Are you visiting the Austrian capital soon? Thirteen incredible must-see Vienna sights will undoubtedly impress you and make you waltz in your sleep. Plus, as an American living in Vienna since 2014, I know the exact places to see to become charmed by the city.
It’s possible to see all the famous sites of Vienna in one day but you may end up exhausted. While Vienna can be explored in a short amount of time, my 3-day Vienna guide may be a better, more relaxed option.
1. Schoenbrunn Palace
The summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty from the 17th century, this Baroque-styled palace is not a sight to miss in Vienna. It includes over 1,400 rooms that one can glimpse with their guided tours.
Several gardens surround the palace, all beautiful during the warm months when the flowers bloom. However, even if you come in the cooler months, you can still admire the palace with Neptune Fountain and the gorgeous Gloriette monument at the top of the hill.
Other attractions at Schoenbrunn Palace include a maze, a tropical palm house, and a Zoo.
2. Museums Quartier – ”The MQ”
The MQ is known for its courtyard with funky lounge chairs and two leading museums: The Mumok (Modern Art) and The Leopold (Viennese art nouveau and Expressionism).
Additionally, there is a Children’s Museum and smaller exhibition areas with great cafes surrounding the area.
Summer is pretty awesome at the MQ. Typically, there is a Summer Opening celebration in May with free admission for museums and music playing all night. Then until the end of September, the MQ has events with dance performances, DJ music nights, open-air films, and poetry readings.
This public square is named after Empress Maria Theresa, the only female ruler from the Habsburgs and reformer of public education.
The Fine Arts Museum features Greek, Roman, and Egyptian collections. Furthermore, the Museum of Natural History holds the most extensive collection of meteorites, animal, and dinosaur displays. This museum also includes the famous prehistoric curvy figure ”Venus of Willendorf” found between 28,000 and 25,000 BCE.
4. Austrian Parliament
Since 1833, this institution has held two chambers of the Austrian Parliament – the National and Federal Councils. Both councils conduct their political sessions here.
The Parliament building is known for its ancient Greek architecture and goddess Athena at the top of the central fountain. The Viennese joke that Athena’s back is turned away from the parliament because she is disgusted by the political fighting.
5. Rathaus – Vienna’s City Hall
An incredible Gothic-styled monumental building in downtown Vienna from the late 1800s, the Rathaus offers the city’s most significant events – like the famous Christmas markets. The Rathaus is quite the place to admire when in Vienna.
Free guided tours are provided inside the city hall, where you can admire the richly decorated staterooms and learn more about Vienna.
Translated as ”The People’s Garden,” if you come here in the Spring or Summer, you are in for a treat! The beautiful flowers and rose gardens are in full bloom, with gorgeous fountains running in the background.
Volksgarten is part of the Hofburg Palace. The center of this area holds the neoclassical Theseus Temple, a small-scale replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, Greece.
At the northern end of the park is the Empress Elizabeth Monument, while at the southern end is Franz Grillparzer Monument featuring the Austrian writer thinking while holding a book.
Heldenplatz (Heroes Square) is a large public square in front of Hofburg’s residence and offices of the Austrian President.
Two equestrian statues sit on the plaza, in front of the Austrian National Library – a vast public library and monument with four museums and 7.4 million items in its collections. Behind the library is Burggarten, another imperial garden that includes a statue of Mozart, a butterfly house, and a palm tree house.
Adolf Hitler’s speech from the Austrian Anschluss – the invasion and forced incorporation of Austria by Nazi Germany – took place at Heldenplatz in 1938.
As you walk through the Hofburg residence with the Sisi Museum and Imperial Spanish Riding School, you come out onto Michaelerplatz (St. Michael’s Place). Here is the domed Michaelertrakt, a Neo-Baroque monument, and in the middle of the area are excavated Roman ruins of a house with medieval foundations.
Within the circular area, there is St. Michael’s Church from 1792, which is one of the oldest churches in Vienna and one of the few remaining Romanesque buildings. It is dedicated to the Archangel Michael.
As you walk down the famous shopping streets of Kohlmarkt and Graben, you will eventually come to the city’s center. Displayed on Stephansplatz is Stephansdom, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral.
The church was founded in 1137 and is known for its Roman and Gothic-style architecture. Stephansdom is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna, with English Mass held every Saturday at 17:00.
Rich in history, Stephansdom offers guided tours of their catacombs and a tower climb where you can see the city from the cathedral’s south tower.
10. Vienna State Opera
As one of the top operas globally, this gem from the 19th century provides first-class performances with over 50 operas and ballet shows 300 days per season.
There are screenings of live performances in the Spring and summer in front of the building for the public to enjoy free, or you can sign up to watch them online.
The famous Opera Ball showcases an exquisite event with guests from all over the world watching and dancing at the event.
Karlsplatz is an important traffic point in the city, having five different traffic flows, but that’s not totally what it’s known for. The massive St. Charles Church appears as a 1250 meters gem of Baroque architecture.
Having neighbors like the Technical University of Vienna, Naschmarkt farmer’s market (see below), and Musikverein (home to the Wiener Philharmoniker), Karlsplatz is a busy place for students, artists, locals, and visitors.
Naschmarkt is a popular place to visit on Saturdays and is Vienna’s largest farmer’s market, attracting thousands of visitors a week. This market provides recently harvested fruits and vegetables, exotic spices, nuts, seeds, meats, and international goodies.
Naschmarkt also has excellent restaurants and cafes if you want a nice meal. Although, keep your wallets close by in case of pickpocketing, and watch out for stall workers who trick you into paying more for items. Barter for what you want!
13. Belvedere Palace
Belvedere was built in the late 1700s and reconstructed after heavy damage from WWI. It was the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, consisting of two palaces: Upper & Lower Belvedere. Both feature museums with medieval, classical, and contemporary works of art, and of the course, the famous ”Kiss” painting by Gustav Klimt, a Viennese Secessionist.
Belvedere has attractive-styled gardens with statues, iron gates, and water fountains which are excellent for walking around. Since Belvedere is on a hill, you can see much of the city below, with Stephansdom’s tower peaking from the sky above the gardens.
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