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Things to do in Vienna, Austria | Budget Travel Guide

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If you are planning a European city break, you’ll find heaps of things to do in Vienna, Austria’s beautiful capital city. Vienna is pretty expensive and isn’t the obvious destination for a budget traveller, but it is achievable with a little knowledge of where to find the cheap and free attractions in the city.

Here is our list of suggestions for things to do in Vienna on a cheap weekend break!

Things to do in Vienna, Austria | Travel Guide

Free walking tour

Walking tours are a great way to orientate yourself around the city, learn about the history and make your budget go further. The tours meet everyday at 10am and 2pm in front of the Albertina museum and last 2 and a half hours. They are technically ‘free’ but you are expected to tip the guide on what you think they deserve at the end of the tour. Advance booking is recommended to avoid disappointment – book online with Good Tours.

Purchase a Vienna City Card

If you are planning on visiting a lot of the main attractions across the city you might want to consider purchasing a 24, 48 or 72 hour tourist card for a money saving solution! The benefits include free unlimited travel on public transportation or a Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour pass, plus more than 210 discounts on attractions across the city. Purchase your Vienna Card here.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria | Travel Guide | Vienna City Card

Belvedere Palace

The baroque Belvedere Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site and made up of two palaces – the upper and lower Belvedere, and some beautiful surrounding gardens. The Upper Belvedere is home to the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s art (including ‘The Kiss’), whilst the Lower Belvedere features many temporary art exhibitions. The admission fee is €20 but you can admire the buildings exteriors and the pretty gardens for free. 

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide
Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide

Schönbrunn Palace and gardens

Schönbrunn Palace is the former imperial summer residence and a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. It is Vienna’s most visited tourist attraction and admission fee to this Baroque palace is €17.50 (for the grand tour) but we just walked around the grounds and Imperial gardens for free. Make sure you walk up to the Gloriette for gorgeous views of the palace and gardens.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide

Museums

Vienna has over 100 museums, with the majority charging around €10 for the entrance fee. However some open their doors for free – often on the first Sunday of the month, or for example The Museum of Applied Arts is open for free every Tuesday night between 6-10pm.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide

Karlskirche

Karlskirche is one of Vienna’s finest baroque churches, although entry fee is a little steep at €8. However you can admire the beautiful exterior for free (tip – the building looks stunning when it is lit up at night with the pond reflections). Classical music performances are held here some evenings and you can purchase tickets in advance online.  

Prater amusement park and Riesenrad

Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, this amusement park is deceptively big and contains a variety of wonderment – from rides and games to bars and restaurants, this is definitely worth a visit (we stayed in a nearby hotel and ended up going every night of our trip). Each fairground ride costs between the €2-€5 and there are lots of street food snack kiosks dotted around the grounds. Apparently if you pop into the Vienna Tourist Office you can pick up a Prater coupon book which gets you money off some of the rides.

One of the highlights is the Risengrad Big Wheel which opened in 1897 and stands at an impressive 65m tall (also famous for featuring in a pivotal scene in Orson Welle’s The Third Man). Entry onto the big wheel costs €10 and it has some lovely views of the city and of Prater. Click here to book a ‘Skip-the-Line Giant Ferris Wheel Ride’ in advance >

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Prater amusement park
Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Prater amusement park

€3 opera tickets

Tickets to Vienna’s famous operas can sell out months in advance and cost upwards from €150! Ouch! If your budget is tight and you don’t mind standing during a performance, then you can pick up a bargain priced ticket for €3 – €4 for the Vienna State Opera House (considered one of the most important opera houses in the world). These special tickets go on sale 90 minutes before the performance begins and can be purchased from the ticket office on Operngasse (look for the sign that says ‘Stehplatz-Kasse Standing Area’). Long queues are highly likely so plan to get there early, and remember it is only one ticket per person. Note: The opera is closed from July to September

Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral)

The magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral is Vienna’s most popular attraction and you can admire it’s beautiful interior and gothic style facade for free! Climb up the 343 steps to the viewing tower for amazing views of the city for an entry fee of around €4 – €5 (open daily 9am–5.30pm).

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Stephansdom

Hundertwasserhaus

Although not officially sanctioned by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser himself (and subject to some legal battles later on), the beautifully bizarre Hundertwasserhaus apartment buildings are still worth a visit, purely because you have to see it with your very own eyes (guide book and internet pics just don’t do it justice).

Curious shapes, angles and shades all dazzle the gathered throng of tourists below. Even more odd is the shopping arcade that has opened up next door in a similar style  – possibly the biggest tourist tat treasure trove yet seen (including a Hundertwasser themed toilet in the basement, similar to one we visited in New Zealand’s Northland). 

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Hundertwasserhaus

Budget eating and drinking in Vienna

Eating and drinking in Vienna can be pretty expensive and a strain on the budget for the thrifty traveller. However you will find some inexpensive street food spots, snack cafés and plenty of supermarkets dotted around the city. You might also see a few restaurants offering cheap 2-3 course lunch deals (Mittagsmenü) for under €10 on weekdays.

Here are some of the places I ate and drank at whilst on a budget in Vienna:

Naschmarkt

Although the ‘street-food’ scene in Vienna does appear to be lacking compared to some of it’s European countermarkets, Naschmarkt has a vast array of stalls and restaurants (over 120 at the last count), including some very popular seafood establishments. Flowers, fruit and vegetables are available throughout and if you are looking for a cheap lunch-time snack, there also some very good value falafel places (we got 10 pieces of warm, fresh falafel goodness for just €1).

Once past the main, more permanent stalls, there are some smaller flea market type stalls at the end selling clothes, souvenirs and other not so edible fare.

Once past the main, more permanent stalls, there are some smaller flea market type stalls at the end selling clothes, souvenirs and other not so edible fare.

Note: The market is closed on Sundays and on public holidays.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Naschmarkt

Bitzinger sausage stand

This famous and award winning food kiosk is open almost 24 hours a day and serves up a variety of delicious sausages, plus beer, bottled wines and champagne. I tried the Käsekrainer which is a lightly smoked pork sausage filled with cheese that was absolutely delicious! Bitzinger has two branches – one in Albertinaplatz and one in Prater amusement park (by the giant ferris wheel). Sausages are priced from €3.50 – €4.40.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Bitzinger

Trześniewski open sandwiches

Trześniewski is a small chain restaurant that has been a Viennese institution for over 100 years. They serve the popular Austrian snack of the open sandwich (Belegte Brote) – a small slab of dark Viennese bread topped with sandwich fillings such as chicken liver, smoked salmon and horseradish cream cheese or wild paprika and red pepper. Traditionally people pop by during the day and order one or two sandwiches along with a very small glass of beer (a “Pfiff”). Each sandwich costs €1.30.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Trześniewski

Vollpension Café

This kitschy café resembles an Austrian granny’s living room with a cool shabby chic interior complete with rickety old vintage furniture. Vollpension was the brainchild of some hipsters, who got together with some local senior citizens to offer them the opportunity to escape loneliness and earn some extra money. Expect lots of baking, some cheap delicious Austrian comfort foods and lovely service – one of our favourite cafes in Vienna.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Vollpension Café
Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Vollpension Café
Frankfurter sausages with Semmerl, Krenn, mustard – €4.40

Salm Bräu

Located adjacent to one of Schloss Belevedere’s main entrances, we discovered this historic beer hall after exploring the Palace’s grounds for a couple of hours – what better way is there to reward ourselves after a long walk than an ice cold beer straight from the brewery’s vats.

We perched on a seat at the back next to the beer vats (the master brewer was at work as we drank), with a view of the beer garden. Service was efficient if not a little too brisk (they like to make it known that they expect a tip!), it also has possibly the largest beer menu ever (in terms of actual size, not necessarily the number of beers on tap).

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Salm Bräu

Schweizerhaus beer garden

Schweizerhaus (meaning ‘Swiss house’) is a labyrinth beer garden (large, not full of goblins) situated on the outer edges of the legendary Prater Parc. Although there are indoor sections, your best bet is to try and get an outdoor table and soak up the alfresco amusements action. We visited in the summer which is one of the best times to visit Vienna to enjoy drinking outdoors.

They serve traditional Austrian dishes and we opted for a delicious and hearty meat/cabbage stew and some veggie dumplings (very bland and a bit meh, avoid unless you like flavourless stooge). Based on the tables around us, schnitzels and pork knuckle seemed to be the order of the day. The house beer choices are also very good and unlike the nearby roller coaster incline, the overall prices aren’t too steep.

Random observation – whilst you there, check out the incredible beer glass washing machine conveyor belt –  every bar should have one (there have even been YouTube videos posted about it).

Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Schweizerhaus beer garden
Things to do in Vienna, Austria on a budget | Travel Guide | Schweizerhaus beer garden
Krautfleisch nach Art des Hauses (meat, cabbage and potatoes) – 8.50

Eat traditional Wiener Schnitzel

Wiener Schnitzel is a very popular Viennese dish for both locals and tourists. It is made of pounded veal, which is coated with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs and then fried. The veal is usually garnished with a slice of lemon, fries and a potato salad. We purchased this cheap set meal from a fast food chain called Wienerwald.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria | Travel Guide | Wiener Schnitzel
Wiener Schnitzel at Wienerwald fast food restaurant

Rollercoaster Restaurant

For something a little different in traditional Vienna – head to this quirky and crazy neon filled restaurant located in Prater amusement park. You order your food and drink on a personal tablet, then wait for a mini ‘rollercoaster’ carriage to come hurtling down towards your table delivering your order. Meals are priced around €10 but we only came here for drinks. Read our Rollercoaster Restaurant blog post here.

Things to do in Vienna, Austria | Travel Guide | Rollercoaster Restaurant

Budget accommodation in Vienna

If you are looking for where to stay in Vienna, there are plenty of highly rated hostels located all over the city with affordable dorm beds for as little as €12 per night. Popular hostels include Vienna Hostel Ruthensteiner and Wombat’s City Hostels Vienna Naschmarkt.

We chose not to stay in a hostel and instead booked a double room at the Hotel Ibis Budget Wien Messe which cost us around £50 (€57) per night during the month of August. The hotel was conveniently located within a short walking distance of Vorgartenstraße metro station and Prater amusement park. You can also walk to the city centre from the hotel in just 30 minutes.

Getting around Vienna

Public transport

Vienna is fairly compact which means you can explore a lot of the city by foot. However some attractions like the Schönbrunn Palace and the Belvedere may require public transportation to get there so it is worth purchasing a travel ticket to use on the city’s buses, trams and underground trains.

You can buy a regular transport card for either 24, 48 or 72-hour periods and costs €8, €14.10, €17.10 respectively. The time period starts from the time you first validate the ticket, and from then you can go where you like and as often as you like within the allocated time frame. Week tickets cost €17 but the tickets can only start on a Monday.

Click here to see where you can purchase your transport card, and don’t forget to validate it in the blue ticket stampers before boarding to avoid a heavy fine.

Alternatively for a little extra money you can purchase a Vienna City Card (that I mentioned above) as it gives you unlimited travel, plus discounts and benefits at many museums, sights, theatres, concerts, shops, restaurants and cafés.

Cycling

Vienna is a very bike friendly city and CityBike allows you to rent a bike and cycle around Vienna for free! Well it’s free for the first hour, then after that it costs €1 for the 2nd hour, then €2 for the 3rd hour etc.


Day trips from Vienna

If you have more than one day to spend in Vienna, then you might want to consider visiting a nearby city? There are several places you can take day trips from Vienna to such as Budapest, Bratislava and many towns in the Czech Republic.

Check out FlixBus for cheap coach fares or GetYourGuide for group daytrips.


Disclosure: The Vienna City Card was complimentary from the Vienna Tourist Board, but as always, opinions are all our own.​

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