You spend much of a trip to Vienna looking up and around. But there’s a lot to be said for looking down. Which means
a tour of the sewers finding somewhere offering wonderful views of the city. Here some suggestions.
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Viewing & panorama platforms
Some might argue that the best view of Vienna is out the window of a coffee house while holding a small fork loaded with cake. But for something slightly higher up…
The Donauturm (Danube Tower)
This purpose-built viewing tower stands in a big park near the Danube river, so you get clear views across the entire city and beyond. It’s Austria’s tallest building, with fast lifts taking you up to a 360° viewing platform.
As a bonus, a revolving restaurant and coffee house up top let you rest your feet in the company of traditional fare and fine coffee.
It has towers and it’s slap bang in the middle of the city. Sounds like the perfect place for a top view. And you can indeed – for a small fee – climb the cathedral’s South Tower (343 steps) to get a good look across the rooftops.
You’ll find no coffee shop up there, but it does have a small souvenir shop.
If climbing’s not your thing, then the North Tower has less impressive views, but a lift up to them.
The Giant Ferris Wheel
With a diameter of over 60m, the view across the city rooftops and over the Prater park is rather good.
But it’s the whole experience, rather than the view, that makes the Riesenrad giant Ferris wheel worth a visit.
The wheel forms a landmark part of the city, having provided a famous backdrop for memorable scenes in The Third Man and other movies.
Most people just take a ride in a wagon, but you can also book a dinner, coffee or other gastronomic experience on board.
This is a “thing” built on top of a hill in front of the Habsburg summer palace at Schönbrunn.
I’m sure there’s a technical word to describe the Gloriette, but it basically consists of an intricate façade constructed to give palace inhabitants something nice to look at from their bedroom window. We’ve all done it.
Anyway, you can look down from the roof over quite a bit of Vienna. It’s not the very best view of the city, but it’s a pretty good one (especially in summer with the Schönbrunn gardens and palace below).
As with the Riesenrad, the experience counts as much as the view – you’re standing on a bit of 18th-century history. Inevitably, the Gloriette also houses a coffee shop.
Sofitel bar and restaurant
The new Sofitel in Vienna has already become a bit of an iconic spot, despite only opening this century. Located on the banks of the Danube canal, the hotel’s Das LOFT restaurant and bar offers a clear view across the old town rooftops.
Incidentally, “Das LOFT” is possibly even more famous for the illuminated ceiling designed by Pipilotti Rist.
If you don’t mind travelling to the edge of the city, Kahlenberg “mountain” extends to just under 500m above sea level and looks over the city and the Danube valley. It has an observation tower at the top, as well as (surprise!) a restaurant and coffee house.
You can reach Kahlenberg by car, but also by bus: line 38A to the Kahlenberg stop.
Haus des Meeres
An old flak tower close to the centre houses a rather fine and large aquarium and vivarium (the Haus des Meeres). And the roof-top terrace with glass walls offers a 360° panorama of the entire city.
The Ocean Sky restaurant and bar up there allows you to sup your melange with views across the Viennese skyline. I’d advise making a reservation, should you choose to visit, especially if you want to sit out on the terrace.
Reach the top through a dedicated Panorama Lift inside the entrance foyer to the Haus des Meeres.
A free-to-access viewing terrace, the MQ Libelle sits atop the Leopold Museum in the grounds of the MuseumsQuartier.
Go up using a lift on the outside of the building. You’ll find views across toward the old town (and a small café up top, too).
Strangely, the best view from the Libelle might actually be of the Libelle event building to one side of the platform. The glass exterior creates the effect of a shimmering, translucent silk scarf. Impressive.
A panorama lift takes you up into the dome of this glorious 18th-century church. This gives you excellent views of the Karlskirche’s ceiling frescoes, but also the chance to look out the windows across to the north and west of Vienna.
A particular highlight is seeing the famous Musikverein and Künstlerhaus more or less from above, so you can appreciate the buildings much better.