The ultimate guide to Vienna

Jenessa Williams

Vienna ticks many boxes as a city escape, blending architecture, history and rich food culture to create a fascinating introduction to Austria. Plan your visit with our top tips.

Stay

25 hours hotel in vienna

Throw yourself right into Austrian Baroque culture with a stay at the 25 Hour Hotel Wien (above), handily located in the museums quarter.

Inspired by old-timey circus design, the décor will set a whimsical tone for your holiday, equipped with all the mod-cons to help you with any last minute work or play. Bikes are available to rent, wi-fi is fast and the views are spectacular—right across Weghuberpark.

If you’re on a slightly tighter budget, Max Brown 7th District is just around the corner, home to critically acclaimed chef Eyal Shani, an expert in south Mediterranean cuisine. Alternatively, Gratzhotel Karmelitermarkt is in the up-and-coming 2nd district, full of relaxing coffee shops, delis and young design stores.

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Eat

cafe central restaurant in vienna

Speaking of coffee shops, caffeinated-culture is a huge part of Viennese life. Head to Café Central to sip espresso under dramatic ceilings, rich with history as one of the city’s most established meeting points. Follow up with a visit to Palmenhaus, a stunning greenhouse-style building that delivers both casual bites and more formal dinners, or the Ritz Carlton for cocktails on their stylish rooftop.

For diners looking for an indulgent treat, a gastronomic session at Steirereck Im Stadtpark is sure to delight. Sleek and stylish, their take on traditional Austrian eats includes such dishes as pigeon with artichoke, trout and bean stew and veal kidney with watercress and sea buckthorn—hearty combinations delivered with elegant precision. Splurge here, and then save the next day at Ribelli Restaurant—celebrated by locals as the best place in Vienna for Neapolitan style pizza and antipasti, with most dishes around the €10 mark.

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Shop

one of Vienna's popular Christmas markets

Still not had quite enough to eat? Naschmarkt is a must-see for any visitor new to Vienna. Sample Viennese schnitzel and apple strudel, stock-up on souvenirs or rummage through secondhand and vintage goods at their open-air flea market, held every Saturday.

If you prefer your designer names, a visit to Mariahilferstraße will see you right—it’s Vienna’s high street with all the top brands, elegantly signposted with lavish window displays that reflect the art history of the city.

Nearby Lindengasee, Neabaugasse and Herrengasse are great diversions for smaller-known boutiques and concept stores such as Mothwurf, a fashion retailer that reinvents traditional dirndls and folk skirts into something you might see on a high-end catwalk—a great souvenir for fashionistas.

To see Austria at it’s best, you simply can’t beat a Christmas visit. Vienna is known worldwide for it’s festive markets, dating right back to the middle ages. There are over 20 to explore, but the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace is arguably the best, set against the glorious backdrop of the world-famous residence, running from late November right through to boxing day.

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See and learn

vienna state opera

There's no shortage of learning opportunities in Vienna. Start at the Kunsthistorisches Museum for fine art and art history, set directly opposite the Natural History Museum, across Maria-Theresien-Platz, the perfect square for people watching or sketching. Once inside either building, you’ll find that the décor is just as inspiring as the exhibits, clad in traditional intricacy.

Continue your journey with a stop at Schloss Belvedere, one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the city. Visitors can join an official history tour or simply wander around the palace and grounds themselves, dipping in and out of excursions.

After all that excitement, you may be in need of a sit-down. And what better opportunity to be entertained than a ticket to the Vienna State Opera (above)? World-class performances of classics such A Midsummer Nights’ Dream, Madame Butterfly and La Bohème take place on a near-daily basis, but be sure to book ahead to take advantage of the cheap seats—prices can escalate right up to €350 if purchased on the day.

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Get outdoors

best outdoor spots vienna christmas

Feeling romantic? Cuddle up with your beloved on a 20-minute ride on the Riesenrad Ferris Wheel, lifting 214ft into the air. Take your journey at dusk to appreciate all the beautiful lights across the city, then follow up with night-time ice skating at the Wiener Eistraum, from the middle of January through to early march. six square miles in size, you won’t have to worry about being wobbly—there’s plenty of room for visitors of all ages and skill levels to enjoy, with various food and drink venues plotted nearby.

If those dates don’t quite line-up, you can still get active with some outdoor swimming at Oberlaa Therme Wien. Open 364 days a year, all of the thermal pools are heated between 28 and 36 degrees for optimum comfort, and there is also an onsite spa and fitness centre. Work-out to your heart’s content and then head back into the city for an Austrian beer and pretzel—after all, life is all about balance.