The Vienna Tourist Board once provided the media (people like me) with statistics on the most popular attractions in the city. According to their numbers, these were the top 10 sights.
The ranking is a little old but probably not too far off the truth. However, you might prefer to take a look at my personal top 10 sights.
1. Schönbrunn Palace
A former seasonal home to the Habsburgs and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, you can just wander around the outside for free or take a tour of the magnificent interiors.
Tip: The seasonal markets in the forecourt at Christmas, Easter and New Year deserve a special mention: gorgeous ambience and high-quality stalls.
2. Vienna Zoo
Many of those Schönbrunn visitors also find their way into what is the world’s oldest working zoo, given its location in the grounds of the palace.
Tip: Various indoor attractions make this a super place to visit in winter, too.
3. The Albertina Museum
This museum in a converted palais has one of the world’s finest art collections, featuring works by Michelangelo, Albrecht Dürer (including the world-famous hare), Rembrandt, Rubens, Manet, Monet, Cézanne, Klimt, Warhol, Picasso, and many more.
As well as a permanent exhibition, the Albertina offers prestigious themed short-term exhibitions.
Tip: many people don’t realise that an entry ticket gets you into all the various art exhibitions, but also includes a self-guided tour of the palais staterooms.
4. The Riesenrad giant ferris wheel
Vienna’s Riesenrad counts as a city landmark and a popular stop on any tour of the city.
Much of the Ferris wheel’s fame comes from star appearances in such classics as The Third Man and Before Sunrise. The views of the city from up top are pretty good, too.
Tip: the Riesenrad guards an entrance to the huge Prater entertainment complex, which kids will love. Madame Tussauds is just across the square, for example.
5. The Hofburg
The Habsburgs’ original seat of power and city residence dominates Vienna’s center.
The Hofburg has numerous attractions, notably the Sisi museum, Imperial Apartments, Imperial Silver Collection, and Imperial Treasury.
The squares and courtyards are freely accessible, so you can wander around the outside without a ticket.
6. Kunsthistorisches Museum
Vienna’s top museum for historical art features exhibitions and permanent collections covering the antiquities through to Renaissance and Baroque art.
Tip: if you’re pushed for time, visit the Kunstkammer section: a collection of curiosities and wonders with some quite breathtaking exhibits.
The early 18th-century summer residence of Prince Eugene is now a venue for exhibitions and home to another huge art archive (which includes the world’s biggest Klimt collection).
As with the Albertina, marvel at both the permanent exhibition, the temporary art exhibitions, and the interiors in the two Belvedere Palaces that flank a set of landscaped Baroque gardens.
Tip: drop into Upper Belvedere to see one of the world’s most famous paintings: Klimt’s The Kiss.
8. Donauturm (Danube tower)
This tall and newly-refurbished viewing tower has an observation deck plus a revolving restaurant and coffee house. Great (obviously) for views of Vienna and the Danube.
Tip: the Danube flows through the city a little to the north of the actual centre. So if you’re around the old town and wondering why the Danube seems so small, you’re actually probably looking at the River Wien or the Danube Canal.
9. Kunst Haus Wien
The famous artist Hundertwasser designed the Kunst Haus Wien, which features many of his works in a dedicated museum, but also hosts a regular world-class photo exhibition.
The location offers far more than the common Hundertwasserhaus tour stop, since you can actually go inside.
Tip: be sure to visit the artfully-designed café, too. Trust me.
10. Naturhistorisches Museum
And, finally, Vienna’s Natural History Museum, where there is much debate as to whether the collections or the building itself are deserving of most praise.
(The same might be said of many of Vienna’s museums. But this one has dinosaurs.)
Tip: catch the Venus von Willendorf statue inside, which is around 29,000 years old.