one day in vienna

One Day in Vienna: How To Enjoy Vienna in a Day

Known for its reserved beauty, extensive green spaces, and ornate palaces, Vienna, Austria is an easy favorite among travelers exploring Europe. Perfect for short city breaks or long layovers, this refined capital makes a splash without drenching you: Vienna has the perfect combination of things to do and see without overwhelming the senses.

In this ultimate itinerary for enjoying Vienna in a day, you’ll find a morning-til-night guide to spend a precious few hours here. While just one day in Vienna might not be enough to see all the city has to offer, it’s a great introduction to the city’s immense palaces, distinguished museums, and historic squares… and, of course, its unending selection of delicious pastries

1 day in vienna
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Vienna in a Day

While Vienna is one of the smaller European capitals, its rich history means it is packed with interesting destinations and beautiful spots you won’t want to miss. Highlights include the historic Innere Stadt district, parts of which date back to the Roman ages, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the ornate Schönbrunn Palace, considered by many as the most beautiful palace in Europe.

For travelers spending one day in Vienna, you’ll have your pick of fabulous attractions, museums, galleries, and experiences in the city. You won’t be able to do it all, but if you stick to the easily walkable historic center and make a good plan of how you’d like to spend your time, you can maximum your experience of Vienna in a day.

If you’re limited to spending just one day in Vienna, you might consider choosing a half-day tour or even a full-day tour as an easy and convenient way to see as much of the city as you can with your limited time. Lokafy offers by far the BEST walking tours of the city, private and highly customizable to your interests, all led by well-informed local guides.

These are some of the stand-out options if you’re looking for the perfect way to explore the city with a guide:

  • Lokafy Walking Tours: 2-6 hour customizable itineraries at super affordable prices
  • Food Tours Vienna: The city’s best food tours, including 4 hours of exploring markets, bakeries, artisan shops, and more

Is 1 Day Enough in Vienna?

One day in Vienna is not enough to see the city in its entirety or even to see all of the city’s best attractions. To truly enjoy all the city’s major attractions without being rushed, we recommend staying for at least three days in Vienna.

However, one day in Vienna will still allow you to explore some incredible sites, see some beautiful landmarks, and taste some delicious foods. You’ll have a lovely taste of this beautiful capital!

Is It Worth It To Go to Vienna for a Day?

While spending one day in Vienna – even if it isn’t enough time to see the whole city – is certainly a treat, it’s still well worth it to go to Vienna for a day. Whether you’re exploring Vienna with teens, kids, or just on your own, there is plenty to see and do that you’ll love. Try to stretch that itinerary if you can, as spending more time in Vienna will allow you to discover so much more to love about the city.

Spend the rest of your time in Austria exploring the rest of the country’s popular and beautiful cities (a sustainable Graz getaway is a favorite city break!), gorgeous mountains, and alpine lakes. It’s easy to fall in love with Austria.

Best Hostels and Hotels in Vienna

Can I Visit Schönbrunn Palace With Just One Day in Vienna?

Before diving into our itinerary, here’s the big question – is it possible to see the famous Schönbrunn Palace if you have just one day in Vienna?

While it’s certainly possible with just one day in Vienna, visiting Schönbrunn Palace means you won’t get to see almost anything else in the city. That’s why we don’t recommend it.

For many travelers, a day trip to Schönbrunn Palace is a highlight of a trip to Vienna, though it isn’t very feasible for those spending just one day in Vienna. To do the sprawling palace and manicured gardens justice, you’ll need at least 3-4 hours. When factoring in the 30-minute drive or transit ride each way, to the palace, it can really eat into your day.

Thankfully, there are other glorious palaces to explore in central Vienna, including Hofsburg Palace and Belvedere Palace. On a short Vienna itinerary, it’s best to stick to these ornate masterpieces – Schönbrunn can unjustly steal their thunder, anyways.

one day vienna
kavramm / Depositphotos

One Day in Vienna

Start the Day at Demel

Is there any better way to start a day in Vienna than by enjoying some of the city’s very best pastries, cakes, and famous apple strudel? If you have a sweet tooth, get ready for the experience of a lifetime in Vienna.

Vienna is filled with historic and ornate cafes that will take your breath away, including plenty in the historic center (Innere Stadt), perfectly located for you to continue exploring the neighborhood after breakfast. Though Vienna has its fair share of more modern cafes as well, there’s nothing like a bit of historic glamour to give you a welcome to the city.

Demel is a historic cafe in Vienna, a mainstay in the city for more than 200 years. Its history and experience show both in the gorgeous building and the impeccable pastries and cakes that await. While the cafe can get quite busy, we highly recommend it, especially for first-time visitors.

If Demel is just too crowded for your liking, Cafe Central is another favorite and perhaps our number-one choice in Vienna. The arched ceilings and second-to-none pastries are impressive. Another favorite in this popular neighborhood, it can get crowded, though we thought the line was much more speedy than it was at Demel.

Explore Innere Stadt + Take in Rooftop Views

With plenty of pedestrian streets and squares, Vienna’s Old Town – called the Innere Stadt – is easy to explore on foot, making for an easy way to spend the morning and early afternoon. It’s easy to navigate along the pedestrian streets of Highlights of a visit to Old Town include the following:

  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral
  • Wiener Staatsoper: Vienna’s State Opera House
  • Rathaus: Vienna’s City Hall
  • Albertina, a world-class art museum with gorgeous staterooms
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum, with it’s stunning artwork and incredible Egyptian galleries
  • Hofburg Palace

While we generally steer clear of the hop-on-hop-off buses, Vienna has one if you’re interested. Even better, take the vintage tram that runs along the Ringstrasse ring road, and you’ll see plenty of the Old Town’s stunning architecture along the way.

You certainly won’t miss St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a towering masterpiece and the most distinctive feature of Vienna’s Old Town. The church’s interior is stunning, with the most impressive view being from the Western Galley near the organ.

However, don’t settle for just a quick walk around the church – make sure to head to the rooftop for stunning views over the rest of Vienna. Even the mosaic-tiled roof will impress you! The cost of taking an elevator up the North Tower is six euros, though you can also walk. The taller South Tower doesn’t have an elevator.

Visit Hofburg Palace

Located in the heart of Vienna’s historic district, Hofburg Palace often plays second fiddle to Schonbrunn, but don’t be fooled: this former residence of the imperial family is actually one of the largest palace complexes in the world, and is dripping with all the opulence you’d expect. Filled with different museums, event halls, and more, you could easily spend days exploring this palace alone.

On a short visit, make sure to visit the impressive Imperial Treasury, considered the most important treasury in the world. You’ll find all the jewels of the famed Hapsburgs, including the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, the star of the collection. The Imperial Apartments are another highlight, and tours take visitors to 24 regal rooms designed in the ornate Rococo style.

Hofburg Palace is also home to the famed Spanish Riding School, so if you have a bit more time in Vienna, make sure to stick around check out a show – it’s a city highlight.

Best Hostels and Hotels in Vienna

Lunch with the Locals

If you’re looking to make the most of a short day, grab a quick lunch and save time to continue exploring Vienna. The falafel at Garbanzo is perfect for a quick takeaway or sit-down option, but even better, choose something a little more local: a Wiener Würstelstand. Throughout Vienna you’ll find food stalls selling sausages with all the fixings, and cold beer, a cheap, filling, and traditional way to send lunch.

Favorites in Innere Stadt include Wurstelstand am Hohen Markt or, even better, Zum Scharfen Rene with its beautiful view of Schwarzenbergplatz. These are true food stands, so enjoy the eats while standing around the bar or take them away and find a nearby bench with views of the historic city. You can’t find a better choice!

Belvedere Palaces

If you’re not sick of palaces after spending the morning in Hofburg Palace, visiting the twin Belvedere Palaces just a stone’s throw from Innere Stadt is a highlight of any trip to Vienna. Consisting of Lower Belvedere and Upper Belvedere, completed in 1716 and 1724 respectively, these palaces are both massive, meaning you couldn’t fully explore both in a day, let alone just an afternoon!

Hit the highlights by visiting the Marble Room and the impressive art collections at Upper Belvedere Palace. Upper Belvedere Palace is also home to one of the world’s most recognizable pieces of art – Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. Another recognizable work of art in Upper Belvedere is one of Jacques Louis David’s famous portraits of Napolean Bonaparte on horseback; it’s one of five versions.

Another building worth exploring on the property is the Orangerie, named for its use in housing the palace’s orange trees annually during the winter months. Don’t overlook the palace gardens either, as these are a manicured sight to behold.

Take in a Show

Vienna is known for its fine classical music and opera, and taking in one of these fine performances in some of the city’s most beautiful buildings is a memorable way to end a day jam-packed day of exploring the city. No experience or knowledge of classical music or opera is needed for an unforgettable night!

While you’ll find options throughout Vienna to watch performances, some of the best options are at Hofburg Palace, Schonbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or St. Peter’s Church. You should purchase tickets online in advance before adding one of these events to your Vienna itinerary – the most popular events can sell out fast.

vienna in a day
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Vienna at Christmas

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the possibility that you’re planning to visit Vienna during the holiday season – a fantastic choice! You must check out the city’s famous Christmas markets, even if you’re only in Vienna for a short time. They glitter and gleam with thousands of sparkling lights and gifts, goodies, and mulled wine.

While Vienna’s Christmas markets are overshadowed by their German cousins, Vienna’s markets are hidden gems and the perfect spot for Christmas shopping and reveling in the festivity of the season. The city hosts several different markets, though the best are located in the heart of the historic center: Freyung, Rathausplatz, and Maria Theresien Platz.

When should you visit the Christmas market in Vienna? Head to the market in the late afternoon and evening to enjoy the full experience, Christmas lights included. Consider an evening spent market-hopping and sampling traditional treats as dinner, just make sure to take it easy on the mulled wine.

Traveling on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or even into January? You’ll find markets that are still open and well worth visiting! While hours and dates vary from year to year, it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re visiting during or after Christmas – they’re no less magic!

1 Day in Vienna

If you love the baroque and historic, it will be very hard for you to leave this city which seems to be made entirely of stucco, gilding, and imposing statues. Even if history isn’t your thing, you’ll have trouble pulling yourself away from Vienna’s cozy cafes, trend-setting galleries, and bustling markets after just one day. Perhaps your day in Vienna will be just the push you need to start planning your return trip.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.