I’m going to be honest, when I was visiting Vienna, I had nothing planned. I had no idea of the places that I wanted to visit or the must-see sights.
Each day in my Vienna diary was blank.
I left my hostel every morning wandered around the city with no plan of where to go. I just followed my feet.
In a way, this made Vienna much more enjoyable for me. I didn’t have to rush from tourist sight to tourist sight trying to cram in as much as I possibly could.
When I got back the UK and had the time to review my trip, it seemed as though I still managed to cross off the majority of the top sights – yey for me!
I would have been disappointed if I walked past and narrowly missed an awesome sight-seeing opportunity whilst I was there.
To help make sure that doesn’t happen to you, I’ve put together 9 places that you don’t want to miss when visiting Vienna.
And to go one step further, I have located all the tourist spots on this handy Google Map to help you plan the best route for your day.
Ready to get going?
In no particular order, here are the 9 tourist sights that you don’t want to miss when visiting Vienna.
1) St Stephen’s Cathedral
This, for me, is the main sight in Vienna. If you see nothing else in Vienna, make sure you see this cathedral.
Since I had no plan and no knowledge that this building even existed when I was wandering around, I stumbled upon it by accident.
As I was walking around the center of Vienna, I was surrounded by upmarket cafes, complete with alfresco dining complexes, and expensive designer stores.
I strolled around the corner of a very modern storefront, all made out of glass and shiny surfaces, and my eyes hit the base of St Stephen’s Cathedral.
My eyes followed the building from the base all the way up to the tip of the tower, at which point I said the following word out loud…
I would have never expected to see such a building amongst my current surrounding and it was a shock.
Between all the glitz and glamour stood this dark and gothic church. It was almost haunting and a real juxtaposition.
As an added bonus, you can climb to the top of the tower to see the whole of Vienna in all its glory from above.
2) The Naschmarkt
A huge street market selling anything and everything.
As I wandered through the aisles I noticed hams, cheeses, fish, nuts, fruit, tea, scarves, jewelry, chocolates, cakes, spices, and I’m sure a whole heap of other things that I can’t remember right now. So many different foods and smells – my senses were on full alert!
For anyone that may visit in the future, be warned that some of the men that run the stalls are like vultures.
I had a small backpack and a video camera, so it was pretty obvious that I was a tourist, and I was on my own, which made me an easy target.
The men would shout and ask me where I was from and call me sweetheart to try and get me to try (and then buy) their food.
In hindsight, I think that they were all pretty harmless, just a bunch of pushy salesmen trying to make a living.
I am still glad that I went to visit and I got to experience the market, and it still remains as one of my main attractions.
3) Schönbrunn Palace
This is a little bit out of the city, but not too far and still super easy to get to via the underground.
This location has three attractions all rolled into one – a zoo, a palace, and the palace gardens complete with an orangery and maze!
The Schöbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence with 1,441 rooms!
I didn’t go inside the palace or the zoo since I was on a tight budget. Instead, I just wandered around all the free parts and gazed at the amazing architecture wondering how much it would cost to buy or rent.
…and then wondering if I could just rent a single room. I didn’t need all 1,441 rooms anyway, plus I would never be able to stay on top of all the dusting!
If you had the time to spare, you could plan to spend a whole day here. There’s more than enough to keep you entertained for a day.
This was a strange one for me.
I saw the huge white statue standing in front of this Greek-like building with all its columns, and I wandered over to take some photos. I walked up the ramp and also explored the building and the statue from the top.
But I had no idea that it was the Austrian Parliament.
Only now, while I am putting together this post, did I learn what this building was.
From my memory, the building almost seemed too small to be a Parliament – but then again, maybe a missed a huge chunk of it.
5) Heldendenkmal der Roten Armee & Fountain
I did almost miss this!
If you’ve read My Vienna Story, you’ll remember that on my first day in Vienna I didn’t take a coat out with me, and I spent most of that day feeling very cold.
At about 3/4pm, when I had lost all feeling in my fingers and toes, I headed back to the hostel and I originally planned to stay there for the rest of the evening.
But whilst I was having a bite to eat in the common area, Sandy, my roommate and my new friend from China, also came back from her daily adventures.
She came over and we started chatting about what we had been up to and what we had seen. She showed me a photo on her phone of this giant color-changing fountain and asked if I had seen it yet. I said no, but I immediately wanted to.
After I had finished eating, I grabbed my coat and headed back into the center of Vienna to try and locate it.
I managed to find it just as the sun was going down. It was an incredible sight watching the colors slowly get stronger and more vibrant as the sky got darker.
I walked around the whole monument and learned that it was their Soviet War Memorial.
The English translation of its official name is Heroes’ Monument of the Red Army. It was built to commemorate 17,000 Soviet soldiers who were killed in action during the Vienna Offensive in World War II.
6) Museums – and lots of them!
I’m not really a museum girl. I’m the kinda person that thinks that once you’ve been in one museum, you’ve been in them all. I know that there are a lot of history and art buffs shaking their head at me right now. I’m sorry, it’s just not my thing.
If it is your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that Vienna has a huge range of museums – over 100 of them! Some of them contain major collections of global caliber, and others are a lot smaller and a bit more bizarre.
If you love museums, you’re going to be in your element!
Rather than try and list them all, I’ll leave it to the professionals of Vienna and you can click here for the latest exhibitions.
7) City Hall
Although the architecture of this gothic style building was incredible to look at, and the surrounding park was beautiful, I was a bit disappointed that when I visited because it was just the City Hall.
If you visit at the right time of year, I have read that the grounds are transformed into an ice rink, a festive Christmas market and they hold film festivals with a huge screen.
I was just feeling sorry for myself that I missed out on all those great experiences. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did.
P.S. Don’t you think that the City Hall building looks a lot bigger than the Parliament building?
This was one of the very first things that I noticed when wandering around Vienna – there were artisan chocolate shops everywhere!
Every street I walked down seemed to have a chocolate shop.
This is when I started to realize how much I love Vienna!
…they even have a chocolate museum!
Vienna and chocolate go way back in history and the city produces some of the finest chocolate in Europe. The ideal gift to take back home and the perfect excuse to overindulge.
Vienna is known as the “City of Music” with many famous musicians composing and performing in the capital. But Mozart dominates the scene, and just like the Viennese chocolates, you can’t walk down a street without seeing his face on a music or souvenir shop.
There are many sights throughout Vienna that link to Mozart, including the building where he resided from 1784 to 1787, which has now been turned into a museum (obviously).
Vienna is a place of grand architecture, fine art, museums, exquisite chocolates, and classical music.
I explored Austria’s capital city with no plan and no itinerary, but for those that require a little bit more structure to their exploration, I hope that my guide has helped point you in the right direction of where to start.
I know that you’ll have an amazing time.
To find out more about my trip, click here to read My Personal Vienna Story, or you can check out my video below.