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2 Days in Vienna: The Ultimate Itinerary + Invaluable Tips (By An Austrian)

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Contemporary Vienna is as flamboyant and remarkable as Maria Theresa’s Baroque wonderland and its imperial monuments and regal grandeur make it a fascinating place to visit. When spending 2 days in Vienna, you’ll want to see Habsburg palaces, High Baroque churches, aristocratic mansions, world-class museums, and famous coffeehouses that make the Austrian capital so special. Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Vienna in two days 🙂

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Getting To Vienna

Vienna’s only airport, Schwechat International, is located 19 km (12 miles) southeast of the city center. The quickest and most reliable way to get from Vienna Airport to the city center is by super-efficient CAT (City Airport Train), which runs to and from Wien Mitte Station.

The City Airport Train runs every 30 minutes during operating hours (05:35–23:35) Monday through Sunday, including public holidays.

Alternatively, you can also take one of the ÖBB Railjet trains from Vienna Airport to Vienna Central Station (Wien Hauptbahnhof). Trains run daily from the airport from 06.33–23:03, every 30 minutes. For detailed timetable and price information, please visit the ÖBB website.

The buses of Vienna Airport Lines (VAL) also run on three different routes from various points in the city to Vienna Airport. For detailed timetable and price information, please visit the VAL website.

Is 2 Days Enough To Visit Vienna?

Two days isn’t really enough time to visit Vienna, but it’s certainly enough to get enough of a feel for the city, see a majority of the top attractions, and enjoy some of the foodie culture that the city is so known for.

Is the Vienna City Card/Vienna Pass Worth It For 2 Days?

When spending two days in Vienna, it might be a good idea to invest in a sightseeing pass/card given the city’s plethora of cultural attractions and sights. The Vienna Pass is the kind of tourist card you are probably used to where you pay a flat fee and gain free access to a large number of attractions.

The 2 days Vienna Pass costs a hefty 123 EUR but if you plan on seeing a lot of paid cultural attractions, it is a great choice. The only downside of the Vienna Pass is that it doesn’t cover public transport. 

The Vienna City Card differs from the Vienna Pass as it doesn’t include free entrances to sites and museums, but rather offers discounts, usually in the range of 1-5 EUR.

One of the main benefits of the Vienna City Card is that the discounts don’t only apply to sights and museums, but also to selected restaurants, shops, and leisure activities. It also allows unlimited free travel on the city’s metro, tram, and bus lines.

To find out which is the better alternative for you, read our in-depth comparison between the Vienna Pass vs Vienna City Card.

How to Get Around During Your 2 Days in Vienna

For this ‘2 days in Vienna’ itinerary, I primarily recommend exploring the city on foot. There is no better way to see the city than to walk around Vienna at your own pace.

Many of the major attractions are conveniently huddled together in close proximity and attractive streets are peppered with inviting plazas, gardens, and cafés offering plenty of places to stop. 

Walking in Vienna is not without its hazards though. Traffic seldom stops at pedestrian crossings, so be alert when crossing the road. When walking, pay close attention not to walk along bike paths and tram lines, as this is prohibited and dangerous.

If you’re interested in a walking tour of central Vienna and seeing the city’s most popular highlights, check out this popular Vienna Walking Tour.

However, in order to save time or if the legwork gets too much, you should make use of the extremely efficient city transport system, known as the Wiener Linien. Vienna’s public transport network consists of trams (Strassenbahn), buses (Autobus), underground (U-Bahn), and trains (S-Bahn). Almost every part of Vienna is accessible by public transport.

Most of the main sights in Vienna’s historic center are located on the popular Ring Tram route. The U-Bahn is generally the quickest way to get around. It operates seven days a week from around 05:30 to 00:30. A 24-hour service runs on weekends and public holidays.

There are a number of ticket options ranging from a single ticket (2.40 EUR) to 24-hour (8 EUR) and 48-hour (14.10 EUR) tickets. Although tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines at U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations, it is best to buy a ticket in advance.

You can even purchase a mobile ticket using the Wiener Linien app. Children under six travel free on public transit, and children under 14 travel free on Sundays and public holidays providing they can show proof of age.

Tickets are valid for all public transportation—buses, trams, and the subway. You’ll need to punch your ticket before entering the boarding area at U-Bahn stops, but for buses and trams, you punch it on board.

If you’re caught without a ticket you’ll pay a hefty fine. You can plan your trip using public transport here.

If you’re visiting Vienna in the warmer months, exploring the city on a bicycle is a good option. The city has introduced a system of free bike rental called Citybike. Bicycles can be rented or returned from any of the 120 or so Citybike stations over the city.

To use a Citybike, you need to register first with a debit or credit card (at any Citybike Wien station or online), for a one-off fee of 1 EUR; when the bike is returned, the charge is calculated automatically and debited from your account.

In case you’re interested in seeing the highlights of Vienna on bike, check out this highly-rated Vienna Bicycle Tour.

If you’re not up for a long walk or cycle around Vienna, you could also get around on a segway, which can cover a larger area than a walk-around. In case you’re interested in seeing the must-see Vienna attractions on a segway, check out this excellent Vienna Segway Tour.

For those craving an audio guide and extra comfort, you can also get around the city with Vienna Hop-On Hop-Off Tour.

It is unlikely that you will have to use a taxi during your stay in Vienna but if the need arises it is easier to get a taxi at one of the taxi ranks rather than hailing it in the street. Alternatively, taxis can also be booked on the phone – there are three numbers: 313000, 40100, and 60160.

Your 2 Days in Vienna Itinerary

For this two-day itinerary of Vienna, I have included a majority of the must-see sights in the city. It, of course, isn’t possible to explore all the main sights in a city as culturally rich as Vienna in just two days.

For your convenience, this post includes a free map that highlights the main points of interest in Vienna for two days. You can find the addresses of the attractions by clicking on the icons on the map. 

I understand that everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace. The earlier you start your day the more time you’ll have to see the attractions. Below I have compiled a list of the best things to see (or eat) in Vienna over the course of two days.

Day 1 in Vienna

Day One of this ‘2 days in Vienna’ itinerary will mostly focus on the must-see sights in central Vienna and the inner city. It involves two of Vienna’s most famous palaces, the Hofburg and the Belvedere.

Breakfast at Café Landtmann

Start your 48 hours in Vienna with a hearty breakfast at Cafe Landtmann

There’s no better way to kick off your 48 hours in Vienna than treating yourself to breakfast at a traditional Viennese coffeehouse. Viennese coffeehouses have served as an important social institution since the late 19th century and form an intricate part of the city’s DNA.

In fact, in 2011, Viennese coffee houses were put on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Upon payment of the small price of a cup of coffee, every guest can sit inside for hours on end, discuss, write, play cards, and above all, can go through an unlimited number of newspapers and magazines.

Even today, there is still something unique about Viennese coffeehouses that makes them worth visiting. The high ceilings, marble table tops, velvety upholstery, the bentwood coat stands, and the notoriously brusque waiters all add to the charm. Call me the stereotypical Austrian but I absolutely LOVE Viennese coffeehouses!

Café Landtmann is one of the most elegant and venerable coffeehouses in Vienna, boasting a rich tradition dating back to 1873. Landtmann bustles with activity day and night and its interior is elegantly decorated with velvet upholstery, crystal light fixtures, and mirrors with inlaid wood.

The café has long drawn a mix of politicians, artists, journalists, and actors and is also famous for being Sigmund Freud’s favorite hangout.

Start your 2 days in Vienna with a hearty breakfast at Cafe Landtmann

Landtmann offers a variety of Viennese coffees, a vast selection of pastries and desserts, and Viennese and provincial dishes. It’s a delightful spot for breakfast. Two of the most popular coffee options are Kleiner/Großer Brauner and Melange.

Café Landtmann is open daily from 07:30-20:00. Make a reservation online to avoid queues.

Fair warning: Landtmann is probably the most expensive cafe in Vienna. While the prices border on outrageous, the service is friendly, the food is good, and the atmosphere is well worth it.

Fun Fact

Legend has it that coffee was first introduced to Vienna by a certain Georg Franz Kolschitzky, an Austrian spy who regularly penetrated the Turkish camp during the siege of 1683. When the siege was finally lifted, Kolschitzky was asked what he wanted in return for his services. He requested to be given the “camel fodder” – in actual fact sacks of coffee beans – left behind by the hastily departed Turks, and went on to open the first coffeehouse in Vienna the same year.

City Hall

Start your two days in Vienna at City Hall

The cathedralesque City Hall (Rathaus) is one of the most distinctive and imposing buildings in Vienna. Built from 1872 to 1883, this is, in fact, the New City Hall, replacing the Old City Hall. It is Neo-Gothic in style and serves as a powerful symbol of the city’s late 19th-century political clout.

I think it kind of looks like a Gothic fantasy castle with its many spires and turrets. The City Hall’s facade holds a lavish display of standard-bearers brandishing the coats of arms of the city of Vienna and the monarchy.

The building’s huge central tower is over 100 meters high and is topped by the 3-meter statue of a medieval knight in armor with a lance, known affectionately as the Rathausmann. Also worth noting is the lofty loggia with its intricate tracery and curved balconies.

Christmas Marketin in front of Vienna City Hall

A big square sits in front of the building and is normally bustling with activity. In winter, the square becomes the venue of Vienna’s most famous Christmas market, and after the New Year, it is transformed into a huge ice skating rink. 

Although you can get a look at the ornate interior of City Hall by signing up for a guided tour, I wouldn’t recommend it for this itinerary due to time constraints.

Hofburg

Hofburg is one of the highlights in 2 days in Vienna.

No visit to Vienna would be complete without paying a visit to the Hofburg (Court Palace), a hotchpotch of a place whose name is synonymous with the Habsburgs, the dynasty that, at one time, ruled a vast multinational empire, stretching the length and breadth of Europe.

The Habsburgs ruled from this lavish complex of buildings until 1918 which are now home to a smorgasbord of attractions, including the Imperial Apartments, two imperial treasuries, six museums, the National Library, and the famous Spanish Riding School. 

There is so much to see and do in the Hofburg that there’s no way you can take it all in one day. That is why I only recommend seeing the Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer), with its superb collection of crown jewels, and the richly decorated Baroque library (Prunksaal), both of which are the real reasons to visit the Hofburg in my opinion.

Once you pass through the spectacular portal gate of the Michaelertor—you can’t miss the four gigantic statues of Hercules and his labors—you climb the marble Emperor’s Staircase (Kaiserstiege) to begin a tour of the Imperial Apartments. The 18 conventionally luxurious rooms are where the emperors lived, along with their wives and children.

The apartments are richly decorated, the highlight being the Imperial Silver and Porcelain collections. Don’t expect too much though, since virtually every room is decorated in the same style – creamy-white walls and ceilings with parquet flooring, gilded details, and red furnishing, which seems a bit frumpy.

Explore the Sisi museum during your two days in Vienna.

Six rooms are devoted to the tragic empress Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria, lovingly known to Austrians as “Sisi”. The rooms display many of her treasured possessions, including her jewels, the gown she wore the night before her marriage, her wooden gymnastics equipment, and the opulent court salon railroad car she used.

Sisi enjoys an almost cult-like following in Austria ever since a 1950s trilogy of romantic films, starring Austro-French actress Romy Schneider as the empress.

The jewel-encrusted Imperial Crown in the Imperial Treasury of Hofburg Palace. PC: Lestertair/shutterstock.com

Of all the things to see in the Hofburg, the Imperial Treasury is by far the most rewarding. Some of the finest medieval craftsmanship and jewelry in Europe can be found here, including the imperial regalia and relics of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Habsburgs’ own crown jewels,  the loot of a once-great empire, including countless reliquaries and robes, goldwork, and silverware can also be found here.

Don’t miss treasures like the Holy Lance, reputedly the lance that pierced Jesus’s side, the Saber of Charlemagne, the Golden Fleece, and the Imperial Crown, a sacred symbol of sovereignty once stolen on Hitler’s orders.

People admiring the manuscripts and ornate Baroque interior of the Austrian National Library. PC: aliaksei kruhlenia/shutterstock.com

Finally, make your way to the National Library. It is one of the grandest Baroque libraries in the world, the focal point of which is the glorious Grand Hall. With invaluable leather-bound manuscripts in walnut wood bookcases lining the walls from floor to ceiling, the library probably contains more book treasures than any comparable collection outside the Vatican.

Another highlight is the statue of Charles VI standing guard under the central dome, which itself has a magnificent fresco depicting the emperor’s apotheosis.

Practical Information For Visiting the Hofburg Palace Complex

The Silver Collection, Imperial Apartments, and Sisi Museum are open daily from 10:00–17:00 (15 EUR). The Imperial Treasury is open on all days except Tuesday from 09:00–17:30 (14 EUR).

The Austrian National Library is open Tuesday–Sunday from 10:00–18:00 (until 21:00 on Thursday). The entrance costs 10 EUR.

Hofburg Palace is also the location of the famous Spanish Horse Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule). If you don’t feel like visiting the Imperial Apartments, you can catch the famous Lipizzaner horses in action in the stables instead.

Full demonstrations take place on Saturdays but on occasion, you can also attend training sessions in the morning on weekdays. Check the website for more information.

Traditional Austrian Lunch

Schnitzel is a must-try during your two days in Vienna

For a well-deserved traditional Austrian lunch, head to Restaurant Ofenloch, one of the finest restaurants in town. Oozing with style and finesse, this first-class restaurant is a great place to sample classic Viennese and Austrian cuisine.

Try traditional Austrian dishes such as Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal with a side of parsley potatoes or a potato cucumber salad), or Tafelspitz (a quintessentially delectable Viennese dish of boiled beef, potatoes, and horseradish sauce).

Rindsgulasch (a rich beef stew flavored with paprika and caraway) is also a popular choice. Wash it down with some refreshing Austrian beer or an equally delightful Austrian white wine.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Stop by St. Stephen's Cathedral during your 2 days in Vienna

One of the classic Vienna bucket-list attractions, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) is undoubtedly the city’s most beloved landmark. The foundations of the original Romanesque church date back to 1147, but the earliest surviving features today are the 13th-century Giant’s Door (Riesentor) and the Heathen Towers (Heidentürme) on the west side.

The cathedral suffered severe damage from World War II bombings, but its rebuilding served as a symbol of hope as Austria emerged from the ashes of the conflict.

The cathedral’s steeply pitched yellow, blue, and green rooftop has been fancifully decorated with almost a quarter of a million glazed tiles forming giant chevrons since 1490 and is said to be modeled on a Saracen carpet.

Having seen many glorious churches across Europe, I have to say that St. Stephen’s Cathedral easily ranks as one of the very best. Many notable events have occurred at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, including Mozart’s marriage and funeral. Napoleon even posted his farewell edict on the door in 1805.

The huge nave of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna is well worth seeing during 2 days in Vienna

The nave of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is enormous and stands out due to its Gothic vaulted ceiling. The star feature of the interior, however, is undoubtedly the early 16th-century carved stone pulpit, with portraits of the four fathers of the Christian Church.

Look out for the masterly filigree work above and below the staircase. It is beautifully adorned with figures of lizards, salamanders, and toads pursuing one another up the banister, symbolizing the fight of good against evil.

Richly painted and gilded Wiener Neustadt Altar of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna

St. Stephen’s chief treasure is the Wiener Neustädter Altar, a richly painted and gilded altar in the left chapel of the choir depicting the Virgin Mary between St. Catherine and St. Barbara. Other highlights of the interior include the centuries-old sculpted tomb of Emperor Frederick III.

Consisting of pinkish Salzburg marble from the 17th century, the carved tomb depicts hideous hobgoblins trying to wake the emperor from his eternal sleep. You can also check out the catacombs which are lined with cages filled with bronze caskets containing the remains of the later Habsburgs.

If you’re up for the challenge, you can even scale the cathedral’s south tower which soars to a height of 137 meters. Ironically nicknamed “Steffl” (Little Stephen) by the Viennese, you can scale the 343 steps leading to a viewing platform offering far-reaching views of Vienna.

Practical Information For Visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is open from 09:00-11:30 & 13:00-16:30 (Monday-Saturday); and 13:00-16:30 (Sunday and public holidays). The entrance to the cathedral is free. However, there are parts within the church to which there is only paid access.

For 6 EUR, you can take a guided tour of the catacombs beneath St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Guided tours usually take place half-hourly during visiting hours.

It is also possible to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s two towers – the North Tower and the South Tower, both of which offer different viewing perspectives.

For a close-up view of St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s iconic multi-colored mosaic tiling, visit the North Tower. It is open daily from 09:00-20:30 (last entrance at 20:00). Tickets cost 6 EUR.

Alternatively, for unobstructed panoramic views of Vienna’s cityscape, visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s South Tower. It is open daily from 09:00-17:30 (last entrance at 17:15). Tickets cost 5 EUR.

Fun Fact

The Stephansdom’s “Pummerin” (Boomer) bell, located in the North Tower’s cupola, is Austria’s largest and heaviest. It weighs nearly 20 tons, and was cast from 100 cannon balls seized during the Turks’ failed siege of Vienna in 1683. It is used just once annually—to ring in the New Year. Beethoven discovered the totality of his deafness when he realized he could no longer hear the sound.

Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace is a must-see during 2 days in Vienna

Your final sightseeing stop for the day is the magnificent Belvedere Palace. One of the most exemplary examples of Baroque architecture in the world, the Belvedere actually consists of two imposing palaces that are separated by a 17th-century French-style garden parterre replete with fountains, waterfalls, and statuary.

More so than the Hofburg and the far more famous Schönbrunn Palace, I reckon the Belvedere Palace is the most impressive palace in Vienna, at least from the outside.

Superbly designed in the early 18th century by Lukas von Hildebrandt, the palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugène of Savoy, Austria’s greatest military leader, whose campaigns against the Turks enabled Vienna to expand beyond the walls of the Old Town.

The four giant Herculean statues of Sala Terrena Hall of Upper Belvedere Palace. PC: Marco Brivio - Dreamstime.com

Though the Lower Belvedere is impressive in its own right, it is the much larger Upper Belvedere, used for state receptions, banquets, and balls, that steals the show.

It’s difficult not to be impressed by the palace’s elaborate facade. Its domed copper roofs resemble the shape of Turkish tents as a symbolic reflection of Prince Eugen’s victory.

It is home to the finest Rococo interior in the city and its ceilings are aswirl with ornately molded stucco. Don’t miss the exquisite Sala Terrena hall which features four giant Herculean figures supporting the ceiling vault.

Fun Fact

The Belvedere Palace also used to be the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered the start of World War I. In May 1955, the Allied powers signed the peace treaty recognizing Austria as a sovereign state in Upper Belvedere. The treaty is on display in a large salon decorated in red marble.

The Upper Belvedere’s other claim to fame is being home to the Austrian Gallery, with art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. Medieval and Baroque art is found at street level, with Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and Viennese Biedermeier on the top floor.

While these artworks are stellar in their own right, the Austrian art from the 19th and 20th centuries is the real crowd-puller. 

Gustav Klimt's famous "The Kiss" painting at the Upper Belvedere Palace. PC: BondRocketImages/shutterstock.com

The Upper Belvedere is the best place to see the collection of works by Gustav Klimt and features his world-famous painting The Kiss, displayed behind a protective glass shield, and depicting Klimt himself embracing his long-term mistress, Emilie Flöge.

Other artworks that shouldn’t be missed at the Upper Belvedere are Egon Schiele’s Death and the Maiden, Oskar Kokoschka’s Still Life with Dead Lamb, Claude Monet’s The Chef, and Richard Gerstl’s mesmerizing Laughing Self-Portrait. Make use of your time wisely as there is a lot to take in here.

A giant sphinx statue in the Belvedere Palace Gardens

Make your way down the Belvedere’s formal gardens which are laid out on a wide slope, punctuated with box hedges, fountains, waterfalls, and statuary.

The garden has three levels, separated by two large cascades. Don’t miss the huge statues of sphinxes in the upper half of the garden and the wonderful statues of eight muses on the lower level.

The Lower Belvedere was formerly home to the Museum of Austrian Baroque Art but now displays temporary exhibitions only.

Marble Hall in Lower Belvedere. PC: Marco Brivio/Dreamstime

Notable attractions include the “Golden Cabinet”, whose walls are entirely covered by huge gilt-framed mirrors, and the “Hall of Grotesques”, which features a grotesque decor of birds, beasts, and fanciful floral murals.

Practical Information For Visiting the Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere Palace Complex is open daily from 10:00-18:00. The Belvedere Palace Gardens are open daily from 06:30 or 07:00 in the morning until 18:00 and 21:00 depending on the season. A visit to the Upper Belvedere is only possible with a time-slot ticket meaning that you need to book a fixed entrance time.

A ticket to the Upper Belvedere costs 16.70 EUR while a ticket to the Lower Belvedere costs 14.60 EUR. The combined ticket for both palaces costs 24 EUR (you’ll save 3.30 EUR). It is better to book tickets online in order to avoid long waiting times.

Dinner

Cap off your first day of sightseeing in Vienna by treating yourself to dinner at Craftmühle, a chic and grungy craft beer joint that is one of the very best craft beer bars in Vienna.

This is the perfect place to visit if you’re in the mood for some greasy burgers or something juicy off the grill and a couple of IPAs. In addition to the 12 beers they offer on tap, Craftmühle also offers a wide range of bottled beer.

Day 2 in Vienna

Today’s itinerary will focus on some of the other major must-see sights in central Vienna including the world-renowned Art History Museum and the Prater.

Breakfast at Café Sperl

Commence your second day of sightseeing in Vienna by heading to yet another one of the city’s famous coffeehouses, Café Sperl, one of my absolute favorite places in the city.

Slightly different in character than the aforementioned Café Landtmann, Café Sperl has a seductive bohemian vibe in its own right and has been attracting a faithful clientele for well over a century, many of whom come to try the billiard tables and dartboards on the premises.

The breakfast spread is amazing, definitely try the Sperl Torte (a heavenly mix of milk chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and almond) while enjoying one of the 34 different types of coffee to choose from.

Café Sperl is open from 07:00-22:00 (Monday-Saturday) and 10:00-20:00 (Sundays & public holidays). It is closed on Sundays in July & August.

Art History Museum

The Art History Museum is a must-see if you have 2 days in Vienna.

It would be a cardinal sin to spend 2 days in Vienna and not visit the Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum). This museum is truly world-class and is my all-time favorite attraction in Vienna.

Being an avid art lover I have spent countless hours inside its hallowed walls. The rich collection owes its existence to the wealth and artistic pretensions of successive Habsburg rulers and contains treasures from classical Rome to Egypt and the Renaissance.

Housed in a sprawling Neoclassical edifice as regal as the art it contains, the vast collection of the Art History Museum is spread over three floors. The scale of the museum can be particularly daunting for first-time visitors and it is vital to go in with a plan of what to see, especially if time is limited. Otherwise, museum fatigue will get the better of you.

The breathtaking staircase and main foyer of the Art History Museum. PC: Marco Brivio - Dreamstime.com

One of the great joys of stepping foot inside the Art History Museum is seeing the main foyer and staircase, both of which are sumptuously decorated, from the monochrome marble floor to the richly stuccoed dome.

Don’t overlook Canova’s mighty statue of Theseus Defeating the Centaur, which greets you on the main staircase as well as the amazing intercolumnar murals on the first-floor balcony. The large ceiling painting celebrates “The Triumph of the Renaissance”.

A large chunk of the art collection of the Art History Museum is composed of 16th- and 17th-century masters and as such it’s a good idea to focus on these if you don’t have much time. The museum is most famous for containing the largest collection of paintings under one roof by 16th-century master Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Besides Bruegel, the museum is also loaded with Venetian works by the likes of Tintoretto, Veronese, and Titian, and a good selection of Velázquez portraits. In addition, there are plenty of paintings by Rembrandt, Cranach, Rubens, and Dürer.

Man admiring Bruegel's "Hunters in the Snow" at the Art History Museum in Vienna

Some of the most enchanting of all Bruegel’s works focus on the peasant genre showcasing the cycle of seasons. The most famous of these is the beguiling Hunters in the Snow, in which Bruegel perfectly captures a wintry monochrome landscape.

Room 10 is a Brueghel shrine—on its walls hang Children’s Games, the Tower of Babel, the Peasant Wedding, the Nest-Robber.

People admiring the rich artworks at the Art History Museum in Vienna

The Dutch & Flemish wing also includes Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion Triptych, Holbein’s Portrait of Jane Seymour, Queen of England, and Vermeer’s nonpareil allegory of the Art of Painting. Don’t forget to check out the work of Van Dyck, especially his The Vision of the Blessed Hermann Joseph and Peter Paul Rubens’s Self-Portrait and Woman with a Cape.

Rembrandt’s collection includes three remarkable self-portraits as well as a moving portrait of his mother and one of his sons, Titus. There are also hundreds of other well-lauded old-master paintings here and even a succinct description would go on for pages.

Before you leave the museum, take a look at the Albrecht Dürer collection. Known for his innovative art and his painstakingly detailed workmanship, the German Renaissance painter and engraver is well represented here though masterpieces like Blue Madonna and some beautiful landscapes such as Martyrdom of 10,000 Christians

Stone sarcophagi and pharaoh statues at the Art History Museum in Vienna

Also, if you have time, take a look at the Egyptian collection. Beginning with predynastic and Old Kingdom treasures, this remarkably extensive stock of monuments includes stone sarcophagi, gilded mummy masks, jewelry boxes, papyrus, pots, sphinx busts, and pharaoh statues. The rooms here are tastefully decorated with typical Egyptian motifs and hieroglyphs

The Art History Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00-18:00 (Thursdays till 21:00). The price of admission is 21 EUR, pricey I know but worth every cent. For your convenience, you can book your ticket online here.

Naschmarkt & Lunch

Naschmarkt is a perfect spot for lunch during two days in Vienna.

After a grueling tour of the Art History Museum, you should treat yourself to a fantastic lunch at Naschmarkt. In addition to being a great lunch spot, the Naschmarkt is Vienna’s largest and most famous outdoor produce market. It’s certainly one of the best open-air markets that I’ve come across in Europe. 

It occupies what was originally the riverbed of a branch of the Danube River, which was diverted and paved over during the massive public works projects of the 19th century. Undoubtedly the liveliest market in the city, you’ll find packed rows of polished and stacked fruits and vegetables competing for visual appeal among the hundreds of stalls. 

Life here starts at 06:00 when vendors selling flowers, meat, and fish open their stalls. On the weekends’ farmers from outside the city offer their produce and on Saturdays, a bustling flea market takes place at the tail end of the market where you can find everything from antiques to second-hand clothing.

Being such a large market, you’ll have no shortage of food options. Naschmarkt offers dozens upon dozens of eateries or snack stands where you can fill up. There are many Turkish food stands, Asian noodle shops, and Japanese sushi stalls to choose from.

You can even order typical Viennese dishes, especially beer, white wine, and sausages, at several stalls. Austrian sausages are usually served on a roll with mustard. Try the käsekrainer, a fat frankfurter with tasty bits of cheese.

The Vienna Naschmarkt is open Monday–Friday from 06:00–21:00 and Saturday from 06:00–21:00. The food stalls and restaurants are open Monday–Saturday until 23:00.

To make the most out of your Naschmarkt visit, I strongly recommend taking a Naschmarkt Food Tasting Tour with a knowledgeable local guide.

Explore Viennese Art Nouveau

Stop by the Wagner villas during your 48 hours in Vienna

One of the great pleasures of wandering the streets of Vienna is seeking out the city’s rich turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau architecture. This youthful (or Jugendstil) version of Art Nouveau features a sinuous and stylized form of architecture and decorative arts, known as Secession.

Jugendstil motifs are generally geometric in style and involve decorations based on plant forms such as sunflowers, as well as female figures, heads, and masks. One of the best places to see wonderful examples of Jugendstil architecture in Vienna is the apartment houses that line the Wienzeile, overlooking the Naschmarkt.

Two of these, the adjacent private apartment blocks of Linke Wienzeile 38 and 40, stand out in particular and are two of the best examples of Jugendstil architecture in the city. Designed in 1899 by Secessionist pioneer Otto Wagner, these buildings are an absolute treat to photograph.

The right-hand building (no. 38) is richly embossed with gold palm fronds and medallions and even features an elaborate top-floor loggia replete with Art Nouveau urns and a couple of figures.

The building on the left (no. 40) is even more flamboyant, its pollution-resistant cladding of red majolica tiles spawned the nickname, “Majolica House”. Its facade contains subtle flower patterns in pink, blue, and green.

Secession Building

The Secession building is a must-see during 48 hours in Vienna

The unmistakable Secession Building represents the pinnacle of the Secession Movement in Vienna. The Secession Movement began at the turn of the 19th century, in 1897, when 20 dissatisfied Viennese artists, headed by Gustav Klimt, “seceded” from the conservative and strict artists’ society associated with the Academy of Fine Arts.

The Secession Movement advocated the radically new kind of art known as Jugendstil, which found its inspiration in both the organic, fluid designs of Art Nouveau and employed more geometric designs. 

The building is virtually windowless and almost looks like a squat cube. The building’s most noticeable feature is its massive filigree dome of gilded bronze laurel leaves.

This now-famous feature had its share of detractors at the time of the building’s opening in 1898 and led it to be nicknamed “the Gilded Cabbage.”

On closer inspection, you can see the building’s decorative details. My favorites are the main entrance is adorned with a trio of gorgons, a pair of salamanders, and copious gilded foliage. Don’t miss the bronze statue of an overweight Mark Anthony, the Roman emperor is shown on a chariot being drawn by lions guarding the building.

Above the entrance of the pavilion is the motto of the Secessionist Movement “Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit” – “To every age its art, to art its freedom”.

Karlsplatz Pavilions

Seek out the Otto Wagner pavilions on Karlsplatz during your 48 hours in Vienna

Otto Wagner, the prominent Austrian architect and leading member of the Vienna Secession movement, is responsible for several notable landmarks in the city. Wagner was also responsible for designing and engineering many aspects of the Vienna City Train, the horsedrawn and then steam-powered predecessor of today’s underground, in the late 19th century.

Of all these structures, the matching pair of underground railway exit pavilions are certainly the best.

The pavilions on Karlsplatz are made of a green, wrought-iron framework and marble slabs, and the roof over the arched gate is decorated with golden ornaments and sunflower motifs. They are a perfect example of classical Jugendstil, combining simplicity and elegance.

Both pavilions lost their function as the Vienna U-Bahn came into use. Today, one pavilion houses a café, while the other occasionally houses events.

Church of St. Charles

Stop by Karlskirche during your two days in Vienna

The Church of St. Charles (Karlskirche) is undoubtedly one of the best things to see in Vienna. Built between 1716 and 1739 as thanks for deliverance from the 1713 plague, the church marks the highpoint of Baroque architecture in Vienna.

The church is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, the 16th-century Italian bishop who was famous for his ministrations of Milanese plague victims.

The architecture of the church is staggering and borrows elements from the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, such as the gigantic dome and portico, while there are Oriental traces in the minaret-like columns.

As stunning as the church appears in the day, it takes on an unbelievably beautiful aura at night when it’s bathed in light and reflected in the pond sitting in front of it.

The church’s green copper dome rises to a height of 72 meters making it a dramatic landmark on the Viennese skyline. The marble-white facade of the church is enhanced by the presence of the two columns that are topped by giant gilded Habsburg eagles and the imperial crown.

Inspired by the ancient Roman column of Trajan, these columns are decorated with scenes of the life of St. Charles Borromeo. The left column shows the quality of steadfastness while the right one shows courage.

As you make your way inside, take a look at the pediment reliefs which show the suffering of the Viennese during the 1713 plague.

The interior of the Church of St. Charles is decorated in the standard Baroque manner. The High Altar is one of the standouts and features a stucco relief showing St. Charles Borromeo being taken into heaven on a cloud chock-full of angels. Also noteworthy are the fine vault frescoes with scenes from the life of St. Charles Borromeo.

The colorful dome fresco of the Church of St. Charles (Karlskirche)

You can also take the elevator up into the elliptical cupola to get a closer look at the fresco on the dome showing the Virgin Mary imploring the Holy Trinity to bring an end to the plague. From here, you can climb the top steps to enjoy a great vista of the heart of Vienna.

The Church of St. Charles is open Monday–Saturday from 09:00–19:00 (until 21:00 on Thursday), Sundays, and public holidays: 09:00–20:00. The entrance costs 9.50 EUR.

City Park

Stadtpark is a welcome change of pace during 2 days in Vienna

If you’re tired of pounding the pavement during your time in Vienna and want to take a breather, a visit to the City Park (Stadtpark) is the perfect remedy.

The park was established in the mid-19th century and was the first city municipal park to be laid out outside the former fortifications. 

Don't miss the Strauss monument in Stadtpark during your two days in Vienna

It’s refreshing to take a stroll on the paths winding through the verdant squares of grass, shaded areas, and well-manicured flower gardens. If you just feel like sitting to engage in people-watching, there are plenty of benches in the park.

The City Park is most famous for its eye-catching Strauss Monument, a statue of the “Waltz King”, Johann Strauss Junior. Gilded from head to toe, the composer stands framed by a stone arch of naked, swirling naiads.

The City Park is open daily 24/7. Free entrance.

Prater

Cap off two days in Vienna with a visit to Prater

Your final stop of sightseeing for the day is the Prater, Vienna’s answer to Coney Island. It is by far the most popular weekend destination for many Viennese.

The Prater includes vast areas of mixed woodland, sports stadiums, booths, sideshows, beer gardens, an amusement park, and, most famously of all, Vienna’s giant Ferris wheel.

Traditionally a hunting preserve and riding ground for the aristocracy, the Prater was opened to the public in 1766 by Josef II. Today, although the Prater is a popular spot for walking, jogging, and biking, most people visit the Prater for the Volksprater Funfair.

Home to an amusement park since the 19th century, the vast funfair has all the typical attractions—roller coasters, dodgem cars, merry-go-rounds, tunnels of love, and game arcades. The Volksprater Funfair is perfect if you have kids in tow or are young at heart.

The iconic Giant Ferris Wheel (Wiener Riesenrad) at the Prater in Vienna

Though the Volksprater Funfair is worthy of a visit, the main reason to visit the Prater, especially for people like me, is to see the iconic Ferris wheel (Riesenrad), which is the most famous landmark in Vienna after St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Built in 1897 for Emperor Franz-Josef I’s golden jubilee, the Ferris wheel was designed by the British military engineer Walter Basset. Its cute little red gondolas were destroyed during World War II, and only half were replaced in deference to the wheel’s old age.

The giant Ferris Wheel became famous partly due to it being immortalized in Graham Greene’s film noir classic The Third Man. It’s the location in front of which Orson Welles does his famous “cuckoo clock” speech just after he takes a ride on the Ferris wheel.

Since then, the huge Ferris wheel has achieved celluloid fame in the James Bond flick The Living Daylights, and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise

Taking a ride on the Riesenrad is one of those things you simply have to do when visiting Vienna. The huge wheel circulates very slowly at a speed of about 75 cm per second, reaching a maximum height of 64 meters, allowing riders spectacular views over the Prater.

The Prater isn’t a fenced-in park, but not all things here are open throughout the year. The season lasts from mid-March to the end of October (daily from 10:00-23:00), but the giant Ferris wheel operates daily all year round.

Admission to the park is free, but you’ll pay for games and rides. A ticket for the giant Ferris wheel costs 13.50 EUR. I recommend getting a convenient skip-the-line ticket to avoid unnecessary queuing.

Fun Fact: Vienna & The Third Man

Nothing has done more to create the myth of postwar Vienna than Carol Reed’s classic 1949 film noir The Third Man. Just as Salzburg is inextricably linked to The Sound of Music, Vienna will forever be linked to The Third Man. The only difference is that in Vienna’s case, the locals actually like the film whereas nobody in Austria gives a second thought about The Sound of Music.
The Third Man is a personal favorite of mine and its bleak, black-and-white, expressionist cinematography, haunting theme, and seedy bombed-out locations perfectly captured the fatigued, defeated atmosphere of the city at the beginning of the Cold War. Vienna was then divided into four sectors, each commanded by one of the victorious armies—American, Russian, French, and British. Reed’s film version of the Graham Greene novel features Vienna as a leading player and many of the sites where the film was shot are easily visited. It was the first British film to be shot entirely on location.
When it was first released, the postwar Viennese were appalled and horrified at the depiction of their beloved city as a “rat-infested rubble heap.” Over decades, they have come to love the film, and since the early 1980s, The Third Man has been shown every Friday and Saturday at the Burgkino cinema. The film’s enduring popularity has spawned a mini tourist industry all of its own. There are regular The Third Man tours and there’s even a The Third Man Museum, completely dedicated to the film!

Dinner

Cap off your 2 days in Vienna by heading to Yori, an excellent Korean restaurant. Vienna has a wide array of superb ethnic restaurants and Yori is no exception. Head here to try Korean classics like kimchi. Bulgogi, bibimbap, galbi, and jeongol. You won’t be disappointed.

Where to Stay in Vienna

Since most of Vienna’s attractions are located in the city center area, it is best to select a hotel close to the center. Even if you stay further out, it’s a good idea to stay anywhere on the metro line (i.e. 5-minute walk from the nearest metro station), which is part of Vienna’s excellent public transit system.

With more than 500 hotels to choose from, there is something to suit every taste and budget in Vienna, from impeccable five-star hotels to avant-garde to low-cost chains.

Hostel: Wombats Naschmarkt, a popular hostel in walking distance from the city center

Budget: Motel One Wien Hauptbahnhof, an unpretentious choice within 2 minutes of the Central railway station

Mid-range: Mercure Secession Vienna, a reasonably-priced 4-star hotel in the city center

Splurge: Hotel Sans Souci Wien, one of the city’s most prestigious hotels, the glamorous Sans Souci features trendy rooms and deluxe furnishings

More Than 2 Days In Vienna?

There are a few notable Vienna attractions that we couldn’t fit into our itinerary. Places like the Danube Tower, the Schönbrunn Palace, and the Albertina Museum deserve to be visited.

If you have more than 2 days in Vienna, the city also makes a great base for day-tripping in Austria and parts of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.

Vienna is the ideal starting point for excursions to the postcard-perfect Melk Abbey & Wachau Valley and the poignant Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial.

Two of the most popular day trips from Vienna in Austria are to Mozart’s Salzburg and the incredibly scenic village of Hallstatt & the Alpine Peaks of Salzkammergut.

Outside of Austria, three of the most popular day trips from Vienna are to the underrated Slovakian capital of Bratislava, the undeniably beautiful Czech capital of Prague, and the gorgeous Hungarian capital of Budapest.

Further Reading For Your Vienna Visit

That summarizes our comprehensive 2 days in Vienna itinerary. We reckon you’ll also find the following resources useful for planning your trip to Vienna!


Now, what do you think? What would you recommend seeing in two days in Vienna? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Jacky

Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Jacky, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. With several years of experience in online marketing, I leverage my expertise to ensure that you get the best travel advice, tailored for the digital age. My travels have taken me to over 30 countries, and I love sharing those experiences with readers like you. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, science fiction, coffee, and all things cute. My travel tips have been featured on lonelyplanet.com and in the EasyJet Traveller magazine.

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