Top 5 Things To Do in Vienna

Vienna, Austria was absolutely amazing. I wish we had spent more time there and maybe a little less in Dublin (sorry Ireland!). We had roughly two full days in Vienna and I could have probably had another two more to make it a well-rounded trip. However, hindsight is 20/20 and we adored the time we did spend there so we will probably be planning another Austria trip in the coming years. Here are my top 5 things to do in Vienna with a few handy tips for each!


A Lippizaner stallion at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna
I’m still in awe at these horses and we visited four months ago!

Get in line early at the Spanish Riding School – I’m a ranch girl and for me, the most earth-shattering experience was the Spanish Riding School where the Lippizzaner stallions are trained and shown. This place is the only institution in the world where classical horsemanship has been practiced and cultivated for more than 450 years. I had a goofy grin on my face the entire time we were in the show. These stallions are meticulously trained to execute finite exhibitions – as a “horse person” I was in awe at the lead changes, pacing and sheer discipline these horses exemplified. If you have ever ridden or owned a horse (or wanted to) this show is for you. Tips: Get there early, because if you aren’t willing to spend the $$ on an actual seat, the standing room only parts fill up quickly. Visit the gift store well in advance of the show because you need about 20 minutes or so in the gift shop and you need to be in line to get in about 30 minutes before doors open so just plan on arriving 1-1 1/4 hours in advance. You won’t regret it.

Lose yourself in time at the Museum of Military History – The Ninja and I are big history buffs, particularly WWI and WWII so it was only appropriate that we visit the Museum of Military History in Vienna, also known as Heeresgeschichtliches Museum or HGM (don’t ask me to pronounce that). This museum documents the Austrian military through exhibits of weaponry, tanks, uniforms, flag, airplanes and lots of really interesting pieces. It actually houses the car that Archduke Franz

The car that was carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated in 1914
The car that was carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated in 1914

Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophie were assassinated in on June 28, 1914, essentially starting WWI. If you aren’t familiar with that turn of events, you should read this. Although the museum starts with events in the early 17th century, both mine and the Ninja’s grandfathers fought in WWII, so I was particularly interested in seeing how Austria was affected by the German campaign in western Europe in the 30s/40s and how politics played a role in the effects on society. Tips: Allow plenty of time for this one, I’d say 2-3 hours, especially if you are one of those people who can be transported to a different time easily. It’s not near the city center so take public transportation or your feet will be tired.

Visit with the locals at a heuriger – This was an activity that my frolleague (that’s a friend + colleague) highly recommended and boy, was he right!  These taverns are famous for their local wines and low-key atmosphere. True to form, we had to venture away from the tourist areas to find one but the food was delicious. It’s a buffet-style display of salads, meats, pastas and of course, desserts, that are weighed on your plate. I am not someone who likes to eat cold beef but I had some prime rib that was so good, it could have been frozen for all I cared. The Ninja had a mess of ham & veggies so I avoided it but prime rib, ham and pasta I had were all scrumptious. Oh and so was the apple tart/fritter/pie thing. The locals were friendly and welcoming and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our libations. Tips:  Bring cash. Order the wine. Never turn down dessert.

A unicorn horn - aka a narwhal's snout
A unicorn’s horn – aka a narwhal’s tooth/tusk

Oogle the  jewels at the Imperial Treasury – Again, if you are a world history buff, this place will be your jam, officially called the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien but for those of us who have no foreign language speaking ability, the Imperial Treasury will do. Remember the Habsburgs? Yeah, a sizeable hunk of their loot is in this museum as well many relics from the Holy Roman Empire, including the Imperial Crown and the Holy Lance, which is supposedly the lance that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross. We also saw a relic that is believed to contain pieces of Jesus’ cross. If that’s not enough, there were some pretty awesome royal “hand me downs” including a narwhal tooth which was thought to be the horn of a unicorn. I can’t make this up, folks. In addition to world war history, I am also entranced by the ins-and-outs of monarchies and this museum did not disappoint. Tips: Try to get a student discount, this one runs a tad pricey at 12 euros per person. Still worth it, but save if you can, right?

A Christmas market in Vienna, Austria
Like a scene out of a movie

DO NOT leave Austria (in the winter) without visiting a Christmas market – When we started planning our trip in July, my first big excited happy dance came in the realization that we would be in Austria and Germany during the Christmas season and would therefore be able to shop at Christmas markets. Christmas markets are a cocktail of merriment – one part Bing Crosby’s Christmas album, one part “It’s a Wonderful Life,” one part craft fair and two parts mulled cider. For nostalgic Christmas-addicts like myself, it’s a dream come true. They are commonplace in Vienna in December and there are a multitude to choose from – we attended three different markets in just two days! Try your hand haggling with vendors over handmade ornaments, knitted gifts and candy galore. I’m waxing nostalgic over here just recalling our time in Vienna and planning my next Christmastime trip to Europe. Tips: Allow lots of time. Don’t do all your shopping at just one market – attend several! Take a friend and partake in any one of hot beverages served in ridiculously adorable Christmas mugs. 

So that’s how we spent our two full days in Vienna and I can’t wait to go back to Austria. If you missed my first few posts about our Europe trip, get caught up here. And don’t forget to sign up for email notifications so you won’t miss future posts!

Have I convinced you to travel to Europe yet? Wait until I tell you about Paris, London and Berlin!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~