With its extensive and rich history, it's remarkable beauty around every corner, and its walkability, Vienna, Austria is one of those cities you just can't go wrong in visiting. Wien, as it is written and spoken in the local German language, requires at least 4 action packed days to get a good sense of all the city has to offer.
Public Transportation/Getting Around
While in Vienna, I never saw one single person check to make sure I had a ticket, let alone a valid ticket. That does not mean the public transportation is free. It's an honor system and the best thing to do while there is be an honest guest.
For 29€ you can get a one-way ticket from the airport into the center city via the CAT (City Airport Train) AND a 72 hour unlimited access ticket that gets you access to all city buses, trains, and trams. If you're leaving via the airport, you can get a round trip ticket at a higher cost. The CAT ticket and the city public transportation come on the same ticket slip so make sure to not lose the slip during your stay in the city.
You'll quickly find out that Vienna is a very manageable city. When at all possible, just walk where you are going. Maybe take the metro system from the outskirts into the center city if need be but if you're going from one place in center city to another, just walk. The architecture of Vienna is stunning. It'll be worth the experience to take in the atmosphere and beauty of this city.
Where To Stay
If it is affordable to you, there is nothing wrong with staying in Old Town or as close to Old Town as possible. Old Town is the most bustling area of Vienna with all the high end shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. The Old Town area is where you're going to find a large amount of the sites you'll end up visiting while in Vienna.
If Old Town isn't affordable, don't fret. The public transportation makes it very easy to get from the outer Burroughs of Vienna to center city. Staying in the outer neighborhoods of Vienna did not put a damper on my experience one bit.
With no hesitation, this is the top site to visit in Vienna. You'll understand why when you see it for yourself.
Schönbrunn Palace is comparable to Versailles Palace in Paris, France. If Versailles is a 10/10 when it comes to palaces, Schönbrunn should come in at a 8.5/10. From the palace to the gardens, it is a stunningly beautiful and picturesque complex. The lengths that go into up-keeping it is something to be applauded.
Please read carefully: If you're spending four days in Vienna, I highly recommend visiting the palace on your first full day in Vienna. The earlier you arrive, the better off you'll be. Visiting all parts of the palace will take roughly four hours. It will take longer if you explore at a slower pace. Even though there are restaurants and cafes on the premises, I encourage arriving at the palace after a hearty and full meal. Come dressed comfortably with comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to walk a lot.
I recommend the, "Classic Pass" which can be purchased at the ticket office right inside the gate for 31€. This pass gets you access to the palace with an audio guide that explains all 40 rooms in detail. You'll be allowed in Privy Garden, the Maze, the Orangery Garden, and the large structure at the back of the gardens which is called the Gloriette and it's Panorama Terrace at the top where you will get full view of the gardens, the palace, and the city beyond the palace. Please note that you will need an entrance time when you purchase your ticket. For me, I had to wait 1:40 before I could enter the palace, but the entrance time isn't going to stop you from exploring the gardens behind the palace if you have to wait awhile.
1) Go on Day 1
2) Expect to take four hours or more
3) Purchase the Classic Pass
4) Dress comfortably with good walking shoes
5) Arrive after eating a full meal
This museum has an impressive display of personal items from the once mighty Habsburg Empire of Austria. My personal favorite being the Crown of Rudolf II which is stunning. Other items include what is believed to be one of the pieces of wood that has the hole where Jesus Christs hands were nailed to the cross.
The Treasury also houses the Imperial Crown that was used from 960-980 but while I was there, it was off display for testing and research. Maybe you'll be more lucky than I was when you visit!
I recommend doing the audio guide which is 5€. It gives the details of 100 items on display. If you play all 100 of them, it will take three hours of your day. You can also get a combined ticket with the Art Museum for 24€ which I highly recommend doing.
Museum of Modern Austrian History
This museum is located inside Hofburg Palace which is a short walk from Center City/Old Town. This museum is a must visit if you're a connoisseur of history. Austria certainly has its fair share of historical importance. This particular museum has a focus on the first and second Austrian Republics (1918-today). Austria has been through a lot during this time frame so there is no shortage of things to learn. I was lucky to have been there during the Disposing of Hitler exhibit which is about the moral dilemma many in Austria face about whether to dispose of, keep, or sell Nazi relics that still exist today. If it is still around when you visit you will be able to go through the different scenarios of real Nazi items sent to the museum and the moral dilemma being faced by the owners of the items, the museum itself and you, looking at it.
The ticket to enter is 8€ and the audio guide is through QR codes on your phone. It might be a good idea to bring headphones.
This is the center city. It's the most, "happening" area in Vienna. Here you'll find every high end to middle of the road stores, restaurants, bars, and clubs imaginable. It's the wealthy and modern area of Vienna. Here you should spend time walking around and enjoying the atmosphere. People watching is always a must.
Like the Palace, this will take a decent chunk of your day to get through. There's just too many items to see and read about to see it all. Reading the information on each item will become far too exhausting. I recommend being strategic about what items you read into. An audio guide is offered by this museum but it is just too big to justify getting an audio guide. However, I do recommend at the very least walking through all the displays just so you can see everything. You never know what you might find interesting and might want to read into.
The Art Museum contains paintings, artifacts dating back to the Egyptians, statues dating back to the Egyptians, and other collectibles. Some areas of the museum only have signs in German. A ticket to this museum can be combined with the Imperial Treasury, and, as stated above, a combined ticket costs 24€.