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Your favorite sights in Vienna

I will be going to Vienna in early December and am currently deciding on an itinerary. I would like to hear what others have enjoyed in the city itself. For example: what are some "must see" places and what are some things to avoid?

Thanks in advance for all your help.

Posted by
4684 posts

If you're interested in art, don't miss the Belvedere art museum.
The discount Tuesday evenings at the MAK museum are highly recommended for getting a look at the Secession stuff cheaply.

Posted by
2444 posts

The Vienna Pass is one of the few of those passes that actually makes sense - it includes most of the museums that you really want to see - now including the Belvedere, I believe.

Seeing Don Giovanni at the Vienna Opera in 2015 was truly a highlight. I would suggest buying the best seats you can afford, instead of the cheapest seats you can get. We did the latter and still regret that decision.

Posted by
2154 posts

I loved Rigoletto at the Opera in June 2015, a highlight of our trip.

Albertina Museum - a small museum full of wonderful Impressionist paintings.

Kunsthistorisches Museum - full of fabulous paintings, built as a museum in the late 19th Century, it is not a palace converted to a museum. The building itself inside is gorgeous in its architecture and decorative flourishes, too. Had coffee and snack in their cafe, delicious.

I suggest just spending time wandering and people watching. Vienna is the home of the cafe, stop and have a coffee and dessert, you will be delighted.

Posted by
4376 posts

We really enjoyed the Albertina art museum which was also part of the palace living quarters for the Hapsburgs (Albert and Maria Christina), both the Hofburg and Schonbrunn, St Stephens and St. Peters. We also enjoyed walking around the Hofburg complex and ring strasse. The treasury is quite good with crown and orb of the Holy Roman Emperor among other great artifacts. I think the National Library is really special and deserves a visit. The interior of the building is incredible. By the opera house a little farther out, the Naschmarkt with the surrounding Art Nouveau buildings, are wonderful.

Posted by
31 posts

I love Impressionism, so I absolutely adored the Albertina! Are you a fan of the movie The Third Man? If so, I recommend riding the ferris wheel at the Prater and doing the Third Man museum. The museum isn't just about the movie, but covers what Vienna was like before and after WWII. And since you're there in December, just wondering around the Christmas markets will be a lot of fun!

Posted by
4612 posts

Vienna is a beautiful, old-world elegant city, so walking along the Ringstrausse is nice and stopping at the rose garden to enjoy the sensory experience was wonderful with the buildings in the background.

We enjoyed many of the same as mentioned above - Hofburg Treasury, St. Stephens, Schonbrunn gardens and palace. Also, have a meal at the Figlmuller near St. Stephens. And, of course, some coffee house pastries. Enjoy!

Edit: oh, just reread your posting and see you will be there in December. Okay, no rose gardens! I really enjoyed attending a ballet at the opera house, too. Not sure what their schedule would be for December. But, probably some Christmas market type locations, too.

Posted by
4376 posts

ditto figlmuller restaurant. Its an interesting place in a nice location, attentive service.

Posted by
800 posts

The Dorotheum! Not on anybody's tourist list. The worlds oldest pawn shop. Started by the Holy Roman Emperor as a place to have his nobles exchange their good stuff for cash. 8 stories high; every floor specializes in something different. I've seen stuff in museums that I actually got to touch in the Dorotheum. Furniture, art, medieval weapons, jewelry, they have it all.

The Military History Museum. They have the car that Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in; starting WWI. Nice collection of old tanks too. Combine this with the Armory in the Kunstmuseum and you'll see some of the best stuff on display anywhere. A must for any military history buff.

Posted by
3353 posts
  • The Hofburgkapelle (Hofburg Chapel) on a Sunday morning for Mass to hear the Vienna Boys Choir
  • Training session of the Spanish Riding School (also in the Hofburg)
  • A performance of Le nozze di Figaro at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera). We couldn't afford both the horse show and the opera. We think we got the best of both worlds.
  • The Kunsthistorisches Museum -- a world class museum that was better than I could have imagined.
  • The Imperial Treasury -- Opulent jewels, crowns of centuries of the Hapsburgs. Absolutely fascinating. We were able to buy a joint combo ticket with the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
  • Took trams 1 & 2 along the Ringstrasse to see the famous buildings of Vienna quite comfortably and cheaply. Helped get our bearings too.
  • Walked along the Naschmarkt on a Saturday morning. Perfect!
  • Enjoyed early mornings and late afternoons at various cafes reading the newspapers and relaxing.
Posted by
35 posts

Search for a post from Emily listing her favorite cafes. Visit as many as you can make time for. That’s what we did. Cafe Sperl was our favorite.

Even though you will be there in December, dress warm and visit the gardens at Schonbrun. Another favorite. Make the trip up the hill behind the palace. It’s worth it.

Walk as much as you can, in as many places as you can. There’s something beautiful and interesting at every turn. Walking keeps you warm too.

Posted by
5697 posts

Yes, the Opera -- IF you like opera. Otherwise, there's an inexpensive tour of the Opera House on non-performance days that lets you see the inside of this magnificent building.
Several churches have free classical concerts -- just ask for donations -- but remember that old churches don't have central heating so bundle up (gloves and scarves.)
And Christmas markets!!

Posted by
598 posts

We loved our experience at the opera. Also, we enjoyed the Hofburg New Place Museums. We went to see the historical musical instruments, and thought we would just breeze through the armor exhibits as we have seen armor many places. But we found the displays here the best we have ever seen. It was as fascinating as the musical instruments. And, of course, the building is fabulous. We practically had the place to ourselves which was another plus.

Posted by
4376 posts

We did the standing room option for the opera. it worked well for us. It was very inexpensive. We watched the first act of the opera which was enough for us and were able to see the interior of the building.

Posted by
1524 posts

...Emily listing her favorite cafes.

I can faintly remember that Emily had posted another list, giving the places where the coffee is best, and I agreed to that list.

Most tourists are looking for:
(1) best coffeehouse (i.e. most authentic)
(2) best coffe
(3) best pastries and cakes

These are three different issues which do not go along with each other necessarily.
I have a favorite for each category, but I do not know a place which is top in all three.

Posted by
1524 posts

Despite that most tourists look for Demel or Sacher this is the place with the real best pastries (IMHO):

Go to the place in the very city, i.e. 1st borough, 5 minutes from St. Stephen's cathedral. After having finished your coffee and pastries, consider a take-away from the counter on the ground floor. They have more than 30 variants of hand-made chocolates. For travelers there are pre-packaged selections in different sizes. I bring them as a gift, never had a problem with US customs.

Oberlaa also offers a three course lunch special for about €13 which I can fully recommend.

Posted by
1524 posts

Something unique to explore, i.e. delicious small finger sandwiches with 25+ flavors of spreading.
IMHO, best Viennese fast food (since 1902):
Finish with a "Pfiff" beer, a small glass size invented by this place (125 ml = 4 fl.oz.).

Posted by
4698 posts

I’m not going to list out things that you can find in every travel book and/or on the Vienna tourism page. Those posting above (excluding wmt1) have done that for you already. What are your interests and likes? What one person enjoyed, you might find a snoozefest.

That said, you’re coming in December, during the Christmas markets. Focus on that! The touristy one at the Rathaus is my least favorite. Full of tat from China and too crowded. The best ones are the following:

Karlsplatz - best for crafts, by far. Lovely setting by the church. Check out the self propelled carousel and have a donut topped with sauerkraut.

Spittelberg - covering three tiny alleys, this market twinkles with charm. Make sure to go behind the stalls and into some of the buildings in this art gallery area.

Altes AKH - fairy tale setting with good food options and unique crafts.

Schonbrunn - pretty touristy, but very pretty as it is set right in front of the palace. Best market for foodies.

Belvedere - this market has the very best punsch selection. Go here after dark as the lit up Belevedere palace as a back drop is pure magic.

Posted by
1524 posts

Belvedere - this market has the very best punsch selection.

If you want to try an absinth punsch then you have to go to the Türkenschanzpark market.

Posted by
1524 posts

Demel for pastries.

As said before, Demel is overrated for taste. But the window decorations made from sugar and the possibility to peek into the kitchen are appealing, as well as the interior.

Posted by
17 posts

We loved the Cafe Sperl. Not a horrible walk from the Museumsquartier and very authentic. We also visited the Cafe Klimt across from the Spanish Riding School. It was ok but I found the Cafe Sperl much more enjoyable. It was within a block of our apartment as well so quite convenient.

We are not opera fans but do enjoy classical music. Rather than a full orchestra, we attended the Classical Ensemble Vienna performed in St. Peter's Church. It was a more intimate, candlelit setting and the music was lovely. The performance was easily booked online and there was a range of ticket prices. We actually didn't book it until we got into town. Owing to the smaller setting, there's really not a bad seat so it's an affordable option as well

We enjoyed Schonbrunn very much. The self-guided audio tour was interesting. We opted for the Grand Tour ticket as an entire day was not in our itinerary. No pictures are allowed but there is a nice picture book in the gift store that's small and a nice fit when packing light!

Wish I had known about the 8-story pawn shop! That sounds awesome! Do post a review of the Christmas Markets. I hope to go back in the Christmas season and the markets are top of the list.

Posted by
2339 posts

We were there with our children (22, 22, 26) in 2011. We went to several heurigern, the wine taverns on outskirts of town. The wine is usually young, and very good. You sit outside, drink a glass of wine, and take in the evening. Not sure about Dec, of course. Most of these wine taverns also have food. They are all on bus lines, and we caught a late bus at 11:35 or so.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you all for your comments. I have been on vacation and had not checked in. I will definitely follow up on these suggestions. Again, thank you for your time.

Posted by
2 posts

@Emily, are any of the markets open in early November? I love to shop for local arts & crafts!

Posted by
50 posts

Highly recommend the Museum of Military History even if you're not a military history buff. While it did have typical military objects, it also had a fantastic array of large scale art pieces as well as the car in which Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated. The museum itself is of architectural interest as it is built in a moorish style and has many interesting interior decorations . You can see a virtual tour online

Posted by
4698 posts

The Christmas Markets are not open in early November.