Things to do in Vienna for free

Must-see free Vienna sights

Vienna has a huge selection of attractions from its fantastic museums to impressive cathedrals - and who could forget its Beethoven highlights?

  1. Enter the incredible St Stephen’s Cathedral
  2. Explore the Hoher Markt
  3. See where Beethoven composed some of his music
  4. Enter the Museum for Applied Arts
  5. Make the most of the pretty outdoors at Prater
  6. Learn even more about Beethoven

The Austrian capital has plenty of highlights to keep you occupied, from its tranquil outdoor space to walking in the steps of legendary Beethoven – you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Vienna for free.

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Rough Guides

1. Enter the incredible St Stephen’s Cathedral

The imposing target="_blank" no-href="" rel="nofollow">St Stephen’s Cathedral St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom), located right in the heart of Vienna, is the best place to start a tour. Whichever way you choose to walk through the Innere Stadt most inevitably gravitate towards the cathedral at some point. For more than eight centuries it has watched over Vienna, enduring city fires, Turkish cannonballs and German and Russian shells. Part of St Stephen’s Cathedral’s charm derives from the asymmetry of its steeple, set to one side. Affectionately known as Steffl, it is 137m (449ft) high. Count 343 steps to the observation platform at the top, where the view extends northeast to the Czech Republic and southwest to the Semmering Alps. Exploring this cathedral is without a doubt one of the best free things to do in Vienna.

Best for: Church

While you’re there: St Michael’s Church is another highlight dating from the 13th century. It’s one of the oldest churches in the city.

2. Explore the Hoher Markt

The Hoher Markt was once the forum of Roman Vindobona, and a smalltarget="_blank" no-href="" rel="nofollow">Römermuseum Römermuseum at No. 3 (Tue-Sun 9am-6pm; free entry on the first Sun of each month) shows remains of two Roman houses laid bare by a 1945 bombardment. At the east end of the square is a gem of high Viennese kitsch, the Ankeruhr, an animated clock built in 1911 by an insurance company. Charlemagne, Prince Eugene, Maria Theresa, Joseph Haydn and others perform their act at midday.

Best for: Architecture

While you’re there: The imperial Hofburg Palace is a must for architecture fans.

3. See where Beethoven composed some of his music

To the north of the Freyung, just before the Ringstrasse, Schottengasse leads to the Mölker Bastei and the Pasqualatihaus. Beethoven lived in this house on several occasions between 1803 and 1815 at the invitation of his friend and patron, Baron Johann Baptist of Pasqualati. Here he composed parts of Fidelio and his Fourth to Seventh symphonies, as well as his Piano Concerto in G-major (Opus 58). Today it is one of three Beethoven residences in Vienna open to the public as museums.

Best for: Pretty houses

While you’re there: You can hear Beethoven tunes performed in the city’s oldest concert hall, the Sala Terrena.

4. Enter the Museum for Applied Arts

Across Weiskirchnerstrasse is theMuseum for Applied Arts Museum for Applied Arts. Known simply as MAK, this is one of the city’s most exciting and thought-provoking museums. The exhibition spaces are designed by contemporary artists who often reveal unexpected sides to quite mundane objects, such as the shadow play on Michael Thonet’s bentwood chairs; you’ll never view dining chairs in quite the same way again. There’s a chance to see some particularly fine Viennese Biedermeier furnishings, as well as a collection of East Asian and Islamic art. The unmissable museum shop has a selection of items - design-conscious, arty and some downright humorous.

Best for: Art

While you’re there: The MuseumsQuartier is home to a fantastic selection of museums.

5. Make the most of the pretty outdoors at Prater

Prater Prater (15 Mar-31 Oct free) is Vienna’s most extensive park, once reserved for the nobility but opened up to the public in 1766 by Emperor Joseph II. In 2016 the Prater celebrated its 250th anniversary. Its most prominent feature is the old-fashioned amusement park with the famous Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel) that was immortalised in the film The Third Man. Built in 1897, it is one of the oldest and largest Ferris wheels in the world, 65m (213ft) high, and provides sweeping views over the city.

Best for:The outdoors

While you’re there:For more outdoor fun, head to the Spanish Riding School where you can see Lipizzaner stallions perform.

6. Learn even more about Beethoven

Walk across Heiligenstädter Park to Pfarrplatz 2, the prettiest of Beethoven’s many Viennese homes. Take bus 38A to Probusgasse 6, the house where, in 1802, the composer penned his tragic Heiligenstadt Testament, in which he told his two brothers of his encroaching deafness. Today it is the Beethoven Wohnung Heiligenstadt (Tue-Sun 10am-1pm and 2-6pm; free entry on the first Sun of each month). Walking in the footsteps of Beethoven is one of the most rewarding free things to do in Vienna.

Best for:Beethoven fans

While you’re there:Head to the Central Cemetery which pays homage to Beethoven.

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