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6 Things to Do in Vienna: An Underrated, Enchanting Travel Destination

Ok, I planned a week long European date for my hubby and I in the city of Vienna. I was initially drawn to the city because of it’s Imperial Palaces that still stand and its 2024 super modern experience for comfort and ease (in what feels like a Disney town). What we discovered is that it went far beyond aesthetics-the ACTUAL traditions kept in this city include: waltz lessons as a right of passage for modern day teenagers and balls year-round (yes, exactly like Bridgerton). Picture cobblestone streets, the sound of classical music and the smell of Kaiserschmarrn (aka Austrian pancakes) in the air, and a rich history that dates back centuries. If you’ve ever dreamed of a European fairytale escape, then Vienna is your destination. With romance around every corner, this city is where 18th century fairytales come to life in 2024,…it’s wild! And the best part? In my opinion, you don’t need more than 3 to 4 days to get the most of it! I spent a magical few days in Vienna, and here are my top 6 must-do activities.

1. Stay at the Rosewood Vienna

Choosing where to stay can make or break a trip, and the hubby and I had the delightful dilemma of choosing between the classic luxurious Hotel Sacher  and the brand new, contemporary, Rosewood Vienna. Ultimately, we opted for the Rosewood. With its modern flair, stunning rooftop views, and the fact that it’s a hotspot for American celebrities, it promised the experience we were looking for. Located conveniently near many things to do in Vienna (and a fabulous breakfast) we made the right decision. Many locals remarked that while Hotel Sacher was a classic stay (think very vintage and cute), the brand new Rosewood Vienna (well, right now) is considered the most trendy “poppin’” hospitality spot in the city LOL. Pro Tip: I planned this dream vaycay with a friend, luxury travel advisor Mark Joshua. So if you want to stay at either of these hotels or even plan a dream excursion, slide into his DM’s & tell him I sent you for lots of perks like FREE breakfast, $100 hotel credits, etc. Seriously, the best decision I ever made!

2. Time to Meet The Royals: Tour the Imperial Palace

Our journey began with a private walking tour of the historic center just two blocks from our hotel. This 3-hour tour led us through the Imperial Palace where we marveled at the grandeur of the Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum. The Palace, which is a symbol of the Habsburg Empire’s power for nearly 650 years, is a must-see! Habsburg dynasty is the BIG DEAL royal family of historical Vienna and we loved the stories about “Sisi,” the city’s most famous royal, and her workout habits/constant vaycays. It was fascinating to us and definitely one of the top things to do in Vienna. If you’re an fan of crazy architecture, don’t miss the Hundertwasser House (pictured third below), it technically wasn’t really our style, but it was neat to see. 

3. The City of Music: Strauss & Mozart Concerts

Jock and I were obsessed with the music in the city. Vienna’s musical heritage is world-renowned (it’s Mozarts hometown after all)! Experiencing it firsthand was magical. We attended a Strauss & Mozart concert by the Salon Orchestra Alt-Wien, who are known for its classical Viennese music. Although the performance was charming…filled with beautiful waltzes, polkas, and arias…I found it a bit too casual, less “production protocol,” etc. Next time, one of the things I’d like to do in Vienna, is try a concert at Schönbrunn Palace because it might be more “produced.” But this evening still had me CRYING as we listened to the beautiful classical hits played live. (We played classical Youtube in the hotel room the rest of the trip, lol!)

4. Coffee Culture at Café Central: A Step Back in Time

After all the walking, we needed coffee breaks – and what better place to go than the iconic Café Central! No trip to Vienna is complete without indulging in its café culture. There’s usually a sprawling line out the door but if you arrive at odd times or call in advance through a hotel, you may be able to snag a reserved seat and walk right in! We enjoyed apple strudel amidst the historic charm that once hosted Freud, Trotsky, and other great minds. The Venetian Trecento-era architecture felt like stepping back in time. We were fully living our fairytale vacation. Austria’s signature dessert is called Kaiserschmarrn. It’s served many places…think scrambled sweet pancakes with berries and powdered sugar. Do not miss it.

5. My Favorite: Private Viennese Waltz Lessons

One of our most iconic experiences was learning a traditional Viennese Waltz with a private dancing lesson at the Elmayer Dancing School. This historic school, located near the Spanish Riding School, offers traditional Viennese Waltz lessons. In just 50 minutes, we learned the basics of this elegant dance, feeling every bit like part of Vienna’s cultural fabric. The lesson was fun, easy, and a perfect activity for couples! This had to be one of my favorite things to do in Vienna.Fun fact: A rite of passage when turning 14 years old is enrolling into this very school for dance lessons. In Vienna, dancing is like breathing, it comes natural and as a tradition to its people.


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6. The Royal’s Summer House: Schönbrunn Palace

One of the things you don’t want to miss in Vienna is the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace-the former summer residence of the Habsburg family (think a smaller version of Versailles). We were led through the grand rooms of Schönbrunn. This palace is a stunning example of Vienna’s Imperial history and is an absolute must-see – we could not recommend it more! After the main house, we hiked up to Cafe Gloriette for salads and coffee (located up a huge hill on the Palace grounds, inside the Imperial addition to the estate). 

Honestly….What to Skip: The Spanish Riding School

While the Spanish Riding School is a prestigious institution and it’s so cool that this tradition is kept alive in the city, our experience was a tad underwhelming. The 1.5-hour session felt more like observing a practice than a performance, even though the video trailers depict a “show.” Afterward, we read similar reviews online…lol.  Despite its cultural significance and UNESCO heritage status, I’d skip it in the future and opt for a tour of the stables instead, where you could just observe the beautiful ponies!

Vienna is a city that seamlessly blends the past with the present and offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and romance. From exploring grand palaces and historic cafés to dancing the waltz and enjoying classical music, we had an enchanting, unforgettable experience – and Vienna certainly has something for every traveler. Pack your bags and immerse yourself in the fairytale charm of this gorgeous city! And in case you need any fit ideas – check out this article.