Prevention and health promotion are gaining importance in modern medical curricula. Aim of this study was to evaluate the self-assessment of knowledge, skills and attitudes of medical students towards health promotion and prevention. In 2012, at the Medical University of Vienna, 27 % of the 633 fourth-year medical students (50.3 % male and 49.7 % female; mean age: 24 years) completed a questionnaire. Results show a high assessment of prevention in most respondents. Knowledge gaps were detected on occupational health and mother–child pass examinations. However, almost all students reported sufficient knowledge on screening and risk assessment of developing cardiovascular diseases. Almost all respondents estimated to be able to identify risky behaviours. Overall, estimation towards prevention of tomorrow’s physicians is very positive. However, only 40 % believed to have been adequately trained on preventive medicine so far. Relevant preventive aspects were added to the medical curriculum in 2012–2013 with the new block ‘Public Health’.