Vienna is full of history, culture, and incredibly beautiful architecture. I'm sure you could spend a full week exploring this city - however fret not if yours is a quick trip. Read below for the highlights and your 48 hour guide to Vienna.
Start the day with an espresso and a dash of warm milk, known as a 'Kleiner Brauner' at one of the many coffee-houses in Vienna. I would recommend checking out Kleines Café - filled with locals catching up with friends, or business men in their suits, reading the newspaper and enjoying their espresso. The perfect start to a busy day!
Next, wander through the quiet backstreets and admire the stunning architecture as you make your way to Stephansplatz, the main square in the heart of Vienna. Use the tall spire of the gothic church St. Stephan's Cathedral as your 'x marks the spot'. I'm not sure if it was just me, but I found Vienna really hard to navigate, so I ditched the map and used key landmarks to help me get my bearings. A much better way to appreciate your surroundings, and get orientated quickly! Once you get to the church, pay the small fee (€4) and climb the 343 steeps to the viewing point. Not only is this excellent exercise, and the perfect way to work off the afternoon ahead of Austrian treats, but the view from above is truly spectacular. Make sure you admire the unique, tiled rooftop of the church - it's even more impressive from up above!
Around Stephansplatz, you'll find a whole strip of shop to wander through, if that's your thing. If not, I'd recommend continuing to walk through and around the backstreets of Stephansplatz - each building is an absolute architectural pleasure.
You'll be hungry after your big walk to the top of the cathedral, and your wandering around the streets of Vienna. There are a number of options for lunch, depending on what how much time you want to stop for. There are the famous Würstlestände scattered around the city, where you can pick up a Viennese sausage to eat on the go. If this isn't your thing, you could get the metro to Naschmarkt, an outdoor market where you'll find mountains of local and many exotic delicacies. I was lucky enough to be staying right by this market, and loved that you could buy not only quick, on the go treats, but there are also restaurants and cafés that source their food from the market, if you want to sit and rest a little more.
After lunch and a little rest, you should get your walking shoes back on, and explore the old town again. Whilst Vienna offers the touristy 'hop on/hop off' buses, I really wouldn't recommend wasting your money on this. The way that Vienna is laid out, is that there is an 'outer' road and an 'inner' circular road, which if you were to walk both, you would see all the main highlights of the city.
I would recommend making your way to Hofburg Palace and taking a walking tour of the city from here. From here, head to the gorgeous Parliament Houses (probably my favourite building in Vienna) and check out Rathausplatz where in winter you'll find traditional Christmas markets, and an ice-skating rink, and the most beautiful Town Hall. Next, walk through the back streets to Michaelerplatz - the entrance gate to the Hofburg Palace. If you're well prepared, you could book to watch The Spanish Riding School train and perform. I do wish I'd known about this earlier!
It's sweet time!! Make your way towards the famous Viennese Opera House, an incredibly stunning building to look at. If you want to buy some tickets to the theatre, head on over at about 5pm and you might be lucky enough to score last minute tickets for that night for a steal! Now, you've been walking all day, and should make the most of the Viennese sweets on offer. Because it's kind of a 'must do', head to the Sacher Café at the Hotel Sacher - literally just next to the Opera House. Here is where you'll find the original Sacher torte cake. Whilst you'll pay for it (I think my tea and slice of cake came to just over €10), it's the experience that counts, and the cake sure didn't disappoint.
When Vienna comes to life! Make sure you do a good walk around the city by night - all the buildings are lit up so beautifully, it's something else!
For the best (and biggest) weiner schnitzel in town, head to Figlmüller. You'll find it tucked away in a tiny alley by St. Stephan's Cathedral. Go hungry though, trust me. The schnitzel doesn't even fit on the plate, and was literally about two times the size of my head. Needless to say, I couldn't quite finish it all, but definitely an experience worth having!
Start today with another Kleiner Brauner, but this time, head to the famous Central Café. Known for accommodating the likes of Freud, Hitler, and Trotsky, it's a historical sight worth a visit. The architecture inside is absolutely incredible, I could have sat there all day just admiring it. If you're a sweet tooth like me, and can handle a treat so early in the morning, I can highly recommend the cheesecake!
Depending on the weather, you could spend the rest of the morning strolling through the Stadpark, or checking out one of the many museums in the Museum Quarter, like the Museum of Modern Art. You could also visit the apartment in which Mozart lived from 1784 - 1787, which has now been transformed in Mozarthaus - a celebration of his life and work.
You have two choices - Schönbruun Palace, which is a little further out of town, but easily accessible by the metro (it has it's own stop). You could easily spend a whole day here, exploring the 1,441 rooms on offer - so definitely allow yourself enough time to make the most of your time here. For an option closer to the centre of Vienna, you should check out Belvedere Palace.
After your afternoon spent meandering through the palaces, you'll be ready for an afternoon drink. For a pretty nice view over the Vienna skyline, and particularly St. Stephan's Cathedral, head to the Sky Bar, situated on the top floor of the Steffl department store. You'll pay top price for the drink though, at least €12, and service is average...but I'd say it's worth checking out for a little aperitif before the last supper.
For your last dinner, you should head to Reinthaler's Beisl - great service, delicious food, and very reasonably priced! I'd say any restaurant with Beisl in the name is a safe pick, it indicates an extremely homely and comfortable restaurant, typically serving traditional Austrian food! Winner!