If Vienna isn’t on your list of places to visit, it should be! While many visitors to Europe prioritize Amsterdam, Paris, or London, Vienna encapsulates the romance of the Old World, and represents a pivotal moment of European history. Here’s my 7-day Vienna itinerary, designed to help you experience the history, art, thinking, and food that’s made this city famous.
I first travelled to Vienna as a solo traveler back in 2015. The city struck me with its old world elegance, stately buildings, and deep wells of culture. It was September, and Vienna was dripping with an end of summer radiance. I played that trip pretty loosely, planning little (with one notable exception), and spending my days exploring.
This time, I was meeting my mom, who flew from California for the trip. I wanted to have a more defined plan to make sure she saw all the best there was to see—and to make sure I didn’t miss anything this go round.
Where to Stay in Vienna
To get the most out of our time in Vienna we chose to stay pretty centrally, taking an Airbnb in Vienna’s 4th district: Wieden. (You can book our digs here!) Wieden definitely edges on the more hipster side of the spectrum, with a looser and more indie vibe than most of the rest of Vienna. (It’s home, for instance, to the Naschmarkt, the city’s open-air—and largely international—market). Funky bars and bold restaurants abound in plenty. And best of all, it positioned us close to the Karlsplatz transport hub for our day trips and getting around in general.
7-Day Vienna Itinerary
I knew early on that I wanted our 1-week Vienna itinerary to include two day trips. To Salzburg, the Alpine city on the border of Germany, famous for being the setting for The Sound of Music. And to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, located just a 1-hour train ride from Vienna. I also knew I wanted to use the Vienna Pass, which for a flat fee allows you into many of Vienna’s top attractions. Because our 3-Day Vienna Pass is only valid on consecutive days, I front loaded the itinerary with the two day trips, and then saved a deep dive into Wien for the end.
Is the Vienna Pass worth it? Read my review of it here!
Day One: Arrive and get settled
Our flight converged in Vienna in the early afternoon. By the time we got to our Airbnb, dropped our stuff, and freshened up, mom and I were ready to a pick-me-up. We strolled through Resselpark til we reached the main artery to take us into the heart of the city. We grabbed a relaxed drink at Kleines Cafe, a tiny nook of a place tucked a few blocks from St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Knowing we’d be back later in the week, we paid a brief visit to the Dom, and spent a few minutes at the Fiaker stand outside greeting the horses. We finished with a delicious Viennese dinner at Salzamt before heading home so mom could beat her jetlag.
Day Two: Salzburg Day Trip
We kicked off our second day with the first of two day trips: this one to Salzburg. Salzburg is a picturesque city in the Alps, close to the German border. For a small city, it has a remarkable amount of things to do. We managed to get in a strudel-making class, a lengthy hike, a visit to the Dom, and a relaxing beer into our day trip without it feeling too overwhelming.
Check out my detailed Salzburg day trip itinerary here!
Day Three: Bratislava Day Trip
Bratislava and Vienna are just 55km (34 mi) apart, which makes it a very easy day trip indeed. Day Three had us exploring the capital of Slovakia. Among our list of things to do were: visiting the Bratislava Castle, drinking a Pilsner Urquell, visiting St. Martin’s Cathedral, and wandering the streets of Old Town.
If you’re considering a day trip to Bratislava, check out my detailed itinerary here!
Day Four: Vienna Museums!
We dedicated the halfway point of this 7-day Vienna itinerary to two of Vienna’s most iconic sights: Schönbrunn Palace and St. Stephan’s Cathedral. If you’re planning a visit to Schönbrunn (and you should!), carve out half a day to tackle it. The Vienna Pass gives you access to basically all of the palace grounds (including the zoo!). And the sprawling estate will keep you walking for the bulk of the afternoon. If that wasn’t enough walking for us, we lunched at the Vienna Naschmarkt, an open(ish) air market that runs down the spine of Wieden.
After lunch, we stopped at the jaw-dropping Austrian National Library. We finished the day with a sunset visit to the North Tower of Stephansdom. It gives visitors sweeping views over the city, and a closeup view of the intricate roofwork. To reward all that walking, we treated ourselves to a crispy schnitzel at Palchutta’s Gasthaus zum Oper.
Day Five: More Vienna Museums!
We started Day 5 off early, putting our Vienna Pass to good use visiting not one, not two, not three, but FOUR museums. We hit the Hofburg Palace early, figuring the Albertina (our next stop) would have the tour bus crowds. The Hofburg is a bit of a Russian nesting doll: it holds museums inside of museums. We ducked quickly into the Silver Collection and wandered through the Sisi Museum. Most of our time was spent in the Imperial Apartments, which were way more fascinating than I expected.
After that, a quick stop across the street at the Sacher Hotel, for a slice of the famous Sacher Torte and a cup of coffee to fortify us. Next up, the Albertina, was holds a curious mix of classical art and furnishings and contemporary art from the likes of Monet and Picasso. It was just the right amount of things to see, in my opinion. Lunch was a Käsekrainer from one of the stands outside the Albertina. Feeling a bit run down, we opted to use our Vienna Pass’ access to the Hop On Hop Off bus to cruise around central Vienna for a bit. Giving our feet a break turned out to be a great idea; the bus audio guide was really informative, and we got the idea to visit the last museum of the day: the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Day Six: Even More Vienna Museums!
Tim joined us on Saturday morning for an action-packed day. Breakfast was a stop at Café Demals for a something savory to snack on while we waited in line at the Spanish Riding School. We caught the Lipizzaners at their Morning Exercise program, which lasts from 10-12. Afterwards, we paused for coffee at Cafe Hawelka to continue our coffeehouse tour. Then we headed across town to visit the last two museums on our list: the Museum of Military History and the Belvedere. We finished with dinner back in the city at the renown Palmenhaus, and a cocktail at the Atmosphãre Bar.
Day Seven: Vienna‘s MuseumsQuarter
Day Six was actually the last day of our Vienna Pass, which meant the last day of our 7-Day Vienna Itinerary was considerably more relaxed. We woke late, and took an easy stroll to Ulrich, a contemporary (and popular!) brunch spot near MuseumsQuartier. After, we crashed on one of the plastic couches in the MQ, enjoying the music and sun. We grabbed a beer, then headed through to the Volksgarten, a gorgeous rose garden across from City Hall. Then we finished up our coffeehouse crawl with stops at Zum Schwarzes Kameel and Café Demals (this time for cake!). After that, it was time to head to the airport!
Timing your trip
A note about timing: early August is holiday season in Austria. That’s great, because many of the museums will be nice and empty. But if you’re coming to Vienna with the intention of seeing an opera, or the Lipizzaners, or the Vienna Boys Choir, note that all theaters are dark during this time, and there aren’t any shows. Womp womp. So if it’s a high priority, check your dates to confirm there are shows during your stay.