Musement takes a look at how to keep yourself occupied in the enchanting Austrian capital.
Vienna has for so long been Europe’s intellectual center, with the likes of Freud and Mozart frequenting its storied coffee houses and beautiful parks, as well as for Empress Elizabeth, also known as Princess Sisi.
But what if we told you the city also has a burgeoning graffiti scene, indoor surfing, and a strong vegan food ethic? Or that during the Cold War its proximity to Bratislava and the Soviet sphere of influence meant that it was riddled with spies? This list of 33 things to do in Vienna is full of unexpected delights. Though it encompasses all we would wish from a visit to Vienna, there’s plenty of quirky surprises to still be found.
1. Get in touch with your unconscious desires at the Sigmund Freud Museum. Before fleeing Nazi persecution Freud penned some of his greatest insights at Berggasse 19, and the city is still the intellectual home of psychoanalysis.
2. Take the U2 metro to the Chocolate Museum to sate some of your more obvious desires. Sachertorte chocolate cake is a must.
3. Visit the summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty at Schönbrunn Palace and soak up the Baroque.
4. Schnitzel is one of Vienna’s most popular dishes. Head to Schnitzelwirt for enormous portions.
5. For those not interested in vast portions of fried meat, Veganista is the city’s vegan ice cream parlour. Their Instagram @veganistaicecream is a mouth-watering rainbow of animal-friendly treats.
6. Get to know your menorah from your kerze at the Jewish Museum, the oldest in the world, despite Austria’s troubled history of Nazi occupation.
7. Think Budapest is the capital of urban bathing? Think again. Amalienbad is the most accidentally Wes Anderson pool you will ever swim in.
8. Fancy a surf? City Wave is pioneering indoor surfing and offering young Viennese the chance to hone their skills.
9. Neubau is Vienna’s hipster hub. Get fitted out with some statement specs at Neubau eyewear and embrace the vibe.
10. Once fully equipped in on-trend garb, Fürth Kaffee is the perfect place to meet like-minded individuals.
11. We love Bratislava, the Slovakian capital just an hour train ride from Vienna. Not enough people make the short trip across the former Iron Curtain.
12. Peek through the windows of the Hofburg and try to spot the President of Austria at work.
13. For lovers of all things ecclesiastical, head to St Stephen’s Church at Stephansplatz. Just be sure to wait until night for the full force of the illuminations.
14. Take a two-hour tour of Vienna’s burgeoning graffiti scene and follow the course of the Danube.
15. Feeling your inner Banksy after seeing the city’s great murals? Head to SOMOGYI to pick up some cans of paint and hit up those walls yourself.
16. Drop in on the Kunsthistorisches Museum where Vienna’s artistic luminaries hang together. From the Old Masters to the world’s largest Bruegel collection to Klimt frescos to Hapsburgs treasures, it’s impossible to not leave here amazed.
17. The oldest zoo in the world, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, was founded in 1752 and is especially popular for its giant pandas.
18. Pick up some vintage threads or artisanal sourdough at Naschmarkt just down from Karlsplatz.
19. Wander around the historic Innere Stadt with a copy of Simon Winder’s Danubia, which explains the city’s rich history in 600 pages.
20. For fans of Brutalism and military architecture, Vienna ’s immense cylindrical Flak Towers were built during the Second World War to house anti-aircraft guns. They are no longer used.
21. Stand at the State Opera House for just 10 euros, or hire a circle box for 2000 euros. Or try both, and compare the view.
22. Take a vintage tour of the city with Sophort, who will provide you with vintage Polaroid cameras for instant gratification.
23. Take an evening stroll along the Danube and watch people spill out of lively bars and barges that line the water’s edge.
24. Scope out scenes from Orson Welles’ The Third Man in the city’s sewers. Surprisingly tour guides will take you here if you can bear the smell.
25. Treat yourself to the Vienna City Card and get free public transport and discounts for up to 72 hours.
26. Mozart’s residence, Mozarthaus, is definitely worth a visit, though perhaps save your entrance fee and view from outside, as few of his personal belongings remain.
27. Seek out monuments within the green lawns of the Stadtpark. Ten points for finding Schubert.
28. Take a selfie at the Toilet of Modern Art, one of the city’s oddest attractions.
29. Confront death with the ossified remains of Austria’s royals in Stephansdom Crypt. The skulls that line the walls are particularly terrifying.
30. Ever wanted to see a wolf and cow play chess? How about backgammon? A medieval mural on Bäckerstraße 12 depicts just that.
31. Check the time on a clock designed to stop at the year 9999, when the world will supposedly end, at Vienna’s Clock Museum.
32. A tropical paradise filled with colorful butterflies doesn’t sound like something that would be on the itinerary in Vienna, but Schmetterlinghaus offers just that.
33. For those feeling thirsty, the verdant Wachau Valley is a little more than an hour from Vienna and keeps the capital well stocked with wine from its abundant vineyards.