From its summer festivals to its Christmas markets, Vienna is constantly offering something to do no matter the season. Whether you are coming for a term, a semester, or staying for good, you can be assured that you won’t be bored in a city that combines a rich historical past with modernity. To give you a starting point, here are some of the top experiences you must have in Vienna.
7 Must-Have Experiences in Vienna for your Semester Abroad
1.) Get lost in the old town
The best way to discover the old town is by wandering around without a clear destination. The small streets and alleyways in the city center are full of hidden spots and photogenic scenes. From churches, monuments, museums, and elegant facades, there is something to see at the turn of every corner. Don’t be afraid to get lost!
2.) Try a cuisine you’ve never had before at the Naschmark
The Naschmarkt is a market in Vienna famous for its variety of products and diverse ethnic restaurants. From Greece to India, or Israel to Japan, visiting this lively market is like going on a mini trip around the world. Having something to eat here is an experience in itself not only for the great taste of the food but for the sight of the diversity of the people coming and going.
3.) Do a picnic in one of the many green areas around the city
If you happen to be in Vienna during a sunny season, having a picnic in one of the many parks or gardens in Vienna is a must do. If you are in the city center, Stadpark or Volksgarten have the perfect amount of green to take a break from the city and lay down on the grass. If you prefer panoramic views, the Schonbrunn gardens or the Kahlenberg hill are your way to go. Or, if the heat is too much to handle, head to the Alte Donau or Donauinsel where you can also jump in the Danube and cool off.
4.) Visit the Christmas Markets
If you come to Vienna during winter time, don’t let the cold scare you. Starting in late November, the city of Vienna gets filled with Christmas markets where you can beat the minus temperatures with a hot chocolate or a glühwein (traditional hot wine). The most famous and largest market is the one in front of the Rathaus, but there are many other more around the city such as the ones in the MuseumsQuartier, Karlsplatz, Schonbrunn, Freyung, and one of my favorites, Spittelbergasse. In these markets you can find everything from Christmas decorations, to handmade candles, to specialty food products. It is also commonly accompanied by music performances that will for sure make you feel the Christmas spirit.
5.) Try as many cafés as possible
For centuries, coffee houses have been an important part of Viennese culture. Commonly used as a place to meet colleagues, friends, hold discussions, or work, cafés in Vienna are very frequented. You won’t find a lot of Starbucks, but you will definitely find cozy and warm cafés that serves high quality coffee, home-made cakes, and free WiFi. Some of my personal favorites are: Balthasar, Café Telegraph, Coffee Pirates, Das Mobel, and Jonas Reindl (all are student friendly!).
6.) Go to Prater with a group of friends
The Vienna Prater is home to one of the iconic symbols of the city: The Giant Ferris Wheel. This extensive area encompasses an amusement park and large green areas. Visiting the Prater and getting on the rides is an alternative experience to the often-elegant feel of the city. Here you can feel the adrenaline of the roller coasters or get an aerial view of the city from the flying chairs. If you are not a fan of speed or afraid of heights, there are also plenty of slower rides or arcade games that you and your friends can enjoy. What is more, you pay per ride or game so you don’t have to pay to enter the park!
7.) Attend at least one of the many free events
Something extraordinary about Vienna is the number of free cultural events happening in the city. It seems that no matter the month or the weather, there is something new to do every weekend. There are events such as the Film festival, the Donauinsel Fest, the night of free museums, the Vienna Open Air Opera, the Easter markets, and many other events that are free of charge. These events not only give you a plan for the weekend, but also an opportunity to learn about Austrian culture and traditions. To be up to date with the events happening in Vienna you can go here: https://events.wien.info/en/ (not all of them are free).