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The 19 best things to do in Vienna if you love design

The underrated Austrian capital is about so much more than schnitzel

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Undeniably one of Europe’s most enticing—and sorely underrated—capitals, Vienna has something to offer visitors of all stripes.

A destination for those seeking stately Baroque or contemporary architecture, or cutting-edge culinary and modern art scenes, Vienna (population 1.8 million) prides itself on being a thoroughly modern metropolis that embraces its storied past.

While a walk through the city’s historic 1st district, home to many museums and notable points of interest, can feel like taking a stroll back in time, Vienna is also rich in icons of the 20th-century Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) movement—not to mention modern landmarks by contemporary starchitects like Zaha Hadid and Dominique Perrault.

Much of what makes the city buzz is outside its historic core, and each of the city’s 23 districts has something to offer, so we’ve cast a wide net to compile the 20 spots design and architecture lovers are sure to enjoy.

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1. MAK Design Shop

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Stubenring 5
1010 Wien, Austria
+43 1 71136228
Visit Website

The design shop of the Museum of Applied Arts, a museum for decorative arts and architecture, is one of the best for locally made souvenirs. It specializes in Viennese design-inspired home goods and accessories—like reissues of serving items by Josef Hoffmann, founder of the Vienna Workshop design movement of the 1920s—and jewelry by local designers.

2. Karmelitermarkt

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Karmelitermarkt
1020 Wien, Austria

Slightly off the beaten tourist path, this charming plaza in the former Jewish quarter features one of the city’s oldest outdoor markets, as well as a variety of restaurants and cafes on the square. Permanent stand Kaas am Markt offers regional specialties, while nearby Madaini serves tasty Georgian grub. It’s worth strolling the quaint streets nearby to visit shops like Design Galerie (Prater Strasse 1), where local designers Karin Lebinger and Designer Franz Maurer show contemporary furniture and home accessories.

3. Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU)

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Welthandelsplatz 1 1
1020 Wien, Austria

If a smorgasbord of contemporary architecture floats your boat, this university campus is a must-see. Six international architecture firms, including Hitoshi Abe and Estudio Carme Pinós, designed buildings for the site, which opened in 2013. Just north of the expansive Prater park, the campus centerpiece is the sinuous library and learning center by Zaha Hadid Architects. The Executive Academy building by Madrid firm NO.MAD resembles a stack of blocks, while the Administration and Law building by Sir Peter Cook’s firm, CRAB, provides a quirky, colorful contrast.

4. SO/ Vienna Hotel

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Praterstraße 1
1020 Wien, Austria

Just over the Danube from the city’s historic first quarter, a Jean Nouvel-designed sloping building provides a modern contrast: Wrapped in glass, the SO/ Vienna Hotel takes inspiration from the Gothic architecture of nearby St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a Viennese landmark. The 18th-floor restaurant, Das Loft, offers cinematic views of the city and is lit overhead by a colossal video installation by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. Her work is also featured in the building’s lower levels.

5. The Bank Brasserie & Bar in Park Hyatt Hotel

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Bognergasse 4
1010 Wien, Austria

Once the building of a major bank of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the bar and brasserie in this hotel, which opened in 2016, is enough to make anyone feel like a millionaire—if only for an evening. Designed by Dutch duo FG Stijl, the plush interior is an ode to the Vienna Workshop (Weiner Werkstätte) school of design, which grew out of the Art Nouveau movement. The interiors have been updated with contemporary furniture and lighting. Signature cocktails are named after 11 global currencies, and are some of the tastiest in town.

6. Hundertwasser House

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Kegelgasse 36-38
1030 Wien, Austria

This expressionist apartment complex was created by avant-garde artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser—Austria’s answer to Gaudí. The building demonstrates his disdain for straight lines (there are hardly any), while its plant-covered facade demonstrates his philosophy that humans need to live in nature. Although the property is private and cannot be entered, the building is well worth a look from the outside. To learn more about Hundertwasser’s work, visit the nearby KunstHausMuseum (Untere Weißgerberstraße 13) to take a look at his artistic oeuvre, as well as the rotating exhibitions of work by other modern artists.

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7. Austrian National Library

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Josefsplatz 1
1015 Wien, Austria

Located in the Hofburg palace, this library has a 400-year-old history, starting with the Hapsburg empire. The Baroque building was designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, who was also responsible for designing the former imperial summer residence, the Schönbrunn palace. Don’t miss the stunning State Hall with its intricately painted domed ceiling, breathtaking frescoes, marble columns, and trove of over 200,000 books.

8. Burggarten

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Josefsplatz 1
1010 Wien, Austria

This stately garden was once the private property of 18th-century emperor Franz I and is now open to the public. Located just behind the ornate National Library and a short walk from the opera house, it’s a welcome oasis in the middle of the city’s historic center. Browse the collection of sculptures of famous Austrians before reaching the Palm House restaurant and cafe. Housed in an ornate glass Art Nouveau structure, it’s an ideal stop for lunch or a piece of the city’s famous Sachertorte chocolate cake or Kaiserschmarrn—a Viennese shredded pancake.

9. Das Möbel Café

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Burggasse 10
1070 Wien, Austria

A design lover’s answer to the traditional Viennese cafe, this quaint locale was founded nearly ten years ago as a cafe and showroom for contemporary works by up-and-coming Austrian furniture designers. The cafe is an ideal place to grab a lavish lunch and pick up a locally made accessory, while those looking to make larger purchases can head to the showroom in the 6th district (Gumpendorfer Straße 11).

10. Vienna Operahouse

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Opernring 2
1010 Wien, Austria
+43 1 514442250
Visit Website

The Vienna State Opera, one of the world’s leading opera houses, is also among the most architecturally stunning Neo-Renaissance masterpieces in Europe. Completed in 1869, the theater was heavily bombed by the Allies in 1945 and, ironically, its reparations were funded by the U.S. through the German Marshall Plan. By 1956 the theater was back in action and has since continued to draw music lovers from all over the globe. Tours of the building are offered daily.

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11. Museumsquartier

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One of the world’s largest museum complexes, this cultural hotspot in the trendy 7th district is a must-visit spot for art-lovers. Formerly the imperial court stables, the laid-back quarter features a mix of Baroque and contemporary architecture, housing museums, a dance center, and more. Don’t miss the basalt-clad Museum of Modern Arts (MuMok) finished in 2001 by Ortner & Ortner or the nearby Leopold Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of works by Austrian figurative painter Egon Schiele.

12. Secession

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Friedrichstraße 12
1010 Wien, Austria

This opulent Art Nouveau building is the key architectural work of a manifesto written by a group of rebel artists led by Gustav Klimt in 1897. They considered it an “art temple” of early modernism. The golden ball perched atop the structure is made up of 3,000 gold-plated laurel leaves, and the basement features a gold-tinged fresco by Klimt called the Frieze—one of the movement’s seminal works. Upstairs, the Secession hosts between 10 and fifteen shows per year by contemporary artists, staying true to the group’s original vision of embracing artistic change.

13. Café Sperl

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Gumpendorfer Str. 11
1060 Wien, Austria

No other European city does coffee-house culture quite as well as Vienna. Although the number of opulent cafes in the city seems limitless–Café Central and Café Landtmann are among the city’s most famous and visually impressive—Café Sperl is the cream of the crop. Unlike some of the other top picks, it’s situated in the 6th district, comfortably outside of the busy tourist zone. Opened in 1880, the high-ceilinged café was a regular haunt of Viennese actors, artists, literary types, and politicians for more than a century. The speakeasy-style digs are ideal for reading a book while sipping on a mélange—the Viennese version of a cappuccino.

Shutterstock

14. Yppenplatz

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Yppenpl.
1160 Wien, Austria

One of Vienna’s hippest meeting points is this lively plaza in the west of the city. Foodies looking to experience some of Vienna’s edgiest culinary offerings should visit Rasouli (Yppenplatz/Payergasse 16), which specializes in organic Austrian fare as well as Afghani dishes. The sleek interior of bistro Ludwig & Adele (Yppenplatz 4) features Austrian-Italian delicacies and and an extensive wine selection in a relaxing interior. Art lovers will enjoy the quaint, one-room photography gallery Anika handelt (Yppenplatz 5/6) just around the corner.

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15. Naschmarkt deli

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Naschmarkt Stand 421–436, Linke Wienzeile
1040 Wien, Austria

Made up of 120 stands, some of which have been there since the early 20th century, this food and flea market is a favorite with tourists in Vienna—and for good reason. For a hearty breakfast, there is no better than the Naschmarkt deli, which serves heaping and healthy Turkish and Austrian meals. While browsing the market, take a long look at the stunning Art Nouveau facades by architect Otto Wagner that surround it. Highlights include the golden ornamented building at Linke Wienzeile 38 and red poppy-tiled Majolikahaus (Linke Wienzeile 40).

16. Die Glasfabrik

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Felberstraße 3
1150 Wien, Austria

As its name suggests, this former glass factory and outpost in western Vienna is a dream come true for vintage and antique furniture lovers. Those up for the challenge of finding that perfect fitting will have a heyday hunting through 3,200 square feet of rarities, ranging from circa-1870 Biedermeier dressers to Viennese modernist finds from Gebrüder Thonet.

17. Belvedere Palace and Gardens

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Prinz Eugen-Straße 27
1030 Wien, Austria

It’s not surprising that this stunning Baroque building and its impeccably manicured gardens have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in the early 18th century by Prince Eugene of Savoy, today the buildings house works by international painters like Monet and Van Gogh, as well as Gustav Klimt’s celebrated work, “Kiss (Lovers)”. The integrated mix of old and new found in much of Vienna’s architecture is present on the Belvedere premises. In its heyday, the orangerie was an architecturally sophisticated winter garden; today, its interior has been converted into a white-cube exhibition space.

Shutterstock

18. DC Towers

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DC Towers
1220 Wien, Austria

While Vienna’s business district lacks the charm of its historic quarters, it’s worth the trip to visit the city’s tallest building, designed by French firm Dominique Perrault Architects in 2014. For a sweeping panorama over the Donau River—and excellent cocktails—head to the building’s glamorous 57 Restaurant & Lounge.

19. Wotrubakirche

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Ottillingerpl. 1
1230 Wien, Austria

Built on a former Nazi bunker and surrounded by wildlife, this Brutalist church is made of 152 concrete blocks designed to look as if they might fall to the ground at any moment. The church is named after its architect, Fritz Wotruba, who passed away only one year shy of seeing his magnum opus finished in 1976.

UIG via Getty Images

1. MAK Design Shop

Stubenring 5, 1010 Wien, Austria

The design shop of the Museum of Applied Arts, a museum for decorative arts and architecture, is one of the best for locally made souvenirs. It specializes in Viennese design-inspired home goods and accessories—like reissues of serving items by Josef Hoffmann, founder of the Vienna Workshop design movement of the 1920s—and jewelry by local designers.

Stubenring 5
1010 Wien, Austria

2. Karmelitermarkt

Karmelitermarkt, 1020 Wien, Austria

Slightly off the beaten tourist path, this charming plaza in the former Jewish quarter features one of the city’s oldest outdoor markets, as well as a variety of restaurants and cafes on the square. Permanent stand Kaas am Markt offers regional specialties, while nearby Madaini serves tasty Georgian grub. It’s worth strolling the quaint streets nearby to visit shops like Design Galerie (Prater Strasse 1), where local designers Karin Lebinger and Designer Franz Maurer show contemporary furniture and home accessories.

Karmelitermarkt
1020 Wien, Austria

3. Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU)

Welthandelsplatz 1 1, 1020 Wien, Austria

If a smorgasbord of contemporary architecture floats your boat, this university campus is a must-see. Six international architecture firms, including Hitoshi Abe and Estudio Carme Pinós, designed buildings for the site, which opened in 2013. Just north of the expansive Prater park, the campus centerpiece is the sinuous library and learning center by Zaha Hadid Architects. The Executive Academy building by Madrid firm NO.MAD resembles a stack of blocks, while the Administration and Law building by Sir Peter Cook’s firm, CRAB, provides a quirky, colorful contrast.

Welthandelsplatz 1 1
1020 Wien, Austria

4. SO/ Vienna Hotel

Praterstraße 1, 1020 Wien, Austria

Just over the Danube from the city’s historic first quarter, a Jean Nouvel-designed sloping building provides a modern contrast: Wrapped in glass, the SO/ Vienna Hotel takes inspiration from the Gothic architecture of nearby St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a Viennese landmark. The 18th-floor restaurant, Das Loft, offers cinematic views of the city and is lit overhead by a colossal video installation by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. Her work is also featured in the building’s lower levels.

Praterstraße 1
1020 Wien, Austria

5. The Bank Brasserie & Bar in Park Hyatt Hotel

Bognergasse 4, 1010 Wien, Austria

Once the building of a major bank of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the bar and brasserie in this hotel, which opened in 2016, is enough to make anyone feel like a millionaire—if only for an evening. Designed by Dutch duo FG Stijl, the plush interior is an ode to the Vienna Workshop (Weiner Werkstätte) school of design, which grew out of the Art Nouveau movement. The interiors have been updated with contemporary furniture and lighting. Signature cocktails are named after 11 global currencies, and are some of the tastiest in town.

Bognergasse 4
1010 Wien, Austria

6. Hundertwasser House

Kegelgasse 36-38, 1030 Wien, Austria
Shutterstock

This expressionist apartment complex was created by avant-garde artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser—Austria’s answer to Gaudí. The building demonstrates his disdain for straight lines (there are hardly any), while its plant-covered facade demonstrates his philosophy that humans need to live in nature. Although the property is private and cannot be entered, the building is well worth a look from the outside. To learn more about Hundertwasser’s work, visit the nearby KunstHausMuseum (Untere Weißgerberstraße 13) to take a look at his artistic oeuvre, as well as the rotating exhibitions of work by other modern artists.

Kegelgasse 36-38
1030 Wien, Austria

7. Austrian National Library

Josefsplatz 1, 1015 Wien, Austria

Located in the Hofburg palace, this library has a 400-year-old history, starting with the Hapsburg empire. The Baroque building was designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, who was also responsible for designing the former imperial summer residence, the Schönbrunn palace. Don’t miss the stunning State Hall with its intricately painted domed ceiling, breathtaking frescoes, marble columns, and trove of over 200,000 books.

Josefsplatz 1
1015 Wien, Austria

8. Burggarten

Josefsplatz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria

This stately garden was once the private property of 18th-century emperor Franz I and is now open to the public. Located just behind the ornate National Library and a short walk from the opera house, it’s a welcome oasis in the middle of the city’s historic center. Browse the collection of sculptures of famous Austrians before reaching the Palm House restaurant and cafe. Housed in an ornate glass Art Nouveau structure, it’s an ideal stop for lunch or a piece of the city’s famous Sachertorte chocolate cake or Kaiserschmarrn—a Viennese shredded pancake.

Josefsplatz 1
1010 Wien, Austria

9. Das Möbel Café

Burggasse 10, 1070 Wien, Austria

A design lover’s answer to the traditional Viennese cafe, this quaint locale was founded nearly ten years ago as a cafe and showroom for contemporary works by up-and-coming Austrian furniture designers. The cafe is an ideal place to grab a lavish lunch and pick up a locally made accessory, while those looking to make larger purchases can head to the showroom in the 6th district (Gumpendorfer Straße 11).

Burggasse 10
1070 Wien, Austria

10. Vienna Operahouse

Opernring 2, 1010 Wien, Austria
Shutterstock

The Vienna State Opera, one of the world’s leading opera houses, is also among the most architecturally stunning Neo-Renaissance masterpieces in Europe. Completed in 1869, the theater was heavily bombed by the Allies in 1945 and, ironically, its reparations were funded by the U.S. through the German Marshall Plan. By 1956 the theater was back in action and has since continued to draw music lovers from all over the globe. Tours of the building are offered daily.

Opernring 2
1010 Wien, Austria

11. Museumsquartier

1060 Vienna, Austria

One of the world’s largest museum complexes, this cultural hotspot in the trendy 7th district is a must-visit spot for art-lovers. Formerly the imperial court stables, the laid-back quarter features a mix of Baroque and contemporary architecture, housing museums, a dance center, and more. Don’t miss the basalt-clad Museum of Modern Arts (MuMok) finished in 2001 by Ortner & Ortner or the nearby Leopold Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of works by Austrian figurative painter Egon Schiele.

12. Secession

Friedrichstraße 12, 1010 Wien, Austria

This opulent Art Nouveau building is the key architectural work of a manifesto written by a group of rebel artists led by Gustav Klimt in 1897. They considered it an “art temple” of early modernism. The golden ball perched atop the structure is made up of 3,000 gold-plated laurel leaves, and the basement features a gold-tinged fresco by Klimt called the Frieze—one of the movement’s seminal works. Upstairs, the Secession hosts between 10 and fifteen shows per year by contemporary artists, staying true to the group’s original vision of embracing artistic change.

Friedrichstraße 12
1010 Wien, Austria

13. Café Sperl

Gumpendorfer Str. 11, 1060 Wien, Austria
Shutterstock

No other European city does coffee-house culture quite as well as Vienna. Although the number of opulent cafes in the city seems limitless–Café Central and Café Landtmann are among the city’s most famous and visually impressive—Café Sperl is the cream of the crop. Unlike some of the other top picks, it’s situated in the 6th district, comfortably outside of the busy tourist zone. Opened in 1880, the high-ceilinged café was a regular haunt of Viennese actors, artists, literary types, and politicians for more than a century. The speakeasy-style digs are ideal for reading a book while sipping on a mélange—the Viennese version of a cappuccino.

Gumpendorfer Str. 11
1060 Wien, Austria

14. Yppenplatz

Yppenpl., 1160 Wien, Austria

One of Vienna’s hippest meeting points is this lively plaza in the west of the city. Foodies looking to experience some of Vienna’s edgiest culinary offerings should visit Rasouli (Yppenplatz/Payergasse 16), which specializes in organic Austrian fare as well as Afghani dishes. The sleek interior of bistro Ludwig & Adele (Yppenplatz 4) features Austrian-Italian delicacies and and an extensive wine selection in a relaxing interior. Art lovers will enjoy the quaint, one-room photography gallery Anika handelt (Yppenplatz 5/6) just around the corner.

Yppenpl.
1160 Wien, Austria

15. Naschmarkt deli

Naschmarkt Stand 421–436, Linke Wienzeile, 1040 Wien, Austria

Made up of 120 stands, some of which have been there since the early 20th century, this food and flea market is a favorite with tourists in Vienna—and for good reason. For a hearty breakfast, there is no better than the Naschmarkt deli, which serves heaping and healthy Turkish and Austrian meals. While browsing the market, take a long look at the stunning Art Nouveau facades by architect Otto Wagner that surround it. Highlights include the golden ornamented building at Linke Wienzeile 38 and red poppy-tiled Majolikahaus (Linke Wienzeile 40).

Naschmarkt Stand 421–436, Linke Wienzeile
1040 Wien, Austria

16. Die Glasfabrik

Felberstraße 3, 1150 Wien, Austria

As its name suggests, this former glass factory and outpost in western Vienna is a dream come true for vintage and antique furniture lovers. Those up for the challenge of finding that perfect fitting will have a heyday hunting through 3,200 square feet of rarities, ranging from circa-1870 Biedermeier dressers to Viennese modernist finds from Gebrüder Thonet.

Felberstraße 3
1150 Wien, Austria

17. Belvedere Palace and Gardens

Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Wien, Austria
Shutterstock

It’s not surprising that this stunning Baroque building and its impeccably manicured gardens have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in the early 18th century by Prince Eugene of Savoy, today the buildings house works by international painters like Monet and Van Gogh, as well as Gustav Klimt’s celebrated work, “Kiss (Lovers)”. The integrated mix of old and new found in much of Vienna’s architecture is present on the Belvedere premises. In its heyday, the orangerie was an architecturally sophisticated winter garden; today, its interior has been converted into a white-cube exhibition space.

Prinz Eugen-Straße 27
1030 Wien, Austria

18. DC Towers

DC Towers, 1220 Wien, Austria

While Vienna’s business district lacks the charm of its historic quarters, it’s worth the trip to visit the city’s tallest building, designed by French firm Dominique Perrault Architects in 2014. For a sweeping panorama over the Donau River—and excellent cocktails—head to the building’s glamorous 57 Restaurant & Lounge.

DC Towers
1220 Wien, Austria

19. Wotrubakirche

Ottillingerpl. 1, 1230 Wien, Austria
UIG via Getty Images

Built on a former Nazi bunker and surrounded by wildlife, this Brutalist church is made of 152 concrete blocks designed to look as if they might fall to the ground at any moment. The church is named after its architect, Fritz Wotruba, who passed away only one year shy of seeing his magnum opus finished in 1976.

Ottillingerpl. 1
1230 Wien, Austria