Fast fact: Vienna being small compared to other cities frequented by tourists is a great advantage for those 14-day European tours covering 6 or more cities. Considering time allotted for travel from another city and leaving for the next, sleeping and eating, it can be estimated that there’s more or less 14 hours to see the beauty the Austrian capital has to offer. Here’s a quick guide on how to cover Vienna given a short period of time.
Starting off, go about the Ringstrasse. This street encircles the most prominent buildings and historical places of the city and yes, you can either go by foot or ride the tram exclusively for this route. Some of the known architecture in the Ringstrasse include the Parliament building with a neoclassical statue of Pallas Athena fronting it. A few steps from this Greek revival building stands the Gothic-style Viennese City Hall (Rathaus) which serves as the seat of both the mayor and city council of Vienna.
Opposite the Rathaus is the Burgtheater, the Austrian National Theatre standing since 1741. Walk a bit to the garden adjacent to the Burgtheater and you will find yourself at one of the city’s most charming park, the Volksgarten. It is famous for the roses and many other flowers along with the Theseus Temple. Walk along this garden and out to a vast imperial courtyard housing the Hofburg (Imperial Palace), the palace that the Habsburg dynasty has lived through their regime.
The Hofburg now holds the National Library and it is where the current Austrian president resides. The Hofburg area itself is vast, comprising the Heldenplatz, notably the plaza where Adolf Hitler announced the Anschluss of Austria to the German Reich in 1938. There you can visit the Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury) which holds treasures spanning a thousand year of European history. Enjoy the horses at the Spanish Riding School, a center for classical dressage where riders and Lipizzan horses have public performances. Behind the Hofburg is another garden which features the statue of Mozart, if you’re lucky you’ll see the flower planting in the shape of a treble clef laid out.
The Burggarten is a gateway to many other wonderful places. There’s the Butterfly house, the Albertina and the State Opera but it is better to give those two a visit in the evening. So head over to the opposite street and see the twin museums – the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Natural History of Vienna) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History).
Spare an hour or two gawking at the collections of precious stones, minerals, rare fossils on one; collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, collections of sculpture and decorative arts on the other. To cap your morning off, head to the museum at the other side of the street, the Museumsquartier, it is home to a range of installations from other museums and festivals. They often have free exhibits for you to see as well.
Just in time for lunch, head on to the Naschmarkt, it’s a 12-minute walk down from the Museumsquartier. Grab a plate of traditional Viennese food such as Gulasch, Kaiserschmarrn or Wiener Schnitzel. If you are up for Japanese, Greek, Vietnamese or Thai, the Naschmarkt is the best place to satisfy your cravings. You can also find souvenirs here that are priced relatively less compared to other shops. ^_^ And don’t forget to snap a picture of the dome of golden laurel leaves on top of the Secessionist building. Click!
Two of Vienna’s famous palaces are not strategically so near each other, it would break your heart not to see both. The Belvedere, consisted of the Upper and Lower Baroque palaces is an obvious first choice being very near the Naschmarkt. Walk around the beautiful gardens that Prince Eugene of Savoy expanded and developed to what it is today. Take a peak at the orangery or the museum that holds the works of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Continue your journey to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Schönbrunn. A quick way to see the whole of the Rococo summer residence grounds of the Habsburgs is by boarding the Liliputbahn (miniature train) that will take visitors up the hill and back. Drop off the Gloriette station and savor a cup of coffee or melange and feel like royalty. This is after all where the emperors from before had their breakfasts. Go up the deck of the Gloriette and let your eyes feast upon a panoramic view of Viennese charm. The Schönbrunn grounds hold many wonderful little secrets (palm house, Japanese garden, zoo, aquarium, labyrinth, ruins, the well that the royals used from long ago) and they each are worth visiting but a tour inside the palace would be a once in a lifetime experience so don’t miss it. Be in awe with gold-plated side walls and see some of the 1,441-rooms along with the grand ballroom where Empress Theresa held many a great gatherings.
Head back to the city center and pay Johann Strauss a visit at the Stadtpark (Viennese City Park). Do some waltzing and then board the tram that will take you to the State Opera. From there, walk your way to the center of Vienna, the plaza by St. Stephen’s church. This would be a strip of shopping stores, souvenir shops, coffee houses leading to the plaza so expect a lot of people. Vienna’s inner city holds a plethora of history and stories along with restaurants, museums, statues and memorials. To name a few there’s the Mozart’s house, the anchor clock, the wedding fountain, the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial or the nameless library and the clock museum. Head on to one of the restaurants nearby for dinner and then get ready for an unforgettable evening.
Vienna’s nightscene is nothing but perfect to practice night photography. Well- illuminated buildings, festive atmosphere, the ambience of a culture-rich, peaceful city dominates the air. Despite, it is best to experience a performance at the Vienna State Opera, thus giving you a perfect taste of the city of Music. Late at night, there will still be cafes open. Grab a slice of Sacher torte at the hotel it’s offered at – just opposite the Opera House, pair it with cappuccino- you can’t come to this city without having a cuppa – it invented coffee culture after all!
In an enchanting city as Vienna, one day is not enough but, if you have this time limit to spend in the city, covering the must-sees is doable. If you are out to an adventure of visiting the city for just a day, find cheap flights now, book and head off to Vienna. A one day experience will definitely make you want to come back, and we haven’t talked about the Danube river, the Danube tower, Praterstern, Hundertwasserhaus, Kahlenberg and shopping yet.