I very rarely stay in a city for more than 5 days (damn American time off from work policies), and I used to struggle to see everything I wanted in the time I had in each place I visited. Knowing I would only have 3 days in Vienna, I arrived in the city with a list of everything I wanted to see, and an idea of how to see everything within my tight schedule. With a plan of attack in hand, I was able to successfully see everything on my list, and snag some great pictures along the way. Below you will find my suggested walking tour of Vienna, along with what you can expect to see at each stop. I have included Google maps of how to get to each stop, so save those down to help while you are out and about exploring the city.
Start your day at St Stephens Cathedral. As this is easily the most well-known attraction in Vienna, it gets overrun by people very early, and can be a spot that attracts pickpockets and odd tour hawkers. Get here as early as possible, enter the church, and marvel at its size and art installation hanging from the ceiling.
Not only is this cathedral massive in size and gorgeously intricate, but there is also a little hidden gem about this place that is missed by most visitors. If you enter the church and head to the back left hand corner close to the pulpit of the cathedral, you will see a side room with a person sitting at a desk. Pay the 7 Euro ride fee to hop on a rickety elevator that will bring you to the very top of the Cathedral. You will step out onto a balcony, and will be greeted with a bird’s eye view of St Stephens Square, along with the most gorgeous view of the colorful roof tiles of the cathedral.
Now make your way to The Hofburg, a busy, but gorgeous part of Vienna. A large, sprawling palace complex, this place is observable from all sides. Take about an hour to walk the entire perimeter, grab some pictures in front of the gorgeously ornate gates, observe metalwork sculptures that have grown a patina with age, and marvel at the sheer size of the buildings. While here, grab tickets to the small, tucked away Imperial Treasury, and get a front row seat to see the crown jewels of Austria.
After you are done wandering the large palace, make your way past the Museumplatz (home of the Natural History Museum and Fine Arts Museum. Mosey around these buildings as I found fun sculptures and beautiful fountains on their grounds) and head to the Palace of Justice. I want to suggest this place with a huge air of caution. This building is always in session, and is where the Austrian Supreme Court sits. To say this is an important building is an understatement, and needs to be treated as such. Enter the nondescript front doors, and check in with security. Enter the main hallway, and take in the gorgeous hall that you will see. Beautiful architecture, marble on every surface, and an all-around grand feel will leave you breathless in this space. Snap a few quick pictures, and head out into Vienna once more.
If you are feeling extra spry, walk to Karlskirche, otherwise hop on the Vienna underground rail to the Karlsplatz stop (take the N46 train towards Karlsplatz), hop off, and take in all the breathing room around you. This spot is gorgeous. Less tourists make their way to this area, and you will most likely be one of the few people in this church. Head into the church, purchase entrance tickets for 8 euro, and walk up and down the pews. Make sure to hop on the glass elevator which will take you to the very top of the cathedral (a somewhat terrifying ride), and look at the church, its cupola, and its old windows from the scaffolding erected in the middle of the church. Once you are set to leave the church, stop at the university directly across from the church entrance and take a quick FREE bathroom break.
Once you are ready to move on in your tour, hop on street level tram N75 and take a 20-minute ride to the Hundertwasser House located at the Weyrgasse stop of the tram. Hop off the tram, and continue to walk an extra 750m to reach the house. Colorful and interesting in shape, this place is regularly busy with tourists and school trips. Hang out a bit, grab a small loaf of bread from the corner bakery, and admire the beauty of this architectural anomaly in an otherwise very Austro-Hungarian style city.
Get ready to grab lunch and take a load off your feet for a moment. Make a 20-minute walk along the gorgeous canal and wind through a small alleyway to Schachtelwirt to grab delicious pierogies and other pork specialties by a young, helpful, and incredibly kind and attentive staff. Everything here is delicious, so don’t be afraid to order and take some time off your feet.
From here make your way to the city train line U4 with a direct route to Schonnbrunn Palace. This ride is very well marked, is very well animated, and it will be hard to miss the Schonnbrunn stop. Walk to the palace, and head into the first gift shop at the entrance to buy tickets to enter the palace. Be prepared to check your bags, and be sure to not bring any valuables as they will be kept on open shelves while you wander the palace. Make sure to spend considerable time here, and don’t be afraid to pay for the audio tour to get a glimpse into the glitz and glam of the Habsburg family. Also make sure to walk around the back side of the palace, and wander the beautifully sprawling gardens (this part is free to enter).
Head back to the main city of Vienna using the U4 train, and make a transfer to the U3 train at the Landstrasse stop, riding to the Herrengasse stop. Get off the train mere steps from Café Centrale, grab a seat at the café, and indulge in desserts and coffees in the ornate, yet beautifully appointed dining room. You earned it from all that walking!