112 Best Sights in Vienna, Austria

Schweizertor

1st District

Dating from 1552 and decorated with some of the earliest classical motifs in the city, the Schweizertor leads from In der Burg through to the oldest section of the palace, a small courtyard known as the Schweizer Hof. The gateway is painted maroon, black, and gold, giving a fine Renaissance flourish to the building's facade.

Secession Building

1st District

If the Academy of Fine Arts represents the conservative attitude toward the arts in the late 1800s, then its antithesis can be found in the building immediately behind it to the southeast: the Secession Pavilion, one of Vienna's preeminent symbols of artistic rebellion. Rather than looking to the architecture of the past, like the revivalist Ringstrasse, it looked to a new antihistoricist future. In its heyday, it was a riveting trumpet-blast of a building and is today considered by many to be Europe's first example of full-blown 20th-century architecture.

The Secession began in 1897, when 20 dissatisfied Viennese artists, headed by Gustav Klimt, "seceded" from the Künstlerhausgenossenschaft, the conservative artists' society associated with the Academy of Fine Arts. The movement promoted the radically new kind of art known as Jugendstil, which found its inspiration in both the organic, fluid designs of Art Nouveau and the related but more geometric designs of the English Arts and Crafts movement. The Secession building, designed by the architect Joseph Olbrich and completed in 1898, was the movement's exhibition hall. The lower story, crowned by the entrance motto Der Zeit Ihre Kunst, Der Kunst Ihre Freiheit ("To Every Age Its Art, To Art Its Freedom"), is classic Jugendstil: the restrained but assured decoration (by Koloman Moser) complements the facade's pristine flat expanses of cream-color wall. Above the entrance motto sits the building's most famous feature, the gilded openwork dome that the Viennese were quick to christen "the golden cabbage" (Olbrich wanted it to be seen as a dome of laurel, a subtle classical reference meant to celebrate the triumph of art). The plain white interior was also revolutionary; its most unusual feature was movable walls, allowing the galleries to be reshaped and redesigned for every show. One early show, in 1902, was a temporary exhibition devoted to art celebrating the genius of Beethoven; Klimt's Beethoven Frieze was painted for the occasion, and the fragments that survived can be admired in the basement. Guided tours are given daily 10 am to 1 pm.

Friedrichstrasse 12, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-587–53–070
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €9.50, Closed Mon., Daily 10-6

Silberkammer

1st District

Fascinating for its behind-the-scenes views of state banquets and other elegant affairs, there are more than forks and finger bowls here. Stunning decorative pieces vie with glittering silver and gold for your attention. Highlights include Emperor Franz Josef's vermeil banqueting service, the jardinière given to Empress Elisabeth by Queen Victoria, and gifts from Marie Antoinette to her brother Josef II. The fully set tables give you a view of court life.

Michaelertrakt, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-533–7570
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €15, includes admission to Kaiserappartements, €36 with Sisi Museum, Sept.–June, daily 9–5:30; July and Aug., daily 9–6

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Spanische Reitschule

1st District

The world-famous Spanish Riding School has been a favorite for centuries, and no wonder; who can resist the sight of the white Lipizzaner horses going through their masterful paces? For the last 300 years they have been perfecting their haute école riding demonstrations to the sound of Baroque music in a ballroom that seems to be a crystal-chandeliered stable. The interior of the riding school, the 1735 work of Fischer von Erlach the Younger, makes it Europe's most elegant sports arena.

The performance schedule is fairly consistent throughout the year. From September to June, evening performances are held mostly on weekends and morning exercises with music are held mostly on weekdays. Booking months ahead is good idea for the main show, morning exercise tickets are a bit easier to get. Pick up tickets at the office under the Michaelerplatz rotunda dome. Otherwise tickets are available at the visitor center in Michaelerplatz (Tuesday–Saturday 9–4) and at Josefsplatz on the day of the morning exercise, 9–5, or online.

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Michaelerplatz 1, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-533–9031
Sights Details
Rate Includes: From €53; morning exercises from €19; guided tour €19, Closed late Jul. and Aug., Aug.–June

Spittelberg Quarter

7th District/Neubau

The Spittelberg is like a slice of Old Vienna, a perfectly preserved little enclave that allows you to experience the 18th century by strolling along cobblestone pedestrian streets lined with pretty Baroque town houses. The quarter—one block northwest of Maria-Theresien-Platz off the Burggasse—offers a fair visual idea of the Vienna that existed outside the city walls a century ago. Most buildings have been replaced, but the engaging 18th-century survivors at Burggasse 11 and 13 are adorned with religious and secular decorative sculpture, the latter with a niche statue of St. Joseph, the former with cherubic work-and-play bas-reliefs. Around holidays, particularly Easter and Christmas, the Spittelberg quarter, known for arts and handicrafts, hosts seasonal markets offering unique and interesting wares. Promenaders will also find art galleries and lots of restaurants.

Off Burggasse, Vienna, A-1070, Austria

Stock-im-Eisen

1st District

Set into the building on the west side of Kärntner Strasse is one of the city's odder relics, an ancient tree trunk studded with blacksmiths' nails. Researchers in the 1970s identified the trunk as a 600-year-old spruce. Since the Middle Ages, any apprentice metalworker who came to Vienna to learn his trade hammered a nail into the trunk for good luck. During World War II, when there was talk of moving the relic to a museum in Munich, it mysteriously disappeared (and then reappeared perfectly preserved after the threat of removal had passed).

Kärtner Strasse and Singerstrasse, Vienna, A-1010, Austria

Technisches Museum

14th District/Penzing

About a 10-minute walk from Schönbrunn Palace is the Technical Museum, which traces the evolution of industrial development over the past two centuries. On four floors you'll find actual locomotives from the 19th century, a Tin Lizzie, airplanes from the early days of flying, as well as examples of factory life, how electric lighting took the place of gas lamps, and how mountain highway tunnels are constructed.

Mariahilferstrasse 212, Vienna, A-1140, Austria
01-899–98–0
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €14, Weekdays 9–6, weekends 10–6

The Graben

1st District

One of Vienna's major crossroads, the Graben's unusual width gives it the presence and weight of a city square. Its shape is due to the Romans, who chose this spot for the city's southwestern moat (Graben literally means "moat" or "ditch"). The Graben's centerpiece is the effulgently Baroque Pestsäule, or Plague Column. Erected by Emperor Leopold I between 1687 and 1693 as thanks to God for delivering the city from a particularly virulent plague, today the representation looks more like a host of cherubs doing their best to cope with the icing of a wedding cake wilting under a hot sun. Protestants may be disappointed to learn that the foul figure of the Pest also stands for the heretic plunging away from the "true faith" into the depths of hell.

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Between Kärntnerstrasse and Kohlmarkt, Vienna, A-1010, Austria

Third Man Portal

1st District

This doorway (up the incline) was made famous in 1949 by the classic film The Third Man. It was here that Orson Welles, as the malevolently knowing Harry Lime, stood hiding in the dark, only to have his smiling face illuminated by a sudden light from the upper-story windows of the house across the alley. To get to this apartment building from the nearby Schottenkirche, follow Teinfaltstrasse one block west to Schreyvogelgasse on the right.

Tiergarten Schönbrunn

13th District/Hietzing

Part of the imperial summer residence of Schönbrunn, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the world's oldest zoo has retained its original Baroque design, but new settings have been created for both the animals and the public so that entertainment is combined with conservation and education. Founded in 1752, Schönbrunn Zoo is the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world and also one of the most popular--- it has been voted Europe's best zoo five times. The more than 700 animal species housed here include koalas, lions, pandas, hippos, orangutans, and Siberian Tigers. There's also a fantastic canopy trail with a suspension bridge through the forest for up-close views of birds and open-air terrariums.

Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse, Vienna, A-1130, Austria
01-877–92–940
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €22, Open Daily 9 a.m. Closing time -- between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. depends on the season.

Tiroler House

13th District/Hietzing

This Tyrolean-style building to the west of the Gloriette was a favorite retreat of Empress Elisabeth; it now includes a restaurant.

Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse, Vienna, A-1130, Austria

Uhrenmuseum

1st District

At the far end of Kurrentgasse, which is lined with attractive 18th-century houses, the appealing Uhrenmuseum's three floors display clocks and watches—more than 3,000 timepieces—dating from the 15th century to the present. The ruckus of bells and chimes pealing forth on any hour is impressive, but for the full cacophony try to be here at noon. Enter to the right on the Schulhof side of the building.

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Schulhof 2, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-533–2265
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €7, Tues.–Sun. 10–6, Closed Mon.

Universität Wien

1st District

The oldest university in the German-speaking world (founded in 1365), the main section of the university is a massive block in Italian Renaissance style designed by Heinrich Ferstel and built between 1873 and 1884. Statues representing 38 important men of letters decorate the front of the building, while the rear, which encompasses the library (with nearly 2 million volumes), is adorned with sgraffito.

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Universitätskirche

1st District

The church was built around 1630. Its flamboyant Baroque interior contains a fine trompe-l'oeil ceiling fresco by Andrea Pozzo, the master of visual trickery, who was imported from Rome in 1702 for the job. You might hear a Mozart or Haydn mass sung here in Latin on many Sundays.

Dr.-Ignaz-Seipl-Platz, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-5125–2320

Volksgarten

1st District

Just opposite the Hofburg is a green oasis with a rose garden, a shining white 19th-century Greek temple, and a rather wistful white-marble monument to Empress Elisabeth, Franz Josef's Bavarian wife, who died of a dagger wound inflicted by an Italian anarchist in Geneva in 1898. If not overrun with latter-day hippies, these can offer spots to sit for a few minutes while contemplating Vienna's most ambitious piece of 19th-century city planning: the Ringstrasse.

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Burgring 1, Vienna, A-1010, Austria

Votivkirche

9th District/Alsergrund

When Emperor Franz Josef was a young man, he was strolling along the Mölker Bastei, one of the few remaining portions of the old city wall, when he was taken unawares and stabbed in the neck by a Hungarian revolutionary. He survived, and in gratitude his family ordered that a church be built exactly on the spot he was looking at when he was struck down. The neo-Gothic church was built of gray limestone with two openwork turrets and was finally completed in 1879, after 23 years of construction.

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Rooseveltplatz, Vienna, A-1090, Austria
01-406–1192
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Rate Includes: Tues. - Fri. 4-6, Weekends 9-1, Closed Mon.

Wagenburg

13th District/Hietzing

Most of the carriages on display here are still roadworthy, and in fact Schönbrunn dusted off the black royal funeral carriage for the burial ceremony of Empress Zita in 1989. There are also a number of sleighs in the collection, including one upholstered in leopard skin. Today a special Sisi trail leads through the museum; on show are some of her famous gowns, carriages, personal objects, and paintings, highlighting the empress's life from marriage to her tragic death.

Schönbrunner Schlossstrasse, Vienna, A-1130, Austria
01-877–3244
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €10, Daily 9 - 5

Wagner Werk Museum Postsparkasse

1st District

One of modern architecture's greatest curiosities, the Post Office Savings Bank was designed in 1904 by Otto Wagner, whom many consider the father of 20th-century architecture. In his manifesto Modern Architecture, he condemned 19th-century revivalist architecture and pleaded for a modern style that honestly expressed modern building methods. Accordingly, the exterior walls of the Post Office Savings Bank are mostly flat and undecorated; visual interest is supplied merely by varying the pattern of the bolts used to hold the marble slabs in place. Later architects embraced Wagner's beliefs wholeheartedly, although they used different, truly modern building materials: glass and concrete rather than marble.

Georg-Coch-Platz 2, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-53453--33088
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Sat. and Sun., Museum: weekdays 9–5, Sat. 10–5

Wien Museum Beethoven Pasqualatihaus

1st District

Beethoven lived in the Pasqualatihaus multiple times between 1804 and 1815, including while he was composing his only opera, Fidelio. He also composed his Seventh Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto when this was his home. Today this small apartment houses a commemorative museum (in distressingly modern style). After navigating the narrow and twisting stairway, you might well ask how he maintained the jubilant spirit of the works he wrote there. Note particularly the prints that show what the window view out over the Mölker bastion was like when Beethoven lived here, and the current view too—it's a fantastic fourth-floor look out onto the Ringstrasse.

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8 Mölker Bastei, Vienna, A-1010, Austria
01-535–8905
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Rate Includes: €5, Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. 10–1 and 2–6

Wien Museum Karlsplatz Open Air

4th District/Wieden

Housed in an incongruously modern building at the east end of the Karlsplatz, this museum, which possesses Viennese historical artifacts and treasures (everything from 16th-century armor to paintings by Schiele and Klimt to the preserved facade of Otto Wagner's Die Zeit offices) is closed for renovation until roughly 2024. During renovations, the museum exterior will host rotating (and free!) open air exhibits surrounding the building.

Karlsplatz, Vienna, A-1040, Austria
01-505–8747–0
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Daily 10 a.m.–6pm

Zentralfriedhof

11th District/Simmering

Austrians take seriously the pomp of a funeral, brass bands and all, and nowhere is that more evident than the Central Cemetery. A streetcar from Schwarzenbergplatz takes you to the front gates of the cemetery that contains the graves of most of Vienna's great composers: Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, the Johann Strausses (father and son), and Arnold Schönberg, among others. Find your way around with the help of an audio guide, which can be rented for a small fee. For a hefty fee, Fiakers are on standby for a carriage ride around the beautiful grounds. The monument to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a memorial only; the approximate location of his unmarked grave can be seen at the now deconsecrated St. Marx-Friedhof at Leberstrasse 6–8.

Simmeringer Hauptstrasse, Vienna, A-1110, Austria

ZOOM Kindermuseum

7th District/Neubau

Kids of all ages enjoy this outstanding museum, where they can experience the fine line between the real and virtual worlds, making screenplays come to life by becoming directors, sound technicians, authors, and actors. For the little ones there's an "ocean" where kids and parents enter a play area inhabited by magical underwater creatures. The museum operates like little workshops, with the staff very hands-on and available to the children. You must book your tickets for a specific admission time, so reserve via the website before you go.

Museumsplatz 1, Vienna, A-1070, Austria
01-524–7908
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €16--18 for family ticket, Closed Mon., Tues-Fri. 8:30-4; Weekends 10-4