Before going to Europe, I was researching about where should I go in Austria. I went and searched on Google Image and see what would come out. And photos about Hallstatt flooded my screen. That was when I know that Vienna is not as well travelled compared to other Austrian cities, mainly because it was expensive. However, travelling in Vienna on a budget is not hard if you know how! Read on to learn how I spent only €25 per day in Vienna and how you can do it too!
Not very open to Couchsurfing? That's okay. Vienna has a lot of hostels to choose from. The cheapest dorm bed in Vienna starts from €11. Remember not to stay too far from the city centre as the public transport in Vienna is not cheap.
Food and Beverage
This is a really generalised budget of how much you will spend on food per day.
- Breakfast: €0-€2
- If you are using Couchsurfing, most of the hosts will have breakfast for you (at least that's my experience). Even if they don't have any, you can just buy some breakfast from a supermarket a day before for a relatively cheap price.
- Hostels offer free breakfast most of the time. So make full use of that.
- Lunch: €5
- There are some street food stalls (wurst, gyros, kebab, pizza) that you can get food as cheap as €5.
- You can also go to takeaway shops. Ethnic restaurants (think: Thai, Vietnamese, Surinamese, Greek, Turkish) are normally cheaper.
- Dinner: €6-€8
- Tips for lunch also apply here.
Generally, food in Vienna is not cheap. To be really frugal, these are the places that you can go to.
- Wiener Deewan: I swear this Pakistani restaurant is known by every single student in Vienna. They offer an all-you-can-eat buffet. The real deal? You can pay as you wish, which means you can also walk away without paying if you want to. I suggest giving a small amount of money that you can afford as they need that money to run this restaurant for the good of the community.
- Pizzeria Mafiosi: This place has a really modern (or creepy) decor and pizzas with strange toppings. It has a lovely outdoor area for you to hangout when the weather is warmer. The cheapest pizza (Margherita) starts at €3.90.
- Visit one of the markets: Naschmarkt, Brunnenmarkt, and Carmelitemarkt offer cheap lunch. Visit one of the ubiquitous street food stalls. This is also a good place for you to get your groceries if you are cooking your own meals.
- Kent Restaurant: Not all cheap restaurants are shabby and rundown. This Turkish restaurant is so clean and chic. It even features a garden. Mains start at €6.90 (white bean goulash with lamb).
- Bier and Bierli: This restaurant is strategically located right opposite the opera house, which is a good idea if you are feeling hungry after watching the Opera or something. Viennese food is normally not cheap but it is pretty affordable here. You can get a large Viennese Pork Schnitzel for €12.90 and Veal Schnitzel for €19.90.
Tunnel: Don't know to see if a restaurant is inexpensive? Look at the crowd. In Tunnel, almost everyone dining there is a student. A plate of pasta is around €5 and a large pizza is around €7. Also, there's live music most of the time.
Esterházykeller: This place has been around since 1683. You can basically breathe the history when you're dining in there. The mains here are pretty affordable. A pork roast and caraway with dumplings and sauerkraut is only €12.90. Note that during summer, Esterhazykeller is closed and Esterhazystüberl replaces it. Esterhazystüberl has an outdoor dining area and it is located directly above Esterhazykeller.
- Walk as much as you can: This will keep both you and your wallet in shape.
- Borrow a CityBike for free: You can use the Viennese CityBike for free for an hour if you are tired from all your walking.
- Public transportation: Public transport in Vienna is not cheap but it's efficient. Prices are as follow:
- Single ticket: €2.20
- 24-hour ticket: €7.60
- 48-hour ticket: €13.30
- 72-hour ticket: €16.50
- For more info, check the official website here.
Free (or almost free) Things to Do in Vienna!
1. Stroll around the garden complex at Schonbrunn Palace!
You need a ticket to enter the palaces, but that doesn't mean that you can't visit the gorgeous gardens out there for free! You can do a short hike up the hill to earn yourself a perfect view of the Schonbrunn Palace and the surrounding gardens. The hike is highly recommended. It takes around 20-30 minutes.
2. Watch one of the best operas in the world for free!
Yes, you heard me right! Totally free. In April, May, June and September, there will be a big screen set up right outside the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) showing selected operas. There are only 180 seats available so get there early. Rain or shine, the show will be on regardless. If you are planning to go there, check the available dates and the weather when you are in Vienna.
Even if you are not going during those months, you can also get a standing ticket to watch an opera in the Vienna State Opera building. Prices are €3, €4 and €6. Seriously they are not much of a difference so just get whichever available. Ticket sale starts 80 minutes before the show. Why? I have written more about it here!
3. Join one of the best free music festivals in Europe!
Who said that awesome music festivals have to be expensive? Sometimes it's free, just like Donauinselfest (Danube Island Festival) in Vienna! It happens on the last weekend of June. With 200 live acts and 11 stages across 16 islands, you shall have no excuse to miss this awesome incredible music festival.
Danube Island Festival is Europe's largest open air festival and it offers so much more other than music! This mega party has a water slide, a ten-meter jump into a gigantic air cushion and a full obstacle course! And you get all of these for free!
Check out their official website for the festival in 2016 here!
4. Indulge yourself in a free classical music concert!
Don't worry if you are not a big fan of music festivals and drunk people! In summer, there are so many free classical concerts that are happening! Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs in Schonbrunn Palace Park for free in early summer (end of May). This event attracts more than 100,000 people annually and is even broadcasted worldwide.
If you're not there in May, you can check the official websites of the churches in Vienna to see if they offer free classical concerts. It's very common for churches to offer free lunch concerts on weekdays.
Besides, the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna also offer free concerts and performances. Not all of their concerts are free though so check them out. It would be nice to wear something more decent when you are watching a concert like this.
5. Go to Kahlenberg!
Kahlenberg is a hill located at the outskirt of Vienna which offers an awesome view of the city. There is a bus connection to Kahlenberg and it costs €2. If you are going from the city centre, go to Schottentor station. Take bus 38 to Grinzing and after that, take bus 38A to Kahlenberg. The signages are pretty clear so don't you worry.
If the weather is permitting, you can also choose to take an hour long walk to Kahlenberg and watch the scenery unfolds bits by bits.
PS: Kahlenberg is eerily beautiful in the snow!
6. Explore the Ringstrasse!
Ringstrasse is a circular road (or a grand boulevard) that features all the main sights in Vienna. You can find Imperial Palace, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Natural History Museum, the Vienna State Opera and Parliament and expansive parks!
You can start at Vienna State Opera and go anticlockwise, stopping by at the Fine Arts Museum, Natural History Museum, Rathaus Platz, Burgtheatre, University of Vienna and so on.
7. Visit museums for free!
Vienna is a city of free music, and also free museums! If you are a museum buff, just choose one and go. All museums in Vienna are free on the 26th of October, which is the Austrian National Day.
- A few museums in Vienna are always free. These are:
- Geldmuseum (Money museum)
- Kunsthalle am Karlsplatz (Contemporary art)
- Bezirksmuseen (Regional museum)
- MUSA (Contemporary art)
- Some museums are free on the first Sunday of every month. These are:
- Uhrenmuseum (Clock museum)
- Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Military museum)
- Otto-Wagner Pavillion
- Wienmuseum Hermesvilla (a palace located near a hunting ground)
- Wien Museum am Karlsplatz
- Römermuseum (Roman Museum)
- Haydnhaus (Haydn House - must go if you are a die-hard classical music fan)
- If you are under 19, these are free:
- Liechtenstein museum
- Albertina (65000 drawings)
- MAK (Museum of Applied Arts)
- Technisches Museum (Technical Museum)
- Natural History Museum
- Belvedere (a Baroque palace complex)
- Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art history)
8. Watch a free movie at Rathaus Platz!
Again, if you are in Vienna in summer, then watch a free movie at the outdoor cinema at Rathaus Platz! Bring something if it's gonna rain. Although they do show movies in English, they also show movies in German (not really sure if there's subtitle). Pack up some groceries and picnic there!
If you are not visiting in summer, you can also join the free tour at Rathaus every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 pm. The tour is offered in English, Italian, Spanish and German.
9. Stroll along one of the city markets!
Visiting a market (especially food market) is one of my favourite activity when in a new city. I think this is a fantastic way to get closer to the life of a local (though city markets can be a little fabricated because of the tourists).
Naschmarkt, Brunnenmarkt or Carmelitemarkt are located in (or near to) the city. Restaurants and street food stands are happening in these markets.
10. Visit one of the best Christmas markets in the world!
Free stuff in Vienna tends to happen in summer. Going to Vienna in winter? Don't you worry because you get to visit one of the best Christmas markets in the world! Have a mug of mulled wine (or hot chocolate if you don't drink alcohol) and kiss under the mistletoe (if you have someone to kiss).