Vienna has much to offer visitors, including some wonderful experiences that are free or almost free of charge.
The capital of Austria is not the cheapest city in the world, that’s for sure. Indeed, its reputation as a cultural center of Central Europe creates an impression of a luxurious, pricey metropolis. But it comes as a surprise to many that there are plenty of things to do for free in Vienna.
Various tours around the city are free of charge, as are many museums but only on specific days. The city of music also offers several opportunities to enjoy free concerts, and you can even catch a movie or two without spending a dime.
In this article, you’ll find our recommendations for the top five things to do for free in Vienna.
1. Get to Know the City Through a Free Walking Tour
There’s no better way to familiarize yourself with Vienna than by taking a walking tour around the city. As is common in many European cities, there’s a large selection of free tours you can join in. Most of them only cover the city center, but with the history and architecture apparent on every street, it’s more than enough.
Looking around online or when you’re already in Vienna, you’re sure to find tours that deal with the usual points of interest, as well as those that can take you to some hidden gems. There are even free options in languages other than English, including Spanish and Italian, so the language barrier will hardly be an issue.
2. Marvel at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral
The seat of the Archbishop of Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is counted as among the essential attractions of the whole country. Over a million people visit the imposing Gothic building every year and it’s almost completely free.
The only thing that has a fee attached is climbing the towers. However, the price to access the almost 450 feet high spire is around five euros, and the impressive view from the top more than makes up for the fee.
Meanwhile, you can explore the rest of the Cathedral for free. While a large portion of the building was destroyed in the Allied bombing in WWII, the 13th-century gate and towers remained standing. After the war, the Cathedral was extensively reconstructed to its former glory.
3. Walk Around the Stunning Schonbrunn Palace Gardens
The Schonbrunn Palace and the surrounding estate is a must for anyone visiting Vienna. The Habsburg royal family’s legacy, the vast palace sits on the estate among the gorgeous gardens. While there’s a fee for entering the building, you can stroll around the gardens to your heart’s content without paying a dime.
Nature and garden lovers will easily spend hours going through the Palace Park and taking in all of its beauty. There are also some special attractions, like the Orangery, the Palm House, the Zoo, and more. Unfortunately, those are only accessible with admission tickets, which come at a somewhat hefty price.
4. Immerse Yourself in Vienna’s Museums
Like many cities with a rich history, Vienna has an abundance of museums. Many of them offer visits free of charge on the first Sunday of each month. So if you plan on coming to Vienna on a budget, make sure you’re there for this museum happy hour.
The Museum of Military History showcases Austria’s various engagements – from the Thirty Years War to modern times. There are also plenty of permanent and special exhibitions, and they paint an interesting, although not always pleasant, picture of the Austrian past.
The Beethoven Museum is dedicated to the classical music legend who lived in Vienna from 1792 till his death. But this museum shouldn’t be mistaken for the Beethoven Pasqualatihaus, a different building where the composer lived for eight years. The Pasqualatihaus is also a museum, and possibly the more important location, as it’s the birthplace of Beethoven’s 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th symphonies. Crucially, the composer worked on his only opera, Fidelio, here.
There are many other wonderful museums free to visit every first Sunday of the month, such as the Prater Museum, Roman Museum, and Haydn’s House. In addition, some museums in Vienna are free all year round.
The completely-free museums cover an impressive range of subjects. Some of them are quirky and fun, like the Circus and Clown Museum, while others may be too dark for some visitors, such as the Memorial Room for the Victims of the Gestapo Vienna.
It’s easy to say that whatever interests you, there’s an exhibit in Vienna to satisfy your curiosity. The fact that so many museums offer a free entrance is a massive plus for the city and a wonderful opportunity for visitors to leave with interesting experiences.
5. Spend Some Time Surrounded in Nature
Almost half of Vienna is covered with gorgeous parks and green areas. Naturally, most of those are free to visit. The best part is they present serene, beautiful areas where everyone can relax and take in the atmosphere.
The Stadtpark is an oasis of lakes and trees in the city center. It’s also widely known as one of the most beautiful parks in Vienna. Take a stroll through the peaceful place, have a rest on the benches, and catch a glimpse at the majestic swans that occasionally show up on some of the lakes.
More than a park, Kahlenberg is a hill in the Vienna Woods that’s famous as a refuge from the city atmosphere. It’s far enough from the city to be isolated and relaxing, yet close enough to be connected with it via the metro. You can also reach Kahlenberg on foot by following the Vienna City Hiking Trail 1.
Enjoy Vienna Even on a Budget
Even though Vienna can seem like a lush city that can only be fully experienced at a cost, the reality is that there are plenty of things to see and do in the city for free. Those inclined towards history, architecture, nature, and art will feel at home here.
Your Vienna experience can be rich and memorable, and you don’t have to overspend to make the most of the visit.