If you find yourself in a city as rich as Vienna you really can’t go wrong with anything you decide to see or do, especially if you start your visit with a trip to the Naschmarkt. There are over 100 stalls filled with fresh food, aromatic spices, delicacies, teas and coffee and more, as well as restaurants offering every kind of fare you could wish for. We stopped in Cafe Do-An, a vegetarian friendly bistro right in the middle of the market. The many windows and open air feel makes for great people watching and they have great local wines. Make sure to get some Gruner Vetliner!

grapes in a stall in the wien naschmarkt

An after dinner sweet tooth can be best satisfied by a visit to Cafe Sacher, an upscale coffee and desert place that looks and feels straight out of Downton Abbey. It’s delicious and quaint and directly across from the famous Vienna Opera House.

Kleines Cafe is an absolute must, particularly if you share my undying love for Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy. In the first film, “Before Sunrise,” strangers Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (July Delpy) meet on a train from Budapest to Vienna where they disembark and spend the evening exploring the city, making a stop at this cafe where they get their palms read by a fortune teller passing by. Kleines is intimate, low key and seems to attract an odd and unique mix of clientele but, even if it hadn’t been featured in one of my all time favorite films, it still would have been one of my favorite stops on our trip.

black and white image of kleines cafe at night

Kaffe Alt Wien is a much more bustling option than Kleines and is situated on a particularly beautiful street. The ambiance is on the dive-y side with colorful show and exhibit promo posters covering the walls literally from floor to ceiling. That and the fact that smoking is allowed inside definitely gives the place a film noir feel. The door to the bathroom stalls gave me quite a turn so make sure you don’t miss that rare bit of technology.

A definite necessary stop is the famous Cafe Hawelka, opened by the same folks who ran Kaffe Alt Wien. This is the quintessential Euro cafe and makes you feel like you should be smoking a cigarette from a long, slender cigarette holder in 1920. Hawelka opened in 1935 and is still owned by the son of the original owners Leopold and his wife Josefine. Fantastic coffee with (whipped) cream and the cakes are still baked using Josefine’s original recipes.

cafe hawelka tray with coffee on a saucer

Vis-a-Vis is a tiny little wine bar situated in a tiny little alley just around the corner from St. Stephens Cathedral. Blink too hard and you’d likely miss it. This place came highly recommended by a wine connoisseur and for great reason. This was one of the first real wine bars in Vienna and the first to offer a large selection of wines by the glass. They boast over 300 wines with an emphasis on domestic varietals, and all pours are served in Riedel glasses. The staff is friendly and knowledgable so if you aren’t sure what to order don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation.

Zwölf Apostelkeller was a incredible accidental find and ended up being one of our favorite places (apart from Kleines). This 2-level underground stone-walled pub felt like it would be just as at home in Hobbiton as Vienna. Unfortunately, there is no beer on tap but they carry a dark and a wheat beer in bottles, both delicious, and the wine practically comes in a stein so beware the 1/4 pours — it’s a lot!

Zwölf Apostelkeller wien interior with brick arches

For a more posh evening check out Freyung 4. This hotel bar and restaurant has a patio that would make a great spot for date night in nice weather. There’s a definite Euro-chic vibe to the music and decor, the kind of place that makes you wish you were wearing heels.

the palace in heroes square with the balcony from hitler

And don’t forget Heroes Square (Heldenplatz) which is so jam-packed with history you do not want to miss it. Probably the most notable event was when Hitler announced to the masses the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938 from the balcony of the Hofburg Palace. Download a walking tour app onto your smartphone and listen to the history as you walk around the square.

anker clock art nouveau in vienna

The Anker Clock is an intricate art nouveau masterpiece created by Franz von Matsch and located in Hoher Markt. Every hour on the hour a different historical figure appears to march across the clock face over the course of 60 minutes.  If you can manage to plan your day around being there at noon you will get to see the “parade” of all 12 figures march across to tunes from each individual’s particular era. It’s truly an impressive piece of art.


Pro Tips:

  • “Danke” means “thank you” in German. Wear that word out
  • The most fun word ever is “Entshuldigung” which is German for “excuse me.” Go on, give it a try
  • Go right now and change your tickets to stay in Vienna at least one more day. You won’t be sorry
  • Drink some Grüner Veltliner
  • Avoid all of the bars and restaurants next to the Hard Rock Cafe
  • The entrances to the subway stations don’t have gates or turnstiles but they will check you for tickets so don’t try to cheat
  • The Vienna Card covers all public transportation in addition to other great discounts
  • Take the Ringstrasse Tram loop around the city to get your bearings
  • Take a boat down the Danube to Bratislava for a night