Vienna is the beautiful capital city of Austria. Vienna was one of the first European countries that we explored together as a couple. Although we stayed here for a short time, we were able to enjoy the city’s top highlights as well as experience some of the most memorable evenings. Continue reading to find out about our 48 hour Vienna Itinerary.
Vienna is the largest city of Austria and also one of the historic cities through which the river Danube has passed along since time immemorial. Stunning imperial architecture, horse riding carriages, beautiful side cafes and delicious coffee Vienna has all of this and more. The city also has a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are worth visiting. We tend to study the city’s past on our travels and then connect it to the living culture and it amazes us how rich Austrian History is. We learnt about Marian Theresia, the stories of Sisi (linking her from Austria to Hungary), the World War period (Austro-Hungarian Empire), its musical heritage and last but not the least its Medieval and Baroque past.
Another reason to visit Vienna was to see why it is rated as one of the world’s most livable cities. In one of the recent studies – Vienna, Vancouver and San Francisco were rated at the same spot to be one of the most livable cities – I am glad we were able to check out all three.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT VIENNA
How to get there?
Vienna International Airport or Wien-Flughafen is located in Central Vienna and is the largest and major airport in Austria. It connects Austria to the world and is also the major air base for Austrian Airlines.
If you are arriving in one of the nearby European nations, you can either use the trains, coach or can even drive to reach Vienna
- Budapest to Vienna is 2.50 hours by road
- Prague to Vienna is 3 hours by road.
- Munich to Vienna is 4 hours by road
Austria falls within the Schengen visa region. So if you do not possess an EU, Canadian, Australian or US passport, then you will have to apply for Schengen Visa. This allows you to enter all the 28 countries within the EU/Schengen zone. Schengen visa has to be applied before you arrive (its not a visa on arrival) and can be applied 3 months prior to your departure.
Currency and Credit Cards
Euros are used in Austria. All major credit cards are accepted in hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, tour agencies, etc.
Austria’s Official Language is German. They also speak Austro-Bavarian dialect. English is the most spoken foreign language. English is also widely used in Vienna and other tourist places in Austria like Salzburg.
Hotels and Accommodation in Vienna Austria
Hotels and AirBnBs start at USD 100+ for economical and B&B styles. AirBnB has a great list of options and they are pretty good.
We stayed in a hotel and here are some of the options.
- Economical – ZeistGeist, Hilton Vienna, Novum Hotel Prinz Eugen Wien
- Luxurious – Hotel Sacher, Imperial Vienna Hotel, Hotel Sans Sousi Wein
- Hostels – Wombat’s City Hostel, Hostel Ruthensteiner
There are options for Hostels starting at $10 and above on Hostelsworld.com, Hostels.com
Budget for Food
We found Vienna to be a tad expensive then its nearby cities like Munich and Budapest (and of course way expensive then Prague). A coffee can cost around 4-6 Euros in the city centre area. A meal can cost anywhere from 12-20 Euros in a decent restaurant or a food stall in the city centre.
Upscale restaurants with fine dining options will cost around 55 Euros+ per person. There are fast food chains in the city like McDonald’s and Starbucks. If you are eating fast food and occasionally spending on a specialty cafe – you will be spending around 50-100 Euros a day on food alone.
Vienna Central Train Station is the major hub connecting national and international places to Vienna.
For communing in Vienna, their transit passes are the cheapest and most efficient way to connect throughout the city. There are five underground lines, 29 tram and 127 bus lines, of which 24 are night lines. (2017-2018)
- 5 single trip ticket costs 12 Euros
- 1 Day trip ticket (valid for 1:00 am to the following day) 5.80 Euros
- Weekly Pass costs 17.10 Euros. They are valid midnight Monday to the following Monday till 09:00 am
- Airport or CAT Tickets costs 19 Euros (for a return trip, you can choose the arrival and departure dates)
Another mode of transportation of course are taxi. You can book via an app or call them. Check out their website to learn more about taxi fares and services offered.
Read the Top 10 Things to See in Vienna
Experience Vienna in 48 hours: Vienna Itinerary
We arrived in Vienna from Prague by road and reached in the morning at around 09:00 am. We had booked Austria Trend Hotel for our 2 night stay. The room rates started at USD 139 and can go up to USD 300, depending on the occupancy and luxury. As we arrived in Vienna we decided to head to the city centre and take a stroll. The weather was perfect in March – cool breeze with the sun shining bright.
We started with a quick breakfast stop. There are tons of options for food (across different price ranges) in the city centre, including McDonalds and Starbucks. You can also choose to eat on-the-go from food stalls serving Viennese food.
In order to explore Vienna in 24- 48 hours, you can purchase the Vienna Pass, which includes a 1-2 day hop on and hop off bus service. This will save you time and money in arranging for taxis or in figuring out the city’s transit system. This pass also allows you to visit some Vienna’s top tourist attractions for free. By taking this pass, you can also customize your 2 day Vienna Itinerary.
Having said that, you can also plan ahead and look at the transit routes – purchase a day pass and also explore the city. We also found that depending on which sight seeing places you wish to visit, some may or may not have direct bus routes, so you should be open to explore those areas on foot. Vienna does have a large pedestrian area as well.
Places to Visit in Vienna in 2 Days
Vienna Itinerary Day 1
City Palace Vienna – Maria Theresesian Platz – Hofburg Palace – Heldenplatz – City Tour – Vienna Centrum
Our first stop was the City Palace of Vienna also called the Liechtenstein City Palace. The city palace is named after the ruling power who started building the palace in mid 17th century. The rooms have the best Baroque and Rococo style interiors, in all of Austria. To gain access to the inside of the city palace, you will have to book a guided tour. This is a living palace and is currently utilised by the princely family of Liechtenstein.
The city palace also has museums and gardens in the same complex. The gardens can be leased for events as well. The city palace is still a privately owned and maintained by the Liechtenstein family. You can enjoy the beautiful palace complex on a horse driver carriage as well, as seen below.
After the City Palace, we proceeded to the Maria Theresian Platz. Maria-Theresien-Platz is a large public square in Vienna built in the honor of Hapsburg Empress – Maria Theresa. There is a huge statue of the Empress, which is flanked by two museums on each side. These buildings are identical – one is the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) and the other was the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum). The buildings are near identical, except for the statuary on their façades. It is classifed as an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
If you are into museums, you can definitely visit the Museumsquartier – one of the largest districts in Vienna. This area of 60,000 sq miles is lined with museums.
From the Maria Theresian Platz we headed to the beautiful Hofburg Palace.
The Hofburg palace is the imperial seat of the Hapsburg Dynasty in Austria. This palace has seen a lot of history in this by-gone days and still it has not lost its glory or sheen. The Hofburg Palace is currently in service as Austria’s Presidential offices are housed in the one of the palace wings.
The complex is spread over 59 acres and comprises of 18 groups of buildings, close to 20 courtyards and around 2600 rooms. The entire complex showcases the legacy of rich and different architectural history – nearly every Austrian ruler since 1275 had either ordered additions or alterations.
We found the interiors of the palace very intriguing. The guided tour of the palace was interesting and the architecture definitely left us spell bound. If you have some additional time on your hands its worth checking out the museums as well exhibitions inside the palace.
If you choose to do the guided tour, you will be given three choices – the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and Silver Collection – each of which can be toured individually or as part of an extended visit. There are other attractions included as well along with the the Hofburg, which included the Imperial Chapel (Burgkapelle), the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum), the Austrian National Library, and the Spanish Riding School.
The Hofburg palace is iconic to the city of Vienna. The Hofburg is an architectural marvel that showcases many different architectural styles, from Gothic to Renaissance, Baroque to Rococo and a little bit of Classicism.
The entire palace complex had an aura of royalty and we were definitely impressed by the work of the Hapsburg rulers. Having survived the World Wars, the up-keep of the palace grounds is also very incredible.
Riding schools and horses or horse drawn carriages are a common sight in Vienna. The Hofburg Palace also had a stable where riding or show stopper horses were bred and groomed.
Just outside the Hofburg Palace you will find Heldenplatz which is a public square. This square was set up as a Heroes Square. There is a statue of Archduke Charles of Austria, which was meant to glorify the Habsburg dynasty. There are other statues too, including the one of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Many important actions and events took place in the Heroes Square. Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany occurred here. The present-day Heldenplatz on the former outer plaza of the Hofburg was built under the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph.
Up next was a quick tour of Stephenplatz where St Stephen’s Cathedral is located. This cathedral has stood the test of time and has watched over the city for more than 300 years. It is also the burial place of the bishops, the tombs of Duke Rudolph the Founder and other members of the Habsburg family.
Austria’s largest bell, known as the Boomer Bell is also located at the cathedral in its north tower. The South Tower’s observation deck is the highest point in the city of Vienna. You can enjoy some of the finest views in all of Vienna from here. A climb of 343 steps of the tight spiral staircase leads up to the watchman’s lookout 246 feet above street level. The entire cathedral complex area is also called the Stephansplatz (named after the St Stephen’s Cathedral or Stephensdom).
Very close to the Cathedral is the market square of Graben. This area has been a market and shopping block since time immemorial. The uniqueness of this street is that the area is lined with statues referring to a deadly plague that occurred in the 17th century. The origin of this street dates back to the old Romans. There are 5 divisions/shopping areas with the Graben. And they include Stephansplatz, Kohlmarkt, Naglergasse, Tuchlauben and Petersplatz.
- Austrian Parliament building,
- Giant Ferris Wheel Park (which is the oldest ferris wheel in the world, part of the cabins were destroyed in the first world war and then 15 of them were restored)
- Hundertwasserhaus Vienna (apartment house in Vienna, Austria, built after the idea and concept of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser)
- Joahn Strauss Building and Museum
Vienna Itinerary Day 2
Schonbrunn Palace – Opera House – Experiences (Suggested Options) for the Evening
On our day 2 of Vienna Itinerary, we booked for a tour of the UNESCO list site of Schonbrunn Palace. Schonbrunn Palace is the most popular tourist spot in Vienna. The palace complex also has a beautiful garden and I would suggest spending sometime here.
This palace was built in the early 18th century. This gorgeous yellow colored palace reflects the changing styles and interests of the Hapsburg dynasty. This color was “supposedly” the favorite of Hapsburg beloved empress Maria Theresa. She popularized the yellow color as a color of royalty. But the reality was that the color yellow was economical and easily available.
The Schonbrunn Palace in its present form was built and re-designed during Maria Theresa’s reign who received the estate as a wedding gift.
You can easily spend 3-5 hours at the Schonbrunn Palace complex. With the guided tour we were able to explore the interior of the beautiful palace. The palace has a whopping 1441 rooms!
The sculpted garden behind the palace is beautiful and is adorned by 32 sculptures of deities. There are picturesque Roman ruins as well located in the palace complex. One of my favorite sights is the Neptune Fountain, with Gloriette in the background. The Gloriette was erected to glorify the Hapsburg rule. It definitely adds a romantic feel to the entire place and you can get amazing views of the city of Vienna from the Gloriette.
I recommend visiting the palace grounds at around 08:30 in the morning to beat the tourist wave. By 10:00 you can see lots of tourists coming in. There are restaurants located inside the palace grounds, where you can grab coffee or a bit to eat.
After the Schonbrunn Palace, we proceeded to the Opera House.
Wiener Staatsoper or the Vienna State Opera is prime Opera house of Austria. This opera house is one of the busiest in the world with over 350 performances conducted in the 2017/18 season. It was opened for the first time in 1869 with a performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. So when you step foot into the opera house or book tickets for the opera, you are enjoying a slice of rich Austrian history. You can opt for a guided tour for the Opera House as well. Learn about their guided tours here
Book your tickets and learn more about Vienna State Opera shows
For the second half of Day 2, I would recommend experiencing something of your choice in Vienna. Here are some suggestions
- Check out some shows at the Wien Opera House. Book tickets for the evening
- Head to the Wiener Riesenrad or the Giant Ferris Wheel Park and spend the evening there
- Stephenplatz, Hofburg Palace and/or Graben looks amazing in the evening. If you are love to stroll, then this is the place for you. At the Graben, there are restaurants and live entertainment by the Plague columns.
- Vienna is big on the cafe culture. Spend some time at one of the open coffee bars/cafes and enjoy a good conversation or a romantic dinner after
- How about a horse driven carriage ride? This is very popular among tourists. Check out Riding Dinner Wien
Food and Restaurants to Consider for your Vienna Itinerary
Vienna has some coolest restaurants and cafes that do deserve a spot on your 2 day Vienna Itinerary. You know Coffee houses are a big deal in Vienna. You will find one in every little corner and they serve delicious coffee and baked goods. People really live the coffee and conversation culture here.
In the evenings, you can choose one of the patio cafes and enjoy some cappuccinos and sachertorte.
Speaking of Sachertorte, this chocolate cake is one of the most popular in Vienna. This culinary dish was created for Prince Wenzel Metternich in the early 19th century. This is so popular in Viennese culture that they have a National Sachertorte Day, which is 5 December of every year. Briochekipfer (Brioche Croissant) is a croissant that is typically consumed with coffee (breakfast). Apfelstrudel is another sweet item which is a puff pasty, with sweet and sugary apple slices in sauce, and topped with some whip cream or warm vanilla sauce. Kaiserschmarrn is a sweet dish made of pancakes and stewed plums or raisins.
I know I started on the dessert side, but Vienna also has some great meal options to present as well. Goulash soup is a popular soup, made of beef stew or can be soup based. It originated in Hungary, but Czech Republic and Austria have their version of the goulash soup as well. They are very filling. Schnitzel – is a “fried” meat, usually thinned by pounding with a meat tenderizer. This is a most common main dish in Vienna. You can order it as chicken, pork or beef varieties. Tafelspitz is a slow-boiled, lean and tender cut of beef enjoyed with an array of condiments. Leberkäse – from the looks of it, is like a burger, you can choose any fillings like cheese, any type of meet or even chilli. It is a popular cheap food, served in food stalls as well. Geröstete Knödel or roasted dumplings are a popular staple food item in Vienna. They are made out of potatoes mainly and can be served as an all vegetarian dish. There are many other dumpling and soup options too (liver dumpling soup or beef dumpling soup).
Don’t forget drinks. Austria is big on beer, just like Germany and Czech Republic. Most common beer brands are either lagers from Germany or Holland. Edelwiess is very popular. A classic Dutch beer brewed to a traditional Austrian recipe. Wheat beer is what you will find in most restaurants serving alcohol. Schnapps are common in all restaurants and they come in different flavors.
As coffee houses are a THING in Vienna. I will start with some of the popular places for coffee and other baked items. The most well-known cafe is the Cafe Sacher. When we were strolling around the Opera House area, we were hoping to find some souvenir stores and instead we arrived at this cafe that was jam-packed with people. They make the delicious Sachertorte. A coffee with sachertorte will cost you around 12.50 euros, but you are dining in style – in the midst of history. The cafes interior are very beautiful. If you just wish to try the sachertorte and some Viennese coffee, there are other cool options as well. Cafe Sacher Eck, Aida – Café-Konditorei, Cafe Central, Sazenti, but remember you will find lots of options in every nook and corner of the city. And they should offer all the popular desserts and dishes.
Cafe Central is an amazing place that serves most popular Viennese food and is very affordable. This place used to be frequented by Sigmund Freud (you will know about him if you studied or read Psychology in school) and many other writers, influential people at that time. Their menu has soups, schnitzel, hearty goulash soup, sachertorte, beer and more. Items are priced from 2 Euros to 22 Euros+ depending on what you order. Other restaurants for lunch and dinner include Plachutta Wollzeile (popular for Tafelspitz –cooked beef meat), Sparky’s unlimited (located very close to the Stephansdom church, it serves most of the popular Viennese dishes and is affordable), Gasthaus zur Oper (well known restaurant, they serve Schnitzel which is of good quality)
Even if you are tight on budget, I do recommend trying the Sachertorte or Schnitzel to get a taste of Vienna, quite literally.
Hope you have an amazing stay in an amazing city of Imperial glory.