Vienna is one of Europe’s most fascinating cities, a destination that’s brimming with art, history and culture, and that frankly, is a cut above the rest when it comes to simply being elegant.
But is Vienna expensive? The short answer is yes, especially in comparison to its Central European neighbours such as nearby Bratislava or Budapest. But is it possible to visit Vienna on a budget? The answer to that question is also yes.
While it is undeniably expensive and comes with a high cost of living even by western standards, with a few money saving tips and tricks up your sleeve you can see the best sights and attractions in Vienna.
Make your way around the city, and enjoy the Viennese lifestyle without hurting the bank too much. To help you out, we put together our budget travel guide to Vienna!
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How to get around Vienna on a Budget
As the capital and largest city of Austria, there’s no doubt that Vienna is a huge metropolis, but it’s not a city that has to be difficult to visit or to travel around.
The city conveniently spreads outwards from the Innere Stadt, the Inner city where you’ll find the historic, UNESCO World Heritage listed architecture and buildings.
While there are countless suburbs, public transport is both efficient and a great way to save money.
If you are flying into the International Airport, then you can make use of the City Airport Train to get into Vienna itself. This is the fastest way to get to the city as the high speed trains will quickly whisk you to the central Hauptbahnhof in under 20 minutes.
To save money though, you can also take the S-Bahn and then switch to the U-Bahn, although this takes much longer and isn’t so convenient if you have lots of luggage.
The integrated public transport system offers low fares across the city when you are visiting Vienna.
The integrated network includes trams, trolley buses, buses, the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn. Within the city centre, the U-Bahn is the easiest way to get around, especially if it’s your first time in the city.
You can buy single trip tickets, but if you’re doing a lot of sightseeing then it’s always better value to purchase unlimited day tickets.
If you’re in Vienna for multiple days, then the excellent Vienna Pass will give you unlimited travel for a certain period of time as well as great discounts on major attractions within the city.
Budget things to do in Vienna
Schonbrunn Palace Gardens
The Schonbrunn Palace is a must see in Vienna, but for budget travellers the entrance price can be steep, especially if you’re not really into history and culture.
But luckily, the best part of the Palace is free to enter, because anyone is allowed to stroll through the beautiful Schonbrunn Palace Gardens.
In fact, the spectacular landscaped gardens have been open since the 18th century, and they have long been one of the most impressive tourist attractions in the city.
You’ll be able to stroll through the impressively maintained gardens and enjoy a wonderful view of the Palace itself from the outside.
The Belvedere is another beautiful Baroque Palace that dates back to the Habsburg times, and while again, the entrance cost might not be warranted unless you want to marvel at the art works within, you can take a stroll through the Palace gardens for free.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a marvellous place for a walk, and you’ll soon leave the bustle of Vienna behind you as you enter the tranquility of the Belvedere Gardens.
Due to its long history under the rule of the Habsburgs, Vienna grew into one of the most splendid cities in Europe, and you’ll find that there palaces all across the Austrian capital.
One of the most famous is the Hofburg, which for centuries was the home of the ruling monarchy. They lived and they worked here, and today, the stately rooms house the offices of the Austrian president instead.
While you have to pay to enter and tour around, the ticket price isn’t unreasonable, but of course, it’s always worth simply admiring the architecture from the outside.
The Rathaus, or Town Hall, is another iconic building to visit when you are touring through Vienna.
Located in the heart of Vienna on Rathausplatz, this elegant building dates back to the late 19th century and forms part of the historical architecture that’s found all along the Ringstrasse in the city centre.
For locals, there’s only one place to go when the sun is shining or when they simply need to get back to nature, and that’s the glorious shores of Danube Island.
Stretching for over 20 kilometres, the thin island forms a barrier between the Danube River proper and the Danube Canal.
There are endless opportunities for walking, or for simply enjoying the surroundings while you picnic in the shade of trees.
The Hundertwasser Haus is one of Vienna’s more unusual architectural gems, and it stands in distinct contrast to the mostly Baroque style buildings that you’ll have seen across the city centre.
Designed and built by the Viennese artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the building is highly colourful and wonderfully unique.
It was built in the 1990s as an apartment block and you can’t enter the building itself because locals still live here, in what are Vienna’s quirkiest flats.
Street Art Passage
The Street Art Passage is a quirky road that takes visitors to the Museumquartier in Vienna.
If you’re looking for street art, then this is the place to go, because the walls and concrete are decked in graffiti and murals. And the best part is, it’s all free.
The Naschmarkt is one of Vienna’s liveliest and most bustling marketplaces.
With well over one hundred market stalls, this is the place to visit if you want to delve into Vienna’s multicultural culinary scene as you’ll find food from across the world here, as well as plenty of local treats.
Even if you’re not hungry, then it’s an exciting place to walk around, while on weekends in Vienna, there’s usually a Flea Market held nearby too.
Vienna is one of the most cultured cities in the world, and over the years, Austria has produced some of the world’s finest composers and musicians.
It’s no surprise then, that the city frequently hosts concerts and performances, and luckily for budget travellers, many of these can be free.
In summer, the Opera House often broadcasts their performances onto screens outside, allowing anyone to watch without paying through the roof for a ticket inside. Concerts are also held in the Schonbrunn Palace Gardens during summer too.
At the Christmas Markets in winter, you’ll often find concerts being held, and plenty of impromptu Carol singing from the locals too.
Located in Leopoldstadt, the Augarten is one of Vienna’s oldest public parks. It’s enormous too, and if you’re looking to explore outside of the city centre, then this is a good place to spend a few hours, or in summer, perhaps even the whole day.
The Augarten is known for its mammoth concrete Flak Towers, which were built here during World War II.
They were never removed and have since become part of the skyline and one of the few visible reminders of the war history of the city.
Where to stay in Vienna on a Budget
Vienna can seem like an expensive place to stay, and indeed, during the summer season, and when the Christmas Markets are on in winter, it can be.
To save money and find great deals, then try to travel midweek, or during the European shoulder seasons in spring or autumn.
Of course, hotels in Vienna won’t be for the budget conscious traveller anytime of the year, but if you are travelling in a group and don’t mind staying a little further out in the suburbs, then you might find some bargains on AirBnB.
For most budget travellers though, the best way to save money when you’re visiting Vienna is to stay in hostels. Not only are they good value, but you’ll have the chance to meet other travellers, and join hostel events and tours.
If there are kitchen facilities, which there usually are in most European hostels, then you’ll also be able to save a few Euros by preparing your own food.
Luckily, there are a range of different hostels, so whatever your travel style, there will be one that’s perfect for you.
If you’re looking to party and join pub crawls then Wombats Hostels are the most sociable in Vienna. If you prefer your own space then the Meininger brand has several locations across the city offering relaxed dorms and excellent facilities.
Budget eats in Vienna
As with accommodation, eating out in Vienna is never going to be cheap, although it will be a wonderful experience. If you’re really on a budget, then the best way to save money will always be to prepare your own food.
Supermarkets offer cheap groceries in Vienna, and you’ll even be able to buy plenty of local specialties and cook them yourselves.
But you can still find some good deals, and if you head out for lunch then you can enjoy a few bargains even in the city centre.
Go for the local favourites, such as the Schnitzel for instance, and you’ll be able to find hearty plates of food from between 5 and 10 Euros at many local establishments.
Turkish food is another favourite for cheap eaters, and you’ll find plenty of kebab shops serving up fully loaded kebabs swimming in sauce for just a few Euros each.
Cheap tours to do in Vienna on a budget
Free Walking Tour
The cheapest tours to join in Vienna are the free walking tours. Run by energetic locals who know the city inside out, if you don’t have a good time or don’t enjoy yourself, then you aren’t obliged to pay anything at all.
Perfect for budget travellers, you only pay what you feel the tour was worth once it’s over. There are multiple companies operating in Vienna, all through the year.
Many Free Walking Tour companies also offer other paid tours too, which can be excellent value in comparison to more traditional travel companies.
Hop on Hop off Bus Tour
A great way to see the city, especially if you’re short on time, is to purchase a Hop on Hop off Bus ticket.
Excellent value, you not only get all your transport around the city’s best sights and attractions, but you also get informed commentary and guides along the route.
The tickets can be valid for multiple days, and often also include a few perks and discounts too.
If you purchase the excellent Vienna Card, allowing access to many museums and sights, then often you can upgrade it to include the Hop on Hop off Bus too.
There aren’t many better deals than this for budget travellers visiting Vienna.
Danube Canal Tour
The Danube is the famed waterway that stretches across much of Central Europe, eventually reaching the Black Sea after passing through countless cities and capitals such as Vienna.
One of the best ways to enjoy the Vienna skyline is by cruising along this famous waterway, and tickets are surprisingly cheap to purchase.
Recommended budget tours in Vienna
- Wachau Valley Wine Tasting Bike Tour from Vienna
- Skip the Line:Concert in Vienna’s St. Anne’s Church:Mozart,Beethoven,or Schubert
- Kursalon Vienna: Johann Strauss and Mozart Concert
- Vienna Walking Tour: In the Footsteps of ‘The Third Man’
- Vienna Super Saver: City Walking Tour plus Highlights Bike Tour
- Vienna Christmas Tour
- Belvedere Palace 2.5-Hour Small-Group History Tour in Vienna
- Alternative Pub Crawl in Vienna
- Small-Group Naschmarkt Food Walking Tour in Vienna
- Schönbrunn Palace Concert
- Craft Beer Tour Vienna
- Danube Tower – unique view over Vienna!