7 things to do in Vienna

by | May 8, 2023

Vienna is one of the great cities of the world. As a musician, I’ve long admired the great Austrian composers like Haydn and Mozart, among others. I learned how their cultivated environment shaped their musical works.

I tried to cram as much as I could into my trip to Vienna. I boiled it down to 7 things you should probably do when you visit.

1. Coffee Shops

It’s essential that you visit some of the well-known coffee shops to better understand Viennese culture. You can read about how this culture may have shaped some of the world’s most intriguing thinkers.

Cafe Schwarzenberg – Busy in the morning, and you may need to make a reservation. Good, strong coffee. Eggs benedict.

Cafe Central – Where Freud used to hang out. Get the Kaiserschmarrn (broken pancakes) and/or pastries.

Demel – Delicious desserts. Get the Kaiserschmarrn here, too. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan dined here.

Cafe Landtmann – My favorite cafe. Delicious Schnitzel and Appel Strudel. Good service and relaxed vibe.

2. Restaurants

Gasthaus zu den 3 Hacken – Traditional Viennese fare (but the beer is from Germany). I went with the Tafelspitz. But there are more adventurous options like calf sweetbreads.

Café Imperial Wien – A friend told me said this restaurant has the best schnitzel in the city, and I don’t think he was wrong. Delicious food, great service – even on a very busy night.

You can stumble into some trendy restaurants and charming eateries in the old town.

3. Museums

Albertina – This may be one of my favorite museums in the world. Breathtaking visual art in a beautiful building. Works by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso.

Sisi Museum – Learn about Empress Elisabeth, the well known wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, who has been portrayed in books and film.

Imperial Treasury Vienna – Crowns, scepters, regal clothes. Both this museum and the Sisi are in the Hoffburg Palace, so you could see both easily.

Kunsthistorisches Museum – The Hapsburg rulers collected many antiquities over the centuries. A repository of their many treasures. I especially enjoyed the coin collection.

4. Palaces

Schönbrunn Palace – The main summer residence of the Hapsburgs. As much as I enjoyed walking through the opulent rooms, I found the gardens vast and remarkable. Walk all the way to the top of the hill to get a nice view of Vienna’s cityscape.

Belvedere Palace – A gorgeous palace with a tremendous art collection including The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. There was a line of people trying to take selfies while making out in front of it.

5. Jazz Music

Porgy & Bess Jazz & Music Club. The go-to jazz club. I liked the venue but wasn’t really digging the music that particular night. But I’m all for supporting local arts venues.

6. Opera

Vienna State Opera House – Go to a show. And if you can’t swing that, try the daytime tour, where the guide will usher you through all the main rooms.

7. Churches

Amazing architecture: Votivkirche, St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Karlskirche. It’s worth spending some time in all of these places to think, pray, and take in the vast beauty.