32 Free Things to Do in Vienna – A Local’s Guide

View of a white ferris wheel near city buildings during daytime in Vienna, Austria

Are you looking for fun and amazing free things to do in Vienna? Then you are not alone. 

Vienna is an impressive city, but sadly a lot of things are touristy and overpriced. It can be hard to find great things for little money. 

I grew up in Austria and have spent considerable time in Vienna. To make your trip really worthwhile, I have created this list of unique things to do in Vienna – for free. 

Let’s dive in. 

Stroll through the Historic Center of Vienna

The historic center of Vienna is an amazing place to explore for free. The city is rich in culture, architecture, and history. Especially in the Inner City, you can see one famous building after another. 

The Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) is one of the most iconic landmarks in Vienna. From there you can easily walk to the Hofburg Imperial Palace, down the Kärntnerstrasse, and by the Spanish Riding School. 

The gardens of Schönbrunn Palace

This is a totally underrated free thing to do in Vienna. While there is a hefty entrance fee for Schönbrunn Palance and the Zoo, you can enter the gardens for free. 

If you walk up to the Gloriette, a famous building on a hill, you have an amazing view over Vienna and Schönbrunn Palace. If the weather is nice, this is a great place for a picnic. 

Go inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in Vienna. You can even go look inside – for free. 

The Gothic cathedral was built between the early 14th and late 15th centuries. It is one of the highest churches in Austria. Inside you can check out the tombstones of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn, and many other famous Austrians. 

Check out the Naschmarkt

The Naschmarkt is an Open-Air-Market in Vienna. It is mostly an array of stands selling street food, spices, and herbs. 

But you can also find arts and crafts stores and textile stores there. The place is super vibrant and fun – and there is no entrance fee to the Naschmarkt. This makes it one of the best things to do in Vienna for free. 

Visit the Museums of Art History and Natural History

These museums are two of the most famous buildings in Vienna. They were designed to look exactly alike and built facing each other.

The entrance to the museums used to be free. Nowadays, you sadly have to pay a couple of bucks to go inside. 

However, seeing the museums and the square just from the outside is one of the best free things to do in Vienna. On the first Sunday of the month, the entrance is free to the museums. 

Visit the City Beach and walk along the Danube River

Vienna is not located by the sea, so people flock towards the Danube River for some relaxation. You can visit the City Beach Club and relax a bit on the artificial beach or simply take a long, scenic walk on the banks of the river. 

Explore the Hundertwasser House

The Hundertwasser House is an iconic building that you should definitely visit in Vienna.  Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed it. 

The facade of the building is unlike any other in Vienna. The multi-colored facade is punctuated with small windows of various shapes.  There are bizarre curved lines and organic shapes throughout the whole structure. 

Visit the MuseumsQuartier

The MuseumsQuartier is a big cultural hub in Vienna.  There are many permanent and temporary installations from famous artists from all over the world. The area includes more than 20 museums, galleries, theater spaces, restaurants, cafes, and bars. 

While some of the exhibitions and galleries ask for an entrance fee, you can visit the outside exhibitions for free. 

Visit Vienna Prater to admire the iconic Giant Ferris Wheel

Vienna Prater is a large theme park located in the heart of Vienna. The Prater is one of the best free things to do in Vienna.

Its most well-known attraction is the Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel). Back in the Imperial days, the Prater used to be the hunting ground of the emperors. The place definitely has a lot of history and charm, and you should definitely check it out. 

Visit the Karlskirche

The Karlskirche, or St. Charles’s Church, is an iconic Baroque church that you can visit for free. It is located in the heart of Vienna. 

The church itself is super impressive. In front of it, there is a big fountain and pool that creates a nice reflection for a stunning photo spot in Vienna. 

Take a walk through the Volksgarten

The Volksgarten is a beautiful public garden located in the heart of Vienna. There is no entrance fee to the garden. 

It is one of the oldest parks in the city. There are beautiful, vibrant flower beds and ponds filled with fish and lotus plants. There are also several monuments inside the gardens. You can see statues of famous Viennese figures like Beethoven or Mozart.

Check out the Viennese Vineyards

Vienna is the only city in the world with notable vineyards within the city boundaries. While the best wines of Austria definitely come from South Styria, the Viennese vineyards are still worth a visit. 

You can hike around the area or simply bring a picnic basket and enjoy the view from the rolling hills of the vineyards. 

Explore the Belvedere Gardens 

The Belvedere Gardens are a sight to behold and a great free place to visit in Vienna. The Belvedere consists of two Baroque palaces surrounded by stunning gardens and luscious greenery. 

The palaces have been turned into museums filled with pieces from the Habsburg court. They are not only interesting to visit on the inside, but a stroll around the garden is quite nice. Sadly, there is a small entrance fee to the museums. 

Discover the Vienna State Opera House 

Every year, the famous Viennese Opera Ball is held at the Vienna State Opera. It is one of the most famous events in Austria. 

Walk by the Opera House to see some magnificent architecture and imagine the place filled with beautiful women in stunning ball gowns and cute ballerinas performing their dances. 

Visit the Austrian Parliament Building

The Austrian Parliament Building is a stunning example of Neo-Gothic architecture located in Vienna’s first district. The building has three main sections: the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Imperial Hall. This is where all of Austria’s politics are happening. 

It is open for visitors every day except for Sundays when only guided tours are available. On the inside, you can check out some beautiful frescoes, and marble sculptures while learning about Austria’s history. 

Explore the picturesque streets of the Spittelberg district

The Spittelberg district of Vienna is known for its picturesque streets, full of rich culture and history. There are cute little shops and cafes just waiting to be checked out. 

The area used to be a working-class quarter, but today it is more of a vibrant cultural hub. You can also explore old cobblestone lanes lined with beautiful baroque facades. If you are looking for free things to do in Vienna, look no further than Spittelberg. 

Explore the historic cemetery of Zentralfriedhof

This might sound a bit morbid, but the Zentralfriedhof is actually a pretty cool place to visit in Vienna for free. 

You can find the tombstones of Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner, Sigmund Freud, and even Falco there. There are also important monuments for our Second World War soldiers. 

See the Palace of Justice in Vienna

A really cool place to check out in Vienna for free is the Palace of Justice or Justizpalast. 

In that building, the Supreme Court of Austria resides. 

Apart from its cultural importance, the inside of the palace is quite impressive. It is also known to be a great photo spot for Instagram. 

Take a Day-Trip outside of Vienna

Train tickets are relatively cheap in Austria, so you can explore more of the country if you have the time. 

Hallstatt is a beautiful lake city, nestled between impressive mountains. The little town is famous worldwide because it is so picturesque. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you should absolutely check it out if you have the time. 

Innsbruck, Austria’s best-kept secret, is another destination you should put on your list.

And if you have more time, check out this 10-day Austrian road trip itinerary filled with awesomeness.

See The Christmas Markets

If you come to Vienna towards the end of the year, you have to visit the beautiful Christmas markets. Winter in Vienna is the best time of the year in my opinion. 

The city lights up under thousands of fairy lights and there are cute little chalets on the Christmas markets all over town. 

Visit the Votivkirche

The Votivkirche is a beautiful neo-Gothic church you should check out. The building is considered one of Vienna’s most important cultural landmarks. 

The exterior has a beautiful façade, with sculptures, spires, and buttresses that give it its distinct Gothic look. Inside there are also impressive sculptures and frescoes to admire. 

The Votivkirche is open to visitors throughout the year and there is no entrance fee. 

Visit the Judenplatz and see the Holocaust Memorial 

The Judenplatz in Vienna is located in the city’s historic Jewish quarter. It is an important historical place in Vienna that you should put on your must-see list. 

The most impressive landmark on the Judenplatz is the Holocaust Memorial. It consists of a concrete cube with 64.000 names of Austrian Jews who died during the Holocaust. 

Attend some of the Free Summer Night Concerts at the Churches

The Peterskirche and Karlskirche are two of the most impressive churches in Vienna. Both host free concerts throughout the year that you should visit when looking for free things to do in Vienna.

Summer in Vienna is the best time for music lovers – there are beautiful concerts all over the city. 

Check out UNO-City

UNO-city is located on the Danube River and is a cool place to check out. It houses many United Nations offices and is home to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). You can check out sleek glass towers and an amphitheater surrounded by sculpture gardens. 

There are several free events, such as film screenings, discussion forums, and outdoor concerts during the summer months.

See the Donauinsel

The Donauinsel, or Danube Island, is an artificial island and it is free to visit. It is about 21 kilometers long and is a popular area to visit.

There are beaches, bike paths, sports fields, restaurants, and other cool free things to do. In summer every year, a very famous concert, the Donauinselkonzert, is hosted there. 

Participate in a Free Walking Tour

The free walking tours of Vienna are a great way to explore the city without spending money. The tours are run by locals and they can tell you a lot about the city.

You can learn about the landmarks, people, and stories behind all the landmarks. The route usually starts at St. Stephen’s Cathedral and explore all of the famous spots in the Inner City. 

See the Austrian National Bank

The Austrian National Bank (Oesterreichische Nationalbank) is the central bank of Austria. It is one of the oldest banks in Europe.

Visiting the building of the Austrian National Bank is a great free thing to do in Vienna. It is a prime example of Viennese modernism from the 1920s. It is located at Am Hof 8 in the Inner City.

Inside the building, you can view artifacts telling the history of the bank. There are even coins from different eras that are on display.

Hike up the Kahlenberg

The Kahlenberg is a mountain peak in Vienna that is a great spot for hiking. It is only 484 meters above sea level, therefore considerably less high than other Austrian mountains.

From up the mountain, you will have an impressive panoramic view of Vienna’s cityscape. On clear days, it is possible to see far beyond the city. It is definitely worth the hike. 

Visit some of the Free Museums

There are quite a few museums in Vienna that do not ask for an admission price. These are great free things to do in Vienna, especially on bad weather days. 

Some of the free museums in Vienna are:

  • Bezirksmuseen 
  • Museum of Bohemian Forest
  • The White House
  • Fire Department Museum
  • Fishing Museum
  • Austrian Horticultural Museum
  • Museum of Jewellery Crafts and Technology
  • Kahlenberg Museum, Kirche St. Josef
  • MUSA Art Library, Felderstraße 6-8

See the Setagaya Japanese Gardens

The Setagaya Japanese Gardens are one of the most beautiful and serene places to visit in the city. And the best part about it: visiting is totally free! 

The gardens were constructed by Japanese landscape architect Takeo Shimizu and they are meant to give a feeling of true Japanese gardens. They feature stone lanterns, teahouses, and shrines. 

My favorite thing is the garden waterfall which is said to have healing properties. There is also a viewing platform where you can look out over the garden.

Go to the Open Air Cinema on Karlsplatz

The Kaleidoscope cinema on Karlsplatz is a cool outdoor movie theater that you have to visit in Vienna. The Kaleidoscope has been around since 2012 and is a big part of the Vienna summer culture. 

The atmosphere is really special. There are lots of twinkling lights that create a romantic ambiance. They usually show international films. There is no entrance fee which makes it one of the best free things to do in Vienna. 

See the Lippizan Horses

The Lippizaner horses are a special breed of horse that originated in Austria. They are known for their beauty and grace, as well as their intelligence, loyalty, and strength. 

They used to be ridden in the Austrian Imperial Court for dressage. Nowadays, you can see them in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

While the Riding School itself is not free to visit, you can usually sneak a peak in from the street and spot a horse or two. 

Conclusion: Best Free Things to Do in Vienna

There are so many amazing free things to do in Vienna, it can be hard to choose.

Especially in summer, the vibrant cultural scene in Vienna comes to life. There are many free concerts all over the city and even open-air cinemas. 

Check out cute city districts, see impressive architecture, and explore the lush green gardens all over Vienna. 

When visiting Austria in winter, make sure to check out the Viennese Christmas markets and have a glass of traditional Austrian punch there.

All in all, Vienna is an amazing place to visit and you can do many things for free in the City, so no need to break the piggy bank for your trip.

Keep reading: Looking for unique and off-the-beaten-path places in Austria? We’ve got you.

Sabrina Maasdam runs Shades of Summr