Vienna is one of the most opulent and dramatic cities in Europe, in both its architecture and its cultural attractions. Its art galleries are stuffed full of the finest Old Masters in the world, and the city’s musical history includes Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms. Even its elegant coffee houses are fit for a king.

Do you only have a few hours to spare in the city? Never fear – it’s still possible to cram in some top-notch Vienna sightseeing, with the help of our handy guide. From royal labyrinths to massive shark tanks, these are some of the finest things to do in Vienna, which even a time-pressed traveller can enjoy.

A slice of Baroque history

With so many cultural gems, it’s hard to know what to do in Vienna first. However, if you want to get a taste of old-world luxury, Schloss Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Palace) should be top of your list. Formerly the Empress Sisi’s summer residence, this Baroque palace is located in the Hietzing district. It has an eye-popping 1,441 rooms (40 of which are open to the public), decorated in lavish Rococo style. The sheer level of luxury within its gold-leaf walls needs to be seen to be believed. Don’t miss the Room of Millions. One of the most glorious Rococo-styled rooms anywhere in the world, it is entirely rosewood-panelled and filled with priceless exotic miniatures.

Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace © Justine Hubert

The palace’s sweeping gardens and grounds feature a roman ruin, an orangery, a zoo and even a giant labyrinth. This timeless slice of historic royal Vienna is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The view from the top

Paris has the Eiffel tower, London has Big Ben – and Vienna has the Weiner Riesenrad Ferris wheel. There’s no structure that epitomises Viennese life quite like it. Whether you hope to re-enact the climactic scene from 1940s film noir classic The Third Man, or you simply want to relax and enjoy the view, this is a Vienna attraction that shouldn’t be missed.

Vienna Prater 3 Mc
Wiener Riesenrad, Prater at Night 

First opened to the public 250 years ago, the Prater amusement park is the oldest of its kind in the world. It is located within the idyllically leafy Prater park, in the Leopoldstadt district. Prater features ghost trains, rollercoasters, a light railway and a fairytale grotto, along with its wonderful old Ferris wheel. Access to the park is free of charge, and individual attractions are generally priced between €1.50 and €5.00.

Aquatic attractions

What can you do with a huge old World War II anti-aircraft tower that’s too big to demolish? Fill it with gallons of water and an impressive array of aquatic life, of course. At the Haus des Meeres public aquarium (Fritz-Grünbaum-Platz 1), located in Esterhazy Park in downtown Mariahilf district, that’s exactly what they’ve done – the structure now holds 10,000 creatures ranging from crocodiles to clownfish.

Haus Des Meeres Aquarium © Jofeltham
Haus des Meeres aquarium © jofeltham

The aquarium is spread over ten floors, with the top floor allowing for extensive views over Vienna’s imposing skyline; there’s even a café with a terrace up there. Highlights include the piranha pool and the crocodile feedings, while the shark tank is a must-see – look out for the well-camouflaged carpet shark. A great rainy day attraction, the Haus des Meeres is certainly not just for kids.

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