Vienna on a Budget: Avoid Tourist Traps
Don't Buy Discount Cards
As you research your holiday to Vienna, you will probably find mention of cards and passes you can buy which will save you money. The main ones are the Vienna PASS which can get you free entry to many attractions for 1, 2, 3, or 6 days (€59, €74, €89 or €114) and the Vienna Card which gets you discounts on entry to a lot of attractions, and in shops, restaurants, concerts, and cafes.
Sounds good? Well, it depends. If you are truly on a budget, and wanting to avoid tourist traps then they will not be worth it, because you will spend more on them than you will save.
This is not to say these discount cards are not worth it for some tourists. If you visit lots of the tourist attractions, take the sightseeing bus, and go in loads of the art galleries and museums, then these cards will save you money. For example, if you go into three or more paying tourist attractions each day, then the Vienna PASS is likely to be worth it for most visitors. The Vienna Card can also save you money if you use it enough, but not all of the discounts are that big, and it is one of those schemes that if you are not smart about it, you are likely to end up spending more just to make use of your discount. Before you buy either of these cards think carefully about how you want to spend your time in Vienna, and bear in mind that there is loads you can do in Vienna for free. I have described some of this below.
Travelling to Vienna
Best value travel from the airport
On arrival in Vienna airport, don't follow the signs to get the City Airport Train, go to platforms 1 or 2 and get one of the trains. Budget conscious travellers can save by getting the standard train. (either the S-bahn 7 - which is one of the network local Vienna train lines or one of the longer distance trains that stops off in Vienna (Wien Hauptbahnhof) before going further into the city.
Whilst the City Airport Train is the fastest way into Wien Mitte train station, the time difference between it and the S-bahn is not that much. In addition depending where exactly you are staying, you may find some of the other trains takes you to a train stop nearer to there, so is quicker. The map below shows some of the stops where the trains go.
You need to buy your ticket before boarding the train.
Saving Made by Getting the Standard Train
Single ticket price
Cost of City Airport Train
Cost of standard train
Map showing the main train stops that you can reach from the airport
One of the largest train stations in Vienna where some of the regional trains go
The S-Bahn 7 stops here
The S Bahn 7 stops here
The S-bahn 7 stops here
The S-Bahn 7 stops here
Other Options for Getting to Vienna
Another option is to check whether it is cheaper to fly to Bratislava. Bratislava is the capital of the neighbouring country Slovakia. It is not expensive to get to Vienna from Slovakia and only takes just over an hour.
If you are combining your trip to Vienna with a wider European tour, Vienna is also easily accessible by train, bus or car from other major European cities and countries.
Vienna and Bratislava airports
Distances from Vienna to nearby cities by train
Distance to Vienna by train
1 hour 32 minutes
2 hours 30 minutes
2 hours 50 minutes
4 hours 25 minutes
4 hour 30 minutes
6 hours 32 minutes
7 hours 25 minutes
Cheapest ways of getting around Vienna
The cheapest way to get around Vienna is simply to walk. The city is not that big, and most of the main tourist destinations are within walking distance of each other.
You may wish to plan your route well, so you don't double back on yourself.
There are of course some tourist attractions which are a bit further out. For example Schoenbrunn Palace, the 18th century residence summer residence of the Austrian royal family is a few miles out of the centre of Vienna - but if you really were determined and wanted to you could walk there- it is only 6.5 kilometres. Vienna is not that big a city!
Main Vienna tourist attractions
A selection of modern art galleries
Whilst walking around is the cheapest option, public transport in Vienna is well organised and efficient if you prefer not to walk. It is worth planning ahead and thinking about how often you will use it before you buy your tickets.
Transport is integrated which means that you can buy tickets which are valid on the U-bahn (underground), S-bahn (local train services) and buses and trams.
If you are planning on using lots of transport every day of your ticket then you may want to consider a pass which is valid for a specific time period. These can be valid for 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, or a week.
However if you are just going to take the U-bahn or S-bahn only once or twice a day, you are will be better off buying single tickets. Note that single tickets need to be validated in a ticket machine before you get on a train, or when you board a tram or a bus. There are hefty fines if you get caught fare dodging.
What to Do
What to see and where to go on a budget
Getting a Sense of the City: Around the Ringstrasse (The Ring Road)
One good way to get an inital sense of Vienna is to take a trip around the Ringstrasse. This is a road that goes around the centre of the old historical part of the city. Going around it will give you a very good sense of the main historic buildings in Vienna.
How to Travel Round the Ringstrasse
There are special sightseeing tours that travel the Ringstrasse, including the special Vienna sightseeing tram. However the money saving version of this is to take the municipal trams 1 and 2, and change lines at the Opera House.
Saving Made by Taking the Non Official Ringstrasse Tour
Type of tour
Official tram tour ticket
Goes all the way round so you don't have to change. Audio description.
Day ticket for unlimited travel on Trams 1 and 2 and all other public transport
You can travel and see buildings at your own pace. Whilst the saving is only 40 cents your ticket will be valid for any other transport you want to get in Vienna.
Some of the buildings round the RingstrasseClick thumbnail to view full-size
Parks and Gardens
Parks and Gardens
Vienna is full of beautiful parks and gardens you can walk around for free.
This beautiful garden right in the centre of Vienna has been known as the people's garden as it was the first park opened to the public in 1825. It is full of beautiful roses.
The Stadtpark is also in the centre of Vienna and opened in 1863. It contains the famous statue of the Austrian composer Johann Strauss. There are also many other monuments, for example fans of classical music can find monuments to Schubert. Franz Lehár and Robert Stolz.
StadtparkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Another central garden in Vienna dating from the 19th century! This is one of the oldest gardens originally laid out in 1818 although it was only opened to the public 100 years laters. Known for its statue of Mozart, and Palm House which now contains a cafe/restaurant.
Museums and Galleries
How to save
Art Galleries and Museums in Vienna
There is no shortage of excellent art to see in Vienna. Unfortunately many of the art galleries have expensive entrance fees, some of them costing upwards of 15 euros for a single ticket! You can always see the outside for free, and it is worth just admiring the architecture of many, but if you want inside it will usually cost.
There are some exceptions though:
If you are lucky enough to be under 19 you will be able to get into many (not all) of the main art galleries and museums for free. Make sure you bring ID with proof of age and make the most of it!
Most places also have discounts for students under 26 years old, and those over 60 - make sure you ask for these if this applies to you.
Regular Free Days for Any Age
Some galleries have particular times when they are free- it is worth finding out:
- MAK - the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art has free entry on Tuesdays from 6pm to 10pm.
- The Wien Museum - free entry on the first Sunday of each month
- Military Museum- free on first Sunday of each month
Watch out for random offers, or days when entry is free.The Kunsthistorisches Museum has an offer for 2016 for free entry for people when it is their birthday (with ID).
There are certain days of the year when you can get free or reduced admission. The 26 October is Austria's National Day and you will find you can get in many galleries and museums for free or reduced price.
If you are travelling to Vienna near the beginning of October it is also worth seeing if you can get tickets for the 'Lange Nacht der Museen' (Long night of the museums). This is a day when most of the cities museums open their doors in the evenings. This is not free - in 2016 tickets were 15 euros, but it is well worth it if you want to go to several different galleries.
Free All Year Round
- The MUSA Museum Startgalerie Artothek has free entry
- Q21 in the MuseumsQuartier also puts on free exhibitions (these tend to be by upcoming modern artists)
- Outdoor art - there are plenty of art to see outside in Vienna. For example the MuseumsQuartier is full of sculptures, and Hundertwasser village is worth walking around.
Is It Worth Paying?
I have provided information above about what you can do for free in Vienna and some options. However many of the paying Art Galleries and Museums in Vienna are excellent, and it is worth paying to visit some of them if you are interested in art. Some famous Austrian artists are Schiele, Klimt and Hundertwasser.
Given the number of galleries what I would recommend doing research beforehand so you can decide which ones you really want to go and see. Unless you are going on a really long trip it will be difficult and expensive to go to all the excellent art. If you have a budget you need to prioritise.
Hundertwasser (1928-2000) was an Austrian artist and architect, famous for his eccentric style, and opposition to straight lines, and liking of uneven floors. HundertwasserHaus is a block of apartments and worth going to see just because it is so different with uneven pavements and bright colours. People live in the apartments so you can't go inside. There is a shopping area called Hundertwasser village opposite in a similar style.
A few hundred yards away from this there is the KunstHausWien. It will cost you to see the exhibitions, but you can go inside and have a look at the ground floor without paying. This includes a water fountain where the water goes up the way rather than down!
One of the major attractions in Vienna that you cannot miss is 'Stephansdom' or St. Stephen's Cathedral. This cathedral is hundreds of years old. It is free to go inside, although you are limited to certain areas. If you want a tour of the catacombs or to go up any of the towers there is a small cost.It is definitely worth popping into though, you will often find it packed.
What Have I Missed?
Hopefully this has given you some ideas for your trip, let me know if I have missed anything in the comments.