One Day in Vienna
We all love the classic sugary Vienna, with its cobblestone streets and baroque buildings. Beyond the historic center, though, a more modern metropolis is rising, one where locals are warmly embracing the old while relishing the new.
Vienna is made for two-wheeled exploration. One of the best paths to begin your bike tour is the tree-lined boulevard encircling the old city center. Framed by baroque buildings that look as impressive and wise as old books in libraries, you’ll catch some of this city’s architectural greatest hits on your morning ride. Don’t miss the twin museums (art history and natural history), the Austrian Parliament (Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring 3), the thorny-crowned Vienna City Hall (Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1) and the Vienna Opera (Opernring 2). If biking is not your cup of coffee, taking the red and white trams snaking around the boulevard is a charming alternative.
Optionally, extend your ride onto the Donaukanal. This greenery-lined waterway is smack in the middle of the city and is humming during summer, when fitness fanatics jog around those lounging waterside at beach bars. The street art covering Donaukanal’s walls makes it a colorful open-air gallery too.
Make your way to Naschmarkt (1060 Vienna), the buzzing food market that is a gauntlet of vendors shouting at you to nasch on olives, wasabi peanuts and falafel dunked in hummus. (Tidbit: For an inside look at the market’s finest specialties, take a Naschmarkt Tour with Andreas Mahl, executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna.)
For a more local experience, head out to the Brunnenmarkt (Brunnengasse), where Austrian cheese is sold alongside Turkish grocers. Attached to this market is Yppenplatz, a hip square where, on any given day or night, you’ll find a cheerful mix of people enjoying the weather. If you’re there on a Saturday, stop by the Kärntnerei (1160 Vienna), an open-air eatery serving traditional Carinthian fare, including a jauseteller, an Austrian antipasto featuring local cold cuts and kasnudeln (Carinthian cheese-filled pasta).
In Vienna, it’s never too early for wine. After (or before) lunch, visit Urbanek (Naschmarkt 11), a town favorite whose owner and son will point you in the right direction when choosing from their quality selection of Austrian vino.
Culture lovers will want to make their way to Museumsquartier (Museumsplatz 1, mqw.at), where you can take your pick from a range of world-class art galleries. If you can only visit one, consider the Leopold Museum (leopoldmuseum.org), which houses the beautifully grotesque paintings from artist Egon Schiele.
If you prefer local art, head to the 7th District, where indie boutiques rub shoulders with a crowd of bars and cafés. Be sure to walk Kirchengasse, Westbahnstrasse, Neubaugasse and Siebensterngasse. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on Burggasse 24 (Burggasse 24, burggasse24.com) for vintage fashion and coffee, and We Bandits (Neubaugasse 36), a popular boutique offering Korean and Scandinavian fashion. For something Viennese, visit one of the city’s few remaining artisanal hatmakers, Mühlbauer (Seilergasse 10, muehlbauer.at). This fourth-generation family business is making some of the most beautiful headwear in the world, with its creations having adorned the heads of Yoko Ono and Brad Pitt.
For dinner, you will miss out on one of this country’s proudest achievements if you don’t try the deep-fried, flattened piece of beef known as ze’ schnitzel. Make a reservation at the inventive Austrian gasthaus Skopik & Lohn (Leopoldsgasse 17, skopikundlohn.at) or at Dstrikt Steakhouse (Schubertring 5–7, ritzcarlton.com), where Chef Mahl is serving “ur” schnitzel on the bone.
Vienna’s nightlife is scattered, so you have to know where to go. Experience the city’s craft cocktail scene at Stein’s Botanical Garden (Kolingasse 1, botanicalgarden.at) and try one of their original creations (the Wiener Seemanskracherl is a cocktail dedicated to Vienna), or descend a nondescript staircase into one of the city’s best kept secrets, the speakeasy Clandestino (Stubenring 18, clandestino.at).
No matter the time of day, don’t leave town without visiting a Viennese coffeehouse, where a bow-tied waiter will serve you a sculpted, super-sweet cake with your coffee. Café Landtmann (Universitätsring 4, landtmann.at) is a first-rate experience — you can sip from a golden-handled cup while nibbling on an apfelstrudel floating in vanilla sauce. Another unique experience can be had at Vollpension (Schleifmühlgasse 16, vollpension.wien), a café where local grandmothers create and serve up amazing baked goods. As we said, the old is embraced in the new Vienna.