Nowhere quite feels as regal as Vienna. Bursting with Baroque palaces and ornate opera houses, Vienna is a shrine to its Habsburg history, compacted mostly within one easily walkable 1km Innere Stadt (inner city). With 5 days, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the city’s biggest palaces, try your hand at waltzing and gorge on enough buttery strudel to give you a heart attack! Here’s our 5-day guide.
Day 1 – Hofburg Palace
Wherever you end up staying, you’ll find transport connections to the Innere Stadt very easy, since Vienna has a well-connected metro service. Keep an eye out for several beautiful Art Nouveau stations around town, designed by the Austrian architect Otto Wagner. Spend your first morning wandering through the Innere Stadt and getting your bearings, stopping off at Café Hawelka for coffee and exploring the staggeringly beautiful Austrian National Library.
Grab a quick lunch, before visiting your first palace – the Hofburg Wien. The formal residence of the Habsburg emperors, this palace is one of the biggest in the world and certainly one of the grandest. Explore the various apartments open to the public and fantasise about the lives of Vienna’s fabulously ostentatious rulers.
That evening, grab dinner at Brasserie Palmenhaus Wien, a large glass-domed restaurant full of tropical plants and a diverse menu. Then get an early night since you’ll have a busy day tomorrow!
Day 2 – Museumsquartier and Staatsoper
The next day, head back to the same area, as you’ll be exploring the many museums surrounding the Hofburg palace. Take your pick – art or natural history? The Kunsthistorichesmuseum and the Naturhistorischesmuseum are two identical buildings that stand opposite each other behind the palace, crammed full of priceless fine art in one and dinosaur fossils, and other ancient wonders, in the other. If you’re here with a group, split up, explore, and regroup after at the central Maria-Theresien-Platz monument.
If you’ve still got stamina, check out Mumok, an imposing building housing a large collection of modern art, or the Architekturzentrum museum for a guide to Austrian architecture. By late afternoon, brave the crowds at Café Central and enjoy a coffee and a slice of warm strudel in this cavernous, historic coffeehouse.
That evening, enjoy a truly Viennese experience by attending a show at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera). If your budget doesn’t quite stretch for the tickets, be sure to do a guided tour of the theatre for just 7.5 euros, to learn all about the history and take a peek (literally) behind the curtain!
Day 3 – Belvedere Palace
On your third day, escape the inner city by heading southeast to Schloss Belvedere. Spend the morning exploring the Belvederegarten, a vast expansive garden dating back to the 1700s. Cross the road to have a quick lunch at Art Corner Restaurant, a large Greek restaurant facing the complex, before heading back in to tackle the palace itself.
The Belvedere consists of two Baroque palaces, an Orangery and Palace Stables – now forming the home to the Belvedere Museum. Mostly art, the collections include pieces dating back to the Middle Ages, including the largest collection of Gustav Klimt paintings in the world.
In the late afternoon, hop on the tram north to Gußhausstraße, to wander past the beautiful Karlskirche in the golden hour glow of the early evening. If you get there before 6pm, you’ll have just enough time to go inside and take in the detailed ceilings from its raised viewing platform. Stroll through the Naschmarkt, and eat at Neni Am Naschmarkt, for sumptuous Tel Avivian cuisine. If you fancy a drink, head to Craftmühle, for a large collection of craft beers in a swish beer cellar.
Day 4 – Vineyards
Today’s the day for an excursion. Did you know that there are 630 wine producers within the wider city limits of Vienna? Known for white wines, there are over a thousand acres of vineyards for visitors to explore, sample wine and enjoy paired with cheese in a light-dappled wine tavern courtyard.
For a fun (and slightly silly) day tour – take the Vienna Huerigen Express, a miniature blue “train” which takes visitors across the city. Passing through the Vienna Woods, through quaint villages and old farmhouses, the train is the best way to get a flavour of the city’s many wine growing villages, without needing to have a designated driver! With a hop-on-hop-off ticket, it couldn’t be easier to do a wine crawl between some of the city’s most picturesque wineries, such as the Mayer am Nussberg outdoor heurige and Heuriger Zum Berger in Grinzing.
Day 5 – Schönbrunn
We’ve saved the very best until last, by keeping Schönbrunn Palace until your final day. Originally the summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, 45 rooms of the 1,441 room Rococo palace are now open to the public, offering a glimpse into the private lives of these extravagant wealthy elite. Mozart performed at six-years old in these halls, and Napoleon held strategic meetings here. It will take you several hours to explore all the rooms, but save a little energy for the exquisitely maintained gardens. Since Schönbrunn Palace is the most visited tourist attraction in the country, be sure to book ahead online to avoid disappointment.
If you fancy doing something really special on your final afternoon in Vienna, why not sign onto a one-off Waltzing class, to learn the basics and put your dancing skills to the test? Once considered highly immoral for its seductively close stance between partners, the Viennese Waltz eventually captured the hearts of dancers the world over, and Viennese balls sprung up across the city. Vienna Ball Season still occurs every year between November to January, including the famous Vienna Philharmonic Ball, several student balls and the LGBTI-inclusive, charity Viennese Rainbow Ball!
That evening, head to mariatrink – an open-air rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city, to sign off your 5-day Viennese escape in style.