Elegant, historic and oh-so-stately, few European capitals can compete with the ‘classic’ city break gig Vienna lays on so grandly. But is two days enough? We reckon 48 hours in Vienna is the perfect amount of time to experience the city.
Think: Admiring lavish palaces, papping epic cathedrals, and munching schnitzel in the old-town during the day; watching classical music concerts and exploring hip cafes and bars at night.
How To Spend 48 Hours In Vienna
Explore the City’s Heart
Whether you call it the old-town, 1st District or Innere Stadt; Vienna’s stately city centre is definitely the first place to head after checking-in to your room at the Hotel Austria. Take time to explore the grandiose plazas and lose yourself down the atmospheric back alleys, refuelling at old-world confectioners as you go.
You’ll eventually end up at Vienna’s geographical heart, Stephansplatz, looking up at the colossal St Stephen’s Cathedral. It’s free to enter but you’ll have to pay for the privilege of climbing the south tower’s 343 steps.
Overload on Grandeur at the Hofburg Palace
Still in the city centre, the 13th-century Hofburg Palace is one of those ‘has to be seen to be believed’ places. Truly, it’s a riot of gilded majesty, inside and out, boasting more frescoes, chandeliers, coaches and gowns than you can shake a 2,680-carat Columbian emerald at (yes, they’ve got one of them, too).
Book ahead and you’ll also get the chance to watch the renowned white Lipizzaner stallions being put through their paces at the attached Spanish Riding School.
Treat Yourself to a Classic Viennese Double-Bill
As the inspiration for so many classical composers, the Danube is a must-’do’ for any visitor. Thankfully, there are loads of river cruise companies offering boat tours of varying lengths so finding one to suit your schedule won’t be a problem. You’ll have an appetite when you get back on dry land so what better time to try Wiener Schnitzel, a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet? This cornerstone of Viennese cuisine is available everywhere so you won’t have to look far to get your fill.
Enjoy an Evening of Classical Music
Even if it isn’t ordinarily your thing, you can’t visit the spiritual home of classical music (Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss and Brahms all composed here) without watching a performance of some kind. Unsurprisingly, the most popular performances sell out well in advance.
It is possible to nab last-minute tickets, even at prestigious venues like the Staatsoper or Musikverein: just cross your fingers and enquire about ‘leftovers’ an hour or so before a performance is due to begin.
Be Wowed by a Majestic European Summer Palace
Get brekky out of the way early and head directly to the vast Schönbrunn Palace, either via the metro (U4) or tram (10, 60). As palaces go, this rococo behemoth is an absolute whopper. You’ll need a good few hours to take in the French-style gardens and lavishly ornate rooms, of which there are more than 1,400! Take a hike up to the lookout point if you have the time (and stamina) – the views are off-the-hook.
Savour the Buzz – And Food – of the Naschmarkt
When you get back into the centre, make a beeline for Vienna’s huge open-air food and produce market, the Naschmarkt. It’s got the kind of vibe you’d like all city markets to have: bustling, informal, friendly and authentic. And with a whole host of food and deli stands knocking out everything from falafel to seafood, it’s a top place to kick back and refuel after a full morning of walking.
See the Sights While Sitting Down…
You’ve earned yourself a bit of downtime so here’s the deal: if you jump on tram 1 at Schwedenplatz then you can enjoy a self-guided lap around the Ringstrasse (a grand circular boulevard), ticking- off must-see sights like the the Vienna State Opera and the Gothic revival Rathaus en route.
If you’d like to raise your bum-based sightseeing up to an even higher level then drift over to Praterstern on the U1 metro line and take a spin on the Riesenrad Ferris wheel. Famed for appearing in the classic British film-noir, The Third Man, this landmark ride affords supremely Insta-friendly views of the entire city.
Get a Taste of Contemporary Vienna
Because it trades so heavily on its history and heritage, Vienna’s 21st-century face can seem hidden at times. A jaunt over to the bohemian and rather hip neighbourhood of Freihausviertel is the perfect antidote to this.
Brimming with trendy cafes, artisan workshops, niche food outlets and avant-garde galleries, this is the Vienna of here and now. It’s also got some great delis and very cool bars, making it an ideal place to round off your trip with a casual meal and a few drinks.