112 Best Sights in Vienna, Austria

Kohlmarkt

1st District

Aside from its classic view of the domed entryway to the imperial palace complex of the Hofburg, the Kohlmarkt is best known as Vienna's most elegant shopping street, and fronts the area being refashioned the Goldenes Quartier (Golden Quarter). All the big brand names are represented here: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Chanel, and Armani, to name a few. The shops, not the buildings, are remarkable, although there is an entertaining odd-couple pairing: No. 11 (early 18th century) and No. 9 (early 20th century). The mixture of architectural styles is similar to that of the Graben, but the general atmosphere is low-key, as if the street were consciously deferring to the showstopper dome at the west end. The composers Haydn and Chopin lived in houses on the street.

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Between Graben and Michaelerplatz, Vienna, A-1010, Austria

Kriminalmuseum

2nd District/Leopoldstadt

The vast and macabre museum is entirely devoted to Viennese murders of the most gruesome kind. The most grisly displays are, appropriately situated in the cellar. Murderers and their victims are depicted in photos and newspaper clippings, and many of the actual instruments used in the killings are displayed, axes seeming to be the most popular. It also traces the penal system of the Middle Ages through displays of historial documents as well as objects used to execute and torture people. The museum is housed in the "soap-boiler house," one of the oldest and most spectacular buildings in Leopoldstadt and is across the Danube Canal from Schwedenplatz, about a 15-minute walk from the core of the Innere Stadt (or the Inner City/City Center).

Grosse Sperlgasse 24, Vienna, A-1020, Austria
01-664–300–5677
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €8, Closed Mon.–Wed., Thurs.–Sun. 10–5

Kunsthalle Wien

7th District/Neubau

The gigantic rooms here are used for temporary exhibitions of avant-garde art, including photography, video, film, and new-media projects. The museum prides itself on finding artists who break down the borders between art genres and explore the connection between art and social change.

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Museumsplatz 1, Vienna, A-1070, Austria
01-521–8933
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Rate Includes: €8, Daily 11-7; Thursdays 11-9

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Kunsthaus Wien - Museum Hundertwasser

3rd District/Landstrasse

This art museum mounts outstanding international exhibits in addition to showings of the vibrant works by avant-garde artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He designed this building, along with the nearby apartment building called Hundertwasserhaus. The building itself is pure Hundertwasser, a crayon box of colors, irregular floors, windows with trees growing out of them, and sudden architectural surprises, all of which make a wholly appropriate setting for modern art.

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Untere Weissgerberstrasse 13, Vienna, A-1030, Austria
01-712–0491–0
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Rate Includes: €11 museum; €12 museum and current exhibit, Daily 10–6

Leopold Museum

7th District/Neubau

Filled with pieces amassed by Rudolf and Elizabeth Leopold, the Leopold contains one of the world's greatest collections of Austrian painter Egon Schiele, as well as impressive works by Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka. Other artists worth noting are Josef Dobrowsky, Anton Faistauer, and Richard Gerstl. Center stage is held by Schiele (1890–1918), who died young, along with his wife and young baby, in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. His colorful, appealing landscapes are here, but all eyes are invariably drawn to the artist's tortured depictions of nude mistresses, orgiastic self-portraits, and provocatively sexual couples, all elbows and organs.

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Museumsplatz 1, Vienna, A-1070, Austria
01-525–700
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Rate Includes: €14, Closed Mon. and Tues. Sept.–May, June through August: Open Daily and Holidays 10-6; Thurs. 10-9

Looshaus

1st District

In 1911 Adolf Loos built the Looshaus on imposing Michaelerplatz, facing the Imperial Palace, and it was considered nothing less than an architectural declaration of war. After 200 years of Baroque and neo-Baroque exuberance, the first generation of 20th-century architects had had enough. Loos led the revolt; Ornament and Crime was the title of his famous manifesto, in which he inveighed against the conventional architectural wisdom of the 19th century. He advocated buildings that were plain, honest, and functional. The city was scandalized by Looshaus. Emperor Franz Josef, who lived across the road, was so offended that he ordered the curtains of his windows to remain permanently shut. Today the building has lost its power to shock, and the facade seems quite innocuous. The interior remains a breathtaking surprise; the building now houses a bank, and you can go inside to see the stylish chambers and staircase. To really get up close and personal with Loos, head to the splendor of his Loos American Bar, about six blocks east at No. 10 Kärntnerdurchgang.

Michaelerplatz

1st District

One of Vienna's most historic squares, this small plaza is now the site of an excavation that took place from 1989--1991. Some remarkable Roman ruins were discovered, including what some believe was a brothel for soldiers. The excavations are a latter-day distraction from the Michaelerplatz's most noted claim to fame—the eloquent entryway to the palace complex of the Hofburg.

Mozart's Requiem debuted in the Michaelerkirche on December 10, 1791. More people stop in today due to a discovery American soldiers made in 1945, when they forced open the crypt doors, which had been sealed for 150 years. Found lying undisturbed for centuries were the mummified remains of former wealthy parishioners of the church—even the finery and buckled shoes worn at their burial had been preserved by the perfect temperatures contained within the crypt.

Herrengasse, Reitschulgasse, and Schauflergasse, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
0676-503–4164

Minoritenkirche

1st District

Minoritenplatz is named after its centerpiece, the Minoritenkirche, a Gothic affair with a strange stump of a tower, built mostly in the 14th century. The front is brutally ugly, but the back is a wonderful, if predominantly 19th-century, surprise. The interior contains an impressive and gigantic mosaic reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, commissioned by Napoléon in 1806 and later purchased by Emperor Franz Josef.

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Minoritenplatz 2A, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-533–4162
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Rate Includes: Daily 8–6

mumok

7th District/Neubau

In a sleek edifice constructed of dark stone, the Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (mumok) houses the national collection of 20th-century art. Spread over eight floors, the collection is largely a bequest of Peter Ludwig, a billionaire industrialist who collected top-notch modern art. The top works here are of the American pop-art school, but all the trends of the last century, from Nouveau Réalisme to Viennese Actionism, vie for your attention. Names include René Magritte, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly, and Nam June Paik, to name a few.

Museumsplatz 1, Vienna, A-1070, Austria
01-525–000
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €13, Open Daily; Mon. 2-7, Tues-Sun. 10-7, Thurs. 10-9

Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK)

1st District

This fascinating museum contains a large collection of Austrian furniture, porcelain, art objects, and priceless Oriental carpets. The Jugendstil display devoted to Josef Hoffmann and his Secessionist followers at the Wiener Werkstätte is particularly well done. The newest permanent collection is based on Asian design, showcasing Japanese woodcuts, lacquer work, color stencil plates, and Chinese porcelain. The MAK also showcases changing exhibitions of contemporary works, and the museum shop sells furniture and other objects (including great bar accessories) designed by young local artists.

Stubenring 5, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-711–36–0
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Rate Includes: €14, Tues. 10 am–10pm; Wed.–Sun. 10am–6pm, Closed Mon.

Museum Judenplatz

1st District

In what was once the old Jewish ghetto, construction workers discovered the fascinating remains of a 13th-century synagogue while digging for a new parking garage. Simon Wiesenthal (a former Vienna resident) helped to turn it into a museum dedicated to the Austrian Jews who died in World War II. Marking the outside is a concrete cube whose surfaces are casts of library shelves, signifying a love of learning. Downstairs are three exhibition rooms devoted to medieval Jewish life and the synagogue excavations. Also in Judenplatz is a statue of the 18th-century playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, erected after World War II.

Judenplatz 8, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-535–0431
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €12 includes admission to Jewish Museum of Vienna, Closed Sat., Sun.–Thurs. 10–6, Fri. 10–2

Naschmarkt

4th District/Wieden

The area between Linke and Rechte Wienzeile is home to the Naschmarkt, Vienna's largest and most famous outdoor produce market. It's certainly one of Europe's great open-air markets, where packed rows of polished and stacked fruits and vegetables compete for visual appeal against stacks fragrant spices, redolent of Asia or the Middle East. Come for the atmosphere and the exotic prices, but note that the prices for meats, fruits, vegetables and cheeses here tend to be higher than other places in the city. Wine stores and gourmet food shops round out the offerings. In winter, many stalls shorten their hours. On Saturday, a lively flea market takes place at the tail end of the market. Be sure you get the correct change and watch the scales when your goods are weighed.

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Naturhistorisches Museum

1st District

The palatial 19th-century museum, twin of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum, is the home of the Venus of Willendorf, a tiny statuette (actually, a replica—the original is in a vault) thought to be some 20,000 years old. This symbol of the Stone Age was originally unearthed in the Wachau Valley, not far from Melk. The reconstructed dinosaur skeletons draw the most attention, especially among kids. Also not to be missed is the Meteorite Room, which holds the largest and oldest collection of meteorites on the planet. A 3-D simulator allows you to stage a powerful meteor strike. The digital planetarium, with its state-of-the-art Fulldome technology, offers shows several times a day on biology, astronomy, prehistory, and the deep sea.

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Maria-Theresien-Platz, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-52177
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Rate Includes: €12, Closed Tues., Wed. 9–9, Thurs.–Mon. 9–6:30

Neue Burg

1st District

Standing today as a symbol of architectural overconfidence, the Neue Burg was designed for Emperor Franz Josef in 1869 as a "new château" that was part of a much larger scheme meant to make the Hofburg rival the Louvre, if not Versailles. The German architect Gottfried Semper planned a twin of the present Neue Burg on the opposite side of the Heldenplatz, with arches connecting the two with the other pair of twins on the Ringstrasse, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) and the Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History). But World War I intervened, and with the empire's collapse the Neue Burg became the last in a long series of failed attempts to bring architectural order to the Hofburg. Today the Neue Burg houses four specialty museums: the Imperial Armor Collection, the Collection of Historical Musical Instruments, the Ephesus Museum, and the Ethnological Museum. For details on these museums, see separate listings.

Otto Wagner Hofpavillon

13th District/Hietzing

The restored imperial subway station known as the Hofpavillon is just outside the palace grounds (at the northwest corner, a few yards east of the Hietzing subway station). Designed by Otto Wagner in conjunction with Joseph Olbrich and Leopold Bauer, the Hofpavillon was built in 1899 for the exclusive use of Emperor Franz Josef and his entourage. Exclusive it was: the emperor used the station only once. The exterior, with its proud architectural crown, is Wagner at his best, and the lustrous interior is one of the finest examples of Jugendstil decoration in the city.

Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse, Vienna, A-1130, Austria
01-877–1571
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €5, Weekends 10–6

Otto Wagner Houses

6th District/Mariahilf

The apartment houses that line the Wienzeile are an attractive, if rather ordinary, lot, but two stand out: Linke Wienzeile 38 and 40—the latter better known as the "Majolica House"—designed (1898–1899) by the grand old man of Viennese fin-de-siècle architecture, Otto Wagner. A good example of what Wagner was rebelling against can be seen next door, at Linke Wienzeile 42, where decorative enthusiasm has blossomed into Baroque-revival hysteria. Wagner banished classical decoration and introduced a new architectural simplicity, with flat exterior walls and plain, regular window treatments meant to reflect the orderly layout of the apartments behind them. There the simplicity ended. For exterior decoration, he turned to his younger Secessionist cohorts Joseph Olbrich and Koloman Moser, who designed the ornate Jugendstil patterns of red-majolica-tile roses (No. 40) and gold stucco medallions (No. 38) that gloriously brighten the facades of the adjacent house—so much so that their Baroque-period neighbor is ignored. The houses are privately owned.

Palais Ferstel

1st District

Not really a palace, this commercial complex dating from 1856 is named for its architect, Heinrich Ferstel. The facade is Italianate, harking back in its 19th-century way to the Florentine palazzi of the early Renaissance. The interior is unashamedly eclectic: vaguely Romanesque in feel and Gothic in decoration, with a bit of Renaissance or Baroque sculpted detail thrown in for good measure. Such eclecticism is sometimes dismissed as derivative, but here the architectural details are so respectfully and inventively combined that the interior is a pleasure to explore. The 19th-century stock-exchange rooms upstairs are now gloriously restored and used for conferences, concerts, and balls.

Palais Harrach

1st District

Mozart and his sister Nannerl performed here as children for Count Ferdinand during their first visit to Vienna in 1762. The palace, next door to Palais Ferstel, was altered after 1845 and severely damaged during World War II. Some of the state rooms have lost their historical luster, but the Marble Room, set with gilt boiseries, and the Red Gallery, topped with a spectacular ceiling painting, provide grand settings for receptions.

Palais Kinsky

1st District

Just one of the architectural treasures that comprise the urban set piece of the Freyung, the Palais Kinsky is the square's best-known palace, and is one of the most sophisticated pieces of Baroque architecture in the whole city. Built between 1713 and 1716 by Hildebrandt—and returned to its former glory in the 1990s—it now houses Wiener Kunst Auktionen, a public auction business offering artwork and antiques. If there's an auction viewing, try to see the palace's spectacular 18th-century staircase, all marble goddesses and crowned with a trompe-l'oeil ceiling painted by Marcantonio Chiarini.

Palmenhaus

13th District/Hietzing

On the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace is this huge greenhouse filled with exotic trees and plants.

Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse, Vienna, A-1130, Austria
01-877–5087
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €7, May–Sept., daily 9:30–6; Oct.–Apr., daily 9:30–5

Parlament

1st District

Reminiscent of an ancient Greek temple, this sprawling building is the seat of the country's elected representative assembly. An embracing, heroic ramp on either side of the main structure is lined with carved marble figures of ancient Greek and Roman historians. Its centerpiece is the Pallas-Athene-Brunnen, a fountain designed by Theophil Hansen that is crowned by the Greek goddess of wisdom and surrounded by water nymphs symbolizing the executive and legislative powers governing the country. Interior renovations are scheduled well into 2021.

Peterskirche

1st District

One of Vienna's most well-known churches, St. Peter's Church stands on what was once the site of a church built in the latter half of the 4th century, making this spot the oldest Christian sacred site in the city. A few centuries later, Charlemagne built another church here, and finally St. Peter's Church was constructed between 1702 and 1708 by Lucas von Hildebrandt, who also built the Belvedere Palace. The facade has angled towers, graceful turrets (said to have been inspired by the tents of the Turks during the siege of 1683), and an unusually fine entrance portal. Inside, the Baroque decoration is elaborate, with some fine touches (particularly the glass-crowned galleries high on the walls on either side of the altar and the amazing tableau of the martyrdom of St. John Nepomuk). Just before Christmas each year the basement crypt is filled with a display of nativity scenes. The church is shoehorned into tiny Petersplatz, just off the Graben.

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Rathaus

1st District

Designed by Friedrich Schmidt and resembling a Gothic fantasy castle with its many spires and turrets, the Rathaus took more than 10 years to build and was completed in 1883. The facade holds a lavish display of standard-bearers brandishing the coats of arms of the city of Vienna and the monarchy. Nearly 10 acres of regally landscaped park grace the front of the building, and the area is usually brimming with activity. In winter it's the scene of the most famous Christmas markets in Vienna (which includes an ice-skating rink!). After the New Year, the ice-skating rink continues and is expanded. In summer, folks can watch movies outside during the annual film festival.

Rathausplatz 1, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-52550
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Guided tours Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 1.

Römermuseum

1st District

The Hoher Markt harbors one wholly unexpected attraction: underground ruins of a Roman military camp dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. You'll see fragments of buildings, pieces of pottery, children's toys, and statues, idols, and ornaments. Kids can learn about everyday life with interactive games.

Hoher Markt 3, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-535–5606
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €7, 9 a.m-6pm. Closed Mondays., Closed Mon.

Ruprechtskirche

1st District

North of the Kornhäusel Tower, this is the city's most venerable church, believed to have been founded in 740; the oldest part of the present structure (the lower half of the tower) dates from the 11th century. Set on the ancient ramparts overlooking the Danube Canal, it is serene and unpretentious.

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Ruprechtsplatz, Vienna, A-1010, Austria

Schönlaterngasse

1st District

Once part of Vienna's medieval Latin Quarter, Schönlaterngasse is the main artery of a historic neighborhood that has blossomed in recent years, thanks in part to government Kulturschillinge—or renovation loans. Streets are lined with beautiful Baroque town houses (often with colorfully painted facades), now distinctive showcases for art galleries, boutiques, and coffeehouses. At No. 5 you'll find a covered passage that leads to the historic Heiligenkreuzerhof courtyard. The picturesque street is named for the ornate wrought-iron wall lantern at Schönlaterngasse 6. Note the Baroque courtyard at Schönlaterngasse 8—one of the city's prettiest.

The quarter's most famous house is the Basiliskenhaus. According to legend, on June 26, 1212, a foul-smelling basilisk (half rooster, half toad, with a glance that could kill) took up residence in the courtyard well, poisoning the water. An enterprising apprentice dealt with the problem by climbing down the well armed with a mirror; when the basilisk saw its own reflection, it turned to stone. The petrified creature can still be seen in a niche on the building's facade. Be sure to peek into the house's miniature courtyard for a trip back to medieval Vienna.

Vienna, A-1010, Austria

Schottenhof

1st District

This shaded courtyard typifies the change that came over Viennese architecture during the Biedermeier era (1815–48). The Viennese, according to the traditional view, were so relieved to be rid of the upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars that they accepted without protest the iron-handed repression of Prince Metternich, chancellor of Austria. Restraint also ruled in architecture; baroque license was rejected in favor of a new and historically "correct" style that was far more controlled and reserved. Kornhäusel led the way in establishing this trend in Vienna; his Schottenhof facade is all sober organization and frank repetition. But in its marriage of strong and delicate forces it still pulls off the great Viennese-waltz trick of successfully merging seemingly antithetical characteristics.

Schottenkirche

1st District

From 1758 to 1761, Bernardo Bellotto did paintings of the Freyung looking north toward the Schottenkirche; the pictures, which hang in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, are remarkably similar to the view you see today. A church has stood on the site of the Schottenkirche since 1177, when the monastery was established by monks from Ireland—Scotia Minor, in Latin, hence the name "Scots Church." The present edifice dates from the mid-1600s, when it replaced its predecessor, which had collapsed because of weakened foundations. The interior, with its ornate ceiling and a surplus of cherubs and angels' faces, is in stark contrast to the plain exterior. The adjacent Museum im Schottenstift includes the celebrated late-Gothic high altar dating from about 1470. The winged altar is fascinating for its portrayal of the Holy Family in flight into Egypt—with the city of Vienna clearly identifiable in the background.

Freyung 6, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-534–98–600
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Church free, museum €8, Tues–Fri. 11–5; Sat. 11-4:30, Closed Sun. and Mon.

Schubert Geburtshaus

9th District/Alsergrund

Unlike most of Vienna's composers, Schubert was a native of Vienna. The modest but charming two-story house was not as idyllic then as it is today. When Schubert was born, it was home to 16 families who were crammed into as many studio apartments within the house. Many of the composer's personal items are displayed here, including his spectacles, which he allegedly didn't remove to sleep, as he was so anxious to begin composing as soon as he woke up.

Nussdorferstrasse 54, Vienna, A-1090, Austria
01-317–3601
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €5, Closed Mon., Daily 10–1 and 2–6

Schwarzenbergplatz

3rd District/Landstrasse

The center of this square is marked by an oversize equestrian sculpture of Prince Schwarzenberg—he was a 19th-century field marshal for the imperial forces. See if you can guess which building is the newest—it's the one on the northeast corner (No. 3) at Lothringerstrasse, an exacting reproduction of a building destroyed by war damage in 1945 and dating only from the 1980s. The military monument occupying the south end of the square behind the fountain is the Russian War Memorial, set up at the end of World War II by the Soviets; the Viennese, remembering the Soviet occupation, call its unknown soldier the "unknown plunderer." South of the memorial is the stately Schwarzenberg Palace, designed as a summer residence by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt in 1697 and completed by Fischer von Erlach, father and son.