There’s an awful lot to see in Vienna, so you don’t want to waste time queuing, or spend more than you have to.
Here are nine tips for visitors:
1. Buy a pass
(The hop on, hop off bus included in the Vienna Pass)
1. The Vienna Pass is a sightseeing pass that gives you one-time free entry to pretty well every main attraction, plus other bonuses like unlimited free sightseeing bus tours. Read my review.
Short summary: can save you plenty if you’re actively sightseeing for a weekend or longer. Purchase the travel upgrade to include public transport.
2. The Vienna City Card is a network travel card and discount pass that offers small reductions for a wide range of locations and activities. Read my review.
Short summary: a good choice if you’re only doing a little bit of sightseeing, but plenty of travel, shopping and eating out.
3. The Vienna Flexi PASS is like a mini Vienna Pass with one-time free entry to a certain fixed number of services/attractions. The choice of eligible sights for you to fill your quota from is not as comprehensive as with the Vienna Pass, but it’s cheaper and covers a longer time period. More info*.
2. Buy tickets in advance
However you do it, I recommend buying tickets in advance for the most popular attractions.
This is not (just) to avoid queuing: some attractions have limited capacities or you need to book specific entry times (for example, if you want to do the Schönbrunn Palace tour).
Advance tickets help you avoid disappointment on the day and plan your time better.
3. Buy combination tickets
(The Ferris wheel – one of many attractions offering combination tickets)
If you don’t get a Vienna Pass or Flexi PASS, but have a particular set of attractions in mind, check if there isn’t a discounted combination ticket available.
4. Check for concessions
(Free entry for kids at the Kunsthistorisches Museum)
Don’t forget your student ID or Senior Citizen cards – most attractions offer concessions of one kind or another. For example, children get into all federal museums like the Kunsthistoriches Museum or Natural History Museum for free.
5. If you’re on a very tight budget
I have whole article on what to do on a budget, with a long list of free attractions and activities. For example, if you’re interested in just one or two places, check their websites. It’s not unusual to find special days when entrance is free for everyone.
Once a year, Vienna also holds the Night of the Museums event, when a single ticket lets you into any participating museum. The next event is on October 3rd, 2020.
Major free events include:
- European Heritage Day (various historic buildings open their doors to the public)
- Open House Wien (ditto, but with a focus on housing, workplaces, and industrial buildings)
- Fest der Freude (free classical concert on Heldenplatz square)
- Summer Night Concert (ditto – this time in Schönbrunn Palace gardens)
- Wiener Symphoniker at the MQ (ditto – in the main courtyard of the Museumsquartier)
- Long Night of the Churches (an evening of activities in Vienna’s churches)
Keep an eye on my events page, too, for numerous free festivals and similar through the year
6. Plan your route
Most attractions are central and the transport system is excellent. But the further you have to go between locations, the less time you have for actually sightseeing. So plan your route carefully.
My tip: there are five main clusters of sights, marked on this map:
They don’t cover absolutely everything and are pretty rough, but should give you some idea of where most things are.
- The Hofburg palace cluster: covers the imperial apartments, Spanish riding school, imperial treasury, Albertina museum and staterooms, national library and the beautiful pedestrianized center with Stephansdom cathedral…
- The half-ring cluster: a walk around part of the large boulevard that encircles the old town. It covers Parliament, the Rathaus, the natural history and art history museums, the Stadtpark, Heldenplatz, Staatsoper…
- The Schönbrunn cluster: the summer palace area, including the palace itself, its gardens, the Gloriette, maze, zoo, desert house, palm house, Technical Museum…
- The Belvedere cluster: the upper and lower palaces, gardens, nearby galleries, botanic garden, Karlskirche, the fountain and Russian memorial at Schwarzenbergplatz…
- The Prater cluster: the park, the entertainment complex, Madame Tussaud and the Riesenrad giant ferris wheel…
7. Buy a network travel pass
(Public transport in Vienna is inexpensive)
If you’re planning to travel around on that excellent public transport system, get a network travel pass. They are extremely good value for money and the public subways, buses, trams and city trains are clean, fast, on time (usually) and frequent.
N.B. Remember, the Vienna City Card includes travel, and you can add a travelcard to the Vienna Pass.
8. Time your arrival
Needless to say, always get to the busiest locations when they open, particularly Schönbrunn Palace and Upper Belvedere Palace.
Or – as mentioned earlier – book tours etc. with limited capacities (like Schönbrunn tours or morning training at the Spanish Riding School) in advance.
You might also like this article on the best time to visit Vienna.
9. One more way to save money…
Many attractions sell the famous Mozart balls and other marzipan chocolates as souvenirs. You can often find exactly the same chocolates and packaging in the supermarkets for a fraction of the price.