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  • graben-in-vienna-at-christmas-time - Christmastime in the Graben during the holiday market in Vienna, Austria.
  • karlskirche-at-night - Karlskirche at night in Vienna. It's generally considered the most outstanding baroque church in Austria.
  • christmas-market-in-vienna - Christmas market in Town Hall Square, Vienna, Austria.
  • palace-Vienna-Austria - Upper Belvedere Palace in Vienna, Austria.
  • belvedere-palace-view - Upper and Lower Belvedere Palace, view from Rennweg, Austria.
  • gloriette-schoenbrunn-vienna - Posing in front of the Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans more than three centuries.
  • opera-ball-in-vienna - Opera Ball in Vienna, Austria.
  • sightseeing-opera-vienna - Sightseeing near the State Opera House in Vienna, Austria.
  • spanish-riding-school-in-vienna - The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.
  • st-stephans-cathedral-vienna - Closeup of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria.
  • vienna-parliament - The Austrian Parliament building in Vienna, Austria.
  • view-of-vienna - View of the cityscape in Vienna, Austria.
  • st-stephans-cathedral - View from St. Stephen’s Cathedral of Western Vienna, Austria.
  • state-opera-at-night - State Opera House at night in Vienna, Austria.
  • Opera-House-Loggia-Vienna - Inside the Opera House Loggia in the Inner City of Vienna, Austria.
  • city-palace-concert-vienna.jpg - One of AmaWaterways' cruises stops in Vienna, where passengers have the option of attending a City Palace Concert.
  • church-Vienna-Austria - Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles Borromeo) in Vienna.
  • Opera-House-Vienna-Austria - The world-famous State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) in Vienna, Austria.

Vienna travel guide & photo tour

our guide

The vibe

Art and culture have a long tradition in Austria's capital and largest city, Vienna, including theater, opera, classical music and fine arts. River cruises along the Danube often take passengers to Vienna to explore the city's imperial architecture and gracious culture.

If it's Christmas spirit you're looking for, visit Vienna from mid-November to Christmas when the city's prettiest squares transform into magical holiday markets. The aroma of Christmas bakery items and hot punch fill the air as more than 20 official Advent Markets celebrate the season.

Year round on a guided sightseeing tour, you'll see the lavish Hofburg Palace, the impressive Vienna Opera House, the majestic Ringstrasse and the awe-inspiring St. Stephen's Cathedral. You may also choose to stroll along Kärntnerstrasse in the afternoon or sample Vienna's famous pastries. At night, you can explore the vibrant Austrian capital on your own, go to a Mozart and Strauss concert or eat a Krainer sausage off one of the carts on the street. No matter what you choose, be sure to savor each classic sights and sounds.

River cruise ships that call on Vienna

  • AmaWaterways: AmaBella, AmaCerto, AmaDolce, AmaLyra, AmaPrima, AmaReina, AmaSerena, AmaSonata
  • Uniworld Boutique Cruises: River Ambassador, River Beatrice, River Duchess, River Empress, River Princess, River Queen, S.S. Maria Theresa
  • Viking River Cruises: Viking Aegir, Viking Alsvin, Viking Atla, Viking Baldur, Viking Bestla, Viking Bragi, Viking Eistla, Viking Embla, Viking Freya, Viking Gefjon, Viking Gullveig, Viking Idun, Viking Ingvi, Viking Jarl, Viking Legend, Viking Lif, Viking Lofn, Viking Magni, Viking Mimir, Viking Modi, Viking Njord, Viking Odin, Viking Prestige, Viking Skadi, Viking Skirnir, Viking Tor, Viking Var, Viking Ve, Viking Vidar, VIking Vili

Top reasons to go

  • The world-famous Vienna State Opera House, which premiered in 1869 to Mozart’s famed opera "Don Giovanni."
  • Schönbrunn, one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe.
  • Renowned pastries and desserts.

Top things to do & see in Vienna

Opera

Vienna, also spelled Wien, is Austria’s “City of Music.” A dizzying array of classical music concerts showcases mostly Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss. Three opera venues include the world-famous Vienna State Opera House, which premiered in 1869 to Mozart’s famed "Don Giovanni." Their directors included luminaries like Mahler, Strauss, von Karajan and Maazel. Viennese orchestras are nearly as numerous as concert venues. With Vienna’s Mozart, Imperial, Walzer (Waltz), Residence, Salonorchester "Alt Wien” and Hofburg Orchestras, visitors can book classical concerts almost any day at any price.

Those in the know suggest checking whether your venue is air conditioned. Economical “standing room” tickets (roughly $3) become available before most concerts. If you tire of standing, it’s acceptable to leave before the end. Johann Strauss, “the king of waltz” symbolizes Viennese music, a gentle dance in waltz’s ¾ time. Strauss is always featured in the worldwide broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year's concert. Performed at the famous Golden Hall of the Musikverein, renowned vocalists and ballet dancers add pageantry to the performance.

The world-famous state opera house.
Daxis / Creative Commons BY-NDThe world-famous Vienna State Opera House.

Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe. The Habsburgs resided here the better part of the year in numerous rooms for the large imperial family in addition to representational rooms. Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. The monarch spent his last years entirely in the palace, which became the property of the new Republic of Austria only two years after his death. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings.

Christmas markets

Open from November 15 or 20 to December 23 or 24, most Viennese Christmas Markets ("Christkindlmarkt", "Adventmarkt" or simply "Weihnachtsmarkt") are not so much for shopping as for eating and drinking. From midday until the late hours of the night, people gather at Christmas markets to drink mulled wine, punch and chat to one another and the occasional stranger. Entry to all of these markets is free.

Vienna during Christmas.
Volker Preusser / Courtesy of Austrian National Tourist Office Vienna during Christmas.
  • Rathaus: More of a fairground than a Christmas market, this is Vienna's largest and busiest incarnation. Located on the large town square between Rathaus and Burgtheater, the Wiener Christkindlmarkt is by far the largest and probably best known Christmas market in Vienna. There's a large Christmas tree in front of the townhall, skating and adorned trees in the park, but be prepared for it to be very crowded.  
  • Spittelberg: Probably the most delightful, though often quite packed Christmas market in Vienna, the Spittelberg market is scattered over a series of lanes lined with picturesque early 19th century Biedermeier houses (many of them former brothels, which is the reason the area was spared early 20th century urban renewal). Some of the stalls are extensions of the shops and bars of this normally rather sleepy area. 
  • Maria-Theresien-Platz: A relatively new market between the two museums and en route to/from the MuseumsQuartier (MQ), this market is easier to maneuver than some and the quality of the goods is better than most. 
  • Schönbrunn: One of the better markets with higher quality goods and a more festive atmosphere in front of Schönbrunn palace. It is easier to spread out here and the specialties are food, handmade soaps and candles. 
  • Belvedere: Another recent addition to the city's Christmas markets, the market in front of the Belvedere palace is spacious and emphasizes the homespun.

Cuisine

Austrian food is distinctive and delicious, and you can easily avoid hearty "meat and dumplings" offerings like wiener schnitzel (a bread-crumbed and fried veal escalope) or Knödel, a kind of dumpling. Make sure you try an Apfelstrudel for dessert.

The New York Times points to several good restaurant choices:

  •  Tucked around the corner from the chevron-roofed St. Stephen’s Cathedral are two restaurants equally beloved by the local suit-and-tie set. Lugeck serves Austrian classics like Schnitzel (€20.80) and glazed veal liver (€13.90) in a convivial space of enamel tiles, beech dividers and chandeliers made of beer steins. More chic yet is Labstelle, where ingredients that are responsibly sourced around Austria make their way onto the always-changing menu of dishes like smoked duck with quince mustard (€27.90).
  • For non-touristy dining options on and near Margaretenstrasse, try Randale, which presents a robust lineup of D.J.s along with interesting pizzas like Viennese Blood (€12.90). Just as lively is the bar/restaurant Zweitbester that pairs dishes like wild boar goulash (€14.90) with art exhibitions. Popular among students is Vollpension, a self-proclaimed “intergenerational cafe” of mismatched furniture and simple fare like wurst salad (€6.20). For homey comfort, head to the neighborhood stalwart Silberwirt for its thick pumpkin oil soup (€4.60) and free-range beef (€16.80).

 

Posing in front of the Gloriette at Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans more than three centuries.
Popp Hackner / Courtesy of Austrian National Tourist Office Posing in front of the Gloriette at Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans more than three centuries.

Best time to go

Vienna has a humid continental climate. The city has warm summers while winters are relatively cold with average temperatures at about freezing point, and snowfall occurring mainly from December through March. Spring and autumn are cool to mild. Precipitation is generally moderate throughout the year.

Fun facts

  • In 2001, the city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Vienna's Christmas Markets truly are an age-old tradition. The forerunners of the present-day events date back to the Middle Ages when in 1298 Albrecht I granted Vienna's citizens the privilege of holding a December Market or "Krippenmarkt."  

When you arrive

Docking information

Vienna is situated along the Danube River. Your river cruise ship will dock near the city center at the Reichsbrucke, with easy access to the city center via the U-Bahn 1 Line.

Getting around

Vienna has an extensive transportation network. Public transport is provided by buses, trams and five subway lines (U-Bahn). Trains are operated by the ÖBB. Vienna has multiple road connections, including motorways. 

The Vienna Card 210 costs 18.50 euro and offers discounts and unlimited free travel by underground, bus and tram for 72 hours.

Need to know

Passport: All U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a valid passport.

Currency: The euro

Language: German is the official language of Austria; however, English is commonly spoken in tourist areas.

Tipping: Although it is customary to leave a tip at restaurants and with taxis, it is usually less than 10%.

Safety: Austria is a very safe country; however, like all major destinations, avoid flashing cash and stay in well-lit areas at night.

Wikivoyage contributed to this guide.

Your take

How about you? Have you been to Vienna? Have any tips for visitors? We'd love to hear about your experience.  

Help improve this article! See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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Overheard

“Designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, Vienna’s many historic coffeehouses transport guests to an era when visionaries like Freud mingled over Mélange, Vienna’s answer to cappuccino. No other Kaffeehaus has perfected anachronism like the three-year-young Supersense. ... It also offer Wi-Fi.”

New York Times

“The city is undeniably beautiful: at the center of town is the Golden Quarter, home to a splendid new Park Hyatt hotel and Europe's second-largest Louis Vuitton store after Paris, and from there the districts, or quarters, are arranged like Paris's arrondissements, spiraling out snail-like as they reach the Ringstrasse, the fabled thoroughfare that encircles the central city.”

Condé Nast Traveler

“Zweitbester: The name means second best, but the organic burgers, venison ragout, and crème brûlée aren't so humble and make chef Robert Haider's restaurant one of the superior values in Vienna.”

AFAR magazine

“I like to visit Schönbrunn Palace , a Rococo-style residence where the Hapsburg rulers used to vacation. The best part is the Kronprinzgarten, with rare citrus fruit trees that smell heavenly. Nothing is more relaxing than a walk through the French Baroque gardens on the grounds of Belvedere, Prince Eugene of Savoy's 18th-century summer retreat.”

Travel + Leisure

“Even though I had absolutely no interest in Vienna when my travel mate brought it up, it ended up being my favorite city. The people, the buildings, the atmosphere. Hell, I even has a European fling there! I love Vienna.”

AFAR magazine

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