Visiting more European cities is one of my goals for the next years. Vienna has been on my bucket list for quite a long time now. I spent four days there around Christmas and I’m really excited. The city is perfect for a short trip, has great food and amazing photo spots. Read more about my highlights and things you should probably know before you go:
A beautiful baroque castle built from 1714 to 1716. Next to the castle you can find the botanical garden of the university of Vienna. It is winter season now so I haven’t visited the garden but I’ll come back in spring/summer as the garden must be beautiful. There is a museum inside the castle which is home to the worlds biggest collection of Gustav Klimt portraits. You can also find his most famous painting ‘The Kiss’.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
A beautiful detailed Gothic cathedral in the heart of the city. It’s pretty old – it has been built around 1365 and includes older parts from around 1230. You can take tours inside but unfortunately it’s not allowed to take any pictures.
Vienna City Hall
The city hall of Vienna is a beautiful, impressive building with an open space in front. There is a big Christmas market in December, an ice rink and good food. It gets quite crowded in the evening but it’s worth a visit if you’re a fan of Christmas lightning or just like strolling around market stalls. There is also a Christmas craft group for kids inside the building during this time.
Close to the city hall, after passing the university (feel free to step in) you can find the Votiv Church. A neo-gothic church with beautiful colored windows and very detailed architecture. You don’t hear much about these church as the St. Stehphen’s cathedral is much more famous but it’s worth a short visit. There is also the possibility to visit a performance of the gospel choir or other events.
This was definitely the highlight of my trip. The palace is so impressive and the whole area is extremely large. You can walk through the gardens and up the hill where you can enjoy a fantastic view over the whole city! It’s really worth it. There is a coffee in the Gloriette on the hill but it was crowded when we arrived so we didn’t stay there. After visiting the park we spent the rest of the day in the zoo, located within the park. It’s already closing at 4.30pm during winter time so be there early enough. I also recommend to take some food and water with you. There are around six or seven restaurants on the zoo’s map but most of them are closed during winter. It was a bit a pain to find something but once we found a coffee it was delicious and great to get warm again as it was super cold outside.
Even if the garden doesn’t look colorful during winter, I assume that the visit itself is more relaxed than during summer. Despite the cold temperatures there were a lot of tourists there, I won’t imagine how crowded it gets during summer.
Good to know
I visited Vienna during December and it was extremely cold on some days. Even if the temperatures are similar to Switzerland it feels much colder as there blows a strong wind most of the time. I can really recommend to take a warm cap with you, gloves and a good winter jacket.
Vienna has a great coffee culture so make a stop every now and then to warm up and enjoy coffee, tea or just a slide of their famous Sacher cake!
What you really should eat is an original Viennese Schnitzel! They are so delicious and so big, don’t worry if you can’t eat it all – I couldn’t 😄.
If you want to eat your Schnitzel at the famous Figlmüller, you need to make a reservation weeks before you go, it’s absolutely crowded but to be honest, I had Schnitzel at various places, one for 10 Euros and it was really really good, so there are plenty of other places to enjoy a good Schnitzel 😋.
When you toy with the idea of doing Christmas shopping in Vienna do it early enough. There were a lot of shops I can also find in Zurich so there is not a great variety to be honest. Also keep an eye on the opening times. All shops are already closing at 2pm on the 24th of December but it’s written nowhere so we were quite surprised. People were walking around quite confused and searching for open shops. So I can’t recommend shopping during these days .
Apart from that Vienna is nice for small shopping tours with excellent coffees and patisseries around every corner 😍.
Other things to see
Viennese Prater: An amusement park located in the district Leopoldstadt. It’s a large public park including the Giant Ferris Wheel. Not all attractions are open all year round. Click here for detailed information.
Hundertwasser house: It’s located a little bit outside the city, a house which looks very colorful and special. It’s one of Viennas most visited buildings and a part of Austria’s cultural heritage. I’ve never seen such a colorful house before. If you’re interested in arts you can find the Kunst Haus from Vienna just a few steps from the Hundertwassserhaus. By the way you can find an English telephone cabin next to the Hundertwasser house which as been directly imported from England.
Albertinaplatz: The place is located between the opera (another amazing building 😍) and the famous Hotel Sacher. You can take the steps up to the Helmut-Zilk-Place where you can see the monument against war and fascism. You can find horse-drawn carriages around the place if you wanna go for a ride but it is quite expensive (a long ride costs around € 110). As it was quite cold during my stay I preferred eating a piece of cake instead 😉. If you need a Vienna pass (highly recommended!) you can buy one in the tourist information shop which is in the building to the left of Hotel Sacher.
Christmas markets: During Christmas time you can find beautiful markets all over the city. There is a big one in front of the City hall, one between the Museum of Natural history and the Art-history museum and another one in front of the Schönbrunn palace. Keep an eye on the closing hours. The markets are closing early around 9/10pm. They are made with elaborate details, giving you a great Christmas feeling 🌟 .
The best way to get around: You can buy different kinds of Vienna passes. I can highly recommend them. You can buy them with a validity of 24h/48h/72h with or without having the hop on-hop off buses included. You can use all street railways with this pass. You can reach more or less everything in Vienna with these railways and it’s priced pretty good. There are some very old railways operating which made you feel like you’re back in the 80s – very charming 😄!