Headed to Austria and looking to fill your time with 3 days in Vienna? You’re about to have the most amazing time (no doubts about that), and thankfully, I’ve got the perfect Vienna itinerary for you! Mouth-watering food, captivating historical spots, and unforgettable views are just the start of it…
Vienna, Austria, the coffee-capital of the world, is famously known for steaming cups of caffeine, oh so much wine, and obnoxious opera music. And luckily, even with only 3 days in Vienna, it’s plenty of time to experience everything this fairytale city has to offer; you just need to know where to start! But don’t fret, Lily from Many Miles & More has got you covered, with the perfect guide to Vienna from a local’s point of view.
Lily’s been living in Vienna for a few months now, and something about this city just truly captivated her – she actually never went back home (much to her family’s dismay)! And you’ll quickly see why. Vienna is a city where you can get lost for hours just wandering the narrow, cobbled streets, and lose track of time while sipping a cuppa in one of the many coffee houses around town. It’s one of those places you can just stroll around, while accidentally stumbling upon an ornate palace (exactly what she did in her first week of living in Vienna). It’s artistic and intellectual, historical and grand. And it’s got something for just about everyone.
If ever have the chance to visit (even if it’s just a quick 3 days in Vienna), take it. I can guarantee you’ll fall in love with this busy city, and leave a piece of your heart behind.
How to Get Around
Vienna has one of the most efficient, yet inexpensive public transport systems in Europe, and you can get absolutely everywhere via bus, tram, or train. Access to unlimited transport for 72 hours costs €17.10 (quite a deal, and perfect for anyone using this 3 day Vienna itinerary), and can be purchased beforehand online (with optional airport transfer) or from a ticket machine.
You can also purchase a Vienna City Card ahead of time in order to save money on transport (free and unlimited) and activities if you know you’ll be doing a bunch of things on the list (major discounts at some top attractions, including Hofburg Palace, Schönbrunn Palace, and more).
Vienna has a very unique stance on public transport, as it runs on an honor system. This means there are no ticket barriers, or even attendants checking your tickets. As a tourist or resident you are trusted to purchase your own ticket before hopping aboard, which is something that baffled me when catching the tram for the first time.
It’s tempting to just forgo paying for a ticket, but be warned, if you are caught by a random ticket controller you’ll be faced with a €103 fine. These guys appear whenever they feel like it, and are wearing plain-clothes so you can never expect them. They have no time for excuses, and even less time for tourists, so make sure you have your ticket on hand at all times to avoid paying out.
Electric scooters are also readily available for cheap around the city, and your go to taxi service should be UBER as local services can get quite pricey.
When to Go
Vienna has two very distinct tourist seasons: Summer and Winter.
Vienna in summer is all warm weather, food markets, and fruitful nightlife. Vienna in winter is all heavy snow, outdoor ice rinks, and copious Christmas markets. Each has their own selling points, so it really depends on what you’re wanting to experience.
If you want to wander down the gorgeous streets and marvel at endless historical architecture, consider visiting in the sweet, sweet summer months. Early June or late September is your best bet, as the weather is comfortably warm, but the kids are in school and the tourist season is not in full bloom. It’ll still be busy – Vienna always is – but you’ll have more space to breathe.
If you want to experience Vienna in winter, but want to avoid the crowds of tourists, late November is absolutely perfect. The Christmas markets open mid-November, but don’t get overly busy until we enter December, so you can wander around the stalls stress-free with a hot cocoa in hand.
German is not the easiest language to understand, and it sounds angry to the ears. I should know, I’ve been living here for a while now and it still all sounds like gibberish to me.
While a good majority of Austrian people will speak English, you’re less likely to get dirty looks from disgruntled locals if you at least know the very basics. Here are some of the most common and useful sayings to help you through your trip (at least attempt some German during your 3 days in Vienna):
- Yes – Ja
- No – Nein
- Please – Bitte
- Thanks – Danke
- Sorry – Es tut mir leid
- Good day – Guten tag
- Goodbye – Tschüss
- How are you? – Wie gehts es dir?
- How much? – Wie viel?
Where to Stay
Vienna is made up of 23 districts, all with their own unique features and selling points. I recommend staying in either District 1, 7, or 18, or staying in an AirBnB.
District 1: In Vienna’s first district you’ll be in the center of the city, and in close proximity to all the must-see sights. Though a more expensive area, if you are wanting to be directly in the middle of the action this is definitely where you should be staying. // Recommended hotels: Hotel Rathaus (right outside the famous Rathaus and the first stop on our 3 day Vienna itinerary), Hotel Wandl (a high-class hotel with a wonderful view of the city), and Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof (5-star hotel in the heart of the city).
District 7: District 7 is the ‘more hipster’ area of Vienna, especially the area of Neubau – an up and coming neighborhood perfect for travellers who want a bit of style . Recommended hotels: K+K Hotel Maria Theresia (modern, apartment-style hotel), 25 Hours Hotel (beautiful rooftop views and close proximity to the museum quarter), Hotel am Brillantengrund (boutique hotel with a cosy closed off outside dining area).
District 18: District 18 is a quieter area, just on the outskirts of the city. I may be a tad biased, I do live in this district after all, but it is a truly beautiful area with everything you could need for an enjoyable stay. // Recommended hotels: Hotel Schild (a quaint building with wonderful outside gardens), Hotel Park-Villa (out of the way with lovely gardens), Arthotel ANA Gala (traditional Viennese architecture).
AirBnB: Vienna is full of gorgeous homes and apartments, making AirBnb the perfect place to find accommodation within the city. From old-timey cottages in the vineyards, to modern apartments in the city centre, you’re sure to find your ideal place to stay on this website.
→ New to AirBnB? Get up to $40 off your first stay when you sign up with this link!
And now, what you’ve been waiting for… a perfect 3 day Vienna itinerary for any first time visitor to the city!
3 Days in Vienna: The Perfect Vienna Itinerary
Before we actually get started… yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s lots to cover! It’s wise to purchase a Vienna Pass in advance – you’ll save quite a bit of money on the top tourist attractions below (including skip-the-line passes, too, which is welll-worth it in my opinion when you’ve only got a few days in a city), as well snag unlimited free rides on the hop-on hop-off bus routes. As noted above, the Vienna City Card grants holders with free and unlimited transport as well, so take a look at the two and see which best suits your trip. They’ll both save you money.
Day One in Vienna : Historical Monuments, Sightseeing, and Markets
Get Immersed in Austrian Coffee Culture
There’s no better way to begin your Vienna adventure than dipping into what the city is most famous for: coffee. Once you step foot into your first cosy cafe, you’ll understand what the fuss is all about.
Cafe Lantmen is the ideal place to start the day, a traditional coffee house that has been running since 1873. The drinks are to die for, as are the multitude of breakfast and pastry options – but I guess any place that has been open for the better half of a century is sure to have tasty food.
After a short walk through the Rathaus Gardens you’ll reach Rathaus, Vienna’s city hall. Standing tall since 1883, this spectacular building is all towering spires and 17th century architecture, and it’s absolutely beautiful.
The grounds are home to many a market throughout the year, either it be pleasant food markets in the summer, or delightful Christmas markets in the winter. Don’t be surprised if you roll up to find the gardens littered with stalls and people (and trust me, save some room for a few wiener schnitzels and apfelstrudel here).
After you’ve meandered outside (and taste tested a few too many sausages), head on in, (entrance is completely free), where you’ll experience high ceilings and a multitude of hanging chandeliers. Wander around to your heart’s content, and imagine yourself in the shoes of past politicians.
Right outside the Rathaus you’ll find Vienna’s first rainbow zebra crossing, a sign of support for the queer community. The fact this crossing was painted right outside the central city hall signifies the acceptance of the LGBT+ community from the Austrian government. It’s a small thing, but holds a lot of historical value in the progression of equal rights within Vienna.
If you want another small easter egg, keep an eye on the crossing lights. Scattered throughout Vienna are certain lights that aren’t just red and green, as the normal images are replaced with two males or two females holding hands. You’ll find one of these special lights just outside the Rathaus.
Austrian Parliament Building
Next up on your 3 day Vienna itinerary is the Austrian Parliament Building, a short walk away through the pleasant streets of the city. With greek-style columns holding up the intricate roof, and regal statues littering the lawn, you’d think you were experiencing a place of royalty rather than politics.
However, unless you have ties on the inside, entrance into parliament is currently closed off to the public, but I can assure you the building itself if worth the trip.
Hofburg Palace Tour & Sisi Museum
After a 10 minute walk through the Volksgarten (which is beautiful in and of itself), you’ll reach Hofburg Palace.
Tickets for a guided tour and access will run you €18 (or €15 for just entrance and an audio guide), and it’s always better to book in advance online as the ticket office gets very busy very quickly. The tour lasts approximately an hour, and is a perfect way to explore the palace and learn it’s history.
Buy tickets in advance here for the Hofburg Palace and Sisi Museum to bypass the long line and minimize wasting time on your first day in Vienna (because what a shame that’d be).
This ticket also provides access to the Sisi Museum within the palace, an exhibit dedicated to Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Elisabeth was married to the emperor of Austria at only 16 years old (I couldn’t pull anyone at 16, and she’d already managed to bag an emperor, impressive), and is viewed as a tragic – yet beautiful – Empress. She struggled with the regal lifestyle, and felt trapped within her role.
Within the museum you’ll get to browse through a number of eloquent ball gowns, gloves, fans, and many more of her royal possessions.
Alternatively, you can splurge for the more expensive Sisi Museum experience, costing €34. This allows you to not only access the Hofburg Palace and Sisi Museum, but also grants access to the grand tour of the Schönbrunn Palace (featured later in this 3 day Vienna itinerary) and the Hofmobiliendepot Imperial Furniture Collection (talk about a mouthful). If you have any desire to visit the other palace, this is a great bargain and way to save a few euros.
Lunch at Liebsteinsky
Liebsteinsky is a short walk from the Hofburg, and is a great choice for a traditional Austrian lunch. You’ll have a hard decision between dumplings and schnitzel, risotto, or a simple salad. If you want my advice, just go for them all (and bring along your stretchy pants).
And, of course, an extensive wine list. When in Rome, do as the Romans do – when in Vienna, drink like the Viennese do…
St. Stephen’s Cathedral & Catacombs
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is nearly 1000 years old, built in 1137 and towering over its surroundings at 130m tall. This hot spot is full of horse and carriages, men dressed as Mozart, and dense crowds of tourists. Trust me, you’ll not miss it. You can spot it from a mile away.
Entrance into the cathedral itself is €6, and comes with an audio guide, so expect to be an expert in all things holy by the end of it all. The interior is magnificent, with golden walls and stained glass windows. I’m not one to get overwhelmed by places, but the inside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral takes my breath away.
For those who love a good spook, you can experience the cathedral’s catacombs for only €6. A guide will take you down under the cathedral, where you’ll walk besides decades old skulls, skeletons, and remains. Fun? Maybe not the word for it, but it is certainly fascinating and something a bit different on this Vienna itinerary.
Alternatively, you could purchase an all-inclusive ticket for €14.90, giving you access to a guided tour of both the cathedral and catacombs, as well as the north tower and south tower. From the towers you’ll experience an unforgettable view of Vienna, and learn historical tales of the cathedral’s creation and the influence of the devil.
Vienna State Opera House
The Viennese love opera (almost as much as they love wine), so there’s no way you can miss out on the State Opera House when visiting Vienna. This grand building is in the center of the city, with tall arches, soaring statues, and gold detailing making it look intimidatingly regal.
If you are dying to see the opera, but aren’t prepared to shell up 100’s of euros for good seats, there is a way to get tickets for as cheap as €3. Yes, you read that right, €3 (which is less than a good cup of coffee in many parts of the world).
Get to the ticket office around 2 hours before the show starts, as you’ll need to be there in plenty of time as they’ll be a whole line of eager people with the same idea as you. This is when standing tickets become available.
Slap on some comfy shoes, and for as little as a few euros you can witness a spectacular opera. You don’t even need to stay for the entire show if the standing is too much for you, as it’s also a great way to experience the breath-taking interior of the opera house.
If you wanna guarantee you’ll see some sort of performance and don’t wanna pay the hefty price tag of a ticket beforehand, consider a different type of concert! Thankfully, Vienna’s got loads of nightly entertainment to choose from, including:
- A classical concert in St. Anne’s Church: Enjoy fine classical music in the Baroque atmosphere of St. Anne’s Church
- A classical ensemble at St. Peter’s Church: Enjoy a musical trip through time and let the Classic Ensemble Vienna enchant you
- A Mozart and Strauss Concert: listen to the most famous waltzes, polkas, arias and duets performed by the Orchestra of Old Vienna
- Classical concert at the Musikverein: an evening of beautiful classical music from Vienna’s most famous composers in one of Europe’s most prestigious concert venues
- Concert at Schoenbrunn Palace: Admire the performances of two opera singers, a soprano and a baritone, as well as a pair of ballet dancers at the Schoenbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site
The Nashmarket holds the medal for the largest street market within Vienna, and is a wonder in itself. From food, to clothes, to spices, to souvenirs, you’ll find anything and everything while wandering through the stands. Arrays of fruit and intricate decoration make the market come alive with color, and really gives the area a magical touch.The Nashmarket is truly timeless, and you can easily get lost and lose track of time while exploring this must-visit location in Vienna.
End your day nibbling upon some mouth-watering street foot from one of the stands; with 120 stalls, you’ll never be starved (pardon the pun) for choice!
Day Two: Artwork, Wandering, and Relaxing
Spanish Riding School Morning Exercise
I hope you’ve indulged in a Viennese coffee or two, because we’re rising early! The horses have probably been awake longer than you, so don’t get grumpy. Oh did I say horse? More like stallions, pure white and fit to lead the carriage of a king.
Watch the prize horses of the Spanish Riding School gallop through their morning routine, all with traditional Viennese music in the background . While you won’t be getting a grand showcase, you will get to witness the horses getting ready for the day with relaxation and muscle-building exercises.
Tickets will run you €15, and you can spend up to 2 hours watching the stallions gallop, stretch, and train. Doors open at 10, and you can stay up until noon.
→ Buy tickets in advance here to witness the training of the Lipizzaners and their riders first hand.
Cafe Neko Wien Cats
To continue our morning of animal related activities, I’m sending you to my favorite cafe in Vienna. Cafe Neko is the home of not only mouth-watering homemade cakes, but also a handful of rescued cats. While having a nibble and sip of tea, you’ll be swarmed with fluffy bundles of joy from every direction. Sounds like heaven on earth to me (as long as you’re not allergic)…
Mozart is one of Austria’s most famous characters, and was a key figure in revolutionising opera music – and we all know how much Vienna loves a good opera. While Mozart was born in Salzburg, not Vienna, he did have a residence in the city where he spent a large proportion of his time. His old apartment has now been transformed into a museum to commemorate his life and achievements, and for just €11 you can celebrate Wolfgang himself.
Hundertwasser House – designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser – is a quirky collage of tilted walls and vivid colours, and one the most photographed spots in Vienna. The house is something you couldn’t describe in even a million words, with odd tilts and turns that’ll leave your head spinning.
After being entranced by the Hundertwasser House, have a wander through Hundertwasser Village. Here you’ll find a bounty of bizarre souvenirs related to Friedensreich’s artwork. From a quirky postcard to an unusual scarf, you’re guaranteed to find a unique reminder of your stay.
After a quick wander up the road, you’ll find the KunstHaus Museum, with an exterior almost as odd as the Hundertwasser House. This eccentric museum catalogues the artwork of Friedensreich Hundertwasser and his unique style, and while inside you’ll be surrounded by vivid colour and prized artistry. It’s not one of the most popular museums within Vienna, but a definite contender for one of my favourites.
Tickets will cost you €11, and the museum often holds workshops, so browse the website before you go to double check if anything is on.
City River Cruise
Danube River is spectacular, running through 9 countries for a whopping 2850 meters. While in Vienna, you would be completely missing out if you didn’t take a ride upon this impressive canal, with the best way to do so via river cruise! There are plenty of options available, though your best bet is City Cruise’s Tour C, costing you €20 for an hour and a half on the water. There are also options available with lunch included, if you prefer to dine in style among the monuments.
See also → Vienna Boat Tour on the Danube Canal
During your journey, you’ll get to lay back, relax, and just enjoy everything Vienna has to offer. You’ll float by monuments such as the Otto Wagner’s Schützenhaus, all while finally getting to rest your feet (these 3 days in Vienna are really giving your feet a work out, you deserve a bit of a chill!).
Once you hop off the boat, you’ll be faced with Danube Tower. Trust me, you won’t miss it.
You’ll never have a better view of Vienna than atop the Danube Tower, that’s for sure – it is the tallest landmark in all of Vienna. Standing at an impressive 250m tall, the Danube Tower acts as a viewing platform with an impressive panoramic perspective of the city. Buy your entrance ticket to the Danube Tower in advance, as the lines can get quite long. And plus, with that pre-bought ticket, you get to skip the lines!
Without argument, the best time to hit up Danube Tower is sunset, where you get to watch the sun setting behind the Danube River and experience Vienna transforming into a golden paradise. And don’t worry about the nighttime temps – there’s an outdoor terrace as well as a glassed-in indoor section if you get chilly.
Better yet, enjoy a bite to eat while watching the sunset across the horizon, as the Donauturm is home to the cosy Turm restaurant, which literally translates to tower restaurant. But, hey, what it lacks in creative naming it makes up for with delicious Austrian delicacies. With reasonable pricing for sky-high fine-dining, this restaurant is not one to be missed.
If you’re not that hungry, you can also enjoy a coffee, cake, or small snack at the Turm cafe, located a floor below the Turm restaurant.
Both of these will require a reservation as they get busy fast, especially during peak tourist season, so make sure you plan ahead.
Day Three: Palaces and Partying
Imagine a stereotypical, outlandishly regal palace – I can guarantee the Schönbrunn Palace will exceed those expectations and then some. Torn straight out of a fairytale story book, this 16th century monolith will leave you wishing you somehow descended from royal blood. While wandering the corridors and grounds, you can play pretend as a princess or powerful emperor, and truly live your royal fantasy.
Inside the palace, the ceilings are intricately painted with biblical imagery, corridors are lined with shiny golden trimming, and in every room hangs elegant chandeliers. The grand tour of the palace will guide you through 40 majestic rooms, and you’ll leave with your mind-blown, don’t doubt me.
Book a guided tour (here) for a wander through the magnificent summer residence of the imperial family, the UNESCO-listed Schönbrunn Palace.
See Next → Schonbrunn Palace Skip the Line Tickets
While the tour only lasts around an hour, you can spend at least double that getting lost within the fruitful palace gardens. Hedge mazes, rows of rainbow flowers, pristine fountains – this place has it all. From inside to outside, the Schönbrunn Palace cannot be passed over, and a wonderful addition to any Vienna itinerary.
Looking for something a bit different? In the mood for some gooey baked apples? I’m talking about the popular Austian pastry – the apple strudel! Why not head to the original Strudel Show (yes, that’s a real thing here in Vienna!) in the court bakery of the Café Residenz of the Schonbrunn Palace. You’ll learn how the original Viennese apple strudel is prepared, including how the strudel dough is stretched out so thin you could read a newspaper through it. And yes, of course, you’ll get to enjoy some of the freshly baked sweet stuff at the end! Read reviews and book tickets here for only a few bucks.
Lunch at Campus Bräu
Campus Bräu is home to an abundance of Austrian food, from hearty soups to schnitzel and everything in between. You’re spoilt for choice inside this cosy restaurant, with the hardest decision of your day being which of the many deserts to dig into…
And of course, Campus Bräu is also home to an extensive wine and beer list. Oh Vienna, how I love you.
Belvedere Palace is the first area I ever stumbled upon in Vienna, and it was love at first sight. While wandering the palace gardens I decided Vienna would be my home for life, and now I live here. After you’ve witnessed the beauty of Belvedere Palace, you’ll probably never want to leave either (hey, join the club!).
(If you want to hear more about my move from England to Vienna, check out my post on the biggest culture shocks I faced when moving overseas.)
Belvedere Palace is split into 3 sections: Upper Belvedere, Lower Belvedere, and Belvedere 21. I’m taking you to Upper Belvedere, the fanciest and largest area (of course, only the best for you dear readers).
→ See Next: Tickets to the Belvedere Palace
There’s a long pathway leading up to where the palace proudly stands, and you’ll walk up it like a red carpet. If you’re anything like me, the walk will take some time, as you’re distracted by all the natural beauty around you. You’ll stroll past rows and rows of flowers, fountains and forestry, and it’s more breath-taking than you could ever imagine. No wonder why it’s known as one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While wandering the grounds is free, access to the inside of the palace and museum will cost you a few euros. Inside the museum be sure to admire the collections of Austrian art, from medieval to present times.
After a quick 20 minute tram ride, you’ll arrive at Prater, a large amusement park with over 200 booths and rides. Entrance into the park is free, and instead you pay per ride. This can quickly add up, with rides costing around €5- €10 each, so I’d say choose a few and stick to them.
Insider Tip: Prater is home to the famous Giant Ferris Wheel, but many people don’t know Prater has its own ferris wheel for much cheaper and the same experience. Trust me, the views atop both rides are exceptional, but you’ll be saving a few hard-earned euros by choosing the latter option. The Giant Ferris Wheel costs €12.00 per person, while Prater’s other option only runs you €5. Easy decision if you ask me, don’t go wasting your money on a tourist trap.
Grab Dinner at Mosaik
Finish off your Viennese adventure at Mosaik, a cosy hole in the wall cafe and restaurant. Here you’ll find a multitude of dinner options, light bites, and an extensive drink menu.
If it’s warm enough, sitting outside is a definite must, as there’s candles to set the mood and blankets on the back of your seats to keep you nice and cosy. Unwind and relax, and reminisce on the best 3 days in Vienna you could possibly ever experience.
If you’re feeling fruity, have a few glasses of wine and head back to Prater, there’s just something different about going on intense rides and sky-high ferris wheels when a tad tipsy (be careful though – never ride when intoxicated). Plus, all the amusement lights at night are magical, so it’s worth a short stroll regardless if you plan on hitting the rides again or not.
So there you have it, the perfect 3 days in Vienna. I hope leaving isn’t too hard! There’s a million things left to do, so make sure you head back soon!