Schloss Schönbrunn is Vienna‘s famous palace which served as the summer residence of the Habsburg nobility. The iconic yellow facade with its broad, sweeping design and opulent interior make it one of the most popular and frequently visited attractions of the former imperial city. But there are fees for entering and touring Schönbrunn and its beloved zoo (Tiergarten). Though the palace’s interiors are stunning and fascinating to view and the zoo is extremely popular, the associated costs may deter budget-conscious visitors from making a trip to the palace. Use a Vienna hotel price comparison engine HotelCalculator.com to save on your accommodation while you pay nothing for sights.
ph. Roberto Verzo
Don’t make this mistake, because one of Schönbrunn’s most incredible features is the Schlosspark – the layout of gardens, fountains, and paths located behind the palace which cost nothing to visit. Check out the array of royal statuary and fountains and wander through the green and tree-lined paths, which at some points spread out as far as the eye can see. There are many spots that even in the hottest weather seem cool since they’re surrounded and heavily shaded from the sun by vine-covered fences and lush greenery.
Find a good spot on the grass to relax and recharge, especially since the biggest crush of tourists go inside the palace and the gardens tend to be left for a quick walk-through if visitors have any energy remaining. And if you still have energy, climb up the steep paths leading to the Gloriette, the magnificent building of white stone pillars, built during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia, crowning the hill overlooking the palace and gardens. It’s a wonderful place to visit as dusk is falling, when after your climb you can look down upon much of the city as the sun begins to set and a myriad of lights start to come on across the valley.
If the weather isn’t ideal for lingering outdoors, take advantage of Vienna’s fantastic museums. The majority charge admission which sometimes is steep. However, if you plan your visit to coincide with certain museums’ free entry days, you can still manage to take in some culture without shelling out a single Euro. Nearly all sites under the curation of the Wien Museum are free on the first Sunday of every month. These include some of the city’s historical treasures such as the Johan Strauss Apartment, both Schubert’s Geburtshaus and Sterbewohnung (the buildings in which he was born and died), Haydn House, three of Beethoven’s apartment museums (Pasqualatihaus, Wohnung Heiligenstadt, and Eroicahaus), the Roman Museum, Otto Wagner Pavilion at Karlsplatz, the Clock Museum, Prater Museum, Hermesvilla, and the Wien Museum Karlsplatz (excellent general city history with art and artifacts). Time yourself carefully on the month’s first Sunday and you could pack quite the crash course in Viennese history and culture into one day! All the money that you save can be spent on a Zell am See ski holiday only 300km away from Vienna. It’s also worth noting that many stores and attractions are closed on Sundays in Austria, so filling the day with museum-hopping is a worthwhile way to spend it.
If you miss this crucial first Sunday don’t despair, there’s still free museum opportunities on other days. The Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst / Gegenwartskunst (Austrian Museum of Applied Art / Contemporary Art, or MAK) is a unique museum showcasing a wide and varied selection of art and objects that defy simple description. Suffice to say it’s worth a visit to experience Austrian culture through its glassware, china, ceramics, textiles, clothing, furniture (including from the groundbreaking Wiener Werkstätte, the Vienna Workshop), metal, jewelry, woodworks, silver, and selections of both fine and contemporary art. The delightfully eclectic MAK is free every Tuesday evening from 6 until 10 PM (18:00-22:00).
And if you’re around on October 26, Austrian National Day, a number of museums including those of the Wien Museum and the MAK offer free or reduced admission in honour of the holiday.
Vienna’s architecture is renowned and for good reason. Incorporating multiple styles and periods with a layered history behind each, visiting a few of these landmark buildings and locales will give you an eyeful of some of the city’s grandest art. Vienna’s 1st District, the inner city (Innere Stadt), is packed with buildings worth a look and the old town center is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Encompassed in the 1st district are such areas as Stephansplatz, Albertinaplatz, the Rathaus (city hall), Michaelerplatz and the Hofburg palace complex, the Ringstrasse, Museumsplatz, and the Volksgarten with Theseus Temple. All are historically significant and boast examples of gorgeous architectural feats ranging from Gothic and Baroque to Jugendstil (Art Nouveau). The area is easily and pleasantly walkable and of course, the exteriors are free to be marveled at.