So, you are visiting Vienna and you are obviously on the look-out for the best fun things to do in Vienna?
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.
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.
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. It has stunning views toward Rathaus, which is beautiful as the sun goes down and the lights come on.
For those who want to carry on after their moody rooftop drink, Vienna has plenty of clubbing options,.
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.
Also, you can try Volksgarten, an upmarket club. It is right next to Museumsquartier and Parlament. Volksgarten plays 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. It plays a mixture of
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. 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. You can access via the 38 tram and 38A bus from Shottenring.
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.
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!
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.
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 hand stitched. 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.
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,
Robin Schulz, and
They have all performed here. This event is usually in mid to late June.
11. Visit the world’s oldest zoo
Not one for festivals? Never mind, 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. In case you get a bit tired with the animals, in a short walk and you are in perfectly manicured gardens – walking with the royals of old.
This park protects one of the largest wetland systems in Central Europe. Donau-Auen is home to many beautiful animal species, including:
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).
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.
The bars and restaurants are open all day and into the evening.
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.