Budget Travel

Best free things to do in Vienna

Although Vienna can be costly, there are plenty of opportunities for budget travelers to get a feel for the city's culture. For free opera nights and museums to buzzing markets and splendid gardens which don't cost you a cent, here are the very best free things to complete in Austria's capital.

Visit Stephansdom

With its distinctive mosaic of zig-zagging roof tiles, the 12th century Stephansdom is a Viennese landmark. Part of the gothic masterpiece is open to the general public for free, allowing visitors to get a sense of the cathedral's atmospheric interior and visit some of the smaller altars. You'll need to pay for guided tours or to go to the towers, the museum and the catacombs.

Take a free walking tour

A wander through the historic streets is a superb way to get underneath the skin of Vienna and the ivie App can help do just that. Its self-guided walks cover key sights from the Sch”onbrunn Palace towards the Ringstrasse and just about everything among.

If you'd prefer some company, try one of the free guided walking tours provided by volunteers such as Vienna Greeters. Run by enthusiastic locals, the private two-hour tours could just be the easiest method to become familiar with the city's hidden corners and lesser-known stories.

Admire the Lipizzan horses

Throughout the center of town, you'll often hear the quintessentially Viennese sound of clip-clopping horses' hooves. Carriage horses still pull fiaker (traditional horse-drawn carriages) over the cobblestones, as the famous Lipizzan breed train in the city's renowned Spanish Riding School.

The stately Lipizzan horses, which was once bred for that monarchs from the Habsburg court, can admired within their stalls free of charge. The stallions are even more impressive for action and you can catch a glimpse of them at 10am from Tuesday to Saturday, because they get led across the Reitschulgasse to the Winter Riding School for their morning routine.

See Vienna from above

MQ Libelle, at the top of the roof of the Leopold Museum, is a terrace offering great views all the way from the MuseumsQuartier to the Hausberge mountains. The glass structure from the Libelle, (German for 'dragonfly'), is an artwork in itself, but there is also an exhibition space for art installations right beneath it called MQ Art Box, that is open 24/7 and you can visit free of charge. The rooftop area is open daily except for Tuesday and access is by two outdoor lifts around the east side.

For sweeping views, go to the new 360° Ocean Sky, on the 11th floor of the repurposed flak tower. You can stop for a drink, but you don't have to. The elevator stops near the entrance towards the restaurant, so you can walk the whole platform and enjoy the panorama without entering the venue.

Taste local produce in the markets

Vienna has a insightful local markets to explore for free. Stall holders at Naschmarkt let visitors sample delicious bite-sized morsels such as olives and sweets without any obligation to purchase, as the energetic Brunnenmarkt within the multicultural 16th district holds a lot more than 170 market stalls.

Kutschermarkt is one of the oldest street markets within the city, or a more everyday experience, visit Schwendermarkt within the 15th district or Karmelitermarkt within the 2nd district, where locals regularly gather free of charge community events.

Go museum-hopping

Although the greater well-known museums in Vienna charge an entry fee, if your stay happens to range from the first Sunday from the month, you're in luck, as numerous could be visited then for free.

Participating museums range from the MUSA, which wears contemporary art exhibitions; the Pratermuseum, which revels in the good reputation for Vienna's iconic theme park; the Clock Museum, which is the place to find more than 700 timepieces; the birthplace of composer Franz Schubert; and the Haydnhaus, where musical maestro Joseph Haydn lived in the later life.

Catch a backyard classical music concert

Some from the ticketed summer shows at Vienna's Opera House are live-streamed for free in its outdoor courtyard. Arrive around 1 hour 30 minutes before curtains-up to have a seat and relish the thrill of catching a show in the open air. The Vienna Philharmonic also hosts free evening concerts in the summertime, usually for just one night in June.

Stroll the Sch”onbrunn Palace and Belvedere Gardens

The gardens at Sch”onbrunn Palace stretch 0.75 miles (1.2km) east to west with plenty of hidden treasures and quiet corners to savor, such as the iconic Gloriette with views over the city. Likewise, the perfectly manicured, Unesco World Heritage-listed Belvedere Palace gardens really are a baroque marvel that's liberated to visit.

Join locals at the Donauinsel

In summertime locals flock to the Donauinsel, a long, artificial island by the Danube, to swim, stand-up paddleboard, barbecue and sunbathe. The nearby CopaBeach and green wedge of Arbeiterstrandgasse are also easy-to-access swim spots and beloved lazy hangouts from the city. You will need nothing more than a towel and sunscreen to lap up a day's entertainment through the water.

Pay respects in the Zentralfriedhof

The largest and most famous of Vienna's graveyards may be the final resting spot for musical luminaries for example Strauss, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert. A number of other figures in the 19th and 20th centuries, including architect Albert Loos, writer Albert Schnitzler and beloved Austrian rockstar Falco, can also be paid homage to within the vast grounds of Zentralfriedhof.

Give yourself sufficient time to explore the grounds that stretch for more than 0.9 sq mi (2.4 sq km). Apart from mausoleums, visitors will discover dedications to fallen soldiers from both World Wars, the ornate church of St Borrom”aus and a museum of funerals.

Relax in Lainzer Tiergarten

Like the emperors and the empresses of the past, you can retire in the hubbub of the center and spend a relaxing trip to the Lainzer Tiergarten on the outskirts of Vienna. Young children will enjoy the forest playgrounds, there will also be nature trails to explore. The park contains Hermesvilla, a little castle villa which the Emperor Franz Joseph gave to his wife Elizabeth as a present. The building is free to enter on the first Sunday of every month.

Whizz around the city on a bike

Vienna is well connected by trains and buses, but visitors can whizz around the city on Citybikes that are around to book from 121 public bike stations. There's a one-off payment of EUR1 to register with your credit card, but when you return the bike after just one hour and watch for 15 minutes before you ride another bike, it's free.

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