Where to Stay in Vienna

Michael Catford | May 19, 2019 in

A Local’s Guide to the Best Places to Stay in Vienna

Vienna. Home of grand palaces, high art, and endless beer and schnitzels, the Austrian capital is an enchanting place.

Long known as one of the centers of European culture, Vienna has been the playground of the rich and powerful for centuries. But in more recent decades the parade of royals, diplomats and millionaires have given way to a different type of visitor. The tourist.

With such a variety of things to see and do in the Austrian capital, finding the perfect place to stay is key to enjoying all that it offers. But the best area will depend on your situation. How will you know where to stay in Vienna as a tourist? Where to stay in Vienna on a budget? Where to stay in Vienna with family? Where to stay to see the sights, or enjoy some well-earned relaxation?

With 23 districts to choose from, working out the best location to stay in Vienna can be a challenge for those who haven’t visited before. So to simplify your search, we’ve identified the 10 areas that offer visitors the very best of Vienna.

Where to stay in Vienna: the 10 best areas

So, which is the best part of Vienna to stay? We’ve broken our list of 10 areas into two categories:

  • The five best sightseeing areas: For an exciting, fun and adventurous stay.
  • The five best residential areas: For a quiet, relaxing and authentic stay.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look the five areas that offer the best fun, excitement and sights of the city, and the five areas that will allow you to experience Vienna as a local.

The 5 best districts to stay in Vienna: sightseeing

Vienna was the headquarters of the Habsburg dynasty, one of the richest and most powerful families in the history of Europe. As such it has built up an incredible collection of magnificent buildings, gorgeous gardens and unique sights over the centuries, as the famous rulers sought to surround themselves with opulence.

Schönbrunn Palace, the Hofburg, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Vienna State Opera; thanks mainly to the Habsburgs, if you’re a fan of history, architecture, art and culture, you’ll find more in Vienna than almost any other European capital. But history buffs aren’t the only visitor drawn to this beautiful city – Vienna also boasts amazing shopping, unique food and drink, and a collection of bohemian and alternative areas dripping with street art and cute cafés.

If you’re in Vienna to check sights and experiences off the bucket list, the best area to stay in Vienna for sightseeing will be one of these five, with the following districts forming the perfect launching pads for adventure.

Innere Stadt

Hofburg - Image by Andreas N from Pixabay
Hofburg – Image by Andreas N from Pixabay

Translated simply to ‘Inner City’, Innere Stadt is Vienna’s historic center, and is home to its most famous sights. Here you’ll be no more than a 10 minute walk from the Hofburg, the monstrous imperial palace of the Habsburgs and now official residence of the president of Austria, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a medieval Roman Catholic church with ornate tiling and a towering spire, and the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), one of the busiest opera houses in the world, often hosting a different opera or ballet every night of the week.

For most of its history Innere Stadt was the entire city of Vienna, and only by 1850 had the city expanded enough to divide it into suburbs. Today Innere Stadt is undoubtedly the best area to stay in Vienna for tourists who want to see the sights, its winding streets lined with visitor-friendly eateries, museums, galleries and accommodation. Although it should be noted that here you’ll be paying the highest hotel prices in the city.

Leopoldstadt

Wiener Riesenrad - Image by Ernschie from Pixabay
Wiener Riesenrad – Image by Ernschie from Pixabay

Cool, fresh, multicultural. Separated from Innere Stadt by the Danube Canal, Leopoldstadt is essentially an island, being bordered by the actual Danube River on its other side. Here the historic, touristy feel of Innere Stadt is traded in for a far more local and residential vibe. Happily the prices reflect the change, with accommodation, food and drink far cheaper here than on the other side of the canal. Hotels are far fewer however, and renting a private apartment may be your only option in high season.

While you’re not in the heart of the city, Leopoldstadt isn’t far from it. Fantastic transport connections mean that a quick subway ride will get you to wherever you need to go, and the district itself isn’t short on sights and experiences. The Prater, an amusement park found in a large public space of the same name, the Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna’s iconic Ferris wheel, and the Chocolate Museum Vienna can all be found here. All of this makes Leopoldstadt perhaps the best area to stay in Vienna for holidays with the family.

Landstrasse

Belvedere Castle - Image by Andreas N from Pixabay
Belvedere Castle – Image by Andreas N from Pixabay

Vienna’s embassy district, many of this opulent area’s palaces are home to foreign diplomats who take appropriate pride in their residences. Perhaps Vienna’s greenest district, walking around this lush area is a joy. Landstrasse is where you’ll find Belvedere, a complex of stunning gardens and two beautiful baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere), now filled with art from the Middle Ages. The area is also home to what could be the antithesis of Belvedere – Hundertwasser House. This is a multi-colored apartment block designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser that features trees growing out from the inside of the building.

Landstrasse is a quieter neighborhood, and the city center is a quick and easy tram ride away. It’s also one of the safest districts in a very safe city. If you’re wondering where to stay in Vienna for Christmas, the amazing markets at Belvedere make Landstrasse a great choice.

Neubau

Kunsthistorisches Museum - Photo by © Wien Tourismus Paul Bauer
Kunsthistorisches Museum – Photo by © Wien Tourismus Paul Bauer

On a list of cool places to stay in Vienna, Neubau would sit at the top. Creative, intellectual, young, liberal; Neubau is a magnet for the Vienna’s coolest residents, and has an atmosphere to match. Here you’ll find cute cafés, art galleries, microbreweries, boutique stores and the famous Mariahilfer Strasse shopping strip on the district’s southern border. Neubau is also Vienna’s museum quarter, with the Leopold Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Kunsthistoriches Museum amongst others found here.

While this is a hotspot for Vienna’s student population, the gentrification of this ever more hipster area has seen prices skyrocket in recent years. Neubau is certainly ‘in’, so eating, drinking and sleeping here can cost almost as much as doing the same in the city center. This is not where to stay in Vienna on a budget, so backpackers may be better off visiting the district for a day, rather than trying to make it their base.

Mariahilf

Mariahilf - Image by Josef Schilk from Pixabay
Mariahilf – Image by Josef Schilk from Pixabay

On the other side of Mariahilfer Strasse you’ll find the beautiful 6th district, Mariahilf. This area is best known for its namesake street, which is the busiest and most famous shopping avenue in Vienna. The spending theme continues throughout the district, making it the perfect area for those who love a good holiday shop. Vienna’s biggest market Naschmarkt can be found here, overflowing with fresh produce, boutique fashion and second hand goods. Consumerism aside, you’ll also find the city’s aquarium oddly located in a former anti-aircraft tower in charming Esterházypark.

Like neighboring Neubau, Mariahilf isn’t much cheaper than staying in the city center, so may not be the best place to stay in Vienna on a budget. It is gorgeous, safe, and offers an atmosphere all its own though, and nowhere is better for lovers of retail therapy.

The 5 best districts to stay in Vienna: residential

For many travelers, visiting a new city isn’t just about seeing its sights. It’s instead a chance to learn about a different culture and to find out what day-to-day life is like for residents. If you’ve got a little bit of time to spend in Vienna, why not spend it living like a local? There are many residential areas that remain perfectly positioned for exploration of the city, offering great insight into what the real Vienna feels like, as well as a far more economical stay when compared to the more touristy spots.

The following five areas are close to the city center but remain largely residential, offering a quiet, relaxed and well connected stay; perfect for an extended visit or a romantic getaway.

Wieden

Streets of Vienna - Karlskirche - Image by Meatle from Pixabay
Streets of Vienna – Karlskirche – Image by Meatle from Pixabay

Located directly south of Innere Stadt, Wieden is perfectly placed to offer visitors both the touristy highlights of the city and a truly local experience. Shop like a local at nearby Naschmarkt, enjoy the delights of the area’s traditional cafés and restaurants, and take a quick tram into the center if you feel like being a tourist for the day.

Wieden itself has a handful of landmarks that are certainly worth a look. It is considered by many to be the musical hub of the city – Karlskirche is an 18th-century Habsburg-built cathedral that hosts regular classical concerts, while the areas bars and pubs see a constant flow of performers through their doors. You wouldn’t know it, but this area was part of the soviet sector of Vienna for 10 years after World War II. Thankfully the soviets failed to make their mark.

Margareten

Wedged between the more spacious and airy districts of Mariahilf and Wieden, Margareten is a far more densely populated area, with apartment blocks lining the streets, particularly near Gürtel (Vienna’s commuter belt). Located just a stone’s throw from the historic center, but with an almost completely residential population, Margareten offers perhaps the best compromise for those looking to see both the real Vienna and its famous sights.

Gürtel, the commuter belt that encircles Vienna, has areas that are less appealing to tourists. While not necessarily unsafe, individuals involved in the famously seedy nightlife of the belt can create an uncomfortable for those walking home after dark, so it’s best to stick to areas a block or two away from Gürtel. Happily the rest of the district is gorgeous.

Josefstadt

Relaxed, local, and effortlessly cool; in many ways Josefstadt can be seen as the toned down version of Neubau, the ultra-trendy district to the south. While students and hipsters might like to be seen in Neubau, Josefstadt is where many of them actually live, which makes it perfect for a visitor looking to experience the real Vienna. There’s an authenticity here that other districts can lack – the bars and cafés aren’t cool to attract tourists, they’re cool because that’s how the locals like them.

Josefstadt is likely to become the ‘in’ district in years to come, but for now it offers you a truly Viennese experience, and one that won’t break the bank. Of all the cool places to stay in Vienna this is perhaps the most wallet friendly. There’s really no need to leave Josefstadt, even if you’re here for an extended stay – there are more markets, theaters, cafés, galleries and shops here than you can shake a stick at!

Hietzing

Schonbrunn Palace - Photo by Explorer Plan
Schonbrunn Palace – Photo by Explorer Plan

While located in what could be termed the outskirts of Vienna, the glorious district of Hietzing is home to the city’s most affluent residents, and perhaps its most famous landmark. Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the famous Habsburgs, is a must-see for any Vienna tourist. With over 1400 rococo-styled rooms and gardens that seem to go on forever, here you’ll get a sense of exactly how rich and powerful this family was. But the greenery doesn’t end in the Habsburg’s gardens – Hietzing also includes a large area of the Vienna Woods, placing the great outdoors at your doorstep.

While Hietzing is home to Vienna’s wealthy, far fewer tourists choose to stay here than the inner city, so accommodation can be surprisingly economical. It is quite removed from the action, however, so while it will give you an idea of how the other half of Vienna lives, you may not get quite the Austrian cultural experience that you were hunting for.

Alsergrund

Constructed in the late 1800s, Alsergrund features distinctly wide streets lined with elegant 19th century buildings. The presence of the University of Vienna means that this area is once again student-heavy, and is also an LGBT+ hotspot, so plenty of pubs and bars cater to both crowds. Once the home of Sigmund Freud, a museum dedicated to the father of psychoanalysis can be found here.

Found directly north of Innere Stadt, Alsergrund is yet another district perfectly positioned for a visit to the city, and boasts excellent transport connections. If you’re looking for great value accommodation in a great location, and are happy to hang with the university crowd, this is the district for you!

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