Whether visiting Vienna as the only Austrian stopover or part of a road trip across the country, your holiday in Austria’s capital can be an expensive journey especially without prior research and budget awareness.
But you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy the beauty of the world’s most liveable city. This is because some of its attractions are even free. And since other perceived freebies are not worth the money, so read along to learn how to spend less in Vienna.
Calculate and plan before buying advertised discount cards and passes
Discount cards are some of what guidebooks and travel websites advise so you can save money while you are in Vienna and visiting its attractions. Therefore, it can be an appealing option to get cards such as Vienna Pass which entitles holders of free entry to several Vienna attractions for a certain number of days, or the Vienna Card which upon presentation gets you discounts to shops, restaurants, concerts, and galleries.
Is it a bad deal? It depends on what you intend to do while in the city.
Do you intend on taking day-trips along the Danube, visit the panoramic Alps or try wine tasting at Wachau Valley? This means you need to consider the amount of time spent on the road and therefore less on availing the offers of such discount cards.
Do you plan on taking the city’s main attractions through hop-on, hop-off bus tours? Several tour operators take you through attractions such as the “Ring” where you’ll find the State Opera, National Theatre or Parliament House, or majestic places like the Vienna Schönbrunner Gardens and Belvedere Palace. This means you’ll get to get more cost-efficient experience with bus tours than presenting your card.
Or do you wish to experience Vienna more than just see it? Maybe ride the Ferris wheel at Prater, watch Mozart concert or spend the day exploring the city interiors via Vienna’s trams? Discount cards don’t fit well into the equation either.
But if you researched the attractions and activities covered in these discount cards and fit them seamlessly within your itinerary, getting Vienna Pass or Vienna Card should be worth it. Otherwise, you’ll likely spend more than get discounts, especially if you try to be on the frugal side of your visit.
Take a walking tour around the city
The good thing about Vienna is that it’s a pedestrian-friendly city with several tourist destinations just reasonably walking distance from each other. This means you can enjoy taking Instagram-worthy images without spending too much on transportation.
Still, it is recommended that you plan your itinerary, ideally tracking your route from your hotel location. You can also follow the guide from city-walks.info on Vienna walking tour (map with downloadable PDF below).
A slightly more costly but time-saving alternative is to take Vienna’s trams. One notable route for tourists is the Vienna Ring Tram, with its bright yellow colors a stark contrast to the city’s other trams draped in the city’s red and white. Although this is not hop-on, hop-off service like buses that serve such purpose, the Vienna Ring Tram provides great views of the city’s iconic attractions: the Rathaus, the Hofburg, the Parliament House, and other fantastic structures.
This 20-25 minute (9 Euros for adults) tram tour goes with headphone guides on multiple languages.
For better viewing, the right side of the tram might offer views less obstructed by other vehicles, but it’s not a critical option for you to do.
Take the cheaper transport means in Vienna
- Take the free bike rides.
Just like many other European cities, Vienna is a bike-friendly city and as a tourist, you should take advantage of this feature. Although it might not fit in your transport options — you’re with small children, elderly couple or having difficulty in riding the bicycle and that riding a bike is not necessarily free — consider this: You can ride the CityBike in Vienna for an hour for free. This bicycle rental service offers your first hour of use for free. Then €2.00 for the 3rd hour and so forth, until you reach 120 hours, on which your card is charged a flat rate of €600. But if you wish to keep riding for free, simply replace the bike after you’re done with your first hour. Wait for a little while and you can grab another bike for another hour of free rides.
Explore other transport means
Vienna not only has bikes to serve its tourists and locals getting around. It also has buses, trains and trams that take you wherever you want. Conveniently, a ticket is all it takes to serve any of these services within Vienna’s core area. While such options are cheaper than taxis, you can even save more if you follow these tips: Purchase transport tickets at machines located strategically at stations, railway offices, any corner Tabak Trafik shops or online. Buying them onboard transport systems is more expensive. Make sure you validate your ticket before using it to determine the expiration of your ticket. Otherwise, you could get fined €100 if you are caught using non-validated tickets. This is not necessarily a money-saving tip, but could potentially destroy your frugal aims if you’re not paying attention.
When you travel from or to the airport, you save more when you take the U-Bahn (€2.20 one way) instead of the City Airport Train / CAT (€11), and the difference in travel time is just around 15 minutes. If you prefer to take the CAT, buying online saves you €1 compared to when buying it via ticket machine.
Save on paying for museum visits
There are over 100 museums in Vienna and most of them charge at least €10. But unless you are on a lookout for specific museums to visit, you might want to consider ones that always offer free entrance and others offer free entry on certain days.
Vienna museums with free entrance (all the time)
- Kunsthalle am Karlsplatz
- Museum Start Gallery Artothek (MUSA)
Vienna museums with free entrance on certain days
- Museum of Applied Arts offers free entry every Tuesday from 6 – 10 pm.
Drink tap water
Although bottled water is cheap in Vienna, you can always forgo those few cents and make use of the water fountains located within the city. Just bring your favorite water bottle and refill it at any of the over 600 water fountains. FYI, Austria’s tap water comes directly from the Alps so it’s hard to beat that.
Buy grocery goods at supermarkets
Vienna is also littered with supermarkets that provide daily necessities at affordable prices. You can easily find Billa and to a lesser extent, Merkur and Spar (and its variants Interspar and Eurospar), while another chain Hofer also provides alternatives. These shops are generally well-stocked and sell more than just grocery items (snacks, foodstuff, and household items). You can also buy souvenir items (cards, chocolates, etc).
One thing is certain though is that Sundays and public holidays are classified as rest days and most shops and supermarkets are closed. Therefore, to avoid getting into a few shops that are open and likely charge more, stock up on what you need before Sunday.
Staying in Vienna can be an expensive experience. But with a little research and trove of insider information, you can save up your precious Euros and enjoy the same enjoyable visit.