Where to Stay in Vienna

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Updated: January 4, 2020

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The Best Areas to Stay in Vienna

Best area in Vienna for first timers in Vienna is Inner Stadt.

The view from atop St Stephan’s Cathedral over the beautiful and packed Inner Stadt, the center of Vienna, which is also the best area for first timers in Vienna.

Named the World’s “Most Livable City” by the UK’s Independent in 2018 and 2019, Vienna is as manageable and safe as it is historic and elegant. Visitors will likely spend most of their time in the Innere Stadt (also referred to as the city center, the inner city, the historic city center, or the 1st District), and there are many great places to stay in and around this area. Vienna is divided into 19 districts, with most of the population living outside of the pricey and commerce-dominated Inner Stadt. All around town you’ll be met with Gothic and Baroque churches, Otto Wagner’s impressive turn of the century modernist buildings, and now and then, a sprawling Baroque palace.

Within the central neighborhoods of Vienna, while you might choose to stay close to certain attractions or activities, it’s easy to walk or hop on to public transport to get to other areas. There is no single best area in the Innere Stadt for tourists; the main clusters of interest include the areas around the easy-going but elegant Museum District, the grand and historic Hofburg, and the lively nightlife, shopping, and dining spots fanning out from St Stephen’s Cathedral. Staying just outside the Innere Stadt in places like Neubau or near the Belvedere Palace will give you a more local experience while still being close to the main sights. Hotels are found throughout the city, with the biggest concentration in the Innere Stadt, and everywhere is exceedingly romantic with cobblestone lanes, grand architecture, and horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping through town.

The old town Innere Stadt is the center of the city, encircled by the 3.3-mile long Ringstrasse (Ring Road), a boulevard where the old fortifications of the city once stood. Today, a tram runs along the Ringstrasse and hopping on it is a great way to do a DIY tour and get your bearings. Many of Vienna’s top sights are in the Innere Stadt, including St Stephen’s Cathedral, the Albertina Museum, the Hofburg and its surrounding parks and museum, Stadtpark, the Austrian State Opera House, and much more. You could spend a week in Vienna without leaving the Innere Stadt and still miss some of the amazing things to see here.

Bordering the southwest of the Innere Stadt, you’ll find the Museum District with, as you’d guess, a handful of excellent museums, the top pick being the palatial Kunsthistorisches Museum holding art, history, and even a fine restaurant on its top floor. The Albertina art museum and the MOMOK modern art museum are a short walk away and not to be missed for art lovers. Walk a few minutes more southeast and you’ll find yourself in the Neubau neighborhood, a wonderful mix of cobblestone streets and grand apartment buildings with arty shops, innovative restaurants, and lively corner bars.

To the south of the Innere Stadt sits the busy area of Karlsplatz, one of the city’s major transport hubs, as well as a mix of stately old edifices with more modern buildings. From the Karlsplatz metro station, it’s only a 5-minute walk to Naschmarkt, the city’s largest market and a great place to shop and eat.

Continuing east, the energetic pace calms a bit to become a less-touristy residential area that leads to Belvedere Palace. This neighborhood has lots of locally-oriented shops, a few cafes and restaurants, and a friendly vibe, plus it’s an easy walk to the city center as well as the Palace. Belvedere Palace is one of Vienna’s top sights and you could easily spend a whole day here marveling at the works of art in the palace itself (pieces include Gustave Klimt’s The Kiss) and the sprawling royal gardens.

To the east of the Innere Stadt and across the Danube Canal are up-and-coming Leopoldstadt and Prater, formerly the Jewish Quarter. Aside from the mellow array of increasingly gentrified shops, cafes, and restaurants, there’s the huge Augarten park with a playground, tons of cycling and walking paths, a ceramics museum in the center, and Prater Amusement Park, which is great if you have kids.

Finally, bordering the Innere Stadt to the northeast are the more gritty, internationally-tinged Josefstadt & Alsergrund neighborhoods. There are some good sights here including the Freud Museum, the glorious Liechtenstein Palace, the 650-year old University of Vienna, as well as a great market experience around Yppenplatz on Saturday.

Farther outside the Ringstrasse is a more suburban-feeling neighborhood around Schönbrunn Palace. Aside from the palace itself, which is arguably Vienna’s top sight, you’ll also be near other interesting stops such as Klimt Villa, the artist’s last studio, and the beautiful, golden-topped Steinhof Church. Staying out this way gives you a look into more everyday Viennese life, and it is under 20 minutes away from the Innere Stadt by Metro.

The Best Places to Stay in Vienna

Best Areas in Vienna for…

  • Best Area in Vienna for Sightseeing: Innere Stadt
    Sightseeing in the Innere Stadt is a matter of simply turning the corner to admire more romantic cobblestone streets, Gothic churches, and world-class museums. Start in the Museum District and Hofburg, and maybe on day two, make it to the Albertina area and then to St Stephen’s Cathedral right in the heart of the city. Then, of course, there’s saying hello to the Beethoven statue in Stadspark or grabbing a slice of Sacher torte at Café Sacher. Seeing everything via horse and cart is a particularly romantic way to tour this area.
  • Best Area in Vienna for Nightlife: Innere Stadt
    Nightlife in Vienna has been rapidly expanding from “a night at the opera” into a scene that encompasses everything from wine bars and fancy cocktail lounges to easy-going neighborhood pubs and classic old coffee houses. The Innere Stadt has all of these options alongside the opera and live music options, and many are in short walking distance of one another. That said, it’s all quite sophisticated in this area and twenty-somethings may enjoy heading over to Leopoldstadt, Neubau, or Jospefstadt for a younger, hipper, and wilder scene.
  • Best Area in Vienna for Food and Restaurants: Innere Stadt
    There are so many great restaurants in this neighborhood that you could literally close your eyes and still stumble into somewhere serving something delicious. The range is vast as well. Try everything from sausages from a food truck to a slice of cake at the famous Café Sacher, Michelin-starred vegetarian fare, and haute cuisine with views over the city.
  • Best Area in Vienna for Families: Leopoldstadt
    Basing yourself in Leopoldstadt puts you in a more residential area and near the massive and family-friendly Augarten. You’re also about a 15-minute walk to Prater, home of the city’s big amusement park. Meanwhile, you’re a 20-minute walk or 8-minute Uber ride from the city center.
  • Best Area in Vienna to Stay for First Timers: Innere Stadt
    You can’t go wrong if you base yourself in Innere Stadt – it’s pretty, central, packed with restaurants and sights, and yet easy to wander into a park-like the Burrgarten or Stadtspark, spend a day in a museum, climb atop St Stephen’s Cathedral, or hop on public transport for more sightseeing at the grand palaces of Belvedere and Schobrünn.
  • Most Romantic Area in Vienna: Neubau & Museum District
    Right next to the Hofburg, Albertina Museum, rose gardens, and horse-drawn carriages winding around cobblestone streets, yet more quietly tucked away in a neighborhood where you can become entwined in real-life Vienna, this is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway. A few minutes of walking and you’re in the heart of sightseeing; a few minutes in the other direction and you can discover an outdoor patio restaurant to sip wine and feel like a local.
  • Best Area in Vienna for a Local Vibe: Leopoldstadt
    Staying in this neighborhood across the Danube Canal from Innere Stadt gets you away from the tourists and into a more local, newly gentrifying scene. Stroll beautiful parks and residential streets and sip coffee in classic coffee houses. And great news – it’s within a 10 to 20-minute walk to downtown.
  • Best Area in Vienna for Walking: Innere Stadt
    Any neighborhood in Vienna is great for walking, but the Innere Stadt is the most central, so it’s quick and easy to get just about anywhere. You can also wander aimlessly to find all array of lanes to boulevards while admiring several styles of historic architecture in the form of Gothic churches, grand museums, and once-royal addresses.
  • Safest Areas of Vienna
    Anywhere in central Vienna tends to be very safe and the city, in general, is uncommonly safe, especially if you take the standard precautions of being aware of your surroundings and not walking alone inebriated late at night.
  • Unsafe Areas of Vienna
    Prater and Josefstadt can get a little dodgy late at night but in general, and especially in the Innere Stadt, Vienna is very safe.

The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Vienna for Tourists

The grätzlhotel in Leopoldstadt, Vienna

The grätzlhotel in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt neighborhood.

1. Innere Stadt

The historic Innere Stadt is the heart of Vienna and is an extremely scenic area of cobblestone streets, Gothic churches, incredible museums, and lanes of grand old apartment buildings – as well as being the city’s best spot for shopping, drinking, and dining. The center of the area is St Stephen’s Cathedral and a busy tourist zone of upscale stores and restaurants spread out beneath its spires. Walk easily to several museums including the Albertina and MOMOk and concert halls, the famous Austrian State Opera House, and well-tended parks and gardens. If you only have a short time to visit Vienna, spend your time here.

2. Neubau & the Museum District

The Museum District holds some of the city’s best museums, including the elegant Leopold and chic MOMOK. Other than the fact that it’s on the outside of the Ringstrasse that defines the Innere Stadt, it feels like the city center here. Don’t miss the gardens between here and the grand Hofburg, particularly the rose gardens in spring and summer. A hop to the southeast from here is Neubau, with beautiful old architecture, but it’s now filling with some of the more cutting-edge restaurants and arty galleries. If you’ve just finished a day visiting the museums, wander only a few minutes to Neubau for dinner or drinks to feel more out of the tourist zone.

3. Karlsplatz & Naschmarkt

This is the biggest transport hub in the city just steps away from the Innere Stadt. Come here to walk to Naschmarkt, Vienna’s largest market, to eat at food stalls, maybe buy food for a picknick, load up on souvenirs, or get a tie-dyed T-shirt. On your way in or out of the market, you can ogle the Beethoven Frieze painted by Gustave Klimt at Succession, visit the frescos in ornate Karlskirche, or take a tour of the Vienna State Opera, one of the top opera and ballet venues in the world.

4. Around Belvedere Palace

The area around Belvedere Palace is a charming, fairly residential area that can be fun to wander around. The main drew here, of course, is the palace itself, a baroque masterpiece of a place filled with great works of art, including famous paintings by Klimt, Renoir, and Monet. The French-style gardens are none less splendid and slope up to the panoramic views of Vienna, after which the entire area is named. For those wanting to explore further beyond the palace, there are more sites as you walk towards the Danube Canal, including the surprisingly riveting Museum of Military History and the stately and gorgeous MAK (Museum of Applied Arts). Stadtpark, with its statues of famous composers, makes for a great wander about if you’re headed back into the Innere Stadt.

5. Leopoldstadt & Prater

Low key and residential yet elegant, the area across the Danube Canal from Innere Stadt is a lovely place to visit especially if you’ve got kids in tow. The biggest sight over the way is Prater Amusement Park with a giant Ferris Wheel and rollercoasters, and then there are the parks, giant Augarten (with a good playground) and Unterer Prater, the city’s biggest park. You can also check out the Johann Strauss Residence where the artist composed “The Blue Danube” and Madame Tussauds to get a selfie with Klimt.

6. Josefstadt & Alservorstadt

Home to one of Europe’s biggest universities, these neighborhoods have a youthful, international buzz. There are plenty of sights here too, including the newly renovated Sigmund Freud Museum and the simply stunning Liechtenstein Palace, one of the lesser-visited of Vienna’s grand royal residences. Vienna University itself is also worth checking out; it’s been around since 1365 and still has the original architecture to prove it. Take a guided tour to get the most out of a visit. If you’re in the area on a Saturday, head over to Yppenplatz for the colorful farmer’s market.

7. Around Schonbrünn Palace

Schonbrünn Palace is simply immense, but even its size isn’t enough to hold the throngs of tourists heading here in the summer and on holidays. Definitely buy tickets in advance or expect to wait, possibly for hours, to get in. Expect to spend a full day exploring. Must-see rooms are the ornate State Apartments including the Napoleon Room, where the French ruler once stayed, and the exquisite Mirror Room where Mozart performed at age six. The gardens will take most of your time though and if you have kids, you might want to consider making two days of it to take your time at the on-site zoo as well. The area surrounding the palace is an upscale residential neighborhood, but there are also a few other sights around including Klimt Villa, the artist’s last studio as well as the beautiful 19th-century Hermesvilla within Lainzer Tiergarten, a veritable woodland of a park that’s great for long walks.

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