The question I get asked the most after being abroad is what my favorite city was that I traveled to. I always answer Vienna. I realized on this trip a big factor of enjoying traveling is the company you are with. Most of the semester, I was on trips with large groups of people, who I love, but sometimes what we each wanted out of the vacation didn’t align. A lot of my friends were super into art, others wanted to shop, a few wanted to drink all day, and I always just wanted to hunt down the best food.
I visited Vienna on a whim with my friend Bri. We both had a free weekend we weren’t sure what to do with. All of our friends were singing the city’s praises after their trips, so we booked it and went without doing any research ahead of time. I am a notorious trip planner. Itineraries are my thing, but something about being able to explore a city without having any idea of what to expect was amazing. Bri and I did whatever we wanted, when we wanted.
We also love food. It is rare that someone loves to eat more than me, but Bri is on another level. She was the most fun person to travel with. We goofed around the entire time, and found the funniest things to do. This weekend guide may be a bit more quirky than most, but it’s a guaranteed good time.
Ideally you’ll be able to fly in the night before your trip officially starts like Bri and I did. If it’s not possible, try to find an early flight in the morning. You don’t want to miss any time you have in this stunning city. When we started walking around the first day, I immediately thought “this is what I expected Paris to look like.” Everything from the architecture to gardens is romantic and charming.
Breakfast: Ulrich Café
On vacation I like to eat a big breakfast, a street food lunch and a big dinner. This is the best way to experience all the amazing food a destination has to offer without being in foodcoma the whole day.
Ulrich Café is the perfect place to start your morning with an exciting breakfast that reaches far beyond eggs and bacon. Choose from their specials like shakshuka, smashed avocado benedicts, a vegan wakeup and acai bowls. If none of those suit your fancy, take a peek at their list of “extras,” including chocolate croissants, smoked salmon, avocado, poached eggs, chorizo and more to concoct your own delicious meal.
Everything here from the trendy decor to colorful dishes is Insta-ready meaning you can brush up on your food photography, and post a mouth-watering story your followers will love.
On your first day in Vienna take time to explore the museum side of the city. It is filled with history, art, parks and great cafés to partake in coffee culture. Everything in Vienna is close to each other. Once you are in the city center, you will be able to wander from place to place without having to worry about getting on the metro. That being said, throughout each of the three days you should divide and conquer. Bri and I chose to start by Hofburg Palace and work our way around the Museumsquartier, Austrian National Library and Burrgarten.
- Hofburg Palace: What used to be the royal residence of the Habsburgs is now home to three different museums: the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum and the Silver Collection. It is hard to miss the opulent white palace adorned with green domes, but it is part of a visually magnificent complex with multiple museums and the national library. Having a map out was very beneficial for Bri and I to know where we were.
- Austrian National Library: Imagine the huge libraries you see in movies with ladders to reach books that go all the up to the ceiling. The Austrian National Library is that but so much better because of its rich history. There is always a temporary exhibit on display showcasing the old books and letters of Austrian figures. This is a great activity for people who love history museums, and are fascinated by old artifacts and spectacular interiors.
- MuseumsQuartier: Across Heldenplatz from the Habsburg palace, you will find an area of Vienna filled with more museums than you could ever dream of all in one place. Technically not a part of MuseumsQuartier, the Museum of Natural History is the first one you will come across. It is located on the edge of Maria-Theresien-Platz along with the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Across the street is the collection of museums known as MuseumsQuartier. Here you can find the Leopold Museum, modern art museum, contemporary art museum and six others. Do your research ahead of time to plan out which ones you are most interested in.
Lunch: Bitzinger Sausage in Burrgarten
This will without a doubt be the highlight of your day if you are a street eats foodie. Your first mission is to find the Bitzinger Würstelstand right outside the Albertina museum. Then you will have to decipher between 15 different sausage types that you definitely will not know the difference between. You can play it safe or describe to the sausage man what kind of meat you are looking for. Bri and I both asked for spicy and were recommended the currywurst. You will then list the condiments you want. What happens next will be the most miraculous foodvention you have ever seen in your life. The sausage man will hollow out a large baguette roll and put all of your condiments and sausage inside. It’s genius. Walk to Burrgarten, and enjoy your lunch in the sun with a side of people watching.
- Butterfly House: Palmenhaus appears to be just a greenhouse café when looking at it from Burrgarten, but on the end there is a hidden gem for insect lovers, The Butterfly House. It is a spectacular oasis inside. Greenery fills the entire space. Colorful butterflies glide from flower to flower. One may even land on you if you are wearing a bright outfit.
- Time Travel Vienna: Sometimes it’s hard to find a place that presents history in an exciting way. Time Travel Vienna creates an immersive experience for their audience to “time travel” through the city’s most important events. The tour takes place in a large basement that they transformed into eight different areas all focusing on different eras. Bri and I had so much fun on this tour. It was unlike any activity I’ve ever seen while traveling. It is a great way to spend an hour before heading back for dinner.
A memorable dinner starts with a great atmosphere. Hundreds of red lanterns set a chic and sophisticated mood in the dimly lit dining room filled with dark wood tables and chairs. As a certified sushi expert, Bri raved the sashimi was the best she ate in Europe. As a non-sushi lover, I was also very impressed with my meal. I ordered pork buns, vegetable gyoza and an entree special they were offering that was like a mix between kung pao and orange chicken. If you are craving Asian food in Vienna, this is the place to enjoy it.
Breakfast: Figar 1040
Breakfast in Vienna is beyond impressive. Their brunch scene may be better than New York City’s. Everyone is out early in the morning lining up for eggs and waffles before 11 a.m. Figar fills up fast so be sure to make a reservation, show up early or sit outside in slightly undesirable weather like Bri and I did. The menu is expansive. They offer a breakfast burger, eggs benedict with ham, bacon or smoked salmon, raw fare, classic Viennese breakfast and anything else you can imagine: french toast, yougurt bowls, avocado toast, sweet potato bowls and omelettes. You will leave very full and very pleased.
- Karlskirche: Vienna visitors are treated to the city’s largest Barqoque church built in the 18th century in Karlsplatz. The square is always filled with people taking in each mesmerizing detail from the outside . From the inside, the green dome is covered in decorative frescoes. Since it’s not too far from Belvedere Palace, this a great site to see after breakfast and relax a little bit.
- Belvedere Palace: No trip to Vienna is complete without a trip to Belvedere Palace. The most amazing part of this attraction is that visiting the gardens is completely free. With good weather, you can spend hours here walking the grounds. There are so many statues and secret sitting areas hidden among all of the perfectly trimmed hedges. If you want to check out the art collections, there are three different exhibitions: Lower Belvedere, Upper Belvedere and Belvedere 21. Upper Belvedere is the most popular exhibit. It is housed the main Baroque palace and features work from Monet, van Gogh and others.
Coffee & Snack Break
Coffee culture is a big deal in Vienna. There is a café tailored to every trend and person. Walk back in to town and find a coffee shop that speaks to you. Bri and I spotted Aida from a mile away with its bright pink exterior and decor. Walking in, we were overcome with delight seeing all of precisely made cakes and pastries on display. I have never had a more difficult time choosing a treat in my life. Bri had a chocolate cake covered in chocolate ganache while I opted for a layered hazelnut cake. Sit back and unwind before your night at Prater Park.
- Vienna Opera House: Vienna is famous for classical music. Mozart and Beethoven both spent their adult lives as composers in Vienna as well as Johann Strauss II, Franz Schubert and many others. It is no surprise then why the Opera House is so important to the city’s history and culture. Guided tours are offered each day, and there are always tickets available for performances.
- Prater Park: Head back to your hotel or hostel to take a quick nap then hop on the metro to Prater, Vienna’s public amusement park. This the place to be at night. The energy is electric. Everyone from tweens to senior citizens come to Prater to ride the rides, play games and hang out at the beer gardens. The whole park is lit up in every color imaginable. Vienna’s signature dish, wiener schnitzel, is served at all of the restaurants in the park. Before you start to think amusement park food isn’t good, many locals eat at Prater. It won’t be fancy, but it will be a fantastic wiener schnitzel dinner.
Day three in Vienna is dedicated to exploring its very touristy square in the city center, Stephansplatz. The amount of people shopping here and taking in the sites may be slightly overwhelming, but it is worth it to mingle with the crowds for the afternoon to see Vienna’s most famous church and maybe do some shopping yourself.
- Graben: Shopping has never been more beautiful or exciting than when strolling down Graben, Vienna’s most popular street. It is lined with cafés and baroque buildings galore. Take an elegant stroll to pick up your souvenir t-shirt, shot glass or post card.
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral: Gothic architecture is a sure way to stand out in Vienna. St. Stephen’s Cathedral is iconic. From it’s multi-colored tile roof to tall spire, this church has become a widely recognizable landmark of the city. Visitors can admire from afar, or enter the church and dive deep into its catacombs and climb high up the south tower.
“Save the best for the last” is one of my favorite sayings. Prepare to say goodbye to Vienna with an ethnic culinary adventure through Naschmarkt, an outdoor market with hundreds of food stalls one after another selling everything from baklava to doner kebabs to fried rice. If you want it, Naschmarkt has it. My tip is to walk through the whole strip once to see what is calling your name then indulge in a lunch feast. This is also really good place to try wiener schnitzel if you didn’t try it at Prater. Saturday is the most popular day here because of the flea market. It is closed on Sundays.
If you’re not flying out on the night of your third day, you should try to make it to Schönbrunn Palace, the Versailles of Vienna. Bri and I did not have the time to visit, but it is something that will be on my list for next time. I hope you enjoy your trip to Vienna as much as I did. Everything in the city is wonderful. The only thing you’ll be hoping for more of is time.