24 hours in Vienna
Written by Brian Johnston
Vienna is one of the world’s most seductive cities, rich in imperial glamour, parks, and coffeehouses, and boasting an unparalleled musical heritage and impressive art museums. The grandeur and gaiety of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire are preserved in the frills and flounces of the city’s distinctive baroque architecture, and history and tradition resonate on every street corner. Vienna doesn’t just dwell in its past, however. It celebrates the modern, with some striking contemporary architecture, new interpretations of classic Viennese cuisine in its restaurants, and an increasingly youthful, multicultural vibe, making it the European tourism capital of the moment.
Get an early breakfast at the Naschmarkt in the 4th District. One of Vienna’s best street markets, it is known for its coffee stands and speciality stalls serving gourmet pastries, pickles, and cheeses.
Spend the morning walking around the 1st District old town, full of beautiful baroque architecture and elegant shops. Clamber up the cathedral tower and admire the treasures of the Hofburg Palace.
Have a light lunch at Café Hawelka (Dorotheergasse 6), scarcely changed since the 1930s. Rickety coat racks and peeling theatre posters make you feel as if you’ve strayed into a set for The Third Man.
Reopened after a decade-long renovation, the Kunsthistorisches Museum presents a treasure trove of jewelled objects, exotica, and collectables from the Hapsburgs.
The trendy 7th District just behind Museumsquartier is home to boutiques selling jewellery, clothing, and modern reinterpretations of the traditional Austrian dirndl by new designers.
Chic restaurant Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper (Walfischgasse 5) serves traditional Viennese cuisine with a twist, and perhaps the best schnitzels and Tafelspitz (boiled beef) in town.
Head to The Prater, the city’s favourite recreation area since 1766, for a ride on Vienna’s iconic Ferris wheel, from the top of which you can admire the twinkling lights of the city.
Pop into the American Bar in the old city for a martini and a look at the glorious little onyx-and-black-marble interior designed by celebrated Modernist architect Adolf Loos.
Finish the night at Café Leopold, sleek in marble and pink sandstone, with chandeliers that look like pale floating jellyfish, where resident DJs spin hip-hop until the wee hours.
Distance: 3,983 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
The five lines of the safe, efficient U-Bahn connect the city centre with outlying attractions such as Schönbrunn Palace. Trains run from 6am until midnight.
Vienna has 250 km of designated cycle paths. Its public Citybike system allows bike hire from around 100 bike stations for only a few euros.
Vienna’s cheerful red-and-white trams, especially those that travel around the Ringstrasse that encircles the old town, are a great way to admire the passing architecture.
Horse-drawn carriages (fiakers) are a city icon and a romantic way to see Old Town sights. A 40-minute ride costs around €80.