Once the capital of an imposing empire, Vienna boasts dozens of historic sights, world-class museums, and of course beautiful architecture. While one day in Vienna may not be enough to explore everything the city has to offer, you can still get a good taste of the city. As an Austrian having visited Vienna many times over, I designed this guide to show you the best Vienna has to offer. For your convenience, this post includes a free map and some insider tips!
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How to See Vienna in One Day
There are a couple of reasons why you might have just 24 hours in Vienna. Ideally, we would recommend you to spend 2-3 days in Vienna in order to see everything. This is particularly true if you are interested in visiting museums in Vienna. But if you simply want to enjoy the beautiful architecture, the historic monuments, and churches, as well as some of Vienna’s cafes and green spaces, one day will be enough.
Using Public Transport in Vienna
Vienna is a rather large city, so we definitely encourage you to 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) and 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. Buying a ticket in advance is the easiest option. Tickets are sold at newsagents (Tabak Trafiken) and at the ticket machines at U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations. 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 Sunday 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.
Do not attempt to travel to or from the airport with Vienna transport tickets. Vienna airport lies outside the tariff zone and you will need to purchase a separate ticket to travel on the trains to and from the airport.
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.
It is highly 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.
Vienna Tourist Passes
To save a little bit of money, you could get yourself one of the three tourist passes available in Vienna. They all come with their own advantages and disadvantages. If you’re curious to see which card works best for you, check out our in-depth comparison!
What This Itinerary Doesn’t Include
Recently I have seen several one day itineraries for Vienna including a visit to Schönbrunn Palace. While Schönbrunn Palace is a stunning sight and an important Vienna landmark, it is not practical to see the palace complex if you only have one day in Vienna. At a fast pace, you would need about 3 hours to see Schönbrunn Palace.
Also, Schönbrunn is located in the outer districts of the city which means you’d need to spend at least one hour on transport to get there from the city center and back. If you are hell-bent on seeing the palace, I would recommend that you extend your visit to 2 days or at least 1.5 days.
Your Itinerary for One Day in Vienna
Below is an overview of what you will see during your 24 hours in Vienna. For your convenience, we have also included some good places to grab lunch and a couple of drinks in the evening:
- Cake for Breakfast at Cafe Demel
- Hofburg Palace
- National Library
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
- Tram Ride along the Vienna Ring Road (Ringstrasse)
- Traditional Austrian Lunch
- Belvedere Palace
- Prater Amusement Park
- Grab a Drink at Schwedenplatz
1. Cake for Breakfast at Cafe Demel
First-time visitors to Vienna may be tempted to head to Cafe Sacher for that famous piece of cake. However, did you know that the Sachertorte was actually invented at Cafe Demel? Founded in 1876, this is one of the oldest patisseries in Vienna. In fact, Demel was once a purveyor to the Habsburg court. Today, it is certainly a tourist draw, as Demel has almost stood still in time.
We recommend that you come here at 8:00 if you want to avoid standing in line. Otherwise, you’ll need to plan in about 15 extra minutes for your visit. While you’re waiting, you can choose your cake from the display and watch the bakers as they produce these sweet treats. Once you are seated, you can order your drinks and give your ‘cake ticket’ to the waitress. If you need something a little more substantial than just cake, they also serve a full Viennese breakfast.
From one sweet thing to another, your next stop is Zuckerlwerkstatt. Candy-making started in Austria several hundred years ago but died out in the mid-19th century. The owners of Zuckerlwerkstatt have brought an old tradition back to life and produce candy according to a recipe dating back to 1890.
During your visit, you can watch the candy being made. It’s incredible to see such an old tradition still being performed today. More importantly, perhaps, you can pick up a pretty, yummy, and traditional souvenir for yourself! A small jar of candy costs about 7 EUR.
3. Hofburg Palace
One of the best sights to see in Vienna is without a doubt Hofburg Palace. Just down the road from Zuckerlwerkstatt lies Michaelerplatz which offers beautiful views of the palace. Once the residence of Habsburg Monarchy, today it houses the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, as well as the Silver Collection. Entrance to all three costs 15 EUR. If you are keen on visiting, you should reserve about 1-2 hours to see the palace’s highlights.
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, check out the stables instead. The program varies, so you should check out the schedule before you visit. Full demonstrations take place on Saturdays and tickets cost 27 EUR, but on occasion, you can also attend training sessions in the morning for 15 EUR. The last option is a guided tour for 18 EUR.
4. Austrian National Library (Österreichische Staatsbibliothek)
One of my favorite parts of Hofburg Palace is the former imperial library, now known as the Austrian National Library. The center of the library is the so-called Prunksaal (State Hall). It is absolutely gorgeous and always reminds me of the library in Beauty and the Beast!
The library also owns several museums, such as the papyrus and the globe museum. However, they are located in different buildings close by. In order to access the library, you’ll need to walk down the streets a few meters to the main entrance at Josefsplatz.
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5. St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
If you ask any Austrian what would be Vienna’s most iconic landmark, the answer would overwhelmingly be St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Completed in 1160, this cathedral has been the center of Catholicism in Austria for hundreds of years. It has been expanded and restored several times throughout its existence. Today, it is a major tourist draw as well as a functioning church.
Although it is beautiful from the outside (just take a look at the ornately patterned roof!), the cathedral’s interiors are something very special. You can visit the church daily from 13:00-16:30, as well as Mon-Sat 09:30-11:30. Entrance including an audio guide costs 6 EUR. For an additional 6 EUR, you can also take a guided tour of the catacombs beneath the church which takes place half-hourly.
Important: Please Note
As a functioning Catholic church, visitors are asked to dress conservatively. Please cover your shoulders and knees. Also, please remove your hat.
6. Tram Ride along the Vienna Ring Road (Ringstrasse)
One of the best ways to see the main sights of Vienna is by tram. What was once the location of the city walls, was developed into a series of grand boulevards in the mid-19th century. Along these boulevards aristocrats built impressive city palaces (Palais) in an intriguing mix of architectural styles, also known as the ‘Ring Road Style’. Today, the ring road is an essential part of Vienna’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are two ways to do the tour. You could either go on one of the ‘guided’ rides on the yellow trams which depart every 30 minutes from Schwedenplatz, last 25 minutes and cost 9 EUR. The other way is to use public transport (especially if you already have a day ticket). You can take tram no. 1 from Schwedenplatz and change to tram no. 2 at Stadiongasse/Parlament. This will also give you the opportunity to hop and off as you like to take photos.
Among others, you’ll see the following buildings along the ring road:
- Vienna State Opera
- Palace of Justice
Austrian Parliament Building
- City Hall
- University of Vienna
- Postal Savings Bank
- Museum Quarter
- Votive Church
The Vienna City Park is probably not high on anybody’s must-see list for Vienna. However, I believe you can use a refresher after pounding the pavement all day. The park spans 28 acres and is dotted with statues of famous Viennese residents, such as Johann Strauss and Franz Schubert. In the summertime, it’s a favorite among locals for picnics, jogging, and relaxing.
One of my favorite sights in the park is actually the metro station “Stadtpark”. It’s adorned with Art Nouveau elements, designed by Austrian architect Otto Wagner.
8. Traditional Austrian Lunch
No visit to Vienna can be complete without tasting some of the tasty local cuisine. Personally, I’d highly recommend that you try a REAL Wiener Schnitzel while you’re here. Although many restaurants serve schnitzel around Vienna, two of the best places are ‘Gasthaus Zu Den 3 Hacken’ and ‘Biergart’l im Stadtpark’.
The latter is actually located within the park and has one of the coziest beer gardens in Vienna. However, they are only open between March and October. During winter or on a rainy day, I recommend that you check out Zu Den 3 Hacken instead.
9. Belvedere Palace
The Belvedere is a historic complex, consisting of two palaces, Upper and Lower Belvedere, as well as some smaller structures. It was built as a summer palace in the 17th century and today is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Away from the hustle and bustle of the inner city, the palace gardens offer a welcome reprieve. The palaces are home to exquisite art exhibitions you won’t want to miss!
Coming from your hearty lunch, you will first see the so-called Lower Belvedere (Unteres Belvedere). Once a small Palais for Habsburg monarchs, today the Lower Belvedere houses prime art exhibitions. These often extend to the adjacent Orangery (Orangerie), a former greenhouse for orange trees. Just opposite the Orangery, you can also find the former Palace Stables which today house a number of Gothic art pieces.
From the Lower Belvedere, you’ll continue to the Upper Belvedere (Oberes Belvedere). Along the way, you will stroll through the beautiful Belvedere Gardens. In fact, dating back to 1700, the gardens are the oldest part of the palace complex. From here, you’ll also get the best view of the Upper Belvedere.
Not only is the Upper Belvedere Palace stunning in and by itself, but you can also find some of the finest art exhibits in Austria here. Most people come here to marvel at Gustav Klimt’s ‘Kiss’, but don’t forget to take a closer look at the palace’s interiors, particularly Sala Terrana, the Grand Staircase, the Carlone Hall, as well as the Marble Hall.
The Marble Hall is one of the most significant places in modern Austrian history, as it was here where Leopold Figl signed the Austrian State Treaty in 1955. The Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state after the Nazi occupation.
You can buy a combination ticket for both, Upper and Lower Belvedere for 22 EUR. The complex is open daily between 09:00-18:00 with extended hours on Fridays until 21:00. In order to avoid long waiting times, you can buy your ticket in advance online. In general, late afternoons are less crowded. You can find more information on the official website.
10. Prater Amusement Park
The Vienna Prater is actually a large public park, but for most people, it’s synonymous with Prater Amusement Park which lies in one corner of the park. It is the home to one of Vienna’s most recognizable landmarks, the Giant Ferris Wheel (Wiener Riesenrad). It first opened to the public in 1766 and remains a favorite among locals even today.
The entrance to the amusement park is free so you can save your money to spend on the rides. They are relatively expensive, but you only live once, right? 😉 And do I really have to mention how gorgeous it is to ride the Ferris wheel at night? 🙂
The best time to visit Prater is in the summer as in the winter months only a fraction of the rides open. However, you will be able to avoid the crowds in the winter. The Ferris wheel is open year-round.
11. Drinks at Schwedenplatz
If you’re not tired yet, why don’t you head out to Vienna’s foremost party district? You’ll find a dense concentration of bars, pubs, and restaurants around Schwedenplatz.
Some of the upscale bars here have dress codes and if you’ve been out all day in your sneakers, you might want to look for something with a more casual atmosphere. One of the best pubs in the area is Bermuda Bräu which serves hearty pub grub, as well as local beers and wines.
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, 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.
Extending Your Stay
Though 24 hours in Vienna will give you a quick overview of the city, a few extra days will give you the chance to see more treasures in this beautiful city. Make sure to stop by Hundertwasserhaus, take a walk on the Donauinsel, see an opera, and, of course, explore Schönbrunn Palace. Or, go out and explore the city’s surrounding nature and sip on a glass of locally grown wine.
Extending Your Stay in Vienna
→ Got more time? Check out how to spend a blissful 48 hours in Vienna!
→ Decided to stay even longer? Check out how to spend 3 perfect days in Vienna!
→ Want to get out of the city? Explore 23 Best Day Trips from Vienna
→ Interested in Bratislava? Find out how to undertake a perfect day trip from Vienna to Bratislava
Now, what do you think? How would you spend one day in Vienna? Is Vienna on your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!