Visiting Vienna on a budget

Vienna's Staatsoper Opera House, Austria – Vienna on a budget

Walking through Vienna is like walking into the pages of a fairytale, as a horse and carriage trots past one ornate palace after another. The Austrian capital is bursting with Imperial history and Baroque architecture, with musical accompaniment from Mozart and Strauss. But there’s also a more modern side, with Art Nouveau and modernist art, and the darker side to the city depicted in The Third Man. Like many famous European capitals, the number of visitors can push up prices. But it is possible to spend 3 days in Vienna packed with history, culture and sachertorte without spending big. So here are my top tips for making the most of Vienna on a budget.

Read more: Mozart and markets: Things to do in Salzburg in winter

Statues in the Burggarten and outside the Hofburg

Statues in the Burggarten and outside the Hofburg

Things to do in Vienna on a budget

Take a walk around the Ringstrasse, the ring road that runs around the centre of Vienna, past some of the city’s most famous buildings. Along the route you can see the Vienna State Opera, Imperial Palace, Parliament and City Hall. You can also take a free guided tour around the City Hall, or Rathaus, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1pm (except on public holidays).

In the winter there is a Christmas market and ice skating rink out in front of the Rathaus. And during July and August there is a free open-air cinema, with a big screen showing opera performances and concerts each night after sunset, as well as food and drink stalls.

Vienna trams

Trams running through the centre of Vienna

It’s also free to visit the city’s parks, like the Burggarten and Stadtpark. The Schönbrunn Palace gardens are also free, though you have to pay a couple of euros to visit the maze and Gloriette viewing terrace. In summer you can escape the heat by heading down to the Danube. Danube Island has 42km of beaches as well as boat and bike hire, playgrounds and cafés.

If you’re planning to visit a lot of city’s attractions, it’s worth investing in a Vienna Card. They cost €17 for 24 hours, €25 for 48 hours or €29 for 72 hours with free unlimited travel by public transport as well as discounts on 210 museums, sights, shops and restaurants. You can buy the cards at the Tourist Information Centre in Albertinaplatz, at the airport or online.

The Schonbrunn Palace gardens in Vienna, Austria

Wandering through the Schönbrunn Palace gardens

Money-saving museums and galleries

Vienna has a great selection of museums, but with many entry fees around €15 per person the costs can add up. But there are ways to save – most museums have reduced-price tickets for students and seniors, and discounts with the Vienna Card range from 5% to 50%.

You can also buy joint tickets for various combinations of museums that save on the full entry fees – a combined ticket for the House of Music and Mozarthaus saves you €6, or a combined ticket for the Leopold Museum and Kunsthistorisches Museum saves you €4. There are also various combined passes available for the MuseumsQuartier and the Belvedere.

The Kunsthistorisches Fine Arts Museum in Vienna

The Kunsthistorisches Fine Arts Museum

There are several free museums in Vienna, which are either free at all times – including the money, peace and snow globe museums – or others have free entry on certain days and times. Several Vienna museums are free for under 19s all the time and for everyone else on the first Sunday of the month, including the Wien Museum, Prater Museum and Museum of Military History.

There’s reduced price entry at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) for €5 on Tuesdays from 6pm–10pm, at the MUMOK museum of modernist art for €8 including a tour on Thursdays from 6pm–9pm, and the House of Music has half-price entry for €6.50 from 8pm–9.30pm every day.

There’s also an Art in the Evening programme, where many of Vienna’s museums stay open late on certain evenings and some have discounted entry or free events to go with it.

Vienna city views from St Stephen's Cathedral

Views over Vienna

Top city views

One of the best views in the city centre is from the South Tower of St Stephen’s Cathedral, 137 metres up. Entry to the cathedral is free but if you want to climb the 343 steps to the top of the tower, it costs €5 for adults or €2 for children aged 6–14 (open daily 9am–5.30pm).

If you prefer your views with a cocktail, try the Sky Bar Restaurant on Kärntnerstraße, a rooftop bar on the top floor of a department store which has a great view of the cathedral. Or there’s also the rooftop D-Bar at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Away from the city centre on the northern banks of the Danube is the Danube Tower, or Donauturm, Austria’s tallest structure. At the top there is an expensive rotating restaurant, but a cheaper option is the viewing platform which costs €14.50 (€11 for seniors or €9.90 for children aged 6–14). But some of the best free views over Vienna are probably from the hills around the city – you can reach Mount Leopoldsberg and Mount Kahlenberg by bus from the city centre.

St Stephen’s Cathedral spire

St Stephen’s Cathedral

Inexpensive entertainment

Vienna’s a city of music, but tickets to its famous operas sell out months in advance and can cost over €150. But you can get a bargain if you don’t mind standing up for the performance. Standing tickets for the Staatsoper or State Opera House go on sale 80 minutes before the performance and cost €4 (in the parterre on the ground floor) or €3 (in the balcony or gallery higher up).

Standing tickets are only available from a special ticket office on Operngasse. Get there early, be prepared to queue, and you can only buy one ticket per person so if you’re in a group you’ll all need to line up. You can also get standing tickets for performances at the Volksoper and Burgtheater for a similar price, but you can book these online in advance.

Another popular but pricey attraction is Vienna’s Spanish Riding School. Seats for gala performances cost €63–€217, but there are a few options to see the Lipizzaner horses for less. Standing room tickets for performances (which you can book online in advance) cost €25–€37 or you can watch the horses’ morning exercise to music from 10am–12pm for €15. Over the summer months the performing horses aren’t in Vienna, but there’s ‘Piber Meets Vienna’ show, where young horses from the stud are brought to the school, with tickets from €12–€45.

Inside Vienna's Spanish Riding School

Inside Vienna’s Spanish Riding School

Budget food and drink

Restaurants in the busy central area of Vienna can be expensive, but you can save on eating out by having your main meal at lunchtime. Many restaurants offer a cheaper mittagsmenü, where you can get a two- or three-course meal from a set menu for under €10.

Other ways to save on food are to eat in the cheaper studenty areas like Neubau or Josefstadt. You can also head to the Naschmarkt which has over 120 market stalls selling food and drink (open Monday–Friday from 6am–7.30pm and Saturday from 6am–5pm). And if you’re self-catering, there are also several Spar supermarkets in the city centre.

You can’t visit Vienna without coffee and sachertorte in a traditional café. The most famous cafés can be expensive but there’s no hurry so you can sit there and watch the world go by. Concert cafés have free music performances, like Café Schwarzenberg (Thursday and Friday 7.30pm–11 pm, Saturday and Sunday 5pm–8.30pm), Café Weimar (Monday–Saturday until 7.30pm and Sunday afternoons) and 1950s-style Café Prückel (Monday, Wednesday and Friday 7pm–10pm).

Sachertorte in Vienna

A tasty looking Viennese sachertorte

Low-cost Vienna transport

To get into the city centre from the airport, there are discounts on the City Airport Train and the Airport Lines buses with a Vienna Card. But the cheapest way to each central Vienna is via the S-Bahn train. It costs from €4.10 and takes around 25 minutes from the airport to Wien Mitte station, which has underground connections across the city.

For travel within the city, the Vienna Card gives unlimited free travel on the underground, trams and buses – and each pass also covers one child up to the age of 15 travelling with you. Other options are Weiner Linien travel passes, which cost €8 for 24 hours, €14.10 for 48 hours, €17.10 for 72 hours. There’s also a weekly ticket for €17.10 which is valid Monday from Sunday.

Lots of companies in Vienna run boat trips along the Danube. But if you are travelling on to Slovakia from Vienna you can take the boat rather than the bus or train and get you’ll a mini cruise included. The Twin City Liner boats take 1 hour 15 minutes to travel between Vienna and Bratislava, with five sailings a day and fares starting from €20 one way.

Hofburg Palace buildings

Outside the Hofburg Palace buildings

So those are my tips for seeing Vienna on a budget – do you know of any more Vienna bargains or have any money-saving tips?

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A budget city guide to Vienna – money-saving tips to cut your Vienna costs for sights, museums, food and travel #Vienna #Austria #budget #budgettravel #budgetViennaA budget city guide to Vienna, Austria – money-saving tips to cut your costs on sights, nights out, food and travel #Vienna #Austria #budget #budgettravel #budgetVienna

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  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Really informative article, thanks! Especially like the sound of sachertorte……

    • Reply
      September 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      You’re welcome – hope you get to go and test it out yourself sometime!

      • Ellie
        September 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm

        I hope I get to too 🙂

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I’ve always fancied a two centre trip shuttling between Vienna and Bratislava – if I ever make it I’ll take this guide with me, and definitely try to see a music performance with my cake at a concert café!

    • Reply
      September 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      I really wanted to go to Bratislava too but we were a bit pushed for time and ended up having more than enough to see in Vienna (probably the fact that it was about 34 degrees slowed us down!) – all the more reason for a return trip though.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    My tip is if you’re planning to use the metro a bit, but not loads, buy 4 tickets at once from the machine, rather than individually, as you get a slight discount. Also, eat all the cakes!

    • Reply
      September 25, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      Good tip, thanks – and the cakes are a must-do!

  • Reply
    September 26, 2014 at 6:04 am

    I only spent a day in Vienna but loved it! We had apple strudel twice and sachertorte once. (all in the same day!) It was all so good. I really want to go back and spend more time and these tips will help the budget.

    • Reply
      September 26, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      Sounds like you managed all the cake highlights though even with just a short trip!

  • Reply
    September 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Mittagstisch… they do that in Germany too 🙂

    If you go to Budapest by train, it’s cheap to get the all day ticket that includes public transport within Bratislava than just buy a single ticket from Vienna to Bratislava! We tried to buy singles because we were planning on taking the boat back and were told the return was still cheaper. Also, if you use the right boat company (which we couldn’t because we had to be back at a certain time) you get 30% off the boat ticket if you show your train ticket.

    • Reply
      September 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks for the train tips – I didn’t realise that Vienna and Budapest were so close and that it was so easy to combine the two. I’ve only been to Budapest briefly years ago so will have to make it back sometime.

      • bevchen
        September 27, 2014 at 8:09 am

        The train journey was an hour. I hadn’t realised they were so close either until I started looking into boat trips on the Danube.

      • Victoria
        September 28, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        Yes. Also, if you buy a roundtrip bus ticket to Vienna from Bratislava, your ticket includes an unlimited pass in the transport system within Vienna (trams, underground, buses).

  • Reply
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    September 26, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    I just love the way that they never rush you in the cafes of Vienna – and how generous the portions are – it was so worrying how in the few days I was there last year, I regularly had a 4th meal every day in one of these cafes, indulging in one of the delicious choices of cake – such a pretty city but can be expensive so some great tips here on how to make it more cost effective!

    • Reply
      September 29, 2014 at 11:17 am

      The cafes are great for people watching, I can easily spend a couple of hours just watching the world go by (preferably with a massive portion of cake to go with it!).

  • Reply
    Tania Kanda
    September 29, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Just amazing..Very informative article. It will help us a lot whenever we’ll had a plan to go to Vienna 🙂

    • Reply
      September 29, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Thanks – hope it will come in useful!

  • Reply
    Aggy (@dewtraveller)
    September 29, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Awesome tips Lucy! Will be bookmarking this for my trip to Vienna…someday!

    • Reply
      September 29, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Thanks Aggy, hope you do get to make the trip sometime, it’s such a pretty city and there is so much history and culture to experience.

  • Reply
    September 29, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Definitely bookmarking this for my possible upcoming trip to Vienna next May! Oh and if I haven’t said it already, I’m loving the new look of the site! 😀

    • Reply
      September 29, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Thanks Vlad, I still have lots of photo resizing to do for the old posts but am really happy with it so far!

  • Reply
    September 29, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    These are great tips. I’ve been to Vienna a few times and enjoyed going to the cafe, going to the opera, and general sightseeing. Once, I went on a roundabout shaped like a cup which almost turned into a disaster, as I had a fanta and lager concotion for the first time, and it didn’t agree with me. And the more we twirled around faster and faster, the greener I got. I was so concerned that I didn’t vomit while on, that as soon as we landed safely on the ground. I did. Vomit, I mean. Discreetly of course. I am British after all LOL!

    I like the tip about travelling to Slovakia or Hungary by boat rather than the bus or train. I used to live in Bratislava, a very long time ago so it’s good to know that you can cut across! Very nice. 🙂

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Haha, sounds like my huge dislike of fairground rides is justified! Vienna is definitely one of those places where you can just wander around and soak up the atmosphere and relax over coffee and cake.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve been a little obsessed with Vienna since 13 Going on 30 introduced me to Billy Joel’s song about the place. Thanks for showing us little ways to make a dream a reality!

    • Reply
      October 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      You’re welcome – hope you get to go out there and see it for yourself sometime soon!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    October 3, 2014 at 10:05 am

    What a fabulously useful post. Will definitely print this off and take with if I find myself heading to Vienna.

    • Reply
      October 3, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      Hope it comes in useful if you do (we’re already planning trip #2 for next year’s Eurovision!).

  • Reply
    Megan {Country Cleaver}
    July 20, 2015 at 3:07 am

    I can’t wait to have my husband read this – he wants to go to Vienna so badly! Thanks for all the great tips!

    • Reply
      August 11, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      You’re very welcome – and hope you have a great time if you do make it out there!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Thank you – this is so useful. I am hoping to go next January and this guide will be invaluable. Hope to report back to you too.

    • Reply
      August 11, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      Hope you have a fantastic time – hear it’s extra beautiful in winter, especially with a sprinkling of snow!

  • Reply
    November 10, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I really want to visit Vienna, so I have to bookmark this post! Thanks for the info and beautiful photos:)

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Great post!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2016 at 4:24 am

    My family and I will be going to Vienna in 2017 for 2 weeks, can anyone tell me if you prefer hotel verses renting an apartment? I can’t express enough how I need to budget this trip!

  • Reply
    Michelle (@americanvienna)
    April 7, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Great post about my adopted city of Vienna!

    • Reply
      April 8, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks so much, such a great city!

  • Reply
    April 25, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    This is really helpful – we are going in July and it’s so nice to have information about cheaper options for experiencing the city.

    One helpful tip – I thought we’d end up doing Airbnb but I kept on eye on Groupon and happened to find a 4* city centre hotel that had a deal for about £35 a night for two people during the summer months.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      Sounds like a good deal. It’s definitely worth checking out all the options as there are often special offers around. We were a group of four so an apartment worked out best but my next trip hotels are cheaper – keeps it interesting having a mixture!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Villegas
    October 10, 2016 at 3:28 am

    Hi Lucy,
    Well, I took your advice and I did it! I booked an apartment instead of a hotel. Now I can not believe it is only 8 moths away. In reading about Austria, I keep seeing that one should not miss going to Hallstatt. Have you been and what was your experience? what do you recommend? where did you stay? Your blog has been so helpful as I do not know anyone that has traveled to Vienna. Its a little overwhelming planning this trip. I will so be on the tightest budget ever!!

    • Reply
      October 11, 2016 at 11:18 am

      Hi Elizabeth. Sounds like you have a great trip planned! I haven’t been to Hallstatt, but have seen some lovely pics of it so it’s on the list to visit someday. I believe you can get a train out there which takes about 3.5 hours each way (changing in Salzburg) so it might be do-able for a day trip even if you’re up early?

  • Reply
    May 23, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Yes, your blog is really informative! Thanks, I am taking tips for my 1st visit!. 🙂

    • Reply
      May 29, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks, hope you have a great time!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for your post! I’m totally in love with this city, I have already visited Wien 3 times but I’d like to come back another time with my mum and daughter! A week-end for “girls”! 😉

    • Reply
      September 1, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      Sounds great – it would be a perfect spot for a girls weekend! Hope to make it back there myself sometime too.

  • Reply
    Scott Tisson
    January 15, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    I’m just planning a trip to Vienna and came across this, really useful, thank you 🙂

    • Reply
      January 15, 2018 at 11:12 pm

      You’re very welcome – great to hear it was useful and have an amazing trip!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Grey
    January 31, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks for this informative article. Its amazing tips Lucy. Even I have been to Budapest but not yet to Vienna and off course budget plan needed. I really like your Schonbrunn Palace gardens pic. Thanks for sharing I hope will plan my next trip to Vienna

    • Reply
      February 2, 2018 at 8:36 pm

      Hope you have a great time when you do!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Koks geras straipsnis!

  • Reply
    July 13, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Vienna is my dream city. I love that city a lot. I have spent some valuable times there. I will never forget that city.

    By the way, thanks for your amazing travel guide.

    • Reply
      July 21, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Ah thank you, it’s a great city!

  • Reply
    August 5, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Lucy, any travel agent who recommeded over there ?

    • Reply
      August 13, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      Hi I’m afraid I usually book my own travel so I don’t sorry.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2020 at 5:57 am

    Complex tickets are valid for any type of transport in the central zone of Vienna (for 24, 48, 72 hours or a week). The cost of a ticket for one day is 5.80 euros. It is valid during the day from composting until 1-00 the next day. It should be bought in the morning and used all day.

  • Reply
    Tim Neeble
    August 12, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you Lucy for sharing this awesome information. I was planning to visit Vienna in April but because of Covid situation it got postponed. I love how your blog has a personal touch and it’s definitely going to help us out for planning our visit.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      August 14, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      Hope you can make it out there before too long!

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