From grand Imperial architecture to fun at the fair, Vienna has more to offer than its pretty-but-dull reputation suggests! Historical, walkable, and oh so beautiful, by the time I left Vienna I had fallen a little bit in love.
My time in Vienna didn’t get off to the best of starts, meaning I was left with only 2 days to spend exploring. As I wanted to spend 1 of those visiting Schönbrunn Palace, this left me with only 1 full day in the city itself… Straight up, this is not enough time to experience Vienna!
Unfortunately though, sometimes that’s all you’ve got! So here are my suggestions for a 1 day, whistle-stop tour of the city.
Vienna Ring Tram
The Vienna Ring Tram runs the whole way around the Wein Ringstraße (The Vienna Ring). First opened in 1865, this boulevard is a World Heritage Site and is lined with magnificent buildings, including the Vienna State Opera, the Museums of Art History and Natural History, the Austrian Parliament Building and The Rathaus (Vienna City Hall).
The boulevard is 5.3km long, and a beautiful walk if you have time for a leisurely stroll! If you’re tight for time though, the Vienna Ring Tram offers a good budget alternative. The tram leaves from just outside Schwedenplatz metro station every 30 minutes and costs €8.00 per person (which includes a set of headphones for the audio guide). The journey takes 25 minutes, and takes you the whole way round the Vienna Ring.
Ruprechtskirche (St. Rupert’s Church)
St. Rupert’s Church is thought to be the oldest church in Vienna. Though the earliest walls still standing date from the 12th Century, it is believed to have originally been founded much earlier, in 740! Now covered in ivy and vines, the building is almost fairytale like in appearance, and is quite a contrast to the Imperial grandeur of most of Vienna.
Unfortunately, the church was closed when I visited, so I was only able able to look at the outside. Regardless, the building itself is very pretty, and well worth a visit.
Stephensdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral)
Sometimes described as the symbol of Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the number one attraction in the city. The cathedral itself is free to enter, but there are small charges if you choose to take a guided tour (€4.50), visit the catacombs (€1.50), or go up the South Tower (€3.50) or North Tower (€4.50).
Inside and out, St. Stephen’s is a beautiful building. The gothic design, colourful mosaic roof and towering spire of the South Tower (448ft/ 136m) make it not only the tallest church in Austria, but one of the most instantly recognisable.
In fact, the highlight of my visit had to be that beautiful cathedral roof! To get a closer look, you can either climb up the South Tower (343 steps), or take a lift to the top of the North Tower. Whilst the South Tower is taller and offers panoramic views, the viewing space is entirely enclosed in the Tower Room, which has windows looking out over the city. Because of that, I opted to go up the North Tower. This gives you a fantastic close up view of the mosaic roof without a sheet of glass getting in the way!
From St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a 15 minute walk will take you to the Naschmarkt: a food and produce market, and a great spot for lunch. The walk also takes you past the Vienna State Opera House, so even if you don’t have time to catch a show, you can at least get a glimpse of this famous building!
The Naschmarkt has existed in some form since the 16th Century. Now made up of more than 100 permanent stalls spread over half a kilometre, the Naschmarkt is a great place to wander through and grab something to eat. It’s all bright colours and bustling customers; everything you’d expect from a city market. There’s also a flea market every Saturday, which could be great for buying unusual souvenirs.
Hofburg Palace is a former Imperial Palace, and the official seat of the Austrian president. It houses various attractions including Imperial Apartments, the Spanish Riding School, a Treasury, museums, libraries and even a butterfly house! Admission charges vary, but a walk around the outside of the palace and gardens is free.
I chose to visit the State Hall of the Austrian National Library… And am so glad I did, because it’s probably the most beautiful room I’ve ever set foot in! The largest Baroque library in Europe, the State Hall holds over 200,000 volumes, set in wooden shelves that cover the walls from floor to ceiling. The ceiling itself is decorated with frescoes, and the rest of library with statues, busts and 2 baroque globes.
Rathaus (Vienna City Hall)
The Vienna City Hall is the official seat of the city’s mayor, and a pretty impressive building! But that’s not why it made my list of things to see. Throughout the year, the Rathaus houses events such as markets, balls, and even an outdoor skating rink! Check out current events at https://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/ringstrasse2015/events2015.
I visited during the Music Film Festival. Although I didn’t get the chance to catch a film, I did enjoy the accompanying world food market! It was a great way to spend an afternoon, soaking up the atmosphere of the city (and filling my belly!).
Set in the Weiner Prater public park, Wurstelprater was opened to the public in 1766, making it one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Entrance is free, but rides cost between €1.50 and €5.00, and a ride on Vienna’s famous Weiner Riesenrad (a giant ferris wheel) is €9.50. I gave it a miss, spending my money on a couple of rides and a couple of glasses of wine instead! Apparently you get a great view across the city from the top though, so maybe next time!
As well as the fairground rides, Wurstelprater also houses Madame Tussauds, a planetarium and the Liliputbahn (a train ride through the park). There are also plenty of places to grab something to eat or drink, or just sit and spend some time people watching! Either way, an evening at Wurstelprater is a great way to end a day in Vienna.
Have you visited Vienna? What would you add/ take away from my suggestions for 1 day in the city?