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Statue of Archduke Karl on Heldenplatz at sunset | © volkerpreusser / Alamy
Statue of Archduke Karl on Heldenplatz at sunset | © volkerpreusser / Alamy

Top Free Things to Do in Vienna

Picture of Kate Jackson
Updated: 21 November 2017

Austria’s capital is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, popular for its charming character and rich culture. Here’s how to explore Vienna on a shoestring without missing out on all the amazing experiences that will make you fall in love with the city.

Visit the MAK on a Tuesday

This fascinating museum houses a variety of curiosities related to the arts that will delight and intrigue. Lots of exhibitions run throughout the year, on subjects including architecture, design and fashion. Visit on Tuesday evening, when all the exhibitions are open to the public free of charge.

Swim in the Danube

The Danube, a thick vein of a river that runs through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, acts as a refuge from the stifling heat that hits Vienna in the summer and is a frequently visited spot for locals, who sip cans of beer and submerge themselves in the cooling waters. The Danube Island is a favourite spot for sunbathers and has a family beach and a climbing park – all entirely free of charge, of course.

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The beautiful River Danube | © Vienna Tourist Board

Outdoor Cinema

During the summer, countless open-air cinemas open up around the city, screening films of every genre. More details can be found here. 

Gigs and Concerts

Vienna has a buzzing music scene that caters to everyone’s tastes. Classical music buffs can enjoy a range of concerts without spending a penny, from the extravagant Schoenbrunn Summer Night Concert to carol concerts in St Stephen’s Cathedral at Christmas time. For fans of electronica, indie and everything in between, B72 and The Chelsea put on lots of free gigs throughout the year and there are a number of music festivals free of charge, such as the Danube Festival (pictured below).

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Music festival, Vienna | © Vienna Tourist Board

Vienna Museums

On the first Sunday of every month, many museums around the city open their doors free of charge. Wien Museum Karlsplatz, Römermuseum, MAK and Otto Wagner Hofpavillon Hietzing are just a few of the participating museums.

Drink a Glass of Water

Vienna’s water is renowned for its high quality. The city’s water supply comes directly from mountain springs in the Styrian/Lower Austrian Alps, reaching the Austrian capital city a mere 36 hours later, without pumps. You can sample a glass for free from one of the city’s 900 public fountains.

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Water from the river | Austrian Tourist Board

Gardens and Parks

From the meticulously groomed gravel paths of formerly royal gardens of Schonbrunn and the Belvedere to the wild forested areas of Vienna Woods and exotic vineyard areas, Vienna boasts some gorgeous outdoor areas. Get your hiking boots on and explore the city by foot.

Wien, 2016, Copyright www.peterrigaud.com

Hanging out in the Burgarten | © Vienna Tourist Board

Explore the City by Bike

Renting a bike at one of the city’s cycle stands is free of charge for the first couple of hours, and cheap as chips (€3–4) thereafter. Vienna is ideal for exploring by bike, with wide cycle lanes in the city centre and plenty of leafy routes to explore along the River Danube.

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Cycling in Vienna Woods | © Vienna Tourist Board

Enjoy Free Tasters at the Naschmarkt

Amble along Vienna’s 16th-century flea and food market and sample some authentic Austrian and Turkish cuisine, which is sometimes offered up free of charge in the form of tasters. Naschmarkt is a melting pot of culture and cuisine and is Vienna’s oldest and largest market – a must-visit.

Naschmarkt | © WienTourismus / Christian Stemper

Watch Opera

Watching a performance at the Vienna State Opera House is often on the bucket lists of visitors to Austria, and there’s no reason you should miss out just because you can’t fork out a few hundred euros for a ticket in the front row. Luckily, for visitors on a shoestring, you can watch performances for free outside the Opera House in the summer, when they are projected on a screen in front of a few rows of seats. There are a few downsides, however. Performances are screened with German subtitles only, and the screenings are, of course, dependent on the weather.

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The exterior of the Vienna State Opera House | © Vienna Tourist Board