Vienna is an often overlooked European capital. Being somewhat removed from the tourist hot spots of Italy, France and Germany, the Austrian capital offers just as much its neighbours, with far fewer crowds. Take this guide to make the most of your first 48 hours in Vienna.
48 Hours in Vienna
Day 1: Morning
Start your Viennese vacation in Imperial style. Your first stop will be at the Hofburg, the Habsburg winter residence. Its best to get here in the morning, as this is the one place in the city where crowds can get a little hectic. Try to order your tickets ahead; the Sisi Ticket is the best deal. Visit here to see the sumptuous staterooms and centuries’ worth of gold, silver and porcelain in the treasury. You can spend your whole morning here, but if you’d like to extend your visit, stop for a show at the Spanish Riding School, located just opposite the Hofburg.
Day 1: Afternoon
Stick around downtown in the afternoon for a bite at Zum Schwarzen Kameel. A Viennese staple for over 400 years, this restaurant offers a wide variety of Viennese fine dining. Get here before 2:30pm, and grab a table, or visit the bar, open all day, for handmade sandwiches, as well as main courses and pastries.
Continue after lunch to another downtown staple: the Stephansdom. This cathedral is unique in style. Its Romanesque-Gothic melange also has a pop of color. Step inside and be wowed by its soaring vaults and peculiar checkerboard floor. You can explore the interior, delve into the catacombs, climb up its two towers, or all of the above. The towers are sure to surprise you, as you’ll get to see the patterned tile roof, complete with a giant Austrian double-eagle.
Day 1: Evening
Spend your first night in Vienna soaking up some its famous high culture. Right downtown is the grand Vienna Opera House, one of the best in the world. During the season, you’ll find world-class performances almost nightly. If opera’s not really your thing, there’s plenty of other places to see a show. You can also check out the Musikverein for jazz and classical music, the Burgtheater for live theatre, or the Theater an der Wien for all of the above.
Just make sure you stop for a pre-show dinner. Just behind the Opera House is Café Sacher, Vienna’s most famous restaurant. Stop here for some Viennese specialties, like Schnitzel and sausage, and don’t leave without trying the obligatory Sachertorte, Austria’s sumptuous chocolate cake.
Day 2: Morning
You’ve seen the Habsburg winter palace, so this morning head to the other side of town for a glimpse at the summer palace. Even larger than its downtown counterpart, the Schönbrunn Palace has over 1,400 rooms (40 are open to the public), and about 400 acres of meticulously manicured gardens. You can use yesterday’s Sisi Ticket for admission. In order to explore as much as possible, get here early. The gardens open at 6:30am, followed by the palace at 8am. Stay for lunch at Café Residenz, located on the property, or bring your own for a picnic in the gardens.
Day 2: Afternoon
Head back downtown to spend the afternoon at one of Vienna’s museums. Luckily for visitors, you are simply spoiled for choice. With over 100 museums, you’ll be sure to find something perfect for you. Some of the most popular include the Belvedere, a former palace famous for its collection of Klimt works, the MuseumsQuartier, a multi-museum complex housing Austrian, modern and contemporary art, and the less-visited Albertina, for a little bit of everything. Outside the art world, you can also visit the Natural History Museum or the House of Music, a family-friendly museum tracing the science of music and Vienna’s impact on it. Pick whichever one suits you best, and explore to your heart’s content.
Day 2: Evening
Vienna has so much to see, it can be overwhelming! So take your second night in the city to let loose. The Prater, Vienna’s historic amusement park is perfect for kids and adults alike. Hop on one of two Ferris wheels for a bird’s eye view over the Danube and the Vienna skyline. For the adrenaline-seekers, visit the Haunted House, ride the drop tower, or even go indoor skydiving. You can even enjoy fairground treats, Viennese-style. It’s the perfect way to cap off a whirwind 48 hours in the Austrian capital.
Hopefully, 48 hours has given you a taste of what a weekend in Vienna has to offer. You’ll be sure to fall in love and come back again and again, and you’ll find something new every time.
Book a Hotel in Vienna
Sarah is a college student and avid traveller, who’s cracked the budget travel formula and backpacked solo across 15 European countries