Vienna is known for more than just legendary musicians like Mozart and Beethoven; it also has fantastic palaces, museums, and historic spots, and we've got tips on free things to do in Vienna without spending much.
In this guide, we'll cover 16 top things to do in Vienna.
1. St Stephen's Cathedral
St Stephen's Cathedral is right in the city center, and the entrance to this museum is free, but you will have to pay for certain parts of it, like the tower room, which is 343 steps to the top. This will give you the best views of Vienna and the fantastic tiled roof this cathedral is famous for.
Visiting St. Stephen's Cathedral early in the morning is recommended, especially if you want to take photographs without people in your way, as it can get jam-packed later in the day.
2. Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper) – Standing Room.
The Vienna State Opera costs about 15 euros, but it's so cheap that frugal travelers can afford to go, and it's one of the unique things to do in Vienna as not every city offers you the chance to watch Opera.
Some of these performances can last 4 hours, which is a long time to stand, but they provide an allocated standing position, have supports to lean on, and have little monitors to watch the performance on.
So, you can visit the Opera cheaply in Vienna. You just have to decide if you want to stand for 4 hours!
3. Prater Park
Entry to Prater Park is free, so you can spend as much or as little as you like, and it's probably one of the best things to do in Vienna with kids. You'll find loads of rides, from gentle carousels to roller coasters, and if you like high-adrenaline rides, we recommend the Hotel Psycho Ghost Train and Prater Turm.
Rides are priced individually, starting around €3.50, so you can pick and choose your adventures, which is good for us as frugal travelers. Access to the famous Ferris wheel is free if you already have the Vienna Pass.
There are plenty of food and drink options in the park, but these can be expensive, so you could always take your picnic into the park.
Our pro tip is to make sure you take cash, as some places can be funny about accepting cards, and the toilets only accept a 50-cent coin.
4. Donauinsel (Danube Island)
Donauinsel (Danube Island) is an elongated island between the River Danube and the Neue Donau, offering plenty of recreational activities and exceptional views. To get here, take the U1 line to the Donauinsel station and cross a short bridge.
Thanks to the many paths available, Danube Island is popular with people who love to jog, bike, or walk their dogs, and it's also a great spot for those who like to take it easy and have a picnic.
If you want adventure, hire a boat to get out on the water. Standing on one of the bridges that cross the Danube offers a particularly stunning perspective for the best Vienna selfie.
5. Free Walking Tours
A few companies offer free Vienna walking tours, but we recommend the one run by Prime Tours. The tours usually last two and a half hours and cover the main tourist spots in Vienna, where you'll learn about the city's history, culture, and everyday life.
The guides know their stuff and tell great stories that make history come alive, and they also have a good sense of humor, which keeps things interesting. Not not only do you get to see famous places, but the guides also give helpful tips on other places to visit. The tour helps you understand Vienna better and can help you plan the rest of your trip.
Even though the walking tour is free, it's still a good idea to tip your tour guide for their hard work.
6. Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace is rated as the number 1 attraction on Trip Advisor and is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Vienna. It's just a short train ride and a five-minute walk from the city center. Booking early is a good idea because this place gets jam-packed. Once you arrive, you'll take a 40-room tour guided by an audio device.
The palace focuses on Maria Theresa, a past ruler with many kids, including Marie Antoinette. The audio guide is beneficial for learning about the history and people who lived there.
After the tour, you can check out the gift shop or grab a bite at the cafe, although the service might be slow. The big bonus is the outdoor area, which is mostly free, which you should like as a frugal traveler. You can wander around, and you might even spot a red squirrel. There's also a tall monument called the Gloriette with a cafe. You can pay to go to the top, but you'll still get lovely views even if you stay at the bottom.
7. Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
As you walk into the Kunsthistorisches Museum and see the grand staircase, you realize this is one of the best things to see in Vienna. This museum is not just somewhere you can visit for a few hours. You'll want to take your time to wander around as there's plenty to see.
An optional audio tour is available, it's a bit fiddly to set up, but once you get it working, it's worth it. The climate-controlled museum offers a comfortable environment to explore some of the greatest art treasures. It's not as crowded when compared to other famous museums in Vienna, especially if you go in the off-season, like mid-September.
8. Belvedere Museum
The main attraction at this museum is the art, especially Gustav Klimt's famous painting called ‘The Kiss.' People crowd around it to take selfies, and it's the tour's highlight.
Belvedere Museum is located just outside the city center, and the best way to get there is by bus or tram as there are stops just outside it. Once you're in, you have choices: you can get tickets for the Upper Building, the Lower Building, or both. You can't bring bags inside, but there's a free cloakroom to leave your stuff.
The museum is photogenic, and you can take pictures inside and outside; there are many rooms to check out. A beautiful garden between the two buildings is also great for photos. In the summer, they even turn on the fountains in the garden.
9. The Hofburg
Try to get there early, like right when it opens, to avoid waiting. There are two lines inside: one to buy tickets and another if you've already got your ticket. To make it easier, consider buying your tickets online ahead of time. Once you're in, you get an audio guide with the ticket, and it's really helpful for learning stuff.
The tour is split into three main parts. First up is the Silver Collection. It's room after room of shiny pots, plates, and even some unique stuff like Napoleon's dinner set. If that's not your thing, you can move through it fast. Next is the Sisi exhibition, all about Empress Elisabeth. Her life was somewhat tragic, and the exhibition even slightly makes you think about Princess Diana.
Lastly, you go through the Royal Apartments, which are just amazing to look at. You'll be in awe of the decor and the history. You cannot take pics in these rooms, but you can in the Silver Collection.
10. Visit the Zoo
If you are after fun things to do in Vienna, then the Zoo is the place for you.
The giant pandas and the spectacled bear are some of the stars here, but there are plenty of the usual animals that you get at most zoos as well.
The zoo has a lot of cool areas, like a tree-top walk in the woods. Even if you don't spot any zoo animals up there, the view of the city is excellent, and it's a peaceful walk. The zoo also tries to teach you stuff, like boards with info about local animals, but they're mainly in German. There are also feeding talks for some animals like anteaters and tigers. These talks are in German, but watching the animals eat is still fun.
11. Natural History Museum
If you love anything to do with rocks, fossils, or animals, you've got to check out the Vienna Natural History Museum. The place is massive, and you could easily spend a few days exploring. Even if you're not into natural history, the building itself is impressive to look at. The museum makes it easy for everyone to learn, with most displays in both German and English.
You'll see a lot of interactive and hands-on stuff, not just boring signs. This is great for keeping kids (and adults) interested. One of the best parts? Seeing the kids' faces as they go through the museum. Priceless. Also, kids can enter for free.
12. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
The place is full of history and awesome stuff like old frescos, statues, and even secret passages. It's all tied back to the Habsburg family.
The library is vast, with over 12 million items. It's got four museums inside, focusing on different stuff like literature and globes. Tickets cost 10 Euros per person, and trust us, it's worth every cent.
13. Time Travel Vienna
Time Travel Vienna is one of the top things to see and do in Vienna and offers an engaging and educational journey through 2,000 years of Austria's history, all in a 50-minute interactive experience. Perfect for visitors of all ages, the attraction uses 5D effects and virtual tours to bring historical events to life. A particular highlight is the section dedicated to Vienna's famous composers, enhancing the overall narrative of the city's cultural significance.
The experience is reasonably priced and takes roughly an hour to complete. For those taking hop-on, hop-off bus tours in Vienna, visiting Time Travel Vienna beforehand can provide helpful context for the landmarks you'll see later.
14. Haus der Musik
Despite its small size, the museum packs a lot in, making it an essential stop for anyone interested in music or looking for a fun outing. Visitors can explore various rooms filled with information about renowned composers.
The virtual orchestra on the top floor is a standout feature of the museum. Here, you can take up the conductor's baton and lead the Vienna Philharmonic through various musical pieces. Whether you visit on a weekday morning or a weekend evening, you'll find the museum comfortably uncrowded, allowing ample space to engage with all the exhibits.
15. Aqua Terra Zoo
Inside the Aqua Terra Zoo is a multi-level wonderland of aquatic and terrestrial life. Spanning ten floors, this high-rise zoo is more than just an aquarium and is one of the best things to do with kids in Vienna.
Guests are greeted with various exhibits, from touch pools and an engaging Croc Park to a rainforest walkway filled with playful monkeys. Whether you're fascinated by anacondas or enamored by exotic fish, there's something for every wildlife enthusiast. The venue is particularly notable for its diverse animals, including marine creatures, birds, and mammals.
While the venue features multiple levels, visitors can climb the steps for a more immersive experience or conveniently use the lift. And when you're ready for a break, the panoramic cafe at the top offers a perfect respite. Here, you can enjoy great beer and delicious food while taking a stunning 360° view of Vienna from the rooftop terrace.
16. Danube Tower
Danube Tower, or “Donauturm,” offers a unique way to great views of Vienna. With an entrance fee of €15, some might find it a bit expensive, especially if you plan to dine there. However, the tower is included if you have a Vienna Pass, making it a more accessible experience.
Upon arrival, guests are whisked up in a smooth, fast lift with a glass ceiling—an unexpected but delightful touch.
The café offers a good selection of local dishes at reasonable prices. Favorites like Wiener schnitzel and apple strudel are available, and the service is fast and friendly. Pair this culinary experience with the tower's panoramic views of Vienna, and you have a memorable outing.
Getting to the Danube Tower is also fairly easy and affordable. An Uber ride from the city center costs around €8, and the wait time for a return trip is generally short.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.