One Day in Vienna

There’s so much to see in Vienna that you need a plan. Here are my tips for spending one day in Vienna!

Vienna architecture

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One of the best parts of living in Italy is the proximity to so many other countries! So it seemed appropriate that our first visit was the nation that borders our region: Austria. A friend suggested Vienna and Bratislava as a long weekend getaway, so we jumped in the car and headed north!

One of the best things to do in Vienna is to wander the streets. The city is stunningly beautiful, all white and gold and copper-green. With its baroque architecture at every turn, nearly everything inside the Ringstraße has a classic old world elegance.

There's so much to see in Vienna that you need a plan. Here are my tips for spending one day in Vienna!
Vienna city center

First up: breakfast! We headed for Cafe Sperl, which has been serving coffee since 1880. The weather was so great that we sat outside, perfect for people watching. If you go, definitely check out the inside though: it feels like something out of a movie with velvet curtains, high ceilings, and cozy booths. The cafe had a full breakfast & coffee menu so we tackled the challenge of eating as many dishes as possible! The coffee was excellent – perfect for a day of exploring.

day in Vienna breakfast

Since we only had one day in Vienna, we decided to do only one museum. We didn’t want to get to that point of information overload that can happen in museums, even in the great ones. So we chose the Belvedere Palace, a storied complex of two palaces and currently houses two museum. The Lower Belvedere holds rotating exhibitions that tend to be more avant-guarde or modern, while the Upper Belvedere holds their classic exhibits and a history of the palaces themselves.

The best part of the museum is the space itself. While the rooms are empty of their previous furniture, the wall paintings and chandeliers remain and create a sense of what the room may have been in its former glory. Combined with the ornate staircases and a gorgeous ballroom, you can see how this was home to royalty.

Belvedere Palace day in Vienna
Belvedere palace interior Vienna

Austria’s most known artist is Gustav Klimt, a painter most known for Woman In Gold and The Kiss. Seeing the Kiss in person feels a bit like seeing the Mona Lisa – a painting I remember seeing in art class as a kid, choked by other tourists taking selfies as I stand there trying to soak it in. One big difference is that The Kiss is massive – a 6×6 canvas means people aren’t quite pushing as much to get a good look!

The Belvedere also has many other Klimt works grouped nearby, creating a sense of the artist’s growth and shift in styles over his life. The museum features much of his work as well as his contemporaries in an exhibit celebrating Vienna’s thriving artist scene in the early 20th century. WWI had a significant impact on the city’s trajectory, and the artistic community here was heavily involved in the politics of the day as well.

Additionally, all descriptions are bilingual, making everything super accessible without needing a guide through the museum.

Belvedere Palace day in Vienna
Belvedere Palace gardens
There's so much to see in Vienna that you need a plan. Here are my tips for spending one day in Vienna!

If you visit the Belvedere, don’t skip a walk around the grounds: a manicured park lined with sphinxes and other sculptures feel like an idyllic getaway nestled in the middle of the city. It’s a bit like a smaller version of Versailles, and open to the public even if you don’t buy tickets for the palaces.

Hungry, we ended up going to lunch at a brewery just outside the palace grounds. While it’s clearly there to grab the tourists, it had good beer and decent food in huge portions. Salm Bräu was a former monastery and brews its own beer on sight. The waiter raised his eyebrow when I ordered a stein’s worth, but it was delicious and you’d better believe I didn’t waste any beer!

Day in vienna beer steins
day in vienna church
There's so much to see in Vienna that you need a plan. Here are my tips for spending one day in Vienna!

We spent the afternoon happily wandering the streets of the Innere Stadt (the city center), taking in the gorgeous Baroque buildings and stopping for a drink or gelato when we needed to get off our feet. Some of my favorite spots were the Imperial Palace, Volksgarten, and Heldenplatz.

All the walking also helped me make my list of spots to see inside next time we come! Top of the list are the Kunsthistorisches Museum, State Hall of the Austrian National Library, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Vienna garden
Vienna statue

After a day of walking, we were ready to get off our feet and into somewhere delicious! A local friend told us about If Dogs Run Free, a cocktail bar with a great balance of classics and inventive creations. The drinks are tasty and beautiful, but it’s a small space so best to go on the early side. And for those wondering (we were), it’s named after the Dylan song: apparently, the founders couldn’t agree on a name for their funky, artsy, dimly lit bar but all loved Bob Dylan, so that’s where they landed.

We ended up right across the street for dinner at Ra’mien. We ran the gamut of the menu and every single thing was delicious! I loved mine the best, a beef noodle soup with hand cut noodles. It had some of the most flavorful broth I’ve ever tasted, but still didn’t feel heavy.

Vienna street scene
There's so much to see in Vienna that you need a plan. Here are my tips for spending one day in Vienna!

If you’re passing through the region, I highly recommend spending a day in Vienna! There’s paid parking underneath the Natural History Museum, leaving your car centrally located for a day of exploring on foot.

While some cities are conducive to a last-minute plan, early fall in Vienna meant that hotels and Airbnbs were extravagantly expensive, if available! I had a hard time finding anything at all under $600/night for four people, and even those were not great locations for on day spent in the city. I managed to find a hostel that could squeeze us in, but it was further outside the city than we’d have preferred. Next time, book further in advance!

day in vienna

I loved spending a day in Vienna, and the trip makes me excited to go back. For more tips on exploring Europe, check out my travel page!

2 thoughts on “One Day in Vienna

    1. That’s exactly it – romantic! So beautiful and grand everywhere you turn. And yes, the food is LOVELY there and Vienna has a very cool cafe culture. Definitely go, and give me your favorites when you do!

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