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When Mike and I arrived in Vienna, we were three weeks into our five week European vacation. We’d had long days of admiring the intricate architecture of churches and fine furnishings of the most luxurious palaces. We’d wandered through a few museums (which aren’t really our thing) and strolled around many beautiful gardens.
When we got to Vienna we were tired. Not just physically tired, but tired of palaces, churches and museums. It all became a bit boring.
So, now we had ourselves a bit of a dilemma. Vienna is all about palaces and museums and we were just not into that anymore.
So there we were, two non-museum lovers in Vienna for three and a half days.
Fun Things to do in Vienna
Luckily, there was more to Vienna than just imperial nostalgia. We found the fun and got to experience the more casual, playful side of Vienna.
The Wiener Prater
I was really surprised to find out that Vienna had a permanent carnival. Mike knew there was a giant Ferris wheel, but when we went to check it out we found ourselves in the middle of an amusement park!
The Wiener Prater has been around for over 200 years. Back in 1766 the Prater area was declared free for public enjoyment. Soon coffee houses, taverns, bowling alleys and carousels began popping up. After the giant Ferris wheel was put up in 1895, the Prater became more and more of an amusement park.
Today the Prater is a fun mix of carnival rides and games, restaurants, casinos and entertainment venues like the Praterdome, Austria’s largest discotheque.
I loved, loved, loved the Praterturm! It’s the world’s highest chairoplane ride. The Guiness Book of Records lists it as 117 metres tall, although the swings “only” go up 95 metres. The Praterturm is not only great fun, you get some stunning views of the city from the top!
Stadtpark (City Park)
Stadtpark is a great place to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. There’s an abundance of plants and flowers and the small lake is perfect for duck watching.
Stadtpark also has the largest number of sculptures and monuments than any park in Vienna. Walking around you will come across sculptures of Franz Schubert, Franz Lehár and Robert Stolz. The most well known monument though is of Johann Strauss. The gilded bronze statue, framed by a marble relief, was unveiled to the public in June 1921 and has become one of the most photographed monuments in Vienna.
The Schonbrunn Zoo is the world’s oldest zoo (established in 1752) and part of the imperial summer residence of Schonbrunn Palace.
The zoo wasn’t too big (we easily explored it in one morning) but there were a lot of animals to see. The best was the Red Panda who was up walking around and climbing in the trees. I usually never get to see the Red Panda this close! It actually seemed that you get a much closer view of the animals here at Schonbrunn than at other zoos we’ve been to.
Another highlight was seeing the Arctic Wolves being fed. I thought when the zookeeper came out with all the raw meat that he would be swarmed by the wolves. They did circle around him, but stayed much farther back than I thought they would. The zookeeper just threw the meat and the wolves stood back and caught it in their mouths.
The meerkats were really funny to watch and I got a great picture of the jaguar as he was doing laps around his enclosure. We also saw deer, rhinos, caribou, penguins, a lynx and a cheetah.
We loved our morning at the zoo and it was a great break from all the “Imperialness” of Vienna.
Wachau Valley Cruise
My favourite day during our trip to Vienna was actually not even spent in Vienna, but rather nearby in the Wachau Valley.
We did a short cruise along the Danube river past vineyards, castles and small villages. Not only was the scenery gorgeous, but we had a fun hike up to a ruined medieval castle in Dürnstein.
Tips for Experiencing the Fun Side of Vienna
- The Prater- The Prater’s season is from March 15- October 31. The rides operate daily from 10:00 am- midnight. The Riesenradplatz area is open year round. Admission to the amusement park is free, but you pay for each ride separately. You can easily reach the Prater by metro- get off at Praterstern station.
- Schonbrunn Zoo– Admission tickets to Schonbrunn Zoo are €20 for adults, €10 for children and youth, and children under six are free. The zoo is open 365 days a year. The hours are as follows: February 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, March and October 9:00 am -5:30 pm, April- September 9:00 am – 6:30 pm, November – January 9:00 am – 4:30 pm.
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If you are planning a trip to Vienna, you may find our review of the Vienna Card helpful.
Accommodations in Vienna
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