Storybook palaces, masterpiece-packed museums, sublime classical music venues and opulent coffee houses are hallmarks of Vienna. A deeper dive into this glorious city’s neighborhoods reveals even richer layers of the Austrian capital’s character.
Explorations beyond the historic core here are rewarded by atmospheric Beisln (bistro-pubs), ancient Vinothek (wine bar) cellars, lively markets, design studios, hip cafés, bars and restaurants, and high-spirited summertime Schanigärten (outdoor terraces).
Vienna’s 23 Bezirke (districts) spiral out like a nautilus from the Innere Stadt (1st district). This historic center is encircled by the Ringstrasse, a splendid series of boulevards studded with landmark sights. Between the Ringstrasse and the Gürtel ring road are the Vorstädte (inner suburbs; 2nd to 9th districts); outside the Gürtel are the Vororte (outer suburbs; 10th to 23rd districts).
Bezirke numbers appear at the beginning of all street addresses and as the middle two digits of post codes – useful when considering where to book accommodation. Central Vorstädte are easy to explore on foot, while a superb network of U-Bahn (underground rail), tram and bus services make the entire city easily accessible. Here’s our guide to Vienna's best neighborhoods.
Best neighborhood for first-time visitors
Soaring above the Innere Stadt skyline is the city's magnificent Gothic cathedral, Stephansdom. Cobbled lanes and stately thoroughfares such as Vienna’s most elegant shopping street, Graben, are graced with pastel-shaded baroque buildings and memorable places to sip Austrian wines – such as Die Weinorgel Wien, which occupies a former monastery vault.
Fiaker (horse-drawn carriages) clip-clop south around the monumental Hofburg, former home base of the Habsburg monarchy. The palace complex contains the regal Kaiserappartements, the waltzing horses of the Spanish Riding School, the Burgkapelle (home of the Vienna Boys’ Choir) and a bevy of museums. Grand coffee houses make an ideal sightseeing break for coffee and cake; it’s hard to resist Café Sacher’s world-famous Sacher Torte: iced chocolate cake with tangy apricot jam.
As Vienna’s main tourist precinct, this district is home to some of the city’s most historic hotels, along with snazzy designer properties and unpretentious family-run Pensionen (pensions).
Karlsplatz, Naschmarkt and Around
Best neighborhood for dining and nightlife
Vienna’s premier opera and ballet venue, the Staatsoper is a stalwart of the Ringstrasse. Eastward, the cultured 4th district, Wieden, centers on Karlsplatz, where you can admire the baroque frescoes of the Karlskirche, take in Otto Wagner’s Art Nouveau Stadtbahn Pavillons and catch a concert at the acoustically renowned Musikverein, where the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs.
Heading west, Vienna’s aromatic Naschmarkt has scores of tantalizing produce-laden stalls, sit-down restaurants, a Saturday Flohmarkt (flea market), plus a profusion of cocktail bars, pubs and clubs in its vicinity. Artisan food shops and cafés are tucked farther south, in the village-like Freihausviertel quarter.
Another flurry of restaurants and bars is found along Gumpendorfer Strasse, between the Naschmarkt and the high-street shopping spine Mariahilfer Strasse in the 6th district (also known as Mariahilf). Charming Beisln occupy its side streets. A similar local flavor prevails around Margaretenplatz in the adjacent 5th district, Margareten. Mid-range hotels, pensions and hostels cluster around Mariahilfer Strasse and Kettenbrückengasse.
Museum District & Neubau
Best neighborhood for creative venues and Christmas markets
Twin neoclassical Ringstrasse buildings house the natural history Naturhistorisches Museum and the glorious fine-art Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, which together house an extraordinary trove of artifacts and old-master paintings.
Behind them, baroque imperial stables in the 7th district, Neubau, now house the colossal MuseumsQuartier, comprising top-flight museums like the Expressionism-centric Leopold Museum, as well as numerous music, theater and dance venues, plus shops, cafés and bars in its courtyards. Neubau’s backstreets teem with cutting-edge designers producing fashion, bags, jewelry, bags, cool homewares and furniture in their ateliers.
This is an especially good area to stay if you're here during the Christmas market season. Ice skaters twirl alongside stalls selling wooden toys, festive decorations, sizzling Würstel (sausages) and steaming Glühwein (mulled wine) at the magical Weihnachtstraum Christkindlmarkt, which sets up on Rathausplatz in front of the neo-Gothic Rathaus (City Hall) every November.
In Neubau’s cobbled Spittelberg quarter, the enchanting Spittelberg Christkindlmarkt is a local favorite. Throughout the neighborhood are creative hostels, pensions and hotels.
Alsergrund & University District
Best neighborhood for student life
Adjoining the Innere Stadt to the northwest are the 8th district, Josefstadt; and the 9th district, Alsergrund, home to the city’s venerable university, founded in the 14th century. The “father of psychoanalysis” was once a neighbor here; his former home is now the Sigmund Freud Museum.
Students hang out in the area’s cavern-like cafés, bars, indie live music venues and shaded beer gardens. In the warmer months, the center of the action is the waterside Summer Stage, with food pavilions and stages strung along Rossauer Lände, on the banks of the Donaukanal (Danube Canal). While there are few hotels or B&Bs in this appealing neighborhood, you’ll often find short-term apartment rentals here.
Schloss Belvedere to the Canal
Best neighborhood for parks and palaces
Set amid sculpted gardens, the sumptuous Schloss Belvedere palace has exceptional art collections in the Oberes Belvedere (Upper Belvedere), state apartments and ceremonial rooms in the Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere) and contemporary works by Austrian artists in the Belvedere 21 pavilion
The surrounding 3rd district, Landstrasse, is where you’ll find examples of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s wild architectural style, including the kaleidoscopic KunstHausWien. Elegant backstreets offer superb cafés and restaurants, particularly on and around Landstrasser Hauptstrasse.
Paths wind through the greenery of the Stadtpark (City Park) along the Wien River, which flows into the Donaukanal. Boutique hotels and B&Bs around the park provide especially appealing accommodations in this neighborhood.
Prater & East of the Danube
Best neighborhood for families
Water borders the 2nd district, Leopoldstadt, situated between the Donaukanal and the Donau (Danube River). The city’s once and current Jewish quarter, this is one of Vienna’s coolest districts, with street art, canal-side beach bars and backstreet cafés, not to mention restaurants, galleries and one-off shops, especially around the bustling Karmelitermarkt.
The Donauinsel (Danube Island) is city’s destination for water sports, with bars and urban beaches for less active pursuits. For families, the biggest draw is the vast parklands of the Prater, with kid-pleasing fair rides at the Würstelprater including the famous 19th-century Riesenrad (Ferris wheel). Boutique hotels and unique options continue to pop up in this activity-packed neighborhood.