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 my
nine ten tips for visitors:
1. Buy a pass
1. The Vienna Pass is a sightseeing pass that gives you free entry to pretty well all the main attractions. Read my review.
Short summary: can save you plenty if you’re actively sightseeing for a weekend or longer.
2. The Vienna City Card is a 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 shopping and eating out.
2. Buy tickets in advance
Tiqets* is a one-stop website that lets you book tickets in advance for major Vienna attractions and use your smartphone, for example, to skip queues.
However you do it, I recommend buying tickets in advance for the most popular attractions, like the Schönbrunn Palace tour. And not (just) to avoid queuing: some attractions have limited capacities or you need to book specific entry times. Advance tickets help you avoid disappointment on the day and plan your time better.
3. Buy combination tickets
If you don’t get a Vienna Pass, but have a particular set of attractions in mind, check if there isn’t a discounted combination ticket available.
4. Print at home
If you’re happier with a piece of paper in your hand, many individual attractions now let you buy and print your own tickets online to save queuing at the cashdesk on the day.
5. Check for concessions
Don’t forget your student ID or Senior Citizen cards – most attractions offer concessions of one kind or another. For example, children get into federal museums like the Kunsthistoriches Museum for free.
6. If you’re on a very tight budget
If you’re interested in just one or two attractions, 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 2019 event is on October 5.
Major free events include:
- European Heritage Day (various historic buildings open their doors to the public)
- 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 free festivals and similar.
7. 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…
8. Buy a network travel pass
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. The Vienna City Card includes travel, and you can add a travelcard to the Vienna Pass.
9. Time your arrival
Needless to say, always get to the busiest locations when they open, particularly Schönbrunn Palace and Upper Belvedere Palace (home to Klimt’s The Kiss).
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.
10. 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 in the supermarkets for a fraction of the price.