There are many famous Vienna attractions to visit. From visiting the Schönbrunn palace to walking through the historic city center and tasting the famous schnitzel or Sacher torte – the list could go on.
Five Unique Vienna Attractions
Having lived in this wonderful city for almost ten years, I slowly discovered that it is the less advertised activities that give Vienna its unique charm. As a local I have found the beautifully secluded, underrated, and quirky spots in Vienna.
More often than not, they are hiding in plain sight and are easily accessible to anyone who looks for them.
Here are five of the most noteworthy Vienna attractions you could check out on your next visit.
#1 Have coffee in a greenhouse
Part of the huge Hofburg complex in the heart of the city is an Art Nouveau greenhouse – the Palmenhouse. It is the former home of Habsburg royal family that now houses the residence of Austria’s President and the Prime Minister’s office.
Once used by the emperor as a place of relaxation, it contains the Schmetterlinghouse (Butterflyhouse).
It is a beautiful display of hundreds of butterfly species living in a large tropical rainforest setting.
It is also a famous coffee house where you can enjoy delicious Viennese pastries among exotic plants. It also serves a good selection of wines and cocktails.
Views of Burggarten
In the summer, the terrace of the coffee house opens to views of the Burggarten. This was the former Emperor’s garden and is now a popular city park.
The Schmetterlinghouse is the perfect place for people watching for tourists and locals alike.
#2 Learn how to waltz
You don't have to be Viennese to attend interminable weekly dance classes to master the Viennese waltz. The basics of the famous dance are as commonly practiced as the habit of taking a glass of water with your coffee. In Vienna, we always drink water with coffee.
Most dance schools in the city offer afternoon blitz courses. If you are passing by be sure to join in, you may be ready for the next Viennese Ball.
Local Tip: If you are in the city on the 11.11 at 11.11 o’clock you can practice your waltzing skills in the streets.
November 11 at 11:11
November 11 is the official opening of the ball season, meaning the entire pedestrian area around the Stephansplatz turns into a ballroom. The square is located in front of the Stephansdom cathedral and the two pedestrian arteries (Graben and Kärntner Straße) are filled with people dancing in full formal attire wearing bow ties and white dresses.
The same happens on New Year’s Eve, but in a more relaxed atmosphere. Basically, the Viennese are always happy to put on a show in formal attire. Everybody is welcome to join.
#3 Get a feeling for the Macabre
The taste of the Viennese for spectacle, ceremony, and formality transcends their daily lives to encompass funeral processions as well.
According to a tradition elaborate funeral processions started in the 18th century. The burial was regarded as the last opportunity to impress and take the spotlight. People would devote their time and resources to prepare an extravagant send off for themselves.
If the macabre is of interest:
- You can visit the Vienna Undertakers’ Museum, which exhibits more than 600 curiosities associated with the process.
- Visit the Imperial Burial Vault of the Habsburg dynasty (Kaisergruft). It is located beneath the Capuchin Church in the city center just off Kärntner Straße.
- And Vienna also houses Europe’s second largest cemetery the Zentralfriedhof.
Sznkt Marx Cemetery
My personal favorite is the Sankt Marx cemetery, home to Mozart’s symbolic grave. Mozart was actually thrown into a mass grave somewhere in this cemetery but Vienna now honors him with a symbolic tomb.
Sznkt Marx cemetery also has what I think is most beautiful wild lilac garden in the world.
The St Marx cemetery was in use from 1784-1874. It contains emblematic gravestones covered in wild lilac, as well as the tomb of WA Mozart
How to Get there: The Vienna Undertakers’ Museum (Zentralfriedhof) and the Sankt Marx cemetery are accessible from the city center via tram line 71.
Fun Fact: In Viennese dialect to “take the 71” is a euphemism for dying.
#4 Take a culinary trip through the whole world
Vienna’s largest open-air market is the Naschmarkt and has been in existence since the 16th century. It's current form dates back to the 1920’s.
A traditional mingling pot for visitors, expats, and locals, the Naschmarkt displays stalls selling fresh produce, regional Austrian specialties, and a wide selection of ethnic foods from all over the world.
From Regional Specialties to Food from Around the World
From local cheese, oil, wine, and honey shops, to Turkish home-cooked meals, you can find whatever you need.
It has Indian spices and ingredients and Vietnamese specialties, it really is a culinary tour around the world.
The market has a wide array of cafés and restaurants, brunch spots and wine bars, make sure to keep your eyes and palate enchanted for hours.
One can also browse through several clothing boutiques, or look for bargains at the traditional Saturday flea market.
How to get there: The Naschmarkt is within walking distance from the city center)
#5 Visit the Imperial Cabinet of Natural Curiosities
The Museum of Natural History (Naturhistorisches Museum) is usually overlooked due to its twin sibling. Most tourists visit the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorischesmuseum). It is located on the opposite side of the Maria Theresa monument and square across the street from the Hofburg complex.
Built to accommodate the emperor’s acquisitions, it offers visitors the pleasure to browse through its dusty collections and discover curiosities of nature collected by the Habsburgs from all over the world.
Not only does it display the world’s finest collection of meteorites, but the aficionados can see here the world’s larges fossilized spider and tortoise. You'll also witness the best preserved remains of the now extinct Dodo bird.
Its two most famous residents are the 25,000 year-old statuette of Venus of Willendorf and the world’s oldest figurative sculpture, the 32,000 years old Fanny of Galgenberg.
The newly installed digital planetarium screens a wide-range of informative shows in several languages.
And there are my favorite hidden Vienna Attractions. When you visit the city, it is good to see all the popular tourist spots but make sure to take time to look for the quieter places to take in the unique Vienna energy and relaxed atmosphere.
Anca is shares her adventures and insights of Vienna on her travel blog: Dream, Book, and Travel
Anca is originally from Romania, and has lived and studied across Europe (Germany, UK, France, Austria), before settling in Vienna with her Turkisch husband Sinan. Over the last few years, they have spent their free time exploring their new home of Vienna and traveling around. Follow on Facebook – @book.dreamtravel and Instagram – @dreambookandtravel