Austria

How to spend 3 days in Vienna

November 24, 2021 (Last Updated: September 23, 2022)
by Carolyn
Belvedere Castle, Vienna

Visiting Vienna was something that I’d long wanted to do. On previous trips to Europe it had just seemed a little bit too far east to fit into our itinerary, but this time I was determined to visit the much-talked about capital of Austria.

With its abundance of culture and famous cuisine, not to mention those Viennese coffees, there was plenty to look forward to. This is my 3 days in Vienna itinerary.

To make the most of your stay, I recommend allowing three full days to explore the city. 

One day in Vienna is not enough to see all the main Vienna tourist attractions but if you have two days in Vienna, or even better, three days, you’ll cover the main sights.

Depending on your time of arrival in Vienna, this may mean another half day or at least a few hours to get your bearings in the city, which means you’ll actually have more than 72 hours in Vienna. Take that as a bonus!

Staying within or close to the Ring Road which circles central Vienna means you’ll be able to explore most  of Vienna’s main sites on foot. 

Our base at the Kaiserhof Hotel proved to be the perfect location for discovering Vienna by foot and, armed with a list of things we wanted to see and do, we easily filled three days in the city.

If you’re wondering what to do in Vienna, I hope you find this Vienna itinerary helpful.

[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]

How to spend 72 hours in Vienna

Consider the Vienna Pass

Before you start your visit, it’s worth considering purchasing the Vienna Pass (also known as the Vienna City Card) as it offers excellent value. 

The Vienna Pass includes free admission to over 60 attractions including Schonbrunn Palace and Belvedere Palace, as well as a free ride on the Giant Ferris Wheel and unlimited used of the Hop On Hop Off Vienna sightseeing tour for the duration of your pass’s validity.

Also included is fast-track entry to a number of the Vienna attractions and a free Vienna guide book.

The Vienna Pass can be purchased for durations of 1, 2, 3 or 6 days.  > Click here to check prices.

Day 1

Vienna Austria There is an abundance of beautiful architecture in Vienna.

When I arrive in a new city I like to familiarise myself with the general layout and find a couple of points of reference as these help me to navigate the city later on. 

Kartner Strasse in the Old Town is one such landmark and this pedestrian-only main street is where you’ll find all the big name stores in Vienna.

Start your Vienna sightseeing with a wander along Kartner Strasse and a look around the Old Town.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Vienna with St Stephens Cathedral St Stephen’s Cathedral dominates the centre of Vienna. Image: Österreich Werbung / Photographer: G. Popp 

As you approach the end of Kartner Strasse, you’ll see the spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna’s Gothic Cathedral.  Although it was originally consecrated in 1147, much of the Cathedral as we see it today dates from the early 14th century.

The south tower, at 137 metres high, is the tallest of the Cathedral’s four towers.

From here you get great views across Vienna and can get up close to the 13 bells that hang here but you’ll need to climb 343 steps to reach the top.

The north tower (68 metres) can be reached by an elevator. Whilst it’s not as high as the south tower, visitors come hear to see the Pummerin, the second-largest free-swinging chimed bell in Europe. 

The Cathedral’s interior, which changed often over the centuries, is home to numerous valuable relics, and the roof tiles are laid in a pretty geometric pattern.

For a unique experience, why not enjoy a classical concert in St. Stephen’s? There are even special Christmas concerts that the general public can attend. > Click here for details.

Outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral there are plenty of options in Stephansplatz to take a horse and carriage (fiaker) ride around the city if you’re so inclined.

Vienna Walking Tour

A horse and carriage ride is a fun way to see the city.

To learn more about the fascinating history of Vienna, a walking tour is a great option. 

The Vienna Tourist Office has a suggested walking tour that follows in the footsteps of the Habsburgs around central Vienna or you could join a guided tour – > click here to check tour details.

Lunch

After your first morning of sightseeing in Vienna, head to a cafe or restaurant for a typical Austrian lunch. We loved Cafe Mozart (which you can read about below) but if you’d prefer a lighter meal, you can grab a wurst, an Austrian-style hot dog, from the Albertinaplatz sausage kiosk.

Why not join a guided tour of Vienna’s attractive Old Town?

Danube Cruise or Historic Art Museum

Once you have refuelled, there’s time for a leisurely cruise on the Danube or a visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum where you can admire priceless artworks from ancient Egypt to the 18th century.

If you don’t arrive in Vienna until the afternoon on your first day, I suggest you head straight to the Old Town (Altstadt in German) for a quick look around.

You may like to take a Hop On Hop Off bus tour around the city or just sit at one of the many outdoor cafes and soak up the atmosphere.

Day 2

Belvedere Palace

Fountain at Belvedere Palace. Fountain at Belvedere Palace.

Start your day with a visit to the beautiful Belvedere Palace, built by Prince Eugene of Savoy between 1714 and 1723.

It’s an impressive baroque residence surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens full of fountains and statues. 

The Upper Palace houses some of the most valuable artwork in Austria, including works by Renoir, Monet, Degas and Van Gogh.

Pride of place goes to the works of Austria’s most famous artist, Gustav Klimt, including “The Kiss”.

(You can see more of Klimt’s work, including his famous ‘Death and Life’ painting at the Leopold Museum.)

Entry to Belvedere’s Upper Palace costs around €15.90 per adult. Entry to the gardens is free. 

To skip the ticket queues, you can pre-purchase your tickets to Belvedere Palace here.

Belvedere Palace opening hours are from 9am to 6pm daily with extended opening until 9pm on Fridays.

Address: Prinz Eugen-Strasse 27, Vienna.

After marvelling at the works of art inside Belvedere Palace it’s time to admire art of a different kind.

Karlskirche

Frescoes adorn the interior of Karlskirche. Frescoes adorn the interior of Karlskirche.

Karlskirche (Charles’ Church) features some of the most beautiful frescoes I’ve seen, covering an area of 1,250 square metres.

What makes this church different from many others I’ve visited is the fact that you can take an elevator inside the church in order to view the frescoes up close. 

It’s a great way to really appreciate the intricacies of the frescoes and it also gives you a great view of the church’s interior.

Address: Karlsplatz, Vienna

Naschmarkt

Flowers at Naschmarkt Sunflowers were amongst the items for sale on the day I visited Vienna’s Naschmarkt.

Next, head to Naschmarkt, Vienna’s best-known market. 

During the week you’ll find a selection of stalls selling everything from fresh produce to clothes, but on Saturdays the addition of a Flea Market adds to the appeal.

There are over 120 market stands here, including lots of cafes and restaurants offering a wide range of cuisine so this is a great place to grab some lunch before continuing your sightseeing.

Vienna Naschmarkt is open from 6am to 7.30pm Monday to Friday and 6am to 6pm on Saturday.

Address: Wienzeile, Vienna.

Spanish Riding School

Spanish Riding School Watching a performance of the Spanish Riding School is a popular – and enjoyable – thing to do in Vienna.

Another Viennese institution worth visiting is the Spanish Riding School. Here you can watch the famous Lipizzaner stallions perform, just as they have for over 450 years.

As we were visiting in August, there were no actual performances (the horses are rested in the countryside during July and August) but we did attend a one hour ‘Piber Meets Vienna’ show (now called ‘Training Vienna’).

In this performance, young Lipizzaner stallions currently being trained for the Spanish Riding School put on a demonstration.  > Click here to check details and prices.

During the performance season you can also watch the stallions being put through their daily training sessions.

The Spanish Riding School is housed in the stunning Imperial Palace (Hofburg) which seems a fitting arena for the majestic and graceful stars of the show.

Ticket prices for the Spanish Riding School performances vary depending on where you are seated. We chose mid-range tickets and were seated at one end of the arena.

Tickets for the regular performances of the Spanish Riding School can be purchased > here.

Imperial Palace

Hofburg Vienna Vienna’s Imperial Palace complex known as the Hofburg.

If time permits, you might like to take a look inside the Imperial Palace.  This was once the seat of government of the Habsburg emperors, who ruled what we now know as Austria and Hungary, until 1918.

Areas open to the public include the Imperial Apartments, where Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth (known as Sisi) lived, and the Sisi Museum, which houses many of the Empresses personal objects and numerous portraits of her.

A great way to learn more about the life of Empress Sisi is to join a walking tour and guided visit to the Imperial Apartments. > Click here to check details and prices.

Hofburg (including the Imperial Palace and Spanish Riding School)

Address: Michaelerplatz, Vienna

Day 3

Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace Vienna Looking down on Schonbrunn Palace from the Gloriette Monument.

On your last day of Vienna sightseeing, head to Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburgs. Based on the Palace of Versailles, this 1,440-room ‘holiday house’ is massive by anyone’s standards.

To get an idea of how the Habsburgs lived, join a guided tour of the Palace . With skip-the-line entry tickets and a personal guide, you will visit 22 rooms including the 40-metre long Great Gallery and the Hall of Ceremonies.

On the one hour tour you will learn entertaining stories about the former royals. > Click here to buy your ticket.

Then it’s time to get out and explore the magnificent grounds at your leisure.

The Palace Park features the world’s oldest zoo, a maze, formal gardens and fountains, a greenhouse and the Gloriette Monument.

There are also exhibitions and museums, including a carriage museum, in the grounds.

The Palace Park is free to enter but entry fees apply to Schonbrunn’s special attractions such as the maze, the zoo, orangery garden and, of course, the Palace.

Whilst you are visiting the Palace, why not enjoy an apple strudel-making show with tasting? We found the show entertaining and were loved eating the finished product! > Click here to book your ticket.

Schonbrunn Palace is open daily from 8am.  It closes between 5pm and 6.30pm, depending on the time of year.

Address: Schonbrunner Scholss Strasse 47, Vienna.

To reach Schonbrunn Palace, I suggest you use public transport from the city centre.  Underground train line U4 and trams 10 and 60 both have stops at Schonbrunn.

Prater

Vienna ferris wheel Vienna’s giant ferris wheel is located in the Prater area. Image: Österreich Werbung / Photographer: Diejun

You could easily spend the whole day at Schonbrunn Palace but if you have time the Prater is well worth a visit. 

This area, which is situated between the Danube Canal and the Danube River, was previously a hunting ground before it was given to the people of Vienna for recreation.

The main attraction is a fairground which features bumper cars, merry go rounds and shooting ranges, and the Riesenrad, a giant ferris wheel erected in 1897.

Jump aboard for great views over Vienna.

Mozart Concert

Mozart concert Vienna The Mozart concert we attended at Vienna’s Musikverein was one of the highlights of our visit.

Finish your stay in Vienna on a high by attending a Mozart concert, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Vienna.

We attended a concert at the beautiful Musikverein where all the orchestra members were dressed in frock coats and wigs as they would have been in the days of the great composer himself. 

The 90 minute concert was fantastic and a definite highlight of our stay in Vienna.

I didn’t take my camera to the concert, thinking that photos wouldn’t be allowed.  They were (but no flash allowed) so I had to make do with a couple of photos taken with my phone.

TIP: We had Category A seats for the Mozart concert (which I had pre-purchased) which offered a great view of the stage but next time I’d opt for the Superior Category just to be that little bit closer.

> Click here for Mozart concert ticket prices

Delicious Viennese Cuisine and Coffee to try

Cafe Sacher afternoon tea Morning or afternoon tea at Cafe Sacher is not to be missed!

Three things were high on my agenda for my stay in Vienna – finally tasting Sacher Torte, sampling a traditional Wiener Schnitzel and getting tips from an expert on how to make apple strudel. None of them disappointed.

Cafe Sacher was where we headed for a taste of the famous chocolate cake, Sacher Torte.

Originating in 1832, the recipe is a well-guarded secret and the cake is now one of Austria’s most important exports, with more than 360,000 of the cakes being produced each year, many of which get sent abroad. 

A rich chocolate cake thinly spread with apricot jam and topped with a smooth layer of icing, it is delicious served with whipped cream.

The famous chocolate cake isn’t the only thing available at the cafe, with other tasty treats like apple strudel and a range of cakes also on the Cafe Sacher menu.

Prices were what I’d consider reasonable for a well known establishment like this – not super cheap but not excessively priced either.

Cafe Sacher Vienna opening hours are from 8am to midnight every day.

Address: Philharmonikerstrasse 4, Vienna.

Apple strudel
Apple strudel can be found on most menus in Vienna.

Our apple strudel making lesson – which I mentioned above – was another fun thing to do in Vienna.

Our lesson (which I wrote more about here) took place at Schonbrunn Palace but we had lots of opportunities to sample apple strudel throughout Vienna, including a yummy serving at Belvedere Palace’s ‘Bistro Menagerie’ and at Cafe Sacher.

You can check details on the apple strudel show and tasting at Schonbrunn Palace here.

Another sweet treat definitely worth a taste is Punschtorte.  Ingredients include chocolate, rum, apricot jam – need I say more!  You can find out more about Punschtorte – and get the recipe – here.

Wiener schnitzel A typical Viennese meal of Wiener schnitzel and parsley potatoes.

Wiener Schnitzel can be found on the menu at most restaurants in Vienna – it is the national dish, after all! ‘Real’ Wiener Schnitzel is a thinly crumbed fillet of veal but a pork variety can be found, too.

You’ll often pay a euro or two more for the traditional version but it’s definitely worth it. Served with parsley potatoes and a wedge of lemon, it’s a delicious meal and one of my favourites.

On our second visit to Vienna we ate twice at Cafe Mozart and the Wiener Schnitzel was superb.

Throughout Vienna you’ll see Wurst (sausage) stands. The Viennese are fond of their wurst and they make a tasty snack for those in a hurry.

We sampled a wurst at the Albertinaplatz sausage kiosk. Served on a plate with a thick slice of traditional Austrian bread, one was definitely enough for me.

Viennese Coffee

Cafe Sacher Vienna Cafe Sacher is one of Vienna’s most famous coffee establishments.

It’s probably no surprise that two of the best coffees I had in Vienna were accompanied by two of the most delicious ‘cakes’.  At both Bistro Menagerie and Cafe Sacher coffee isn’t just something to accompany your cake, it’s pure bliss!

Order a cappuccino and it will be served Viennese style with plenty of froth and a big dollop of whipped cream. Naughty but nice!

Is summer not a good time for you to visit Vienna? Winter is a great time to visit the Austrian capital, too.  Christmas in Vienna is magical – read this article to find out more.

Day trips from Vienna

If you’d rather not spend all of your three days in Vienna in the city itself, it is easy to plan one or more day trips from Vienna to the Austrian countryside or another nearby city.

Popular day trips from Vienna include Bratislava, Melk Abbey, Budapest and Prague.


UPDATEI’ve now enjoyed two visits to Vienna, both of them for three days. On my second visit, rather than return again to Schonbrunn or Belvedere Palaces, I opted instead to take a day trip to Bratislava and I also enjoyed a few hours of shopping on Mariahilferstrasse.

On our second visit we ate twice at Cafe Mozart – the service and food was excellent – and again stayed at the BW Premier Kaiserhof Hotel. 

Gloriette Monument From the Gloriette Monument at Schonbrunn Palace you get great views over Vienna.

Where to stay in Vienna

Both times I have visited Vienna I’ve stayed at the Hotel Kaiserhof (you can read my review here) so if you are still choosing where to stay when visiting Vienna, I can highly recommend this hotel.

> Click here to check current prices at Hotel Kaiserhof Vienna

Other highly rated hotels in Vienna include:


Where is Vienna?

Vienna is located in the far east of Austria, close to the border with Slovakia.   It is 300 kilometres from Salzburg, 330 kilometres from Prague, 80 kilometres from Bratislava and 243 kilometres from Budapest.


Getting to Vienna

Most international and intra-Europe airlines fly into Vienna.  Train services between Vienna and all parts of Europe are frequent. Journey times between other major cities are:

Vienna/Salzburg – 2h:30 by train or 3h:00 by car

Vienna/Munich – 4h:05 by train or 4h:00 by car

Vienna/Prague – 4h:00 by train or 3h:30 by car

Vienna/Budapest – 2h:20 by both train and car


Final Words

I hope this post has encouraged you to visit the beautiful Austrian capital and partake in the many wonderful things to do in Vienna. 

With all the suggestions above, you should have no trouble planning how to spend three days in Vienna.


For more Austria travel inspiration, read our Austria travel guide.


PIN FOR LATER

72 hours in vienna 350