Vienna 3 day itinerary from locals
You can find Vienna on almost every European destinations list, and for good reason. It has a rich historical heritage as the center of the Habsburg Monarchy, an unmatched tradition as the capital of classical music, a unique culinary legacy, and some of the best white wines in the world – all very compelling incentives to want to visit this metropolis for at least three days. You might have check-lists of things to see/ to do/ to eat, as well as a desire to go beyond the touristy recommendations and personalize your stay. And you would be very right to feel overwhelmed by the multitude of options and the choices you have to make. Is it possible to just about get a bit of everything? The answer is – definitely. Vienna is small enough to be discovered within a few days, while at the same time mysterious and complex to still unravel itself in new ways to people who have spent their whole life here. This Vienna 3 day itinerary is optimized for first-timers who want to see the city’s main attractions, experience its culture and mentalities, and understand what makes it tick. For a personalized version, please contact us, we are happy to help!
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Firstly, for the book lovers among you, we have written an article on our favorite books about Vienna to take along. The first two (Night Falls on the City and The World of Yesterday) are my personal favorites. Taking a book along in Vienna is as mandatory as the glass of water to your melange, as the city will offer you ample opportunities to enjoy it.
Secondly, keep in mind that Vienna is a city best explored on foot and by tram. Additionally, metro connections are unbelievably fast, clean, safe, and reliable, one of the reasons Vienna has been in the top 5 cities with the highest quality of life in the world for as long as I can remember. Therefore, there’s absolutely no good reason to not go local in terms of using public transport and forego the overpriced bus tours. Solo travelers to Vienna will find this to be an amazingly safe city, while couples will find romantic Vienna a delight, and families will find many things to do in Vienna with kids! Regardless if you decide to take our advice or go for the comfort of the hop on hop off tour, we highly recommend you purchase the most convenient version of the Vienna Card that fits your needs. We have explained here why this is a great investment!
DAY 1/ VIENNA 3 DAY ITINERARY
For your first day in Vienna, we highly recommend to put aside maps and plans and take the time for a walking tour of the city center. Do not worry that you might miss something walking on your own – at every turn is a church, a statue, or an interesting corner worth getting to know. That is why you should not aim to check things off the list on this day, but rather get a feeling for the city, its layout, pace, and atmosphere. Make sure to reserve enough time for people watching, which is such an integral part of the Viennese modus vivendi. Alternatively, you could contact us to set up a personalized walking route or book a 20% discounted themed Secret Vienna Tour for you.
Maybe give the Vienna Ring Tram (Vienna.Now.Forever) a try, as it is an authentic experience that gives you a beautiful overview of the Ring Strasse, the boulevard that hugs the city center. Most Viennese tourist attractions are concentrated here, so you will already feel like you checked a lot off your list! Afterward, from Schwedenplatz (the starting/end station of the Vienna Ring Tram) enter the city center via Hafnerstieg to reach the Stephansplatz (St Stephen’s Square – photo above), the beating heart of Vienna. From here, two main pedestrian streets start – the Graben and the Kärntner Straße. They should be your main orientation points, but do wander off in the small side streets as there is so much to learn about Vienna there! I promise you will not get more lost than necessary, and you will be able to find your way back to the main arteries!
Vienna’s best parks and gardens are also within reach from the city center. Whether or not you want to give the Prater (famous amusement park, featuring the nostalgic century-old Giant Ferris Wheel, as well as quiet walking alleys) a chance is up to you. Otherwise, you could always wander through the Burggarten (former Emperor’s garden), the Volksgarten (my personal favorite), or the Stadtpark (home to the famous Kursalon and gilded bronze monument of Johann Strauss II).
You should, by all means, try a typical Austrian restaurant, our best recommendation being the Zwölf-Apostelkeller (Sonnenfelsgasse 3), Gastwirtschaft Pürstner (Riemergasse 10), and Reinthaler’s Beisl (Dorotheergasse 2-4). In the proximity of the Belvedere palace is the Salm Bräu (Rennweg 8, 1030), a traditional Viennese bier house with an 85-years-old tradition. Don’t forget to stop for coffee and cake (Melange und Kuchen)or a small snack at a famous location such as the Cafe Central (Herrengasse 14), HOFZUCKERBÄCKER CH. DEMEL’ S SÖHNE (Kohlmarkt 14), Mozart Cafe (Albertinaplatz 2) or our personal favorite Hofzuckerbäcker L. Heiner (Kärntner Straße 21-23 or Wollzeile 9). And do not forget to take that book along with you when you do, such that you have a complete Viennese coffee house experience!
DAY 2/ VIENNA 3 DAY ITINERARY
Start your second day at the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s best-known market, displaying a wide culinary offering from all over the world. Produce stalls, souvenir and ethnic shops, as well as restaurants and coffee houses, attract tourists and locals alike. Additionally, a famous flea market takes place here every Saturday.
Leaving the Naschmarkt, it is time to pull out that to see list of yours and decide on one museum to visit for the day. Most famous Viennese museums are within walking distance from the Naschmarkt:
– the Albertina – famous graphical collection, very impressive temporary exhibitions, as well as a collection of Modern masterpieces from Monet to Picasso, all displayed in the setting of the staterooms of the Hofburg Palace
– the Museums Quarter – complex of modern art museums such as the Leopold Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Kunsthalle, as well as a lively meeting point with restaurants, cafés, and bars
– the Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury) found within the Hofburg complex, a worthy alternative to the more touristic museums in the same place
– the Belvedere – imposing Baroque palace, hosting the world-famous Klimt collection, as well as noteworthy works of art from the Middle Ages, through the Baroque, to the Modern times (second photo below)
There is always the question of whether one should spend precious holiday time visiting a museum. In the particular case of Vienna, museums tend to have interesting, unique facets and stories worth exploring in addition to their regular collections. For example, the Museum of Natural History showcases the world’s finest collection of meteorites, a newly installed planetarium with shows in several languages, the 25,000 years old statuette of Venus of Willendorf, as well as the best-preserved remains of the famous Dodo bird, now extinct. You could dare to look beyond the popular choices, and decide to watch a movie at the Film Museum, explore Vienna’s fascination with death at the Undertakers’ Museum, or indulge at the Chocolate Museums (we have two of those, go figure !!!). There are even dedicated museums such as the Clock Museum, or the Globe/Esperando Museum for those with very specific interests! We are happy to advise you further in finding a museum that matches your interest or suggest alternative itineraries.
End your second day at a Christmas Market(Vienna Christmas Markets Guide by Vienna Unwrapped) if it’s winter, at the World Food and Movie Festival at Rathausplatz(Film Festival Rathausplatz) if it’s summer, or at a restaurant terrace/Schanigarten if it’s spring or autumn. There’s absolutely no bad time to visit Vienna, each season has its perks in Austria’s capital. Check out our seasonal recommendations on how to best enjoy Vienna in winter, spring, and autumn. Outdoor seating can be available either in a restaurant’s own gardens (Gastgärten), or on public spaces such as sidewalks, squares, or pedestrian zones (Schanigärten). Walking/taking the tram to your restaurant of choice might give you the opportunity to see a Viennese neighborhood outside the city center, which is a great experience as each one of them is unique in its own right.
This time, be adventurous with your choice of dinner location and stay as far away from the center as possible. Depending on where your accommodation is and your culinary preferences, we can find the right restaurant for you! You know where that contact button is! We have written extensively about our favorite Italian gourmet in Vienna, in case you want to give it a try!
f time and weather allow for it, our personal recommendation is to take tram number 38 from Schottentor in the city center and go to Grinzing. Vienna is the only metropolis in the world with noteworthy winemaking operations within the city limits, and Grinzing is the most famous of the winemaking neighborhoods on its outskirts. You will find here countless wine taverns (called Heurige) where, depending on the season, you can taste the new wine (also called Heurige), the wine that is in the making (Sturm – with a 4% alcohol concentration), or have a grape juice (Traubenmost), while enjoying a home-cooked dinner and live music.
DAY 3/ VIENNA 3 DAY ITINERARY
As you are already familiar with the city and its layout, we suggest that on your third morning in Austria’s capital you go for breakfast with a view, since by now you can already appreciate it fully and recognize the landmarks. The best locations to do that are Das Loft, the high-end bar on top of the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom Hotel, and the newly renovated Danube Tower.
No matter if you are there for a visit to the palace, a tour of the magnificent gardens, or a day at the oldest zoo in the world, your third day should be spent at the Schönbrunn Palace. Offering a wide range of activities for every taste, and a good selection of cafés and restaurants, this is the one touristic spot in Vienna you should not miss on your first visit.
The evening of your third/last day in Vienna has to be as memorable as possible. You should be able to look back on this evening with fondness and affection. That is why we suggest to book a classical concert at a famous Viennese location. Tickets are available directly from the concert providers well in advance (so plan ahead) at reasonable prices. Alternatively, we are very happy to search and book for you, or you can just check our page events where recommendations are constantly being updated. In case you want to explore your options by yourself, here is a guide to the top 5 locations you should look into.
If you have more time at your disposal, let us set up a free customized itinerary for you. With time, we will update the website with more suggestions, thus we hope you will come back as soon as possible. We will be here to virtually and personally welcome you!
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