Sometimes you only have one day to explore a city. Should you panic? No, the Hitchhiker’s Guide would remind you that it’s not productive. You can still manage, even if the city in question is as big and full of attractions as Vienna. Follow this article, and it will show you how to get the most out of your day there.
Start with Coffee
You’ll need a lot of energy for the day ahead, so indulge yourself in a cup of excellent Viennese coffee in the morning. Besides, coffee houses are one of the trademarks of Vienna, so you don’t want to miss them out! Coffee has been known in Austria since the second Turkish siege of Vienna in the 17th century. This is more than enough time to learn how to make it properly! If you’re confused by the variety and don’t know what to order, here’s a dummy’s guide to coffee in Vienna.
Now that you’re ready to take on the attractions, walk to the Stephansdom. It’s a truly impressive gothic cathedral right in the center of Vienna. If you’re not a fan of architecture or short on time, skip the tour of the insides, but do climb one or both of the towers! The South tower (4.5€) is higher and faces the city center, so you can see all the famous sites from it. The North tower (5.5€) overlooks the Danube river and offers more spacious terrace to walk on.
Ditch the costumed guys trying to sell you tickets to evening concerts and head towards Hofburg, a royal Habsburg residence in Vienna. The palace dates back to the 13th century, but most of what you see now is from the glorious (for the Austrian Empire at least) 19th century. Hofburg houses numerous museums, so you can get stuck here for days. We’re on a schedule, though, so suffice yourself with the magnificent exterior. One thing that might be worth your time even in close time quarters is the Royal Treasury displaying Habsburg crown jewelry and another pretty and invaluable adornments.
Follow Ringstrasse past the Houses of Parliament to Rathaus, or City Hall, an imposing building with a distinctly Flemish air about it. If you’re lucky you’ll stumble into some festival being held in front of the Rathaus, which is a popular venue for various events. Before Christmas, the square hosts one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. If this is the case, I don’t believe you’ll follow this guide further. Just enjoy the punches! For the rest of the winter, the square is transformed into a giant skating ring. In spring you can catch Easter and May celebrations and in summer they put a huge screen across the Rathaus facade and film festivals are held here.
Pick yourself a Museum
Now you’ll only have time for one museum on this day so choose wisely. Luckily, most of them are located close to each other. If you’re into art, then choose your poison from Kunsthistorisches Museum (the World’s largest collection of Bruegel and lots of other big names), MUMOK (Museum of
weird Contemporary Art), Leopold Museum (Klimt and Schiele) or Albertina (impressionists, cubists and really good temporary exhibits). In case you’d like to feel like a 19 century noble for an hour, take a tour of the interior of Hofburg and see how the famous Sissi used to live. If natural history is more your thing, check out Naturhistorisches Museum. It tells the history of Earth in a creepily visual way and hosts one of the oldest (25000 years old!) sculptures on Earth – Venus of Willendorf.
You don’t have to confine yourself to this list, as Vienna has a museum for everything! Technical, Freudian, Jewish – pick the one that interests you. Just remember to leave time in the afternoon for further attractions.
I bet you’re starving now, so head to every foodie’s dream – Naschmarkt. It starts right behind the Secession and follows the canalized river Wien surrounded by beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. But the most exciting stuff is inside the market, as it sells delicacies from all over the world! Stock up on fruit, spices, and nuts here until you can’t fit any more in your bag. There are also small thematic cafes where you can grab a meal for a reasonable price. If you follow the canal behind Naschmarkt on a Saturday, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a huge flea market, offering everything from trifles to antiquities.
The sun is probably going down now so let’s head to Schönbrunn palace. It is some distance from the center, so take the metro and don’t waste your time walking. Schönbrunn served as a summer residence for the very same Habsburgs and will remind you a lot of Versailles. You don’t have time for the interiors this time, as they are huge, but the parks are worth a quick visit. Besides, they are free to entry. There’s a maze, statues, Neptune Fountain and the Gloriette Palace on a hill overlooking Schönbrunn. This is an awesome place to enjoy the sunset, soaking in the view of South Vienna and snacking on whatever you’ve brought from Naschmarkt (don’t pretend you could walk out of that place without buying anything!).
Do you have evening clothes with you and have you managed to get a ticket? Then you’ve earned ending your day at the famous Wiener Staatsoper. Vienna National Opera is out there among the best classical establishments in the world, so it can be an experience of a lifetime for any theatergoer. If opera is not exactly your thing, spend the rest of the day at Prater, the famous amusement park and recreational area. Take a ride on Ferris wheel – one of the oldest still operating – or just walk around. Bathed in lights and happy screams, with an ice-cream or mulled wine in hand depending on the season – you’ll unwind after your intensive sightseeing and store the good memories of Vienna deep into your memory.
There is so much more to see and experience in Vienna, we’ve only barely scratched the surface. One day is definitely not enough, but one day is better than zero. Hopefully, with our guide, you’ll make most of it!Written by Kate