Home to some of Europe’s most stunning imperial wonders and the birthplace of world-famous musical prodigies, Vienna is Austria’s intellectual and artistic eye. Whether you’re visiting on a port day on a European cruise or going solo in this glossy capital, there’s plenty of cultural heritage to unearth and architectural delights to discover that won’t cost you a penny. Here are the top free things to do in Vienna:
Browse the food stalls at Naschmarkt
Wandering around a food market is a great way to learn about the local cuisine. Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most famous food market, boasting a whole host of food stalls showcasing Viennese delicacies. Hang around long enough and you may get a free sample!
“If you’re a foodie planning a trip to Vienna, Naschmarkt should be at the top of your itinerary,” says Audrey from That Backpacker. “Originally a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, Naschmarkt has grown to become Vienna’s largest and most beloved outdoor market with over 120 fixed stalls where you can try all sorts of wines, meats, cheese, pastries and spices. If you visit on a Saturday, you can also hit up the flea market which takes place in the area and is chock-full of little gems and unusual trinkets.”
If you don’t mind spending money, Audrey highly recommends dining al fresco in one of the market’s restaurants, “Another reason to visit Naschmarkt is that it’s a great meeting place for a nice meal out with friends. The market has numerous restaurants to choose from, so whether you’re craving spicy Indian food, fresh seafood, hearty pasta, Turkish home cooking or a drink at a wine bar, you can find it here in a lively environment that’s great for people watching.”
Charlie and Lauren from Wanderers and Warriors also recommend a trip to Naschmarkt, “Visiting Naschmarkt was one of the highlights of our trip! This traditional farmers market, which has been operating since the 1780s, is one of the most popular free tourist attractions in the city. The majority of stalls sell incredible local produce. Whether it be herbs and spices, freshly picked fruit and vegetables or locally sourced cheeses and olives. There are also a few clothing and souvenir stands too.”
We asked Charlie and Lauren which delicacy visitors should try, “Sachertorte! It’s one of Vienna’s most famous desserts. It’s a specific type of chocolate cake, held together with apricot jam and is an absolute must-try whilst exploring Austria’s capital.”
Explore Vienna’s grand museums
Vienna’s history is rich. Dive into the city’s deep cultural heritage at one of the many free to enter museums. Gabrielle from Up and Gone recommends visiting two palace museums and their gardens for a taste of regal life. “It can be hard to find free things to do in Vienna but there are two gems you can’t miss; the gardens around two of Vienna’s most famous palaces, Schönbrunn Palace and Belvedere Palace.
“Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs for hundreds of years and the Palace Park, which is free to enter, is extensive. The highlight is a lengthy baroque garden that stretches from the back of the palace to the foot of the Gloriette, the park’s spectacular viewpoint. I like the gardens so much that I recommend spending less time in the Schönbrunn interior (unless you’re deeply interested in imperial history) and devoting your time to exploring the park - especially if you’re visiting in the summer months.
“Similarly, the gardens at the Belvedere Palace, which is now an art museum are free to enter. The gardens are sandwiched between the Upper and Lower Belvedere and are, in my opinion, even nicer. There are small reflecting pools and ornate ornamental plantings, as well as wildflower hedges and fountains; it’s hard not to feel like a member of the old royal courts as you stroll the gravel paths!”
Admire the architecture of St. Stephen’s Cathedral
With opulent monuments and eccentric buildings on every corner, Vienna is an architectural melting pot teeming with various styles and inspirations that tell a story of a time gone by. One of Vienna’s most well-regarded structures is St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a 12th-century Gothic church known as the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The cathedral holds great significance to the city, surviving both a fire during its initial construction as well as WWII aerial bombings.
“St. Stephen’s Cathedral (or Stephensdom as it is also known) is one of Vienna’s most iconic landmarks,” says Mayuri from To Some Place New. “The cathedral is conveniently located in the heart of the city and the cathedral towers soar and grace the skyline of Vienna. Admire the colourful tiles (especially after rainfall) and examine the North and South Towers from outside - it is sure to prompt you inside.
“The cathedral’s beautifully decorated roof sparkled with colour as it greeted us when we visited the imperial city. The interiors are stunning yet calming and full of intricate details. There are also numerous altars inside the church with the High Altar being the focal point.”
Lucy from Faraway Lucy was taken aback by the picturesque vistas from the cathedral’s towers, “The views from the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral warrant a visit alone. They were certainly my favourite thing about visiting the cathedral! Travel up either the North or South Tower (the former by lift and the latter by 343 steps) and you will be rewarded with unparalleled panoramic views of Vienna. I personally went up the North Tower as it gave me a chance to also see the Boomer Bell, the largest bell in Austria.”