Vienna is a magnificent city, and no matter how much time you spend there, there’s always more to discover. The elegant buildings, the immense palaces, the enormous selection of museums… a year isn’t enough. However, you can get an idea of the city in just one, well-planned day.
Start the day in the central city, with a map and a ticket for the public transport system. A Vienna Card might be worth the €19.90 investment if you’ll be in the city for three days or more — it gives you unlimited access to the public transport system as well as lots of discounts for museums and other attractions. Since a public transport ticket costs €2.40 per ride, if you’re going to be making more than two journeys per day, it’ll save you hassle as well as money. However, if you’re not going to be visiting many attractions, a 72-hour public transport pass is cheaper at €14.50, so do the maths before you buy. You can get both your map and your Vienna Card from the Tourist Information office in Albertinaplatz, which is centrally located in the middle of the city.
Your first activity for the day is to take a tram around Vienna’s central ring road. Unfortunately, the road changes names along its length, but a good place to start is outside the Opera House on Opernring. Combine trams 1 and 2 (and D for some of the trip) to make your way around the ring, getting on and off as you see things that catch your interest. A touristy ring tram makes a full circle of the ring (unlike 1 and 2, which head off in different directions — pay attention and get off before they leave the loop), but it’s a lot more expensive at €7 for one 23-minute circuit. On your journey you’ll see the Opera House, the Burgtheater, the Parliament, the City Hall, the university, and a lot of other beautiful buildings, which you can identify with the help of your map. Once you’ve completed the loop, wander through the centre of the city and check out the Stephansdom, the Volksgarden and the Burggarden.
Have a light lunch — perhaps a picnic in one of the gardens, or a slice of pizza or cheap kebab from a station kiosk, then continue on your way. There’s plenty to see! Make your way to Museumsquartier and stop in at the information office there, to choose one or many of the museums to visit. When you’re done with museums, head to Cafe Demel for a coffee and a slice of Sachertorte — you can watch the chefs at work if you get a seat at the back of the building.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cuisine. I know that I should recommend a traditional restaurant where you can have a Wiener Schnitzel with chips, accompanied by large beer, but my favourite place to eat in Vienna is the Naschmarkt. Here, you can choose from a wide range of high-quality international restaurants. The Japanese is particularly good, but all the restaurants tend to be packed with locals — always a good sign.
You’re in Vienna, so you really should listen to some classical music — get cheap tickets for concerts for the same day at the tourist office from 2pm-5pm. If that’s really not your thing, head to the Burg Kino on the Opernring and watch The Third Man in its native city — and if you can, get on a Third Man tour, which run every day at 3pm from May to October. They’re popular though, you’ll have to book in advance if you don’t want to miss out like we did.
One day in Vienna is just enough to get a feel for the city — and you’ll probably feel that you want to stay a lot longer.