Exuding charm and sophistication, this former Habsburg capital is brimming with culture and beauty. Between world-class museums, lavish royal palaces, elegant cafés and an unparalleled passion for music, there’s no shortage of ways to immerse yourself in the enchanting capital of Austria. Vienna is also a short distance from Prague and Budapest, making it the perfect spot to spend a weekend in Central Europe. Here’s how to maximize 48 hours in Vienna:
Get an early start and take the U-Bahn to Schönbrunn Palace, just outside of the city center. With extravagant interiors and lush gardens, the opulence of this palace rivals that of Versailles. Lose yourself in Habsburg history as you learn about the infamous Franz Joseph and Sisi and tour the 18th century Rococo interiors. Pack a picnic lunch to savor in the sprawling, well-manicured gardens while allowing ample time to explore and people watch.
The majestic Schönbrunn Palace
Make your way back to the city and head towards Stephansplatz, taking in the hustle and bustle of this striking plaza. Take a peek inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where you can tour the main nave for free. Then stroll down Kärntner Straße towards the Steffl department store, where you can sip a tasty aperitif atop their rooftop Sky Bar while enjoying sublime views of St. Stephen’s from above.
Inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Allow some time to wander the pristine streets and admire the city’s breathtaking architecture before enjoying a leisurely dinner at the Palmenhaus. Located inside of the Hofburg Palace’s former greenhouse, this charismatic brasserie is the perfect place to enjoy fresh culinary creations while surrounded by exotic greenery.
There’s no better way to start your morning than by partaking in the Viennese café culture. Treat yourself to a mélange, Vienna’s traditional blend of coffee and milk, and perhaps a slice of cake at one of the city’s many old-world cafés, such as Café Mozart or Café Landtmann. Some of the most famed desserts include Viennese apfelstrudel and Sachertorte, a decadent chocolate cake filled with apricot jam.
It’s okay to have dessert for breakfast when you’re on vacation, right?
Next, take a tour of the Vienna State Opera House. Explore the lavish interiors, take a sneak peek of what goes on backstage, and learn about the history of Viennese opera. If this grand theater leaves you wanting more, snag some budget-friendly standing room tickets for that evening’s show.
Colorful flowers at the Naschmarkt
Wander down to the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s lively open-air market, for a quick bite to eat before deciding how you’d like to spend the rest of your afternoon. If you prefer palaces to museums, you can take a tour of the Hofburg Imperial Apartments and learn more about the royal residences. Or, head straight to the Kunsthistorisches Museum and soak in some of the world’s finest art collections. Afterwards, grab some traditional Viennese grub at Pürstner for dinner.
The impressive Hofburg Palace
Home to Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Stauss, Vienna is widely regarded as the music capital of the world. In the evening, take in an opera or one of the city’s many classical concerts. Due to Vienna’s fervent passion for music, you can also find live music performed in the streets. Even the Opera House broadcasts its performances on a large outdoor screen for the public to enjoy!
Gorgeous scenery abounds in Vienna
Hopefully by now you’ve delighted in the heart and soul of Vienna, and the city has left you enchanted.
Want to experience more of the decadent tastes and sights of Vienna? Check out our Culinary & Imperial Vienna Featured Trip.
All Photos © Courtney Likkel
Author Bio: Courtney is a Seattle native living in Madrid, Spain and working as an assistant English teacher. Besides venturing around Europe, she likes drinking tinto de verano in the sunshine, embarrassing herself by trying to speak the local language, and attempting to seek out the best brunch in Madrid. You can follow along with her adventures on her blog Adelante, as well as on Instagram and Twitter.