48 Hours: Vienna gives visitors imperial traditions, modern Europe at same time

Posted October 3, 2019


VIENNA — With a unique blend of imperial traditions and stunning modern architecture, Austria’s capital of Vienna is like no other. Rich in culture and history, Vienna has been a hub for world class artists, musicians and writers. Whether the baroque palaces, signature coffee houses or just that Viennese charm, Vienna is a trip you’ll be hard pressed to forget.


12 p.m. Go on a Kaffenhaus hop

Cafe-Konditorei Aida on Singerstrasse is one of many coffee shops in Vienna (Photos by Ceara Manship).

Vienna is the mecca for coffee lovers where the Kaffenhaus scene is as alive as it’s ever been. Deep rooted in Austrian culture, these coffee houses have been hot spots for the world’s top politicians, writers and artists alike. Whether an old classic or something newly renovated, the art and elegance of the Viennese coffee house remains intact. There is no better way to start your trip than bouncing around the city’s top coffee houses getting a caffeine high along the way. Start at Cafe Central, one of the most famous and traditional of the Viennese coffee houses. Indulge in a selection of tortes and cakes under the high cathedral-like ceiling. Make sure to save room for the original Sachertorte at Cafe Sacher, the next stop on the list. A rich chocolate cake with apricot jam, this decadent treat has become a Viennese staple, and for good reason.   Just a few blocks away is Aida Cafe. Feast your eyes on a wide array of sweet treats lining the display cases. Pretty in pink, this historic coffee house is easy on the eyes with a 1950s ambience.

3 p.m. Take a fiaker through Old Town

A fiaker rolls past Hofburg Palace.

There is no cozier way to explore Vienna’s Old Town than a fiaker ride. This horse drawn carriage takes passengers on a 20-minute tour passing staple attractions such as the impressive St. Stephen’s Cathedral, decorated with painted tiles in an ornate design; Mozarthaus, once home to one of the most well known classical music composers; and numerous statues and memorials, most notably being the Ankeruhr (Anchor Clock). The clock, adorned with mosaic ornaments, forms a bridge between the two parts of the Anker Insurance Co. building. If you are lucky enough to trot by the Ankeruhr at noon, keep your eyes peeled as historical figurines parade across the bridge, accompanied by music from various eras. A typical Fiaker tour of Old Town costs €55 ($60.44). 

4 p.m. See a show at the Spanish Riding School

The large baroque riding hall is a sight in and of itself with pillars lining the arena and grand chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. However, the performance by the Lipizzan horses- the Ballad of the White Stallions – is the riding school’s claim to fame. Accompanied by classical Viennese music, the performance is enchanting from start to finish. Performance tickets range from €25-27 ($27.47-29.67), but tickets to watch the daily training of the Lipizzans are available at the box office each morning for just €15 ($16.48). A guided tour of the facility is also available for €18 ($19.78).

5:30 p.m. Grab a sausage at Bitzinger Wurstelstand

A Kasekrainer, or sausage, from Bitzinger Wurstelstand.

Topped with an LED sign and an unmistakable emerald-green rabbit, this traditional Austrian street food stand is hard to miss. Offering up variations of juicy sausage stuffed in a hollowed out French roll, Bitzinger Wurstelstand at Albertina is sure to have a line wrapped around the corner. Though, the flavor-packed sausages are well worth the wait. The popular Kasekrainer, a large sausage filled with chunks of cheese, is just €4,40 ($4.83). Right across from the Opera House, the Bitzonger Wurstel is the perfect pre-show bite.

6 p.m. Watch a performance at the Vienna State Opera House

Host to some of the world’s most famous singers and conductors, the famous State Opera House is sure not to disappoint. Extravagantly decorated with red and gold accents, the interior of the building is enough to take your breath away. You can take a glimpse behind the scenes of the world’s largest repertoire theater with guided tours of the Opera House for just €9 ($9.89). With both opera and ballet performances, there is a little something for everyone. Opera prices range from €16-39 ($17.58-42.85), while ballet prices are a bit less expensive, ranging from €12-51 ($13.19-56.04).

9 p.m. Top off the night at the Atmosphere Rooftop Bar

Located at the Ritz-Carlton Vienna, this upscale cocktail bar has one of the best views of the city center.

Open mid-April until the end of the summer, the eighth floor bar serves up light bites along with Austrian-inspired cocktails and wines. Although it is a bit on the expensive side, the outdoor seating with a summer breeze against the city backdrop is a must.


10 a.m. Browse the Naschmarkt

Start your day browsing Vienna’s most famous market: the Naschmarkt. The market runs for almost a mile, making it Vienna’s largest market by far. You can find almost anything you can imagine with fruits and vegetables from around the world, exotic spices, olives, cheeses, meats, and seafood. There are also many restaurants and food stalls serving a host of Viennese specialties and more.

11 a.m. Tour the Belvedere

The Belvedere is one of the leading museums worldwide with three different sections, there is more than enough to see. Lower Belvedere, once the residential palace of Prince Eugene, is now home to art exhibitions from the Middle Ages to the present day. Regular entry tickets are sold at €14 ($15.38). The baroque palace of Upper Belvedere is the most visited museum in Austria, with works from Monet and Van Gogh. Regular entry tickets to this section are €16 ($17.58). Lastly, the Belvedere 21 is a venue for contemporary art, film and music. Regular entry tickets to Belvedere 21 are €8 ($8.79).

2 p.m. Have a picnic in Stadtpark

After a long few hours of museum touring, Vienna’s most gorgeous park is the ideal outdoor lunch spot. Divided in two sections by the Vienna River, the large park has statues of famous Viennese artists, literary figures, and composers scattered across the grounds. Lay out a blanket and take in the scenery while enjoying your goodies from the Naschmarkt.

4 p.m. Wander the Hundertwasserhaus block

Deemed one of Vienna’s most Instagram-worthy spots, this colorful and quirky apartment block cannot go unseen. Each building is painted with vibrant colored blocks of orange, blue, red and white.

The graffiti-like design makes the row of apartments look as if they came straight from a page in a Dr. Seuss book.

5 p.m. Ride the Riesenrad

Round off your second day with a ride around the Riesenrad, the giant Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater Amusement Park. With unforgettable city views, the attraction stands 64.75 meters tall. You can buy single ride tickets for €12 ($13.19) or arrange to have dinner or coffee while you enjoy your ride.

7 p.m. Take in the view from the Danube Tower.

If you’re looking for another good view, look no further than the Danube Tower, the tallest structure in Austria. Viewing platforms 450 feet above the ground give tourists and locals alike an incredible view of the city and surrounding areas. There are also two revolving restaurants in the tower, making for a perfect spot to wind down after a long day.


9 a.m. Visit the Schonbrunn Palace

A hillside view of Schonbrunn Palace, one of the favorite tourist attractions in Vienna.

No trip to Vienna is complete without visiting the Schonbrunn Palace, home of the Hapsburg empire. There is so much to do at Schonbrunn, from a zoo to the orangery, that you could spend the entire day there. Tour the palace itself or take in the view of the massive garden labyrinths from the hill. Make sure to arrive early as ticket lines are often very long. The classic pass offers access to five attractions: the palace, Privy Garden, Orangery Garden, Maze and Gloriette for €26,50 ($29.12).

If You Go

There are plenty of places to stay in Vienna, ranging from fairly inexpensive to outrageously priced, including Airbnb, hostels, mid-range hotels, and luxury five star hotels.

Wombats City Hostels Vienna – $

Found in the Naschmarkt and close to the museum quarter, this highly rated hostel offers both dormitory and private rooms at a great price.

Hotel Konig von Ungarn – $$

This four-star hotel is one of Vienna’s oldest. It is well reviewed and priced just right.

Grand Hotel Wien – $$$

A highly rated and centrally located five-star hotel offering five different restaurants, luxurious rooms, a spa and business center, Grand Hotel Wien is a great choice at the high end.

Cafe Central – Herrengasse 14, 1010, Vienna, Austria

Cafe Sacher – Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010, Vienna, Austria

Cafe Aida – Singerstraße 1, 1010, Vienna, Austria