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How to Squeeze One Day in Vienna: The Best Things to Do

one day in vienna: the perfect itinerary based on my personal experience

No, I didn’t not stay in Vienna for one day. Rather I stayed for three nights and spread the sightseeing across those three days since museums and bookstores can really take up time. But there was indeed one full day where I did most of the sightseeing. I have to admit that Vienna is my favorite European city so far. This statement is lofty, but after visiting more than ten European countries and several cities, I can say for myself that Vienna holds the top. Why? Vienna so far is low-key hipster. On the facade of Karlchurch, there was a huge poster saying culture is a highway. Art is a forest path. And inside Stephen Cathedral, a huge artwork by Eva Petric titled human cocoon was the first thing I saw. So visceral. So misplaced. So odd. And so cool. So if you are pressed with time and you just have one day in Vienna, here are my recommendations that balance everything: art, culture, food, sightseeing, and people-watching.

A must in Vienna: Hundertwasserhaus

Personal tips for this one day in Vienna shenanigan to work

1. Book the ticketed places in advance. You can get them all on getyourguide.com. Listed them all here as well.

2. This works best if you are traveling alone or with a partner. Forget about this whole thing if you are traveling with a group.

3. It is completely fine to ditch this whole one-day Vienna itinerary and just chill.

4. If had to play favorites in this list, it would be Stephenplatz, Hundertwasserhaus, the Austrian National Library, and a tram around Ringstraße

5. Buy your public transport tickets online. It saves you time. Or you can also download the app.

Where to stay in Vienna

Breakfast at a Café near St. Stephen’s Square

Start your day with a traditional Viennese breakfast at a local café. Try a “Wiener Frühstück” (Viennese breakfast) with coffee and pastries like croissants or strudels.

photo from cafe central’s IG
  1. Café Central: Located at Herrengasse 14, Café Central is a historic and elegant café known for its grand interior and Viennese coffee culture. It’s just a short walk from St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
  2. Demel: Demel, situated at Kohlmarkt 14, is a renowned Vienna pastry and coffee house. It’s famous for its cakes and pastries, and you can enjoy a delightful coffee experience in a classic setting.
  3. Hawelka: Hawelka Café, located at Dorotheergasse 6, is a traditional Viennese coffeehouse with a cozy atmosphere. It’s known for its Buchteln, a type of sweet pastry, and it’s not far from St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
  4. Café Sacher: Situated at Philharmonikerstrasse 4, Café Sacher is the place to savor the world-famous Sachertorte, a decadent chocolate cake. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee in a refined environment.
  5. Café Bräunerhof: Found at Stallburggasse 2, Café Bräunerhof is one of the oldest coffeehouses in Vienna. It’s a charming, old-world café that’s perfect for experiencing the city’s coffee culture.

These cafes are within a reasonable walking distance from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and each offers a unique Viennese coffeehouse experience. Enjoy your coffee and pastries in the heart of Vienna while observing the morning ebb of people.

St. Stephen's Cathedral is one of the many things you can see in one day in Vienna

Step in at St. Stephen’s Cathedral

After breakfast, make your way to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the jewel of Vienna’s skyline. This Gothic masterpiece stands as an iconic symbol of the city’s rich history. Gaze in awe at its intricate spires and ornate details, a testament to the craftsmanship of a bygone era. Venture inside to discover a world of breathtaking stained glass windows, impressive altars, and the chance to climb the South Tower for panoramic views of Vienna.

the interior of St. Stephen's Cathedral
the interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral

For a personal touch, consider attending a service or a classical concert within its hallowed walls, a truly enchanting experience. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the cathedral’s grandeur and the surrounding square’s vibrant atmosphere. During my visit huge artwork by Eva Petric titled human cocoon became the central art as its high altar. I almost clapped in a solemn silent sacred space. Lol.

Grab some things at Graben

A leisurely stroll down Graben is a quintessential Viennese experience. This historic shopping street exudes an air of elegance, lined with ornate facades, charming cafes, and high-end boutiques. It’s the ideal destination for retail therapy, where you can peruse a myriad of fashion, jewelry, and upscale retail offerings.

Gaben Street is one of the places you can have dinner or shop to the max

Whether you’re on the hunt for designer labels, fine jewelry, or unique souvenirs, Graben has something for every shopper. The beautifully paved street, adorned with decorative fountains and statues, makes window shopping just as delightful as making a purchase. As you explore this cultural hub, you’ll feel the heartbeat of Vienna’s vibrant shopping scene.

Be anchored at the Ankeruhr

A casual 6-minute-ish stroll from Graben is the Ankeruhr, or Anker Clock—in Vienna is a captivating timepiece that not only tells the time but also weaves a tale of history and art. This ornate clock, a masterwork of Art Nouveau design, adorns the façade of a historic building in Hoher Markt square. Every hour, a parade of 12 historical figures and deities, including Emperor Charles VI and the goddess Diana, come to life, revolving around the clock face.

This is Vienna in winter. February to be specific.

The Ankeruhr is not just a timekeeping device; it’s a living museum, a celebration of Vienna’s rich heritage. A visit to this splendid clock is like stepping back in time to witness the city’s history unfold in a mechanical marvel.

Shake some fears at Shakespeare and Company

Lol, I’m running out of puns and alliterations. 😛 You should notice by now, that all these places are within a ten-minute walk away from each other. But the actual experience wasn’t. LOL. I often got lost and didn’t know all these places where in the same area until I wrote this guide. And of course, no city itinerary from me is complete without an independent bookstore visit and purchase.

Find me

Shakespeare and Co has a slim collection of famous Austrian writers translated into English like Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life, which I enjoyed reading by the way and somehow reminded me of J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace. And  Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher, which I haven’t read as of writing.

And just like most Shakespeare and Co’s branding all over the world, the one in Vienna has that old neglected well-keptness kind of vibe. Not as on point as Paris’ franchise. But it is a beautiful place to spend an hour or two.

Believe the grandeur of Belvedere Palace

The line to the ticket counter is long. So I didn’t enter it. Honestly the only reason I initially wanted to enter the palace is to see Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. But I reckoned I would go to Leopold Museum and can many of his works there, I decided to explore the beautiful grounds of the palace instead.

Discover the grandeur of Vienna at the Belvedere Palace, a Baroque masterpiece that effortlessly combines architectural elegance with artistic brilliance. The palace is set amidst meticulously landscaped gardens that provide a serene escape from the bustling city.

what to do if you got one day in Vienna
To my right is the long line for the ticket

As you explore, you’ll encounter the Upper Belvedere, a sanctuary of art housing a remarkable collection of Austrian masterpieces. The star attraction is Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting, “The Kiss,” which is just one of the many treasures waiting to captivate your senses. Belvedere Palace is a testament to Vienna’s cultural richness, offering a harmonious blend of history, architecture, and artistry in a setting that is as enchanting as the masterpieces it houses.

things to do in vienna in one day
Belvedere Palance in summer. I traveled in winter, so all fountains were drained.

Lunch at Naschmarkt

Naschmarkt, Vienna’s vibrant open-air market, is a sensory delight for travelers and locals alike. Stretched along Wienzeile, it’s a bustling hub of food, culture, and community. Here, you can sample diverse cuisines, from traditional Austrian delicacies to international street food. The market also features stalls brimming with fresh produce, spices, antiques, and artisanal goods. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, shopper, or cultural explorer, Naschmarkt offers a lively and authentic Viennese experience.

Photo from Neni am Naschmarkt’s IG
  1. Neni am Naschmarkt: This popular spot offers a fusion of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Enjoy dishes like falafel, hummus, and shawarma in a vibrant setting.
  2. Delhi Deli: If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine, Delhi Deli is the place to be. They serve up a variety of delicious curries, samosas, and tandoori dishes.
  3. Tewa am Naschmarkt: Tewa specializes in fresh and healthy options, including salads, sandwiches, and organic ingredients. Perfect for a lighter, nutritious lunch.
  4. Saray Naschmarkt: This Turkish restaurant offers a wide array of traditional dishes like kebabs, börek, and baklava in a cozy atmosphere.
  5. Der Fischkönig: If you’re in the mood for seafood, Der Fischkönig is a fantastic choice. They serve fresh fish, seafood platters, and delicious fish sandwiches.

These are just a few options, and Naschmarkt has many more stalls and restaurants with diverse cuisines, so you’re sure to find something that suits your taste.

Be an Excited Mouse at Hundertwasser House

Hundertwasser House, located in Vienna, is a captivating architectural gem and a testament to artistic individuality. Designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this building is a striking departure from traditional architectural norms. Its façade is a riot of colorful tiles, irregular shapes, and flourishing greenery, giving it an otherworldly appearance. Inside, the apartments are equally unique, with undulating floors and imaginative designs.

A must in one day in Vienna: itinerary Hundertwasserhaus
A must in one day in Vienna itinerary: Hundertwasserhaus

Visiting Hundertwasser House is a journey into the imaginative mind of the artist, where art, architecture, and ecology harmoniously coexist. It’s not just a building; it’s a living work of art, showcasing a visionary approach to urban living and design. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply curious about innovative architecture, this place offers a unique and whimsical perspective that’s bound to leave a lasting impression.

There is a souvenir store which was open, and a cafe inside this building, which was closed during my visit. But from the outside, this building just makes me so happy. It is so whimsical.

Nothing Is More Austere than the Austrian National Library

I know, I know. Another book place. But! This is worth every minute and every penny you spent to visit this place. It is so grandeur. So gorgeous. So austere.

The Austrian National Library, nestled within the resplendent Hofburg Palace complex in Vienna, is a treasure trove of knowledge and culture. As one of the world’s most exquisite libraries, it houses a vast collection of books, manuscripts, and historical documents. If you are pressed with time, you can drop Belvedere Palace to be honest.

Very old, fragile, yet so grand

Its breathtaking Baroque interior, adorned with frescoes and sculptures, is a testament to Vienna’s imperial history. The centerpiece, the Prunksaal (State Hall), is a bibliophile’s paradise, featuring an ornate dome and rows of ancient tomes. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a literary connoisseur, or an architecture lover, the Austrian National Library invites you to immerse yourself in the grandeur of Vienna’s intellectual and artistic heritage.

Be Boldly Stubborn at Leopold Museum

I assume, you made it to this place about 3-4-ish in the afternoon, and you roughly have two hours to explore the whole place, which is massive and highlights the works of many Secession artists including Gustav Klimt. Admittedly it took me four hours and a badly aching back to explore the whole place. So decide which artist’s works do you desperately want to see up close and see it from there.

A short Vienna trip should squeeze Leopold Museum
A short Vienna trip should squeeze Leopold Museum

The Leopold Museum, nestled in Vienna’s MuseumQuartier, is a shrine to Austrian art and the legacy of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. This museum is a sanctuary for modernist and expressionist masterpieces, showcasing the works of these two iconic Austrian artists. From the emotive, raw creations of Schiele to the opulent and decorative artistry of Klimt, the Leopold Museum invites you to explore the transformative journey of Austrian art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Vienna means Gustav Klimt
Me as an artwork 😛

The avant-garde atmosphere, coupled with a remarkable collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures, provides a captivating window into the soul of Vienna’s artistic renaissance, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts and cultural explorers.

Loose Some Strings at Ringstrasse

Vienna’s Ringstrasse, or Ring Road, is a grand circular boulevard encircling the city’s historic core. Unveiled in the mid-19th century, this architectural masterpiece is adorned with elegant buildings, lush parks, and historical monuments, showcasing Vienna’s imperial past.

some of the sights in Ringstraße
some of the sights in Ringstraße

Along its path, you’ll encounter iconic landmarks such as the State Opera, the Parliament, City Hall, and numerous museums. The Ringstrasse captures the essence of Vienna’s artistic and cultural richness, offering a captivating journey through time and a scenic vista of the city’s grandeur. Strolling or taking a tram along the Ringstrasse is a must for visitors seeking to immerse themselves in the opulent history of Austria’s capital.

Dinner at Inner Stadt

Dinner in Vienna’s Inner Stadt, the city’s historic center, is a culinary journey through time and taste. With a rich tapestry of restaurants and cafes offering traditional Austrian and international cuisines, dining here is a blend of fine flavors and a vibrant, historical ambiance, creating a memorable experience in the heart of Vienna, which most likely you will be too tired to fully experience after a day of exploring the city.

Photo from Figlmueller’s IG
  1. Steirereck: Located in Stadtpark, Steirereck is a Michelin-starred restaurant that offers modern Austrian cuisine in an elegant setting. Their tasting menus highlight the finest Austrian ingredients.
  2. Plachutta Wollzeile: For a traditional Viennese dining experience, head to Plachutta Wollzeile. They are renowned for their Tafelspitz, a classic Austrian boiled beef dish.
  3. Figlmueller: If you’re in the mood for schnitzel, Figlmueller is the place to go. This historic restaurant serves some of the best schnitzels in the city.
  4. Zum Schwarzen Kameel: A Viennese institution, Zum Schwarzen Kameel offers a unique blend of bistro and deli. Enjoy gourmet sandwiches, seafood, and a variety of Austrian specialties.
  5. Le Loft: For a contemporary dining experience with a view, visit Le Loft at the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. The restaurant offers stunning panoramic views of Vienna along with an eclectic menu.

One day in Vienna is not enough. That should be clear by now. There are other contingencies to consider as well like are you traveling alone or someone or with a group. Or the traffic. Or waiting for your food. It is possible to do this when you are traveling alone in Vienna, but if you are traveling with someone or with a group, there is a huge change that this itinerary won’t work or if it does, everyone will be too stressed to fully experience the city and the moment.

Day trips from Vienna

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Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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