How to spend a leisurely weekend in Vienna
This is not the ultimate guide, nor it is a list of best things to do or see in Vienna. It is just a recommendation on how to best spend and enjoy a weekend in Vienna.
So, if you are looking for tips and suggestions on what to do in Vienna in 2 days, without feeling like you are running from one tourist spot to another, you came to the right place. As much as I love to pack a lot of sightseeing into my schedule, I also love my relaxed time in a cafe or strolling in a park or simply people watching. So yes, this is about a leisurely spent weekend in Vienna and it puts a lot of accent on the city’s coffee culture. Cause what is leisure without coffee, right? 😉
I will start with what you can see in a weekend in Vienna (in no particular order) and at the end I will add some recommended coffee houses in the city.
What to see in Vienna in 2 days
St Stephen Cathedral
You know the old saying “All roads lead to Rome”? Well in Vienna, I could say “all roads lead to St. Stephen Cathedral”. Stephans Kirkche Or Stephansdome (by its native name) is the symbol of the city and it also gives the name of the market square where it is located: Stephansplats.
The church has four towers, the south tower being the tallest one and from where you get a birds eye view of the city….obviously, only after you’ve climbed the 343 steps leading to the top! While you have to pay to go to the towers, it is free to visit the church inside.
Together with the adjacent Kohlmarkt strasse, this is point zero of Vienna sightseeing. These 2 streets are probably the most famous (and crowded) street of Vienna. And there is a good reason for that. Full of high end boutiques or big brands shops, the streets are also dotted with charming cafes and restaurants where you can rest your tired legs and people watch for hours!
I went there the first time on late afternoon and they were absolutely packed. So the next day I woke up early and around 9AM, I almost had the place all to myself! Obviously no shops or cafes were open that early on a Sunday morning. But I could at least admire the place in all its glory (I just wish the weather was better too).
You know that image of Vienna with the horse-drawn carriages in front of a beautiful palace? Yes, the one above. Well that is not the palace but only the gate to the palace. The palace itself is located in a much larger square and it is one of the largest palace complexes in the world.
The Hofburg imperial palace was the former principal palace of the Habsburg Dynasty. Today, this large scale complex includes amonst other: the presidential office, the Sissi Museum (I am sure you know about the famous Sissi Empress), the National History Museum, the National Library and even the Spanish Riding school.
Given its size and my limited time, I was content to just photograph it from the outside, during the day but also at dusk.
Beautiful gardens of Vienna: Volksgarten and Burggarten
Volksgarten (People’s garden)
Volksgarten is a very charming park, right in the heart of the city, in district 1 of Vienna. It too is part of the Hofburg Palace complex. The garden was opened in 1823 and, for the first 2 years, it was intended to be used as a private garden. But in 1825 a decision was taken to open it to the public and it became the first public park of Vienna. As a result, it was named People’s Garden.
This is located next to Volksgarten and it is famous mainly for two sights: the Palm House and the Mozart statue. It is not a big garden but it offers beautiful views to the monuments around it. And it looks even more beautiful covered in autumn colors.
As I said, this is a suggestion for a leisurely weekend and not to see as much as possible in Vienna. I know that there are many other beautiful gardens but they will be there for next time. And two which are going on that “next visit to Vienna” list, are definitely Schonbrunn Palace and Belvedere Palace and their gardens.
Museum Quarter and its gardens
I love the fact that Vienna has such a place! In fact this is one of the largest art quarters in the world!
Unfortunately I did not have time to visit any museums this time, but this is high on my list for when I go back. This is the perfect alternative also if the weather does not cooperate during your visit. Vienna has plenty of museums to choose from. In the museum district only you can find amongst other:
When your feet get weary from all those museums visits, you can always count on a coffee house nearby. Such as Cafe Leopold, right in the heart of the district museum.
The location itself is gorgeous. The centre piece of this quarter is another beautiful garden, where on a sunny day, people just enjoy resting on the green grass and taking in all that vitamin D.
When I posted a picture of this church on my Instagram channel, I found out that it was many people’s favourite church.
I have to say, it is a work of art. I have always been attracted by gothic architecture and the Votive church is a splendid example of that.
While not exactly in the old city centre, the church is located nearby on the Ringstrasse.
If you have not been to Vienna yet, the Ringstrasse is basically a circular boulevard that goes around the city center. And here is a tip: there is a Vienna Ring Tram that simply goes around the ring, passing by the most important sights of the city. This is a sightseeing tram and the tour takes about 25 minutes. So, if you are short on time during your visit, this is one of the best options.
Albertina Place and Opera House
I put the two of them together, not only because they are next to each other, but because the best place to see the Opera of Vienna in all its splendour is actually from the rooftop of Albertina Museum. Add to that some “instagrammable” staircase going up and you’ve got yourself a very photogenic place.
I went there quite early on a Sunday morning and there were very few people. I felt like I have been offered the privilege to admire them in all their glory.
I would also suggest to just spend time strolling the beautiful streets of Vienna. The elegant horse-drawn carriages, the classic old automobiles and the impressive architecture, will all make you feel like you stepped back in time. But then the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the high end shops, the modern bars and restaurants and the vibe of the city itself will remind you that you are in a modern 21 century European capital
Coffee House Culture in Vienna
If you know a little bit about Vienna already, you should know that coffee culture is a big thing here. So what a leisurely weekend in Vienna would be without hopping into some of the most beautiful coffee houses?
But what you should know from the beginning is that Vienna coffee houses are not just beautiful places to have coffee. They are actually fully fledged restaurants and special places to spend your time. I learned that there is a German word that describes the best what coffee houses concept is all about in Austria: gemütlichkeit. As with many specific words, it is difficult to translate it, in order to convey exactly what Austrians mean by that, but the closest translation in this context would be “coziness”.
Cafe Landmann is one of the oldest coffee houses in Vienna. It dates back from 1873 and it is actually older than the Burgtheater (Vienna National Theatre) nearby. Today, there are around 2,500 coffee houses in the city! I guess it is safe to say then that Vienna has indeed a proper coffee culture.
But even with so many coffee houses, Cafe Landtmann is still an institution today, as it was back in the day. In fact it has been called the living room of Vienna and it is a place where even Freud used to come for that necessary cuppa! You will still find a lot of locals there sipping on a Melange or a Mokka (Viennese for espresso 😉 ) , all the while reading their newspaper or enjoying a breakfast with their family. If you want some special treat though, I would suggest to go for a Franziskaner or a Salon Einspanner, both with a generous amount of whipped cream.
Located just across the street from State Opera House, Cafe Gerstner is yet another institution in Vienna. This is much more than a coffee house: there is a cake shop on the ground floor, a bar/cafe on the first floor and another cafe/restaurant on the second floor. The restaurant is made up of 3 rooms, each of them differently decorated and all oozing the same elegance, charm and luxury.
Cafe Gerstner is the official caterer of the imperial family and has been in the catering business for about 170 years! Oh and they also own a few hotels?
Cafe Gerstner goes for sure amongst the most beautiful cafes in Vienna and probably in the world.
If you are nearby, do not get intimidated by all that class and elegance though because the vibe is very relaxed and casual. And if you enter, you cannot miss one of their incredible cakes. The only difficult part there is what to choose!
I didn’t go in. I admit. I was intimidated by the long waiting line at the door. Plus there is so much you can do in a weekend in Vienna. But, given its popularity, I could not skip this one from the list. So if you go, let me know how it is. Peeking through the window from the outside it looked gorgeous.
Other coffee shops of Vienna
As I mentioned earlier, with more than 2500 coffee houses, not only there is no shortage of places to choose from but it also makes it quite difficult to pick a handful. Each district has their favourites, but with only 2 days to spend there, I concentrated only on the first district (the city center of Vienna).
Cafe Frauenhuber – the oldest coffee house in Vienna (since 1824)
This trip has been made possible with the kind support of Austrian Airlines. However, all opinions are my own and they are in no way influenced by the sponsor.
The flight from Bucharest to Vienna with Austrian Airlines was extremely comfortable, and although it was just a little bit over an hour long, we were provided with food (which we previously chose from the menu). I opted for a bento box and I can unbiasedly say that everything was delicious. In fact the whole flight experience was very good.
If you want to have the chance to spend a weekend in Vienna yourself, you can participate to this very easy and fun contest currently happening on Cafe Austrian.