Vienna One-Day Budget Itinerary: Sightseeing Top Attractions

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Planning a day trip to Vienna might seem simple at first. The attractions are conveniently situated in and around the Old Town, with most just a short walk from each other. However, as you begin to explore and discover the various sights, the task becomes more complex.

If you haven’t done any thorough research yet, I’m confident you’ll discover that Vienna is a city packed with fascinating sights. From its architectural marvels to breathtaking artworks, it’s simply impossible to explore all the highlights in just one day! There’s so much to see, especially if we include lesser-known yet interesting attractions.

And let’s not overlook the city’s rich musical heritage. Vienna is hailed as the ‘Music Capital of the World.’ For someone like me, coming from the opposite side of the globe, attending concerts in this city is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Honestly, even choosing where to start exploring the city wasn’t easy for me! Hahaha! But don’t worry—I’ve already prepared a one-day itinerary for Vienna.

In summary, this itinerary focuses on visiting top attractions without breaking the bank. It’s a sightseeing plan perfect for non-winter months, covering the city’s three main palaces and picturesque streets where you can savor Vienna’s famous coffee culture. Plus, I’ve included the three most beautiful churches along the route.

Discovering beauty on a budget during travel—that’s what WanderInEurope is all about!

8:00 am — Arrival, Coffee & Breakfast!

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More Information: brief background, what to expect, and tips

Vienna is famous for its coffee house culture and it’s one of the reasons why it’s great to start your trip early in the morning. It’s a part of the city’s history and identity, recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.

Did you know that Vienna’s coffeehouses have been social hubs since the mid-19th century? It’s pretty awesome to see that even today, folks are still keeping that tradition alive… Like, have you ever enjoyed a coffee in a cafe with vaulted ceilings, complete with chandeliers, and attended by a waiter in a waistcoat and bow tie?

Get ready for this! When the waiter hands you the menu, you’ll see an extensive list of coffees, each with a traditional name. It’s quite a selection! You might even find yourself asking the waiter, ‘Welcher ist der meistverkaufte Kaffee?’ (Translation: Which one is the best selling coffee?)

Most coffee houses in Vienna typically open at eight o’clock. Get there early to be at the front of the line and enjoy the first brew of the day. Getting your coffee early leaves more time for sightseeing!

Vienna boasts hundreds of coffee houses in and around its historic center, giving you plenty of options. For this itinerary, though, I recommend choosing a coffee house near our next stop, Hofburg. Café Central, just a five-minute walk from Hofburg, comes highly recommended. Situated in Palais Ferstel, it’s a traditional coffee house with a rich history. Just a heads up, the menu there can be a bit pricey.

For more options and budget-friendly alternatives, check out the official Vienna website, which I’ve linked in the resources section.

9:00 am — Volksgarten, Heldenplatz, Hofburg (Optional: Museums, Stunning Library, and Burggarten)

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More Information: What to see, what to expect, tips, fun facts, and more!

The Hofburg, also known as the Imperial Palace, stands out as a must-see in Vienna for its historical importance and its role as a cultural hub.

This grand palace was the Habsburg dynasty’s winter retreat and now houses an array of museums and authentic experiences for guests to explore. For a detailed look at what this landmark offers, take a peek at my comprehensive Hofburg guide.

In this part of the itinerary, we’ll be sightseeing around the Imperial Palace. Here are the must-see spots: Volksgarten (People’s Garden), Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square), Burggarten (Castle Garden), and Schweizertor (the Swiss Gate). If you’re starting from Café Central, it’s worth considering Volksgarten as your first stop when visiting Hofburg. Conveniently, Volksgarten has its own tram and train station, making it easy to reach, even if your chosen coffeehouse isn’t nearby.

Volksgarten, once part of Hofburg, is now among the most picturesque gardens in Vienna. I have a strong liking for it as it’s a location in the city where you can view most of the significant landmarks and architectural wonders, all in one place. From this garden, you can see the Burgtheater, Rathaus, Austrian Parliament Building, Natural History Museum, and of course, Hofburg. It’s a beautiful garden filled with numerous photo opportunities!

Right in the heart of the garden, you’ll find the Greek-inspired Theseus Temple. It’s open to the public for free, and you can go in to appreciate the art exhibits on display

After visiting Volksgarten, make your way to Heldenplatz, which is right next to Volksgarten. Here, you’ll encounter three historical landmarks: the monument dedicated to Archduke Karl, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars; the monument honoring Prince Eugene of Savoy, celebrated as the hero of Vienna during the Turkish Siege; and the Outer Castle Gate, which now serves as a military monument commemorating the fallen heroes and soldiers of World War I.

From Heldenplatz, you can also take in the breathtaking façade of Hofburg’s Neue Burg. Interestingly, it was from its balcony that Adolf Hitler announced the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. Located behind Neue Burg is Burggarten, home to the beautiful monument of Mozart. This spot is one of the most iconic places in Vienna for a photo souvenir

Also from Heldenplatz, you can also find a portal leading to ‘In der Burg’, where the Swiss Gate is located. This charming gate is among the oldest parts of Hofburg. As you walk through it, you’ll be able to see its ceiling frescoes that seem to transport you back in time

If you wish, or if the weather necessitates staying indoors, you have the option to enter Hofburg and explore a few of the palace’s features. My top recommendations are the Sisi Museum and the National Austrian Library.

They are my favorites because Sisi is one of the most fascinating figures in the House of Habsburg, and the National Austrian Library ranks among the most stunning libraries you can find. From the bookshelves to the frescoes, I found myself marveling for quite some time. Please note that there is an admission fee for both these parts of Hofburg.

10:30 am — Kohlmarkt, Graben, Stephansplatz, Peterskirche, and Stephansdom

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Just a few steps from ‘In der Burg’ in Hofburg, you’ll find yourself stepping out onto Michaelerplatz. It is in this square that we initiate the next part of our journey: a stroll through the picturesque historic streets of Vienna – Kohlmarkt, Graben, and Stephansplatz.

Before proceeding to these streets, take a moment to look around Michaelerplatz. The facade of St. Michael’s Wing of Hofburg is also stunning from this square. You’ll surely notice its beautiful statues, ornate wrought iron gate, and the turquoise dome.

In the square, you can also find a small archaeological site called Ausgrabungen Michaelerplatz. Believe it or not, it’s no less than 1500 years old! Interestingly, the ruins date back to the time when Vienna was still known as the Roman legionary camp, Vindobona.

Once you’re done wandering around, it’s time to walk through Kohlmarkt. This historic street is as old as Ausgrabungen Michaelerplatz. Today, it’s one of the most exclusive streets in Vienna, filled with historical buildings and high-end shops and venues. Interestingly, the name ‘Kohlmarkt’ (which translates to ‘Cabbage Market’ in English) is a misnomer, as the market has never been noted for its sale of cabbage.

If you follow Kohlmarkt all the way down, you’ll end up at Graben in just a few minutes. But if you’re into photography, make sure to turn back towards Michaelerplatz halfway through Kohlmarkt. You’ll be greeted with an iconic, picture-perfect view of Hofburg.

When you get to Graben, you’ll find yourself on another street that’s well-known for shopping. Here, you can find not only modern clothing and luxury brands, but also some traditional Viennese goods. And if you didn’t get a chance to visit a coffeehouse earlier in the day, don’t worry – Graben offers you a second opportunity.

While you’re strolling through Graben, make sure to check out its three amazing attractions. First up is the intricate Plague Column, a Holy Trinity Column that was erected by Emperor Leopold I. Next is the Stock im Eisen, a section of a tree trunk from the Middle Ages that’s covered in hundreds of nails.

Last but not least, don’t miss Peterskirche, a Baroque church with stunning interiors. Once you see my guide about Peterskirche, you’ll definitely want to include it in your Vienna itinerary.

Graben leads you right to Stephansplatz, home to Stephansdom, or St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This Gothic church is a standout attraction in Vienna, and it’s a must-see for its breathtaking architecture and historical significance. It’s the largest church in Vienna, with roots dating back to the mid-12th century. You can step inside to marvel at its lofty interiors and some of its incredible artworks, like the surreal Gothic pulpit.

If you think you can make it to Ankeruhr, which is just a 5 to 7-minute walk from Stephansdom, before 12 noon, you might want to climb its north tower for a panoramic view of the Old Town. To really get the most out of your visit to Stephansdom, I recommend taking a look at my guide to Stephansdom.

12:00 pm — Ankeruhr & the Spectacle of the 12 Figures

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The famous Ankeruhr, Vienna, Austria
The famous Ankeruhr
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More Information: Location and fun facts

By the time you’re done exploring Graben or Stephansplatz, you’re probably ready for a bite to eat. But hold off on lunch for just a bit longer until you’ve seen Ankeruhr. This stunning Art Nouveau clock in Hohermarkt is a must-see, especially when it puts on its spectacle!

While this clock plays a piece of organ music that matches the figure of the hour every hour, the real show happens at noon. That’s when all twelve figures parade around the clock in a grand procession. Each figure represents a figure from Austria’s history, appearing in turn as the hours pass. From Joseph Haydn to Marcus Aurelius and Charlemagne, these figures tell a story of Austria’s rich past.

12:15 pm — Lunch

After taking in the spectacular mechanical performance of Ankeruhr, it’s time to grab some lunch. Now, I’m not particularly adept at picking out the best restaurants, so I can’t make any specific recommendations. As long as the food is satisfying and reasonably priced, I’m all set! However, if you’re in the mood for a more upscale lunch, you might want to try the Do & Co restaurant or the roof terrace bar at Hotel Lamée. They offer an amazing view of Stephansdom.

Looking for more recommendations? Get the “ivei — Vienna Guide” app on your smartphone. It’s a digital travel guide that provides excellent suggestions for dining and discovering unique experiences in the city. Here’s a tip you shouldn’t forget: carry cash. Not all restaurants or shops in Vienna accept credit cards. On the bright side, many restaurants offer an affordable lunch menu (“Mittagsmenu”) from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm on weekdays. You can thank me later! LOL.

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2:30 pm — Schonbrunn Palace Garden (Optional: Panorama Train Ride)

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Enjoy a hearty lunch because you’ll need the energy to explore the expansive Schonbrunn Palace, your first stop in the afternoon.

The Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburg family, is similar to the Hofburg in that it offers a multitude of experiences. These include a look into the luxurious lives of the emperors and empresses inside the palace, a relaxing stroll through their expansive gardens, and an thrilling musical journey during a palace concert. Interestingly, Schönbrunn Palace also houses a zoo, a botanical garden, and a few museums.

On this one-day trip to Vienna, it’s clear that we can’t cover everything in Schonbrunn Palace. Instead, we’ll focus on the free attraction: its stunning and impressively large garden. You could easily spend 1.5 hours in the garden just admiring notable features like the statues along the Great Parterre, the Neptune Fountain, the Obelisk Fountain, the Roman Ruins, and more.

If you’re interested in exploring other experiences at Schönbrunn Palace, feel free to refer to my article about Schönbrunn Palace, where I’ve covered all the essential information for your visit.

One way to enrich your experience in the Schonbrunn Palace Garden is by using the Schonbrunn Palace App, which serves as your map and audio guide. This useful tool aids in uncovering various parts of the palace and their histories. Enable the app to utilize your phone’s peripherals so it can interact with sensors around the park. The app will automatically alert you when you come across intriguing areas of the garden during your exploration.

If you’re a photography enthusiast looking to capture the stunning beauty of the Schonbrunn Palace gardens, check out my post for some great tips on the best photo spots within the palace grounds.

Just a heads up, the palace garden is quite expansive, so be prepared for a good amount of walking. I’d recommend wearing comfortable shoes for your visit. If you’d rather save some steps, Schönbrunn Palace offers a panorama train that can help you get around the park. It has several hop-on-hop-off stops throughout the palace estate, including the Gloriette, another must-see on this one-day Vienna itinerary.

There is a fee for the panorama train, so I’d only suggest it if you’re traveling with kids or seniors.

4:00 pm — Gloriette & the Panoramic Views of Schonbrunn Palace Garden

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More Information: What to expect, tips, and suggestions for the trip

While I wouldn’t typically suggest taking the Schonbrunn Palace Panorama train for general sightseeing, it can be a real convenience when heading to the Gloriette.

This neoclassical structure sits atop a hill in the palace garden and is a sight to behold. Once you reach the Great Parterre of the Schonbrunn Palace Garden, you’ll see it overlooking the entire garden from a distance. It’s hard to miss, as this Gloriette is the largest of its kind!

So yeah, your next stop is the Gloriette of the Schonbrunn Palace. Here, you have three main objectives: capture some stunning shots of the architecture, enjoy a refreshment break at the cafe, and visit the rooftop terrace for a panoramic view. While the view from the terrace might not be as breathtaking as the one from the Danube Tower, it’s sure to provide a delightful conclusion to your quick visit to the Schonbrunn Palace.

Just a heads up, there’s a small admission fee for the rooftop terrace of the Gloriette. You can purchase tickets online or at the Schonbrunn Palace ticket desks. Be sure to secure your terrace tickets before you head to the garden or board the Panorama Train to the Gloriette.

Beyond the view, another aspect of the Gloriette that I really appreciate is its elegant architecture, a nod to its royal past. If you’re up for it, consider having a hearty meal at the Gloriette to serve as your dinner. This way, you can continue your sightseeing adventure without worrying about hunger for the rest of the day before heading back to your hotel.

Once we’re done at the Gloriette, we’ll head back into the city to check out more sights. Our next stop is Karlskirche. It’s a quick, direct 10-minute train ride from the Schönbrunn underground railway station to the Karlsplatz station, which is the closest to Karlskirche. Just a note: if you’d rather not use the panorama train, the walk from the Gloriette to the train station could take around 25 minutes.

6:00 pm — Karlskirche, the Unique Church of Vienna

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Facade of Karlskirche, an architectural marvel in Vienna, Austria
Facade of Karlskirche
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Karlskirche stands out as one of the most stunning and unique architectural attractions in Vienna, thanks to its fusion of various styles.

I’m particularly drawn to its eclectic mix of Baroque, Rococo, Byzantine, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Roman influences. You might even spot a hint of Far Eastern culture in the pointed roofs atop its two side towers!

When you visit Vienna, I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the twin columns gracing the facade of Karlskirche. Drawing inspiration from Rome’s Trajan’s Column, these columns depict the life story of the church’s patron saint, Charles Borromeo. For a deeper dive into this church, its history, and the experiences it offers, be sure to check out my comprehensive guide to Karlskirche.

In this one-day itinerary for Vienna, your visit to Karlskirche will be brief. This is due to the fact that the church only permits visitors inside until 6:00 pm. However, if you’re touring Vienna on a Sunday or a holiday, you’ll have the opportunity to enter the church and explore it in more depth, as it stays open until 7:00 pm.

Don’t worry if you miss out on seeing the inside of Karlskirche on a weekday. Just seeing the facade of this church can be a major highlight! It’s really a marvelous sight and a unique discovery that you can share with your friends. Be sure to have your camera ready, as there are amazing photo opportunities waiting for you in the gardens of the square and by the seasonal pond in front of the church.

6:30 pm — Belvedere Palace Garden & the Beautiful Sunset in Vienna

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More Information: What to expect, tips for your visit, where to go

The final stop on this one-day Vienna itinerary is the Baroque garden at Belvedere Palace. It’s one of the most picturesque gardens in Vienna, and yes, it’s free to visit! From Karlskirche, it’s just a short walk to Belvedere Palace – about 10 to 15 minutes on foot.

To add a bit of fun to your walk, consider stopping by the monument honoring the soldiers of the Soviet Army on your way to Belvedere Palace. In front of it, you’ll find a beautiful fountain that often creates a rainbow when the sun hits its water spouts.

The main reason I’ve saved this garden for the end of the trip is because it’s simply the perfect spot to watch the sunset or ‘Golden Hour’ in Vienna. This is thanks to the wide-open space and the view of the beautiful facades of the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palaces, which can be seen from the garden.

Even if there’s no sunset, in my opinion, it’s the best free way to wrap up your trip. You’ll not only get to see another notable palace in Vienna, but you’ll also be immersed in beauty even at the last part of your trip. For some photo inspiration, be sure to check out my guide to Belvedere Palace.

That article can also serve as your guide if you’re interested in spending more time at Belvedere Palace and exploring the artworks on display there.

By the way, before you head to Belvedere Palace, if you haven’t had dinner yet and it’s summer, you might want to consider dining at a nearby restaurant. The ‘Golden Hour’ doesn’t usually start until around 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm. This can vary with the seasons, but a good rule of thumb is that it starts about an hour before sunset.

When you visit the Belvedere Palace garden, it’s a great idea to explore not just the area between the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palaces, but also the section where you’ll find the Große Bassin (pond). This pond, located on the southern side of the Upper Belvedere Palace, offers a lovely view of the palace’s facade.

In this part of the garden, you’ll also find an exit marked by an ornate wrought iron gate, which leads you closer to the train stations for your journey home.

8:00 pm — Back to Hotel

Whether you’re planning a day trip to Vienna from another city or staying in Vienna for the duration of your trip, you won’t have to worry about getting back to your hotel. Both the Upper Belvedere Palace and the Große Bassin are within walking distance of a couple of train stations.

The closest station, Wien Quartier Belvedere Bahnhst, is just across the street from the Upper Belvedere and can be used to return to your hotel in Vienna. If you’re visiting Vienna on a day trip, the Vienna Central Terminal is just a 10-15 minute walk from the Upper Belvedere and can take you back to your home base city.

If you haven’t yet booked a hotel for your trip, here’s the hotel search and booking platform where you can find amazing accommodation deals.

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More Ways to Spend One Day in Vienna

So, that’s how you can spend a day in Vienna without spending a fortune! As a recap of this itinerary:

  1. Your day in Vienna begins with a coffee, immersing yourself in the Viennese coffeehouse culture.
  2. Then, it’s time for sightseeing at the Hofburg, along with its parks and gardens.
  3. Next, you’ll wander in the heart of the old town, including the historic streets of Kohlmarkt and Graben. Three iconic landmarks will make you marvel: Peterskirche, Stephansdom, and Ankeruhr.
  4. After a hearty lunch, we proceed to Schonbrunn Palace to explore its vast garden, and then relax in the Gloriette, where you can take in panoramic views of the palace.
  5. The journey of beauty discovery continues at Karlskirche and finally to the baroque garden of Belvedere Palace, where you can watch the beautiful sunset over the city.

As you can see, most of the activities in this itinerary are outdoors. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, don’t worry. There are plenty of indoor places in Vienna where you can still enjoy. For instance, the museums. The museums in Vienna are extraordinary. They’ll make you wonder if they’re really museums or palaces. Most importantly, they are home to incredible collections of artworks, historical artifacts, and unique items from different parts of the world.

As a wanderer with an interest in history, my suggestion would be the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Museum of Military History. If you’d like additional suggestions for a full day in Vienna, take a look at my self-guided walking tour of Old Town Vienna or my exploration guide for Ringstrasse’s highlights. My list of free-to-visit attractions in Vienna would definitely come in handy, too!

Below are my recommended activities, which serve as great alternatives to what I’ve included in this itinerary.

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Resources

Finishing up your plans to Vienna? Here are the links to different resources.

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Staying in Vienna to explore the rest of Austria? Consider these wonderful day trips that you can take from this incredible city. My list includes Melk Abbey and Salzburg—the two most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Austria—and the charming castles in Lower Austria. Explore Liechtenstein Castle for a different perspective on Austrian history; visit Laxenburg Castle Park for a blend of nature and romantic experiences; and journey to Kreuzenstein Castle for an adventure that transports you back to the medieval ages.

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