Chocolate, cafes and pretty, Baroque architecture are just a few things that make me feel like I’m in a romantic, European dream. Naturally, that means Vienna was the perfect spot to escape for a few days. And since I got sick from my adventures in Budapest, that meant I really only had 48 hours in Vienna.
As Austria’s capital, Vienna is home to some of the country (and the world’s) most important moments in history. Mozart, Beethoven, Gustav Klimt and Sigmund Freud are just some of Vienna’s most prized minds that brought art, music and science to the contemporary world as we know it. East of the Danube River lies this cultural mecca and an incredibly beautiful one at that!
Vienna may be expensive, but you’ll soon see why. This city is dripping in decadence and it’s appreciation for all things gold will shed some light on its rich culture. But lucky for you budget travelers, Vienna is also known for its coffee shops! Hide out here for a few hours and you’ll not only taste some epic pastries, but enjoy some people watching on the cheap.
If you’re staying longer than 2 days or prefer to add more cafes to your trip, check out the other options listed throughout this post!
8:00 am Tour the Schönbrunn Palace
This major tourist attraction is the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in Austria. Schönbrunn Palace is a garden and palace that was once an imperial summer residence during the Austrian Empire. This Baroque palace with 1,441 rooms, labyrinth style garden and sculptures are incredibly awe-inspiring.
Normally I would suggest to hit up a breakfast spot before you go here, however the vast gardens are a lovely spot for a picnic. If you’re visiting from Spring through Fall, hit up Naschmarkt and enjoy some fruits, pastries and sandwiches for breakfast and a snack before lunch.
1:00 pm Eat and Look Up at Palmenhaus
Have you ever wanted to dine in a trendy greenhouse? No? Well now you can try this chic and awesome experience at Palmenhaus. This restaurant was a former tropical house with high ceilings and incredible sunlight that overlooks a large pond.
Located in the Imperial Garden, Palmenhaus t is known for its delicious incredible decor, cocktails and apple strudel. You’ll come here for the great food, but odds are you’ll just Instagram it. After lunch, walk it off and enjoy the view at Neue Burg or Heroes’ Square.
Other options: Bristol Lounge, Anna Sacher, Die Metzgerei, or Wiener Wiaz Haus
3:00 pm Marvel at Hundertwasserhaus
This may look like an art model but it’s actually home to local Viennese! Hundertwasserhaus is an apartment house built after the idea and concept of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser with architect Joseph Krawina between 1983 and 1985. After peaking at the architecture and local scene, stroll along the Danube River.
Other options: Leopoldstadt
4:00 pm Stuff Your Face at Aida
In the land of coffee houses, it’s time for some more pastries and, of course, coffee. This is a great place to put your feet up and people watch while enjoying delicious Viennese chocolates. You’ll also find a more bohemian vibe here, contrasting to the baroque-style architecture you’ve been checking out all day. But don’t fill up too much to save room for a tasty dinner!
Other option: Café Sperl, Café Central, Café Rüdigerhof, or Café Diglas
7:30 pm Eat More at Skopic & Lohn
This trendy and upscale, Austrian restaurant is the perfect spot to get your local fix. Enjoy classic dishes like veal wiener schnitzel or maishuhn, aka chicken. You could also try something a little different like the ombrina fish with basilikumpuree. But it’s not so much the food you’re here for as it is the vibe.
Other options: Restaurant Rote Bar, at eight, Mraz and Sohn
9:00 pm Skate Around Wiener Einstraum
If you’re stopping by during the late Fall to early Spring time, you’re in luck! Take a stroll around Rathausplatz and marvel at Wiener Rathaus, Vienna’s city hall. In front of Rathaus is Wiener Einstraum holds a large ice skating rink with loops, food stalls and a blow-up snow globe!
Enjoy the traditional food fare and skate around this winter wonderland. If you’re coming by at a different time of year, enjoy the magnificent architecture and a Viennese pretzel.
Other options: Wiener Riesenrad, Prater
10:00 pm Attic Bar at 25Hours Hotel
Surprisingly, one of Vienna’s best cocktail bars is at the top floor of the very hotel I stayed at! What was once a student hostel is not trendy, designer hotel. The attic as it’s called offers a fantastic view of the city, a cozy atmosphere and a very bustling nightlife. Sip on a fancy cocktail and chat up with some classy Austrians before you hit the club scene, that is if you can afford it!
Other options: Le Loft, The Sign Lounge, Ebert’s Cocktail Bar, Tür 7
8:00 am Figar
If you’re looking for a hangover cure or a pick-me-up for the second half of your trip, you’ve found it at Figar. You can’t miss the hip art and exposed brick at this very trendy cafe.
For only 10 Euros, you can nosh on Viennese classics like sausages and coffee or simply try their omelettes or a continental style breakfast! If you’re going first thing in the morning, you won’t need a reservation. Any later and you might not be so lucky!
Other options: Gloriette Cafe, Café Diglas
10:00 am Belvedere Museum
The Belvedere Museum, or the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, is an art museum in the Belvedere Palace. Not only is this beautiful palace listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is home to the famous The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, as well as his other notable works.
There are two large buildings and a beautiful garden that separates the two. Three hours is a sufficient amount of time to explore before you find yourself getting hungry for Austrian pastries.
Other options: Hofburg, Leopold Museum, or Albertina
12:00 pm Demel
Aside from apple strudel and wienerschnitzel, Vienna is also known for its amazing sweets. This includes basically anything chocolate like sachertorte, hot chocolate and hand-painted candies. Demel Cafe is one of the most iconic pastry cafes in all of Vienna, where you’ll find countless cakes and their hot chocolate is like crack.
Enjoy watching the pastry chefs make fresh goodies and be sure to stock up on treats for when you head back home.
Other options: Café Sacher, Apfelstrudel, Punschkrapfen, Mozart-torte
3:00 pm St. Stephen’s Cathedral
One of the most important sites in Vienna is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna: St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Between the crypts below and the site over the city below, there’s a lot this cathedral has to offer tourists. Although a tad expensive for what you get, you history buffs and photography fanatics can’t miss this spot!
After about an hour or so, stroll through the surrounding square known as Stephansplatz and browse the local shops. Don’t take too much time here though. You’re going to want plenty of time to get dolled up for the opera in the evening.
6:30 pm Vienna State Opera
You can’t visit Vienna without at least visiting the birthplace of opera’s finest performances. Contrary to the typical Baroque style, the Vienna State Opera House was completed in 1869 and built with a Neo-Renaissance style by Czech architect Josef Hlávka.
This opera house is incredibly vertical with seats in the back making it very hard to see. There’s even a section of standing tickets so that everyone can afford to enjoy the show! Try to buy tickets in advance and no matter which section you choose, try to sit near the front. And don’t worry if you don’t understand the language; each chair includes an electronic translator (that can be hilariously literal from time to time).
9:30 pm ef16 Weinbar and Restaurant
This local spot is hard to find, but well worth the trek. Low lit, intimate and cozy, ef16 Weinbar and Restaurant features a simple menu with just a few options for appetizers, salad and entrees, but what a selection! The menu often includes seasonal vegetables and sauces paired with a protein of choice.
But along with the menu, you’re getting a real taste of Vienna (not so many tourists here)! And of course, like most of your trip throughout Vienna, you can’t skip dessert – especially the crème brûlée with fresh mango and kiwi yogurt ice cream!
Other options: Restaurant Steirereck, Silvio Nickol, or Loca
The city of Vienna is saturated with culture, sites and experiences. If you want to see it all, I recommend the Vienna City Card. You can choose a single, two or three-day card ranging from 28-35 euro. If you’re trying to see at least 3 museums, sites or restaurants a day, then you’ll definitely want this card.
The underground is incredibly clean and efficient. Vienna experiences some gnarly rush hour traffic so if you can avoid a cab between 4-6pm, you’ll be able to enjoy your two days faster!
Vienna is incredibly expensive compared to it’s Czech and Hungarian neighbors. If you’re visiting on a budget, try to enjoy a lot of picnics, attend free museum days, avoid expensive shopping and look out for free walking tours around the city!
Personally, I shop around for the cheapest flights out there. But if you’re limited on time and need direct flights to Vienna, Austrian Airlines will hook you up. Direct flights from Los Angeles to Vienna are available through Austrian Airlines’ Boeing 777 starting April 2017. If that gives you more time in Vienna, even better!