You can think of the Vienna city card as a network travel pass which also entitles you to some food, shopping, sightseeing, and other discounts.
It was designed by the authorities specifically for visitors to the city.
So should you get one?
- Buy one if you’re doing a mix of shopping, walking, sightseeing etc. (you can purchase your card online*)
- Go for the Vienna Pass, instead (or in addition), if you’re visiting paid attractions like the museums – it gets you free entry and has a travel pass option, too
What you get
The Vienna city card offers two main benefits: free travel and discounts.
You can choose between 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour versions (the RED card). These cost, respectively, €17, €25 and €29 at the time of writing.
You also have the option to include the Big Bus Vienna sightseeing buses, a Big Bus night tour, and a walking tour (the WHITE card). The price then becomes €32, €37 and €41.
The travel pass
As a travel pass, the Vienna card begins when you validate it. You simply stamp the card in one of the machines found at all train and subway stations and inside trams and buses.
The moment you stamp your card, the clock starts ticking and the card is valid for exactly the period you bought, i.e. 24, 48 or 72 hours after stamping.
(Equally, it’s not valid for travel unless you do stamp it).
Once validated, you can use the card to go anywhere in the Vienna zone on any tram, bus, subway or train. The only major exceptions are airport bus lines, the Ring Tram sightseeing service, and private rail initiatives like the Westbahn or CAT.
This 100 zone covers more or less the entire city. One child aged 14 or less also travels free with your validated red card (aged 15 or less with the white card). Note that Vienna airport is outside the zone.
Remember, the basic red card does not cover “hop on, hop off” tour buses: you need the more expensive version that includes the Big Bus service, or a Vienna Pass (which includes the Vienna Sightseeing bus service).
The entitlement to discounts starts when you write the date of the first day on the card and it remains valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours from then, depending on which card you bought.
And what are the actual discounts (all 200+ of them)?
In terms of tickets for sights and museums, most offer small discounts to cardholders, though it’s hard to get significant reductions for the really popular destinations (e.g. the Kunsthistorisches Museum gives you just €1 off).
But there’s much more to the discounts than this. Various concert venues, tours, city center shops, restaurants, coffee houses and more also have special offers or discounts for Vienna card holders. Some examples:
- €10-€15 off a ride in a fiakir (open-top carriage)
- €2 off the Third Man tour
- 5%/10% at Lobmeyr crystal
- a free dessert at Cafe Leopold
You can download the booklet with all offers from their home page*.
How to buy Vienna City Cards?
You purchase them through the online store* of the Vienna tourist authority (see their ad below):
Alternatively, you can also buy one in the city from the tourist information offices, many hotels, and public transport ticket offices. The card comes with a booklet of instructions and information on your discount entitlements.
Is it worth it?
So the big question – should you buy one?
Here’s what I think…
The Vienna card is great if you’re a low-intensity traveler. So if you’re taking in a few sights, doing some shopping, enjoying a meal or two out.
That way you get value out of the discounts on offer. If you take away the cost of a normal network travel card, this is how much you’re paying for access to the discounts with the basic red cards:
- 24 hour – €9
- 48 hour – €10.90
- 72 hour – €11.90
So it really shouldn’t be too hard to get good value out of the card.
If you’re doing a lot of sightseeing, then the Vienna Pass with Travel* is more suitable. It costs more, but gets you free entry into nearly all the top attractions in the city.
If you’re on a very strict budget (like a student backpacker), then do the sums. If you’re just looking around, you might want to walk (many sights are very central) and buy the occasional standard ticket (just over €2 per single journey) for reaching places of interest outside the city center. Then you don’t need to buy any card or pass.