In-depth walking tour of Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria - Beautiful flower arrangements in Volksgarten garden near Heldenplatz Vienna, Austria…such a melody: Mozart, Strauss and the Blue Danube waltz! We heard and imagined so much about this city and about its beauty that it became our dream to visit it. And finally we had the opportunity and we were very excited. Read on about our experience visiting Vienna, Austria.

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What to expect when visiting Vienna, Austria

Our schedule allowed for two days in Vienna. One full day for visiting Old Vienna and the second day for visiting Schonbrunn Palace. We found a great hotel with easy access to transportation and free parking since we knew it was difficult and expensive to find parking for our rental car in central Vienna. After a short walk to the team station and a 20 minute ride, the tram dropped us off just in front of the beautiful Opera building. It was so much emotion to finally get to walk in Old Vienna…the dream became reality!

We made our way inside the sumptuous Opera building but we couldn’t visit at that time (early in the morning) and the music shows were only running later at night. Outside the Opera building a bunch of ticket salesmen dressed in fake Mozart costumes invited us to music and ballet concerts…we felt a little bit like visiting Las Vegas…where you are assaulted by show ticket sellers. And they were not the only ones…the town was filled with concert ticket sellers dressed in 18 century clothes and wearing big white wigs. A bit disappointed at the beginning, with our map in hand, we finally started our tour of beautiful Vienna.

Vienna, Austria – Beautiful buildings along Karntner Strasse open the way from the Opera to central Vienna
Vienna, Austria - Beautiful buildings along Karntner Strasse open the way towards from the Opera to central Vienna
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Vienna is a large city, filled with tourists but a beautiful city. We were a little disappointed because big cities are not really for us. We had to walk a lot to get from one attraction to the other…quite a bit more than we expected. This feeling became even stronger because we arrived in Vienna from the beautiful and cozy Salzburg. Just be prepared to walk a lot when you visit Vienna.

My favorite tourist attractions in Vienna

Vienna has so many tourist attractions that it is difficult to pick what to visit in one day. Based on our experience traveling with our children we picked things we could do together.

  • Hofburg Castle – the Cici Museum and apartments was very interesting and worth the money. Since we were planning to visit Schonbrunn Castle the following day we purchased a combo ticket which saved us quite a bit of money.
  • Old Town – walk through the Graben pedestrian area and visit the Vienna Dom church
  • The museum quarter – lots of large museums near the Hofburg castle. In addition you can walk by the Parliament and beautiful City Hall buildings
  • Mozart Music show – there are so many street vendors trying to sell you tickets to a Mozart concert. In the end we did purchase tickets to the only family show we found which turned out to be a great show with music and ballet.
  • Schonbrunn Castle – this requires an entire day to enjoy this magnificent palace.

With our list of attractions and a map in hand we started exploring this beautiful city. However, we were not prepared for how large the city truly was. So, we walked a lot and we were very tired at the end of the day.

Vienna Old Town is filled with history…and tourists

Following the crowds and our map from the Opera building where our tram left us, we made our way to the large Graben pedestrian area which is teeming with tourists, shops and street performers. The Vienna Dom church dominates this entire area and it is an impressive building both outside and inside. We took our time visiting this beautiful church.

Vienna, Austria – Walking around the pedestrian area called Graben
Vienna, Austria - Walking around the pedestrian area called Graben
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If you are planning a trip to Vienna, you can stay at the beautiful Hotel Bosei which has a great location, free breakfast, free parking and easy access to public transportation. If you’re looking for another location closer to central Vienna, you can find great hotel prices here.

Hofburg Palace and Museum

The large and imposing Hofburg Palace is easily accessible from the pedestrian area. It is an impressive building as we saw it from a distance and we got closer to it. We could imagine old horse carriages pulling in front and important people descending being dressed ready for a ball. We decided to spend some time visiting the large museum inside including the apartments of the mysterious princess Cici. We enjoyed very much the museum and we highly recommend it.

Vienna, Austria – The beautiful entrance to the Hofburg Castle at sunset
Vienna, Austria - The beautiful entrance to the Hofburg Castle at sunset
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The entire area around the Hofburg Palace is filled with history and…Franz Joseph. He is the founder of modern Vienna and most of the museums have been build during his reign. This is the reason why right inside the Hofburg Palace area you find the National Library and the museum of the Austrian archives.

If you are visiting Vienna, you can find discounted Vienna museum tickets, the Vienna Museum Pass, a beautiful city walking tour as well as book a beautiful day trip to Salzburg from Vienna.

The Museum Quarter

After visiting the Hofburg Museum and Palace we walked by the National Library building and the small Volkspark with beautiful flower arrangements. We crossed the busy Burgring street that was filled with tour busses. We followed our map towards the Austrian Parliament building and further down the amazing City Hall (Rathaus) building.

Vienna, Austria – Front view of the Vienna City Hall building
Vienna, Austria - Front view of the Vienna City Hall building
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Even though we were really thinking about visiting the large Natural History Museum we decided not to do that since our kids were very tired and instead we took a break inside the Volkspark city park and have some lunch.

The Danube river…is not blue

I still wanted to get to the Danube River since I have always associated Vienna with the Blue Danube from Strauss’ waltzs. Even though I didn’t find it on any tourist attraction list, I really wanted to see the Danube River in Vienna.

Just a childhood fantasy I think, which turned out to cost us a lot of time and effort. Good thing we took a longer break in the park. The Danube area we were able to reach was industrial and dirtier which immediately made me realize that it is out of the tourist path. However, I am glad I saw the Danube River in Vienna.

Vienna, Austria – River Danube passing through Vienna
Vienna, Austria - River Danube passing through Vienna
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This was one mistake we made because we did not realized how far it was for our family. We had to carry our 2 kids (6 and 9 years old) in the back. So we got back in the town center exhausted where is worth to spend your time. I would not recommend to visit the river. The River Danube area closest to the town center was industrial and messy with graphity everywhere.

If you have more time in Vienna, you can take a boat tour of the River Danube as it goes through Vienna.

Attend a Mozart Music Show

This was a difficult decision because we were overwhelmed by the offers. On every street we walked we found vendors bombarding us with music shows. We kept saying no because none of them looked interesting enough for kids and at first we felt like we’re being tricked into buying something much more expensive than it really is.

Eventually, in the afternoon, after visiting the Hofburg Palace we found a family friendly show that included some classical music and ballet. It is hard to recommend which music shows to pick. You just have to take a look and choose for yourself when you visit Vienna.

Vienna, Austria – Beautiful interior of the Vienna Opera building
Vienna, Austria - Beautiful interior of the Vienna Opera building
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We attended the music show in the old Auersperg Palace building where we finally relaxed after an entire day of walking. Even though we were a bit nervous about spending a lot of money for a music show, we really enjoyed the music and ballet. Our son however, was so tired that he slept through the entire performance. Our daughter on the other hand loved the show. In the end, it was a good experience.

Schonbrunn Castle is simply gorgeous

The following day we dedicated to visiting the beautiful Schonbrunn Castle. This beautiful palace was modeled after the famous French Versailles Palace. Even the lavish gardens are laid out in a similar fashion to the intricate gardens of Versailles.

Schonbrunn Castle, Austria – Tourists on a horse-driven carriage touring the vast gardens
Schonbrunn Castle, Austria - Tourists on a horse-driven carriage touring the vast gardens
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My favorite travel resources for planning your trip to Vienna, Austria

If you are planning a trip to Vienna, my first advice to you is not to drive in Vienna. Find a hotel, like my favorite Vienna hotel, and come to central Vienna by tram or bus.

Is it worth visiting Vienna, Austria?

We liked Vienna very much even though it was much larger than we expected. There is beautiful architecture in Vienna and lots and lots of history everywhere around. However, it is true that there is nothing exceptional or unique about Vienna. While the museums and tourist attractions are great, there is nothing really spectacular about Vienna. So in a sense, Vienna didn’t live up to our dreams and expectations being a little bit too large and a little bit too common for us. However, Vienna makes for a great tourist destination in Europe.

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