One of the best ways to see Vienna is undoubtedly on foot. Mihir and I hardly ever use public transport when we travel and growing up in Austria, I have walked in Vienna a lot. That’s why we have created this handy self-guided walking tour of Vienna for you. It will take you past some of Vienna’s highlights and show you some hidden corners as well. This post is accompanied by a free map. Enjoy your walk! 🙂
PS: Scroll until the end if you would like to receive a PDF version of this itinerary!
Table of Contents
Why Choose This Self-Guided Vienna Walking Tour?
This self-guided Vienna walking tour itinerary is perfect if you are short on time and trying to save some money. With our free map, you can follow the route easily without having to hire an expensive guide for the day. Because I’ve been to Vienna so many times, I know what is feasible and what isn’t. The walking tour focuses on the inner city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by the way). However, you can easily add a few more attractions to it to fill a whole day. It will take you past some of the most important sights in Vienna, but will also show you some hidden gems that others don’t know about 😉
Vienna Walking Tour Itinerary
The walking tour is approximately 5.5 km long and takes you past Vienna’s highlights, the city’s most iconic cafes, and through some of the city’s main shopping areas. This walk can be rather demanding, particularly in the summer. Please take good care of yourself and take breaks when you need them! If you are still looking for more things to do in Vienna, check out our recommendations at the end of this post! On this Vienna walking tour, you will see:
- City Hall (Rathaus)
- Imperial Court Theater (Burgtheater)
- Parliament Building (Parlament)
- Museum Quarter (MuseumsQuartier)
- Maria Theresien Platz
- Hero’s Square (Heldenplatz)
- Hofburg Palace
- Minorite Church (Minoritenkirche)
- Cafe Central
- Apotheke Zum Weissen Engel
- Plague Column (Pestsäule)
- Cafe Hawelka
- Anchor Clock (Ankeruhr)
- St. Rupert’s Church (St. Ruprechtskirche)
- Wolf and Cow Playing Backgammon
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
- Stock im Eisen
- Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper)
- Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper
- Cafe Sacher
1. City Hall (Rathaus)
Vienna City Hall is the seat of the local government and a beautiful example of Neo-Gothic architecture, dating back to the late 1800s. Its richly adorned facade is modeled after the famous Brussels Town Hall and definitely Instagram-worthy!
If you don’t have time for one of the guided tours of the representative rooms, head down into Restaurant Rathauskeller instead. The restaurant consists of several ornately decorated Baroque rooms and is well worth a quick look.
City Hall Square is one of my favorite places to visit in Vienna during Christmas time. It’s home to one of Vienna’s biggest Christmas markets as well as a ginormous ice skating rink which even includes skating “paths” leading through a small park. Check out Vienna Ice World for more information.
Your next stop is the Imperial Court Theater (2). You can find it just across the street from city hall. You’ll be walking a distance of 160 m.
2. Imperial Court Theater (Burgtheater)
Just opposite of city hall you can find the Imperial Court Theater (Burgtheater). The theater opened its doors in 1741 and has since been a focal point in Austrian culture. To this day it is the most important German-language theater and known to locals simply as “die Burg”. No less than three of Mozart’s operas premiered here.
Your next stop is the Austrian Parliament (3), just south of city hall and the theater. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.
3. Parliament Building (Parlament)
The Austrian parliament building is where the two houses of the Austrian parliament conduct their sessions. The building was completed in 1883 in an imposing Greek Revival style. The interiors are just as beautiful as the exterior and a visit to the parliament should definitely be on your list! Not many foreign tourists make the effort to visit and thus miss out.
Important: Please Note
Unfortunately, the parliament building is closed to visitors until further notice due to renovation. Instead, you can attend a guided tour at the Hofburg Palace (7) if you have the time.
Your next stop is the Vienna Museum Quarter (4). On your way, you will also pass the Volkstheater. You’ll be walking a distance of 650 m.
4. Museum Quarter (MuseumsQuartier)
The Vienna Museum Quarter (MQ) is one of my favorite areas in all of Vienna. It is home to over 60 cultural institutions, many of which are highly renowned museums. It’s a conglomerate of traditional Baroque buildings as well as modern edifices. One of my favorite museums is the Leopold Museum, which is home to the largest collection of modern Austrian art, featuring artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Your next stop is Maria Theresien Platz (5). It is located just across the street from the Museum Quarter. You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.
5. Maria Theresien Platz
Picture-perfect Maria Theresien Platz has two of Austria’s most important museums to either side. To the west, the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) and to the east, the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum). These are fantastic museums, but be warned: they are huge! Mihir and I spent almost a whole day in the Natural History Museum alone. Located in the center of the square is a fountain dedicated to Tritons and Naiads.
Your next stop is Hero’s Square (6). You merely need to cross the Burgring. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.
6. Heroes’ Square (Heldenplatz)
On your way to Hofburg Palace (7), you will cross through Heroes’ Square (Heldenplatz). The square is the home of three notable structures, namely the Outer Castle Gate which are the remnants of historic fortification walls, as well as two statues: One of Archduke Charles of Austria as well as one of Prince Eugene of Savoy. However, the square is known by most as the location where Adolf Hitler announced the Anschluss of Austria to Germany in 1938. It is a highly important location in the collective Austrian memory.
Your next stop is Hofburg Palace (7). Find your way to Michaelerplatz by walking through the palace passages. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.
7. Hofburg Palace
Part of Hofburg Palace, Neue Burg, actually flanks Heroes’ Square, but the majority of the palace is located further down on Michaelerplatz. Built in the 13th century, Hofburg Palace was the seat of power of the Habsburg Empire for several centuries. It was expanded several times and now consists (amongst others) of the imperial chapel, the imperial library, the treasury, the Spanish Riding School, and the imperial mews.
Although some parts of the palace are currently closed to visitors, one of the most popular tourist attractions are the Imperial Apartments which transport you back several hundred years to an age of splendor and indulgence. If you do not have time to visit Schönbrunn Palace, you may want to consider visiting Hofburg Palace instead.
Your next stop is Vienna’s Minorite Church (8). On your way, you will walk along Herrengasse, one of the prettiest streets in Vienna. You’ll be a distance of 350 m.
8. Minorite Church (Minoritenkirche)
The construction of the Minorite Church began during one of the perhaps most interesting periods in Austrian history, the Interregnum, in 1275. It was one of the first real Gothic churches in the Austrian realm and was partially destroyed during the Ottoman sieges of Vienna. At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon commissioned a mosaic replica of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It proved too big for its original destination at Belvedere Palace. Finally, it found its home at the Minorite Church where it can still be admired today.
Your next stop is Cafe Central (9). You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.
9. Cafe Central
Cafe Central is a traditional Viennese Cafe. The Viennese Coffee House Culture dates back hundreds of years to 1683 when coffee beans left behind by Turkish invaders initiated the coffee craze. Viennese coffeehouses have since been an integral part of Austrian culture.
Cafe Central first opened its doors in 1876 and quickly became a hot spot for the Viennese intellectuals, such as Sigmund Freud. It’s my favorite traditional cafe in Vienna and sipping on a cup of coffee in the grand interiors is a lovely treat. After all the walking before, you certainly deserve it! PS: Try a piece of REAL apple strudel with your coffee 😉
Your next stop is Apotheke Zum Weissen Engel (10). You’ll be walking a distance of 250 m.
10. Apotheke Zum Weissen Engel
Although the pharmacy by itself isn’t particularly interesting, the building is. Constructed in 1902, it is an early example of Art Nouveau architecture in Vienna. It was designed by notable Austrian architect Oskar Laske. The entrance is framed by two mosaics of angels to either side.
Your next stop is the Vienna Plague Column (11). Along the way, you will pass through one of Vienna’s premier shopping streets, Graben, with luxury boutiques to either side. You’ll be walking a distance of 250 m.
11. Plague Column (Pestsäule)
The Vienna Plague Column marks a dark chapter in Austrian history. In Vienna alone, about 100,000 are estimated to have died in 1679 during a plague epidemic. The Plague Column (also known as Trinity Column or Dreifaltigkeitssäule) commemorates its victims to this day. Reaching a height of 21 m, this Baroque gem is an impressive sight. It was commissioned by Habsburg emperor Leopold I who is eternalized in the column’s pedestal as the victor over both, the plague and the Ottomans.
Your next stop is Cafe Hawelka (12). You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.
12. Cafe Hawelka
Cafe Hawelka first opened its doors in 1939 but shut down during the turbulent years of World War II. After its reopening in 1945, it quickly became a hotspot for the Vienna art scene. On any given day, you would find Vienna’s leading writers and artists sipping a cup of coffee and debating their latest projects. Regular customers included people such as Helmut Qualtinger and Friedensreich Hundertwasser (who designed Vienna’s famous Hundertwasserhaus).
The cafe is steeped in Viennese ‘charm’. Waiters tend to be snippy, prices are high, and there is no menu. I strongly recommend you don’t order anything than a traditional Melange coffee. If you’re feeling frisky, ask the waiter for the house specialty: Buchteln, a traditional Austrian dish of sweet rolls, prepared according to the family recipe. A melange will set you back about 4 EUR while the Buchteln will cost you 10 EUR.
Your next stop is the Zacherlhaus (13). You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.
Often overlooked, the Zacherlhaus is one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in Vienna. Designed in 1903 by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik, it’s a beautiful example of Art Nouveau transitioning into Art Deco. It’s pretty to look at from the outside, but make sure take a look at the interiors as well. The building’s staircase is one of my all-time favorites.
Your next stop is the Ankeruhr (14). You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.
14. Anchor Clock (Ankeruhr)
The Anchor Clock (Ankeruhr) is a decorative mechanical clock, dating back to 1913. Designed by Franz von Matsch, this clock is both, pretty and fun to look at. In the front of the clock, a set of figurines passes as the time goes by. Each represents important personalities in Vienna’s history, such as Marc Aurel, Charlemagne, Maria Theresia, and Joseph Haydn. At each full hour the clock chimes a little tune. If you can manage to get here at 12:00, noon, you can enjoy a little show of all 12 figurines and tunes.
Your next stop is St. Rupert’s Church (15). You’ll be walking ad distance of 200 m.
15. St. Rupert’s Church (Ruprechtskirche)
Widely considered the oldest church in Vienna, St. Rupert’s Church is a marvel of Romanesque architecture. Located in what was once the Roman ‘city’ of Vindobona, the church has been through a lot since its construction in the 12th century. During Medieval times, the church was the seat of the salt office (Salzamt) which distributed this important commodity equally among the citizens. The church is neatly tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, nestled between bars and cafes.
Your next stop is ‘Wolf and Cow Playing Backgammon’ (16). You’ll be walking a distance of 550 m through the streets of old Vienna.
16. Wolf and Cow Playing Backgammon
On one of the building facades on Bäckerstrasse you will find a cute little fresco. It depicts a wolf and a cow playing backgammon. It dates back to the mid-17th century when the entire facade was covered in paintings. There have been numerous attempts to interpret its meanings, however, no airtight explanation has been found so far. What do you think it could mean? 🙂
Your next stop is St. Stephen’s Cathedral (17). You will be walking a distance of 350 m.
17. St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of my favorite churches in Europe and one of the most important landmarks in Vienna. The cathedral dates back to the mid-14th century and today serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. Although its interiors are beautiful, I particularly enjoy the cathedral’s Romanesque and Gothic facade. Oh, and the roof is particularly Instagram-worthy 😉 Just across the square, you can pop into the Manner flagship store and buy yourself a pack of wafers with the iconic building on the packaging – one of 15+ great souvenirs you can buy in Vienna!
Your next stop is Stock im Eisen (18). You’ll be walking a distance of just 100 m.
18. Stock im Eisen
There are plenty of legends associated with this curious sight in the center of Vienna. The ‘Stock im Eisen’ is essentially a tree trunk into which people have been driven hundreds of nails. It was first mentioned in historical documents in 1533, but scientific examination has revealed that the tree was felled around 1440. Nails were driven into it long before that, for reasons unknown. Perhaps it was meant as a votive offering as nails were not a cheap commodity in the middle ages. Legend has it that the devil himself drove the nails into the trunk. Do you have a theory?
Your next stop is the Vienna Opera House (19). On your way, you’ll be following Kärnterstrasse, Vienna’s leading shopping street. You’ll be walking a distance of 650 m.
19. Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper)
Your last real stop on this Vienne walking route is Vienna State Opera. A little surprisingly, the building was not well received by the public upon its completion in 1869 who deemed it ‘not grand enough’. Today, it is one of the most important opera houses in the world. It is the venue of the world-famous Vienna Opera Ball, one of the biggest high-society events in Europe.
After this walk, you deserve a delicious Austrian lunch. Your next stop is Gasthaus Plachutta (20). You’ll be backtracking on Kärtnerstrasse and walking a distance of 250 m.
20. Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper
What could be better than capping off your self-guided Vienna walking tour with a nice hot schnitzel? Although there are plenty of restaurants around serving traditional Austrian cuisine, Plachutta is one of the best. If you’re not up for schnitzel, Plachutta also serves a selection of our 35+ favorite Austrian dishes.
Your final stop is Cafe Sacher (21). You’ll be walking a distance of 100 m.
21. Cafe Sacher
Our last cafe on this list and the last stop on your walking tour of Vienna is Cafe Sacher. Part of perhaps the most iconic hotel in Vienna, Hotel Sacher. The hotel first opened in 1876 and started serving the famous Sacher Cake (Sachertorte) soon after (although it was originally served only by Demel, not far from Hofburg Palace (7)). Way to finish your walking tour on a sweet note 🙂
What Else to See in Vienna
Obviously, there is plenty more to see in Vienna than what we have covered in our walking tour. Fortunately, we got you covered. Below we have compiled some of our most popular posts on how to spend the best time of your life in Vienna 🙂
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