Grandeur is part of the internal workings of Vienna, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from a city whose luminaries include historical heavyweights like Klimt, Mozart, Beethoven and Freud. Find out what to do in Vienna with our guide to two perfect days in the city.
A two-day visit to the Austrian capital is plenty of time to run through an itinerary suited to specific cultural interests, but for a general overview, shamelessly take the easy route with a walking tour to get your bearings.
A guided tour – often beginning at Albertinaplatz – gives a good insight into Vienna, covering main attractions like St Stephen’s Cathedral and the shopping streets. Orientation complete, enjoy lunch at one of its many restaurants. Thanks to its rich history, international cuisine is above par, but begin by trying authentic Austrian cuisine at Restaurant Hinterholz, which specialises in spare ribs and schnitzel.
Fed and watered, it’s time to retrace your steps to see what may have piqued your interest on the walking tour, and/or see the main architectural wonders of the city. The Rathaus, St Stephen’s Church, the Hofburg are all must-sees, as is the beautiful Belvedere Palace, which also houses impressive art including the renowned painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.
Not too far away is the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s most famous flea market, open on a Saturday with over 400 sellers of antiques, nik-naks, souvenirs, clothes and more. It’s worth visiting for its many oddities, plus there are plenty of places to stop for a well-earned coffee and snack (indeed, it’s known as ‘the stomach of Vienna’).
As evening sets in, it’s a visit to the Vienna State Opera – no Viennese break is complete without catching a show at the world-famous venue. Originally built in 1869 and renovated after the Second World War, details like the 1950s influence and marble staircases make it the most eminent opera house in Europe. Be warned: it’s closed during July and August and tickets for shows (which change from a stock of around 50 operas, ballets and shows on a daily basis) sell out. At certain times, those left ticketless can watch on giant video screens outside – not the most comfortable experience but it certainly allows for a convivial atmosphere. The opera house is centrally positioned so that there’s plenty of choice to dine out afterwards, and many restaurants offer post-theatre menus accordingly.
With most of the graft done, the second day belongs to the weird and wonderful. Top of the list is the unique Hundertwasserhaus, an expressionist building complex built with the architectural ideas of Hundertwasser – so expect shrinking corridors, abstract wall murals and bright colours.
For art lovers, its contemporary art museum, mumok, is among the most thought providing, with pieces from Warhol, Picasso and Richter among others. Locals will encourage visitors to see Vienna from an aerial view from their pride and joy, the Giant Ferris Wheel, but there are other ways and means to see the city’s stunning skyline. Our favourite is the Danube Tower, whose restaurant is raised 170 metres above ground-level and features panoramic views that stretch right back to the Carpathian Mountains on a clear day – no better setting for gourmet dining.
If there’s room in the day and in the stomach, head to one of their many elegant cocktail bars for a digestif – keep it local and order the native Austrian spirit, schnapps. Why, it would be rude not to sample a selection…