small word of warning, and one which I learned the hard way – this part of the Donau is also popular for nudism, which happens to be a very popular Austrian past-time.
So, don’t be surprised if you walk through the forest and stumble across a group with their gear out – it’s perfectly normal here (and in no way sexual), so just smile and continue on your journey!
13. Go shopping in Naschmarkt
Farmer’s markets are still popular here – the traditions of old have been kept alive and well. It is still common for farmers in the provinces around the city to bring their produce in and sell it to the city-folk.
The largest, and perhaps most famous is on the Naschmarkt (although there are plenty, and an early morning walk around wherever you are staying may reap great rewards!). These days, Naschmarkt is more than just a farmers market: a number of boutiques and traditional as well as international restaurants are present along its course.
At the western-most end, there is also a very large pop-up antique market, but the draw for me is still the food.
Cheese, meats and sausages, spices, and vegetables – you can get everything you need for the weekend from this market, whilst taking in the vibe of early morning Vienna.
Naschmarkt is best visited on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but the bars and restaurants are open all day and into the evening.
14. Take a horse cart ride around the streets of Old Vienna
Now, I’ll admit it. I have not actually done this. As a tourist, I prefer to walk around a city when I explore because, let’s face it, I generally can’t afford to do anything else.
But, if you have the cash and/or the desire, then a tour by horse and cart (or Fiaker) is worth it. Best hailed from behind Hofburg Wien (on the western part of the inner city), these tours range in price but will generally cost around €80 for a 40-minute tour (you can request custom routes or one-way fares).
The guides have great knowledge of the city and will tell you about the landmarks and history, as you sit in luxurious comfort. This attraction is also doable in winter, as some of the carts are closed or you get rugged up under warm wool blankets.
A small recommendation from the point of responsible tourism: whilst in recent years rules have been brought in to stop Fiaker tours when the weather gets too hot, in my opinion, this heat threshold is much too high.
If you are visiting in summer, please keep the temperature in mind when thinking about taking a Fiaker tour. Vienna can get hot, particularly in the center where the stone streets and brick buildings catch the heat.
This is not pleasant for the horses, and they do suffer. As with anything, please travel responsibly, and use a little common sense in this regard.
15. Visit one of the museums
Feel like getting a little bit of culture on your visit, and have some time to spare? Vienna has a long and proud cultural history and the numerous museums reflect that.
You might want to try to join a Hop-On Hop-Off Tour with Guided Walking Tour which gives you more chances of visiting Vienna Museums is one ticket.
See a huge collection of art, including Picasso, in the Albertina, or see how the earth formed and view the impressive array of fossils and animals at the Natural History Museum.
Fancy learning about other parts of the world while you’re here? Then visit the Weltmuseum and take a tour through all corners of the globe.
All these museums are located in beautiful old buildings, so at the very least, take in the feeling of walking through grand corridors like the Kaiser of years gone by!
16. Join in with the weekly rollerblade run
Rollerblading is probably not the first thing you think of when visiting Vienna. Heck, if you’re like me, it’s not something that you think of at all.
But, from May to September, every Friday night the City shuts down some of its roads to allow people to skate the streets. Starting at 9 pm from Heldenplatz, join a crazy large group of people (many of whom dress up for the occasion) and skate the night away!
More information can be found on the groups Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/friday.nightskating/
17. Go to Oktoberfest
No, I’m not recommending you go to Munich. Yes, I am recommending you have a stein of beer.
Just like in Munich, Oktoberfest is a large and popular event in Austria, with temporary beer halls popping up all over Vienna (and indeed Austria).
The Lederhosen and Dirndl are also the traditional dress in Austria, so expect to see these here! In fact, the Wiener Wiesn (Viennese for Oktoberfest) is pretty much exactly like it’s famous Bavarian cousin, but with fewer tourists, so you’d be crazy not to go!
It is held between late September and early October in the Prater (a large park a few metro stops from the inner city).
Entry is free before 6.30 pm, but tickets are required after. So, grab your dancing shoes and drinking hats, and come join the fun! Tickets and more information can be found at https://www.wienerwiesnfest.at/.
18. Take in an Opera
Last, but certainly not least. Vienna is perhaps most famous for its classical music. Mozart (who is originally from Salzburg but lived Vienna) is everywhere here.
If you have time, it would be silly not to sit in the grand opera halls and listen to this beautiful music. Luckily, money does not have to be a problem here – it is possible to get tickets for less than a 10er!
Here is the secret: all three of the main opera houses (the Staatsoper, Volksoper and the Theater an der Wien) offer standing/stall tickets (Stehplatzkarte), which can be bought in the hours leading up to the show – often, these can be bought within just a few minutes of the show starting!
I recommend going for the Staatsoper – tickets can be bought from a special ticket office on the Operngasse side of the Staatsoper (State Opera House).
It’s also possible to watch Opera for free!
In summer, the Staatsoper often show the performance live on a big screen outside the Theatre. So if you don’t fancy paying to get in, dressing up or standing in the theatre for a few hours, then walk past the Opera Theatre in the early evening on any day of the week in the summer, and take everything in as you pass!
Summary for having fun in Vienna
You see, there is numerous of entertainment you could see in Vienna. You just to keep an eye on it.
Did you find any other cool recommendation for some entertainment in Vienna? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Remember to check our full itinerary for Vienna here.
Besides these amazing activities, we also took care of your accommodation; well kind of. All you need to do is read our big guide to where to stay in Vienna for first-time visitors.
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