Vienna Austria at sunset with the Rathaus lit up showing why Vienna is worth visiting

Is Vienna Worth Visiting? 13 Reasons to Visit Vienna Austria in 2024

Are you wondering, is Vienna worth visiting? If you’re debating about whether to add Vienna to your itinerary, we’re here to tell you all the reasons we love this grand city. Vienna is worth visiting for the historic palaces alone, but also boasts so many more things to see and do beyond its elegant past.

Vienna is the capital city of Austria, and once served under the Habsburg family as the seat of the Austrian Empire. Under the famous Empress Elizabeth (called Empress Sisi), whose memory is beloved in Vienna, it was expanded to become the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During this grand time, classical music thrived, culminating in a modern city full of history, art, and music.

We spent a month in Vienna, Austria exploring the city and enjoying the Christmas and New Year’s festivities. Our kids were 5 and 8, and they both loved the city as well, from the ornate palaces to the Children’s museums to the amazing pastries.

There was so much we enjoyed about Vienna, that we would love to return and see even more! Vienna is a city that comes alive in different seasons and has so much history packed into a small, walkable area.

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Is Vienna Worth Visiting?

Yes, Vienna, Austria is definitely worth visiting! We loved learning about the Hapsburg Empire, seeing the crown jewels, strolling the pedestrian walkways, and enjoying classical music concerts in Vienna.

The city is easy to get around, bikable, and kept very clean. The cafe culture means there are lots of places to stop and have a cup of coffee and an exquisite dessert. You’ll never feel rushed, or struggle to find a place to sit and people watch.

Vienna (called Wein in Austria) was crowned the “most livable city in the world” in 2022 and 2023 in the EIU’s Livability Index. This looks at the standard of living in cities around the world and includes things like healthcare, infrastructure, and entertainment. In case you are curious, Copenhagen ranked number 2.

We found Vienna a very safe city to be walking around and felt safe taking public transportation, even at night.

🏅 Editors Top Picks 🏅
Best Vienna Tour: Pastry and Dessert Tour of Vienna
Best Concert: Classical Concert at St. Peters Church
Best Classic Walking Tour: Vienna Old Town Highlights
Walking Tour

Best History Walking Tour: WWII Walking Tour of Vienna
Best Day Trip: Small Group Trip to Salzburg, Austria

13 Reasons to Visit Vienna, Austria

Here are some of our top reasons to visit Vienna Austria, including some of our top things to do in Vienna.

1. The Magical Palaces

As the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna has many beautiful palaces to visit.

Make sure to visit The Belvedere– a palace built by the Prince of Savoy. The Upper Belvedere is the site of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955, which made Austria an independent nation for the first time since Anschluss. It is now home to an amazing art collection, specifically the famous Klimt painting “The Kiss”.

The Lower Belvedere displays rotating exhibits of contemporary art, as well as medieval art in the old stables.

You can tour the Belvedere Museum so you don’t miss any of the highlights. This three-hour tour includes the palaces, grounds, and museums.

Book Now: Tour of the Belvedere Museum

Schönbrunn Palace was the “summer palace” of the Hapsburgs. You can tour the ornate palace rooms, and there is also a Children’s Museum, Orangerie, and Coach Museum on site. Plus you can learn to make apple strudel. It’s a little outside the city center but very easy to get to on public transport, and well worth a day to visit.

Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market with crowds and a large Christmas Tree

This is another palace you can tour on your own (with the audio guide), or take a tour with a local guide who will tell you the stories behind the rooms. This is a skip-the-line tour that includes the palace and the gardens.

Book Now: Schönbrunn Palace Guided Tour

Hofburg Palace– Originally the winter palace and main seat of the Habsburg Empire, this now houses government offices including the home and office of the President of Austria. One of the largest palace complexes in the world, it also includes the Imperial apartments and Sisi Museum, dedicated to the life of Empress Elisabeth, the famous wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

Across from the museum is the Spanish Riding School, where you can see the white Lipizzaner horses perform their aerial maneuvers.

Two white Lipizzaner horses perform at the Winter Riding Schooll, Hofburg Palace, Vienna Austria

Visiting Vienna’s ornate palaces is one of our favorite things to do in Vienna in winter– these palaces often host Christmas markets, and look so beautiful lit up with Christmas lights. During the summer some of the palaces host outdoor live music concerts.

2. Incredible Christmas Markets

Vienna is known for an incredible array of festive Christmas markets. The city comes alive around the holidays with twinkling lights, warm cups of gluhwein, and lots of tasty things to eat while shopping through the markets.

We had a lot of fun exploring the Vienna Christmas markets and wrote a guide to the Christmas markets so you can decide where to go for the best shopping, food, and family fun.

Two kids smiling holding large pretzels at the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market in Vienna Austria
Enjoying Giant Pretzels at the Christmas Markets in Vienna

Ready to shop, eat, and drink without all the navigating? Check out this Christmas Market Tour to learn the history of the markets and try all the best local specialties.

3. Parks and Green Spaces

During the spring and summer months, Vienna has many parks and green spaces to enjoy. In fact, almost 50% of Vienna is dedicated to public green areas.

Relax in the Volksgarten, just outside the gates of the Hofburg, where you’ll find more than 3,000 rose bushes. Or head to the Botanical Gardens of the University of Vienna, which border the gardens of the Belvedere Palace.

Spend a day in the famous Prater Park. Known for having one of the oldest amusement parks in the work, the Giant Ferris Wheel has become a symbol of the city. You’ll also find open green spaces and a modern trampoline park.

Once an Imperial hunting ground, this large park opened to the public in 1766. There is no fee to enter the park.

5. Famous Past Residents

Vienna has had many famous residents throughout the years, and you can follow in their footsteps while learning about the history of Vienna.

Head to Cafe Central, where Stalin, Trotsky, and Freud met over coffee and pastries. The food here is delicious, as are the pastries. The cafe is grand and beautiful, with portraits of royals on the walls. We highly recommend making a reservation as you’ll often see a line of people outside the cafe waiting for a seat.

Large Christmas tree and crowds waiting to enter Cafe Central in Vienna in December

Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Shubert all lived and worked in Vienna. We highly recommend attending a live musical concert while in Vienna. St. Peters is a small venue that we really enjoyed, though it can get cold in the winter. We attended a concert during the holiday season and found this church just magical when decorated for Christmas.

The artists Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt lived and worked in Vienna. You can see their work in the Upper Belvedere Museum, and the Leopold Museum, among others.

Hitler went to art school in Vienna and later stood on the balcony of the Hofburg Palace and announced Anschluss, the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich. You can learn more about Vienna during this time on a WWII walking tour of Vienna.

Book Now: WWII Walking Tour of Vienna

We have the best walking tours in Vienna from food markets to history tours. Our top pick is the classic Vienna Old Town Highlights Walking Tour

6. Flat, Bikeable City

Vienna is an easy city to get around. The city is divided into districts, with Districts 1 and 2 in the center of a circle, with the Ringstrasse literally creating a ring road around the central area. There are buses, trams, and a metro to help you move around between neighborhoods.

A cyclist crossing a street using the bike lane marked in green in central Vienna

Vienna itself is largely flat, which makes it very easy to walk around and also to bike around. You’ll see many streets have designated bike lanes, and bicycles are a very popular way to move around the city.

Don’t miss our full guide on how to get around Vienna.

7. The Museums

Vienna is chock full of museums. There are many art museums including the Kunst Historisches Museum, the Belvedere, the Leopold, and the Albertina.

There is also a Natural History Museum, the Welt Museum Wein (museum of world cultures), the Sisi Museum, and the Sigmund Freud Museum, among others.

The outside of the Albertina Museum in Vienna Austria

8. The Opera House

The State Opera House in Vienna deserves a special mention. It is a gorgeous building, you should consider taking a tour (our whole family enjoyed it). The operation here is incredible- they never produce the same show two nights in a row, so they are continually changing sets.

Interior boxes of the highly decorated Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice

The Vienna Opera is also known for its annual Opera Ball. This ball is the star of the elegant “ball season” in Vienna, where more than 450 balls are held from November to February. These balls are open to the public (with a ticket), and have strict dress codes, including no wristwatches- though pocketwatches are allowed.

With the President of Austria in attendance, to the sound of trumpets, over 100 specially chosen couples make their debut dressed in white. The ladies wear crystal tiaras, and together the couples perform a left-handed waltz in front of the crowd. The ball opens at 10 pm and lasts until 5 am.

Vogue covered the details including special guests at the 2024 Opera Ball.

9. Cafe Culture and Delicious Pastries

Vienna has a great cafe culture- there are many places to sit and enjoy a coffee and an artistic, intricate pastry. Cafes in Vienna are often a bit grand, with marble columns, well-dressed waiters, and always have table service.

You are expected to take your time enjoying your coffee and food, whether it’s a slice of cake, a soup, or a full meal. You will rarely see laptops or other devices, as the cafe is a place to socialize.

The coffee menu in Vienna may be a bit unfamiliar- the “melange” is a popular drink, which means espresso with steamed milk, with a bit of foam, and often cocoa powder on top. Don’t confuse this with the “kaisermelange” which is black coffee, with a mixture of egg yolk and honey added, as well as a splash of cognac. Of course, you can always keep it simple with a “Kleiner Schwarzer”, which is a single espresso.

Cafe Demel is our family favorite- we adore the Kaiserschmarrn (sort of a chopped-up pancake drenched in butter and sugar and served with warm plum sauce), and their cakes are wonderful as well. We’ve eaten inside for the full experience, but there is often a long line.

Kaiserschmarrn on a plate with plum sauce inside Demel Cafe in Vienna Austria

You can also get Kaiserschmarrn from the to-go window, or duck down the side entrance directly into the shop to get slices of cake to take home, packed in beautiful boxes and bags.

Sacher Torte is one of the most famous cakes in Vienna- the Sacher Hotel claims to be the original creator. Sacher Torte is a chocolate cake with a thin strip of apricot jam at the top, which is then covered in dark chocolate. It is traditionally served with a bit of unsweetened whipped cream.

Try Cafe Central for amazing pastries, or Cafe Frauenhuber for the oldest-running cafe in the city.

Interested in all the amazing varieties of cakes and tortes you see? Try a Pastry Walking Tour of Vienna. This is one of our favorite walking tours! You’ll see the sights of the city and learn the history behind many of these confections (as you taste them of course)!

Book Now: Pastry Walking Tour

10. Classical Music Concerts

Vienna is a wonderful place to enjoy some live classical music. There are concerts year-round, in venues including the famous Stephandom Cathedral, the Schönbrunn Palace, the Musikverein, and two different halls in the Imperial Palace. You’ll also find concerts in smaller, more intimate venues such as St. Anne’s Church, and St. Peter’s Church.

Check out the full schedule, many concerts must be booked well in advance.

We attended a “Classic Ensemble Vienna” concert at St. Peters that included selections from Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Shubert and more. It was such a magical venue, especially while decorated for Christmas, we highly recommend it!

Book Now: Classical Concert at St. Peters Church

11. Traditional Austrian Food

Traditional Viennese food is tasty, filling, comfort food. You’ll find lots of “Beisls”, a term that is derived from a word meaning “house,” but basically means a bistro or tavern. It’s a no-frills place to get great traditional food- you may even be asked to share a table if it’s crowded.

The menu will often include Würst (sausages), Schnitzel (breaded pounded meat), and Gulasch (hearty beef or veal stew). One of our family favorites is Frittatensuppe, a unique Viennese soup that is made of beef broth with savory strips of pancake added.

spaetzle, bratwurst, schnitzel and more at a traditional tavern meal in Vienna Austria

Our kids love Käsespätzle, which is sort of a traditional version of mac and cheese. It includes pressed dumplings or egg noodles in irregular pieces, with cheese mixed in, and often topped with caramelized onions.

Some of our favorite Beisls are Reinthaler’s Beisl at Dorotheergasse 2-4, and Weißgerber Stube, at Landstraßer Hauptstraße 28.

12. Festivals and Events

Vienna has many fun festivals and events throughout the year that you may want to enjoy. Here are just of few of the events that take place each year:

The Vienna City Marathon in mid-April, Vienna Festival in May and June which includes opera, dance, music, and theater, and Vienna Pride in early June.

During the summer, the Vienna Philharmonic performs outdoors at Schönbrunn Palace with no admission charge, and no tickets required.

New Years in Vienna is also a lot of fun, from 2 pm to 2 am there is a trail through the center of the city with live music and festivities, all at no charge. We took our kids, and though we didn’t make it past 10 pm, we all had a lot of fun.

Two pig shaped mugs marked Happy New Year and filled with Gluhwein and a large Sisi Krapfen during New Years in Vienna Austria

13. The Amazing Day Trips

Vienna makes a great base for day trips to other cities. Within Austria, we highly recommend a visit to Salzburg, home of Mozart, and the setting of the movie The Sound of Music. The picturesque lakeside town of Hallstatt is also a popular day trip from Vienna.

Other European cities like Budapest and the underrated city of Bratislava are also easy to visit via direct trains.

What We Don’t Love About Vienna

I thought hard about why someone might not like Vienna, and struggled. Too much history? Too much classical music? Vienna is definitely a city that thrives on its traditional elegance and old-school charm.

Early Closings

Shops tend to close early in Vienna. Most supermarkets are closed all day Sunday, and close by 7:30 or 8 during the week.

Demel, the cafe famous for its Sacher Torte, closes at 7 pm, so don’t expect to get a coffee and cake after an evening concert.

Understated Vibe

Vienna is not a flashy city, or one that has loud over-the-top parties (though we loved the New Year celebrations). Vienna is often more “waltz” than “rave”. Some visitors report finding it a bit “aloof” or boring.

Vienna is elegant and grand, but if you need a break from all the high-brow art and history, head to the Museum Quarter where the students hang out in the evenings, or wander the streets of Districts 6 and 7, which have more trendy shops and street art.

When is the Best Time to Visit Vienna?

There is no wrong time to visit Vienna. During the spring and summer, you’ll find beautiful blooming gardens and a city that is lovely to stroll around.

The summer brings the biggest crowds, so we advise choosing the shoulder months of April, May, September, or October unless you are visiting for a specific event.

In November and December, the city comes alive with its famous Christmas Markets, though the weather does get quite cold. Some of the more narrow Christmas markets do get crowded, but overall we did not find the holiday crowds to be overwhelming.

If you are considering making a holiday visit, check out our full post on December in Vienna which includes details on how to get a Christmas tree, as well as our guide to the Christmas markets in Vienna.

Exterior of Belvedere Palace lit up at night with the swirling lights of the Christmas Market below

How Many Days Should I Spend in Vienna?

We advise spending a minimum of three days in Vienna to see the highlights that most appeal to you. Plan to spend at least a week if you want to incorporate a day trip to another part of Austria.

We spent a month in Vienna and still didn’t do everything we would have liked. There are so many museums and historical sights, as well as events happening around the city that the options really are almost endless.

Is Vienna Good for Families?

Vienna is terrific for families. Our kids learned a lot about the Austo-Hungarian Empire and saw some world-class art. They explored Christmas markets and tried local food specialties. We also tried our fair share of delicious cakes and tortes!

The Christmas markets offer many food choices that kids will enjoy, including a special non-alcoholic Kinderpunsch. This is a hot fruit punch to keep the kids warm while the adults are drinking Weihnachtspunsch.

Child wearing a winter hat and gloves holds a warm mug of Kinderpunsch in Vienna, Austria

Because Vienna is easy to get around, and many of the sidewalks and boulevards are wide, it’s easy to move around as a family. There are parks, playgrounds, and amusement parks. This is not a place where kids are expected to be still and quiet!

The Children’s Museum at the Schönbrunn Palace was so popular with our kids, that we actually went twice. They have a dress-up area where you can put on old-fashioned gowns, and play with toys in the same space that the royal children used many years ago.

Is Vienna Expensive?

Vienna is not an inexpensive city, but the prices are reasonable, and much lower than you will find in London or Paris. Restaurants vary widely, and are more expensive in Districts 1 and 2 in the main tourist zone, and decrease as you move into more residential areas.

Here are some price examples to give you an idea of what to expect when visiting Vienna:

A mug of Gluhwein at the Christmas Market will cost you 5€ plus a deposit you get back upon returning the mug unless you choose to keep it as a souvenir.

A serving of Cafe Demel’s famous Kaiserschmarr to take away is 5.90€ small, 7.90€ large.

Entrance to Schloss Schönbrunn, the “Grand Tour”, 29€ for an adult; the Children’s Museum is 8.50€ (adult or child).

A ticket for the tram or bus will cost you 2.40€ adult, half price for children, and children ride free on school holidays.

How to Get from the Airport to the Vienna City Center

The Vienna International Airport (VIE) is about a 20-minute drive from the center of town. There are several easy ways to get between the two:

Private Transfer

Whether you are landing late at night, or have a lot of luggage, sometimes you just need the transfer to be quick and easy. We recommend using Welcome Pickups. You can also pre-book any needed car seats with them. Your driver will meet you at arrivals with a sign, and take you straight to your accommodation.

Book Now: Welcome Pickups

Express Train

The direct express train from the airport is called “CAT”, and arrives at the central Wien Mitte station, which connects to the U3 and U4 subway lines. The train takes 16 minutes for the journey and drops you a ten-minute walk from Stephansdom Plaza.

Tickets are 14.90€ for a one-way ride. If you are staying in a very central location, or are visiting on a day trip, this is a convenient option.

OBB Train

If your nearest train station is not Wien Mitte Station, you may prefer to take the OBB trains. We stayed in District 3, so could take the S7 train from the airport (Flughafen Wein) to Wein Rennweg to be closer to our apartment.

The train takes 17-21 minutes, so not much longer than the express. It costs 4.40€ per adult, so much cheaper than the express as well. Check Google Maps to see which is the best option for you. Tickets for either train can be bought at the airport or train station platforms.

Tips for Visiting Vienna

Here are a few tips to make your visit to Vienna more enjoyable, so you’ll agree that Vienna is worth visiting!

Enjoy the Water

Yes, you can drink the tap water! You will also find fountains around town to refill your water bottle. The water is clean and tastes great, so there is no need for bottled water when visiting Vienna.

Say Hello and Thank You

Learn a few words in German to be polite as you move around Vienna. A hearty “Grüss Gott” is the best way to say “Hello” in Vienna, with a simple “Danke” for thank you. Many people in Vienna speak excellent English, but you’ll get a smile for attempting a few pleasantries in German.

Carry Cash

Carry a few euros of cash for Christmas markets, small shops, and to buy tram and metro tickets from the local tabak. While larger shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, it is best to have a bit of cash on hand.

Tipping Culture

While tipping is not a big part of Austrian culture, you should expect to round up your bill. That may just mean from 9€ to 10€. Any additional tip is at your discretion but is not expected as part of the local culture.

Take the Trams

The trams are quick, easy, and run on time, we highly recommend you use them! Google Maps will show you which tram to take, and where to get off. Before you board the tram, buy a ticket at the local tabak (or buy one on the tram for a few cents more), and make sure to validate (stamp) your ticket when you get on the tram.

Uber is Expensive

Ubers are available in Vienna and come quickly. They are quite expensive though, so use them sparingly. Regular taxis are very hard to get. We even had a local try to call us a taxi on a Friday night and they weren’t able to get one. Uber is more reliable, but even a short trip will easily run you 10-20€.

There You Have It: Is Vienna Worth Visiting

So have we convinced you that Vienna is worth visiting? There are so many reasons to explore the enchanting streets of Vienna regardless of the season. From the majestic palaces and green parks to the vibrant Christmas markets and New Year’s festivities, Vienna is a lot of fun for all ages.

Don’t miss out on the elegant cafe culture, and sample traditional pastries from apple strudel to Sacher torte. With festivals, concerts, and easy day trips to neighboring cities, we think Vienna is well worth the visit.

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