Considering a day trip to Vienna (or just have limited time in the city)? This itinerary lays out exactly how to see Vienna in one day. Discover the top sights, how to get around, where to eat, and more!
Vienna is an absolute joy to visit and a city I would happily return to again and again. It’s impeccably clean and well preserved, the buildings are grandiose, and getting around is a breeze with the walkable city center, cheap bike share program, and handy tram/metro.
Summers are filled with outdoor activities and events while winters bring some of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
And of course, there's the cafe culture of decadent cakes and coffee in the afternoon...who doesn't love that?
While a perfect scenario would allow 2 or 3 nights in Vienna, sometimes us travelers are short on time or vacation days. If you're based in a neighboring city or just have time to see Vienna in one day, this itinerary is for you!
Vienna’s position between several other large cities like Budapest, Munich, and Prague makes this a convenient stop for a night before continuing on to your next destination. A day trip to Vienna is also doable if you're staying in Salzburg (2 hours 15 minutes by train), Brno (1:30), Bratislava (1 hour), or Graz (2:30).
If you’re here for a brief time and want to make the most of your one day in Vienna, continue reading below for my detailed itinerary. This will be a whirlwind of a day, but you'll leave feeling like you got a good feel of the city.
This map shows everything included in this day trip to Vienna itinerary. Click the icon in the very top left to see a list view of each pinned location. Click the top right button to enlarge the map. Click the star to save to your own Google Maps account. To access this map once saved (after clicking the star), open Google Maps (on your phone/computer/tablet), click the menu button, go to "your places", select "maps", and you will see this map listed.
- Blue - train stations
- Red - Vienna sights and attractions
- Purple - restaurants and cafes
Getting into Vienna's city center
If you doing a day trip to Vienna you'll most likely be arriving by train. Thankfully Vienna's city center is super easy and cheap to get to with their convenient U-Bahn, aka metro, system.
I always use Google Maps when using public transportation. It shows which U-Bahn/metro line to take, which direction to go, and upcoming departure times.
Getting to Vienna City Center from Wien Hauptbahnhof
If you're arriving at the Wien Hauptbahnhof train station (also called Vienna Centrale), your quickest and cheapest option is to take the U1 metro line. It will take about 20 mins and cost €2.40 per person (€2.60 if purchased on the tram).
There are usually tickets machines at the tram stops. This is where I buy my tickets. You can also buy your tickets and access them on the WienMobil app.
Consider buying a 24-hour pass for €8 or a 1 day Vienna ticket (good until 1:00 am the following day) for €5.80. You can buy these tickets online or via the WienMobil app.
If you have several people in your party or prefer to take a car with your luggage, take an Uber. It will be around €10-15 and take 15 mins.
GETTING TO VIENNA CITY CENTER FROM Westbahnhof
Take the 10-minute metro ride on the U3 line or a 15 minute Uber for €12-16 if you're arriving at the Westbahnhof station.
Getting around Vienna
The city center of Vienna is entirely walkable and nothing is more than a 20 minute walk away. The compact layout plays a huge factor in successfully seeing all the main sights in a quick day trip to Vienna. The U-Bahn (metro) and tram also connects many of the tourist sights.
The furthest sight on this day trip to Vienna itinerary is Schonbrunn Palace. Take the U-Bahn (Vienna's metro) to get there in 10 minutes. Or grab a 15 minute Uber.
If you like bike riding, consider using Citybike Wien to get between sights even faster. First time registration is just €1 and the bikes are free as long as you return them within an hour to any of the 100 plus docks in Vienna.
Jake and I loved riding around Vienna. There are plenty of bike lanes and the city felt very bike friendly.
Between the tourist friendly U-Bahn and tram, Citybikes, Uber, and your own two feet, you'll be able to get to all the top destinations in minimal travel time.
Start your day trip to Vienna with a CITY CENTER Walking Tour
Consider starting your 1 day in Vienna with a walking tour focused on sights within the famous Ringstrasse, the street that circles the city center. This will take you past the main tourist attractions in Vienna and give you a brief history.
If a scheduled tour doesn’t fit with your schedule, consider doing a self-guided tour. I liked Rick Steve’s Vienna City Walk. You can download the audio tour via the Rick Steve’s app on your phone and it takes about 1 hour.
This is the perfect way to start your day trip to Vienna as it will give you a good layout of the city and you'll walk past many of the sights listed below.
Vienna Opera house
Once you finish your guided or self-guided walking tour, make your way over to the Opera House. We all know Vienna is considered the classical musical capital of Europe, home to prodigies like Beethoven, Strauss, and Mozart. A day trip to Vienna would not be complete without a quick stop at the Opera House.
Enjoy the exterior and pop your head in to see the glamorous lobby. If you want to get a full look at the inside and learn a brief history of the building, show up for a 40-minute tour. It’s €12 and the schedule is different every day. Check the schedule online and purchase your tickets in advance.
FOR THOSE STAYING THE NIGHT...BOOK AN EVENING PERFORMANCE
Consider buying tickets for that evening’s performance at one of the ticket windows before/after the tour.
You can buy standing tickets on the Operngasse street side of the Opera House. You will see a sign that says “Stehplatz-Kasse - Standing Area”. Enter through that door and walk down the hall to the box office. This is where the line begins. 80 minutes before the performance the ticket window will open and you can buy your ticket.
Exact change only and 1 ticket per person. You can’t buy tickets for any one that is not with you. After you get your ticket you go your designated area, claim your spot by the railing with a scarf and explore the Opera House until the performance starts.
Coffee and Cake at Cafe Demel
Walk 9 minutes for a coffee break at Café Demel. The atmosphere will make you feel like you stepped back in time to the glory days when Vienna was the capital of the Hapsburg empire. The interior is that of an old-world Viennese cafe.
Make reservations in advance if you don’t want to risk a long wait. Jake and I got lucky and snagged a seat at the coffee bar. We tried the Demeltorte, a chocolate walnut cake with apricot filling and a milk chocolate glaze, along with traditional apple strudel.
Both were fantastic and not the typical dry cakes you'll find at other popular Vienna cafes. Cafe Demel also serves the ever popular Sachertorte that Vienna is particularly known for.
Taking a coffee and cake break is a must, even if you only have 1 day in Vienna. This is part of the culture, much like afternoon tea is a part of British culture.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Walk 5 minutes to get to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. A Gothic masterpiece and the center of Vienna. It’s €6.50 to visit the cathedral with an audioguide (€3.50 without).
I did Rick Steve’s audio tour of the cathedral and really enjoyed it. You can download on the Rick Steve’s app.
Pay €6 and climb 343 steps up the south tower to see breathtaking views of Vienna.
One of my favorite palaces in Europe! This palace rivals Versailles and in some ways is more impressive as it's been well-kept and preserved. Unlike Versailles that went through abandonment, looting, and severe mistreatment.
Schonbrunn is a 15 to 25 minute Uber or 10 minutes via the U-4 metro from the Karlsplatz stop (within the city center).
While it may seem a bit out of the way when looking at Google Maps, it's really not. A visit to Schonbrunn Palace is 100% worth it, even if on a quick day trip to Vienna itinerary.
A leisurely visit would require 3 to 4 hours. A fast visit can easily be done in 1.5-2 hours.
Buy your tickets in advance so you don’t waste time in line and choose the Grand Tour ticket which includes the best rooms in the palace.
After wandering the royal apartments, walk past the perfectly manicured lawns in the royal gardens and up to the Gloriette viewing terrane for picture perfect views of palace below.
If you'd prefer a live guide to the audioguide, check out this 2-hour tour.
From Schonbrunn take the U4 metro and get off at the Kettenbrückengasse stop. This will drop you smack dab in Naschmarkt. A large and popular outdoor market with two lanes of stalls selling international food, produce stalls, and other gourmet bites.
This market is worth a look (and great place to grab a quick bite if you have a train to catch back to your hotel). If you're staying the night in Vienna or have a very late train, I suggest ending your one day in Vienna at a more atmospheric restaurant or at Vienna's City Hall
RatHaus (aka City Hall)
If you're in Vienna during the months of July and August, ending your day at the City Hall is a must. The Music Film Festival attracts both locals and tourists. Food stands and picnic tables are set in front of the City Hall, aka Rathaus, and recordings of anything from Opera to Jazz performances will be showcased on a large screen.
The food is an eclectic mix of world flavors and there's always a crowd.
During the winter months, this is home to one of the largest Christmas markets. You'll find decorated chalets selling mulled wine, hearty Viennese dishes, and holiday sweets.
Dinner in Vienna
- Skopik & Lohn - nice atmosphere and great wiener schnitzel.
- Gasthaus Grünaue - traditional Viennese and delicious goulash.
- Café Landtmann - beautiful grand cafe atmosphere, nice patio, and excellent apple strudel.
- Gmoa Keller - traditional Viennese and great wiener schnitzel.
- Apron - Michelin star
- Sixta Restaurant Bar - Austrian cuisine known for their goulash, wiener schnitzel, apple strudel, and Tafelspitz.
- Veranda - upscale contemporary Austrian cuisine.
- Do & Co - fun spot for drinks with cathedral views.
Zanoni & Zanoni
Though gelato has more of a connection to Italy than Austria, Zanoni & Zanoni is a must for any ice cream lover! This spot serves some of the most authentic gelato I have had outside of Italy. The flavors are extremely rich and the place is always packed. Dark chocolate was consistently one of my favorite flavors here (it's almost black) mixed with the biscotti flavor.
A day trip to Vienna is entirely possible and absolutely worthwhile. The compact layout of the city center and the handy tram/U-Bahn metro allows tourists to fit a lot of sights into one very busy day.
For those that have an earlier train back to their home base and worried about time, I would end the itinerary at Schonbrunn Palace. To save even more time, swap out Schonbrunn Palace for Hofburg Palace (it's closer and will take less time to see).