With its wealth of architectural grandeur, its rich artistic legacy, its imperial history and some of the finest museums in the world, Vienna has always enticed an overwhelming number of visitors.
Gary and I visited this gorgeous city last June for six days and to be honest it was a bit of a hit and miss trip for us. While we fell in love with the beautiful architecture of the city and were thrilled to explore Vienna’s cultural and historically heritage, we were less impressed by the overall cost of the trip.
I am glad to say that we learned a couple of lessons along the way and I would like to share these with you in the article below. Hopefully by doing so I will be able answer some of your most burning questions.
HOW MANY DAYS SHOULD YOU SPEND IN VIENNA?
If you are wondering how many days to spend in Vienna, than the short answer, is probably longer than you think. I would suggest you plan to stay in Vienna for at least for four days, that is three nights. But it really depends on what you want to see and do. So, whilst most globetrotters will be able to get a good glimpse of the different regions of the city and sample the culture and history in three days, vacationers and culture buffs have a much broader range of sights to choose from depending on their interests and how they wish to fill their time. Gary and I spent five days in Vienna and we really wouldn’t have wanted to reduce that by even one day. Five days felt a little tight and at points we felt we rushed through the experience.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VISIT VIENNA?
Vienna is probably one of the most expensive destinations we ever had the pleasure of visiting. As is the case for many famous European capitals, the sheer number of visitors to the city push up the prices. The excessive cost of our trip wasn’t driven by the price of our flights or that of our hotel. In fact both of those were surprisingly affordable and the main reason we chose to travel to Vienna. The main expense of our Vienna getaway was actually the price of the attractions and that of food. Here is a cost break down of our trip to Vienna:
Flights: 70£ (return flight)
Hotel: 400£ (with breakfast. Note per person this come down to 200£)
72h Vienna Card: 20£ per person
72h Vienna Pass: 97£ per person
Additional Attractions: 66£ per person
Additional Transport: 32£ per person
Food: 200£ per person
Total spent for 6 days in Vienna was 675£ per person
IS IT POSSIBLE TO VISIT VIENNA ON A BUDGET?
Nonetheless I would argue that it is possible to fill yourself up on the city’s history, culture and sachertorte without having to spend all too much money. So here are my top tips for experiencing all that Vienna has to offer without completely blowing your budget.
ENJOY VIENNA’S FREE ATTRACTIONS
The best way to save money in Vienna – or any city for that matter – is by making the most of its free attractions. You could for instance take a walk around the Ringstrasse. Or why not visit the city’s many green parks. Indeed entrance to the Burggarten, Stadtpark and Schönbrunn Palace gardens are all free. If you’re in the city during summer, you can escape the heat by heading down to the banks of the Danube. Danube Island has 42km of beaches as well as boat and bike hire, playgrounds and cafés.
COMBINED TICKETS AND DISCOUNTED ENTRY
Vienna has a great selection of museums, but with many entry fees around €15 per person the costs can add up. But there are ways to save – most museums have reduced-price tickets for students and seniors, and discounts with the Vienna Card range from 5% to 50%. You can also buy joint tickets for various combinations of museums that save on the full entry fees – Many of Vienna’s museums have discounted entry fees for students and seniors or on certain days of the week. The Wien Museum, for example, is always free for anyone under the age of 19 and for everyone else one the first Sunday of the month. The Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) has free entry on Tuesdays from 6pm–10pm, the MUMOK museum of modernist art has reduced price entry for €8 on Thursdays from 6pm–9pm including a tour and the House of Music has a half-price entry for €6.50 from 8pm–9.30pm every day. Another way to save money is to buy joint tickets. A combined ticket for the House of Music and Mozarthaus for instance saves you €5, whilst a combined ticket for the Leopold Museum and Kunsthistorisches Museum saves you €4. You can also buy combined passes for the Museums Quartier or the Belvedere.
INVEST IN A CITY PASS
If you are planning to visit a lot of the city’s main attractions, it would probably be worth investing in one of Vienna’s city passes. A lot of cities nowadays offer tourist cards – a card you purchase that gives you discounts to popular attractions, activities and even transportation. These cards can be of great value, but sometimes they are not such a good deal. If you are visiting Vienna you have the choice between two cards, the Vienna Pass or the Vienna Card. But which one should you invest in? Gary and I tested out both. Here are our thoughts on the dilemma:
The Vienna Card is issued by the Vienna Tourism Board, and is thus the official sightseeing card for the city. On the surface, this card appears incredibly comprehensive. When you buy it, you get a 119 page coupon book listing more than 210 discounts available to Vienna card holders at museums, some restaurants and cafés, shops and other tourism-related services. The card also gives you 72 (or 48) hours of unlimited travel on all public transportation. And since our hotel was not in the centre of town, we used the metro a lot to get around. A regular 72 hours ticket for public transport (no discounts at museums etc.) costs €16.50 (48hour €13.30) while the Vienna Card is €21.90 (48hour €18.90) so whether the Vienna Card pays off depends on how much you’re going to take advantage of the discounts provided in the coupon book. Note that the discounts for attractions, especially for popular sights, are generally around 10% of the regular (grown up) entrance fee. Some of the less popular places grant discounts of around 20 per cent. Some attractions on the other hand (such as the Belvedere) don’t provide any type of discount. You should also keep in mind that if your accommodation is centrally located (1st district), many sights are in walking distance so that you won’t need to use public transport very often. Before buying the Vienna Card you should therefore figure out how many sights you are planning to visit and whether or not you need to use the public transport system. Since Gary and I travelled about a fair bit and followed a tight schedule of sightseeing for five days, the Vienna Card definitely ended up being a worthwhile purchase. If you’re staying less than three days it’s unlikely that the Card will pay off because there are much cheaper tickets for public transport plus you have less time to make use of the discounts.
The Vienna Pass is far more expensive than the Vienna Card at 97£ for a three-day pass with travel and 83£ without travel. However, it gives you full access to all of Vienna’s top attractions and you can generally skip the queue. You can also use it to jump onto one of the hop on hop off buses. There are 6 routes with over 50 stops, meaning you can create your own itinerary based on your interests. One route covers the central Ring area, which is where most of Vienna’s landmarks are located, whilst another one goes out all the way to Schönbrunn Palace. To make the Vienna Pass a worthwhile purchase however, I would suggest you aim to visit at least three attractions every day. The entrance to each of Vienna’s most popular attractions is generally around 15£ a pot. The add-on price of the Vienna TravelCard is essentially equal to that of a regular 72 hours ticket for public transport . So if you are planning to make regular use of the city’s subways, trams, buses, and local trains, then you might as well purchase this add-on to the card.
BUY A STANDING TICKET FOR THE VIENNA OPERA
If you are planning a trip to Vienna, the city of music, you really need to attend at least one musical performance. Tickets to Vienna’s famous opera however sell out months in advance and can set you back upwards of 130. If you don’t mind standing throughout the performance however you can snap up a real bargain. Standing tickets for the State Opera House, the Staatsoper, go on sale about 80 minutes before the performance and cost €4 (in the parterre on the ground floor) or €3 (in the balcony or gallery higher up). These special tickets are only available at the office on Operngasse and are pretty popular. So get there early and be prepared to queue. Note that and you can only buy one ticket per person so if you’re in a group you’ll all need to line up. You can also get standing tickets for the Volksoper and Burgtheater for a similar price, but these can be booked online and in advance.
ENJOY VIENNA’S FOOD ON THE CHEAP
As I explained previously, one of the main expenses of travelling to Vienna has to be eating out, especially near the busy and touristy central area. But you can save a good chunk of money by making lunch the main meal of your day. Many restaurants offer a cheaper mittagsmenü, where you can get a two- or three-course meal from a set menu for under €10. Another way to save money on food is to seek out restaurants in the cheaper / studenty areas of Neubau and Josefstadt. Or grab a bite to eat at the Naschmarkt which has over 120 market stalls selling food and drink.
GETTING AROUND VIENNA
The cheapest way to get from the airport to the city centre of Vienna is by jumping onto the But the cheapest way into the centre is on the S-Bahn train. It costs €4.40 and takes around 25 minutes from the airport to Wien Mitte station, which has underground connections across the city. Alternatively you can take the City Airport Train or the Airport Lines bus, tickets for both of which are discounted if you have a Vienna Card. Gary and I on the other hand splashed out and grabbed an Uber to our hotel The city centre of Vienna is pretty compact and easily explored on foot. Most of the main attractions (this includes the Albertina Museum, Vienna State Opera, Hofburg Palace, St Stephens Cathedral and the Museum Quarter) are all within walking distance of each other. It should only take you 5 to 15 minutes to get from one to another. Although if you are feeling especially romantic you might want to treat yourself to a carriage ride around the old town. A few of Vienna’s best attractions, such as the Schönbrunn Palace and the famous Ferris Wheel in Prater Park, are located on the edge of the city and you’ll definitely want to use Vienna’s efficient underground and tram service to get to them. Both the Vienna Card and the Vienna Pass with travel-addon give you unlimited free travel on the underground, trams and buses. The Vienna Card also covers one child up to the age of 15 travelling with you. Other options are travel passes with a 24-hour one costing €7.60 or a weekly pass for €16.20 (valid Monday–Sunday). Lots of companies in Vienna run boat trips along the Danube, but if you are travelling on to Slovakia or Hungary you can take the boat rather than the bus or train and get a cruise included. The Twin City Liner boats take 1 hour 15 minutes to travel between Vienna and Bratislava and cost €32 one way. Or there’s a hydrofoil connecting Vienna with Budapest, which takes 6 hours 30 minutes and costs €109.
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY IN VIENNA?
Because Vienna’s city centre is so compact, arguably you can save a fair bit of money on public transport by staying in a hotel near the city centre. Great options close to the city centre include:
Grand Hotel Wien – A classic and elegant 5-star boutique hotel located a 3-minute walk from the Vienna State Opera and the famous Kärntner Straße Shopping Street. The hotel offers 5 restaurants, 2 bars, a spa area, and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Vienna. The luxuriously-furnished rooms and suites in the Grand Hotel’s impressive historic building are equipped with elegant furniture as well as all modern facilities.
Hotel Sans Souci Wien — A 5-star luxury boutique hotel opposite Vienna’s Museums Quartier. The stand-out feature of this hotel has to be it’s bright and airy contemporary, as well as a fabulous breakfast. Other features you might enjoy. Include the indoor pool, spa, sauna, steam bath and fitness center; bar and restaurant with good reviews; and the pillow menu.
Grand Ferdinand — An elegant luxury boutique hotel with a rooftop pool (and gorgeous views)! The rooms are minimalist, contemporary-looking and open-plan with high ceilings, comfy beds, and muted colors. Great location, fantastic reviews…the only tip from past guests is to skip the on-site restaurants, which by most reviews are over-priced for what you get, especially considering the fantastic selection in the area.
Gary and I however quickly realized that hotels outside of the ring area were considerably cheaper than those within. Ans so in the end, it turned out to be more economically for us to book a hotel slightly outside of the city centre and then jump on the subway to reach the city centre within minutes. Our choice fell on:
Falkensteiner Hotel Wien Margareten – A beautiful modern 5-star hotel designed by Chipperfield located half-way between the historic city centre and Schönbrunn Palace. Highlights include the rooftop spa and the comprehensive and delicious breakfast buffet. All of the hotels rooms are air-conditioned rooms and furnished in a modern Biedermeier style. You can read a more comprehensive review of this hotel on my blog.