Vienna: City of (free!) Music

Posted in: Vienna


Vienna Phil at Schonbrunn
Who could pass up a free concert at Schoenbrunn Palace by the Vienna Philharmonic?! Photo: Cha già José.

Nicknamed the “City of Music,” Vienna has a long history as one of the centers (at times, the center) of musical innovation in Europe.  It has seen the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss grace its streets and performance halls.

And though that was centuries ago, if it sounds at all like Vienna is resting on its musical laurels, fear not—the city still has plenty to offer to music-lovers—provided you have a healthy appreciation for classical. Despite the high-society implications of this genre, it’s cheap and easy to get your daily dose of Mozart (or anyone else) while staying in Vienna.

In fact, it’s possible to take in tons of music while in the Austrian capital without spending a dime! To help you figure out how, here is our guide to finding free music in Vienna:

The Vienna Philharmonic’s summer concert
Annually in early June

If you happen to visit Vienna in late Spring (and who wouldn’t want to?), you might be lucky enough to catch the Vienna Philharmonic‘s annual free concert. Usually held in early June (though this year’s performance was on May 30th), the event provides the rare opportunity to catch one of the world’s most renowned orchestras in action without an accompanying price tag.

The ante is upped even further by the concert’s enviable location: in the gardens of the Schoenbrunn Palace. This former home to the imperial Habsburg family—now a UNESCO world cultural heritage site—provides the perfect atmosphere to match the Philharmonic.

Vienna State Opera Outdoor Screening

Crowds gather outside the Vienna State Opera for a free broadcast of that night’s performance. Photo: skittledog.

Open-air opera
April-June, September

Continuing the theme of world-class music outdoors, the Vienna State Opera offers the opportunity to see its performances live for free, albeit on a projector screen in front of the Opera House.  Called “Opera for All,” the broadcasts take place at Herbert-von-Karajan Square in the pleasant evenings from April-June and in September.

Additionally, starting 45 minutes before the actual performance and during the intermissions, guests are treated to information about the Opera and the works being performed.

Organ concerts at the Peterskirche

For a more intimate musical experience, Peterskirche (Saint Peter’s Church), holds daily organ concerts that are free to attend. Featuring works by such luminaries as Liszt, Chopin and Bach, and located in the heart of Vienna’s Innere Stadt, these performances are an easy and convenient way to get your classical music fix. Concerts are held Monday through Friday at 3 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m.

Vienna Boy's Choir

You may have to pay for this view of the Vienna Boy’s Choir, but if you can settle for just their voices, you’ll get in for free. Photo: Navnetmitt.

The Vienna Boy’s Choir
Year-round, except late summer

Along with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Boy’s Choir is one of the defining musical ensembles of the Austrian capital. Throughout the year (save for the end of June through the middle of September), they perform each Sunday at the Hofburg Chapel in Innere Stadt—a musical venue that dates back to Medieval times.

Seated tickets for these performances run between €7 and €35, but if you’re willing to stand, you can see the Boys Choir for free.  Well, technically you can hear them for free—the Hofburg Chapel’s website warns that standing room attendees will not get a view of the performers.  In fact, even the cheapest €5 seats do not feature a direct view.

Standing room opens at 8:30 a.m. for the performances, which begin at 9:15 a.m. If you do want to purchase seats, you must do so by mail, fax or e-mail.  Follow the link above for instructions from the Chapel’s website.

Film Festival Rathausplatz Vienna

The Music Film Festival in front of City Hall brings scores of tourists and locals each night in the summer. Photo: Ivan C.

The Rathausplatz Music Film Festival
Late June – early September

Every summer, from the end of June until the beginning of September, the square in front of Vienna’s City Hall becomes a nightly tribute to the city’s status as a global music capital, by playing host to the vibrant Rathausplatz Music Film Festival.  Every evening at dusk, a different music-centric film plays on a giant screen displayed above the square.  The selection is diverse—from operas to ballets to jazz to rock concerts—which can be refreshing for those worn out by Vienna’s constant onslaught of classical.

The festival doesn’t just offer audio delights either—a wide selection of international cuisine is available daily from 11 a.m. until midnight. Provided by twenty of the top restaurateurs in the city, the aim is to provide a “culinary world tour” for festival-goers.

This year’s festival began on June 26th and is running until September 1st. For more information, check out the Vienna tourism office’s website.

Donauinselfest crowd

The crowd at Donauinselfest might skew towards a different demographic than, say, organ concerts at the Peterskirche. Photo: Claus Rebler.

Annually in Mid-June

For visitors that have really had enough of concert halls and opera houses, Vienna also offers a much more modern music experience: Donauinsel, a free music festival on an island in the Danube River. The 30-year-old festival is held annually in mid-June and attracts a lineup of mostly German-language acts, though some major international acts have also performed.

The festival usually attracts more than three million guests and is one of the largest open-air events each year in Europe. In addition to the musical acts, Donauinselfest also features kid-friendly events, sports and a wide variety of vendors.  For those looking to see a different side of Vienna than the Baroque concert halls of the old city, this is the place to go.

Want more? Check out EuroCheapo’s guide to Vienna for travel tips and budget hotel recommendations.  And if you’ve got any questions or comments, be sure to leave them in the box below.

About the author

A recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, Brendan Linard learned to love budget travel while studying abroad in Paris. Blessed with unlimited motivation but cursed by severely limited funds, he developed an uncanny ability to sniff out cheap food and happy hour specials. Today, you can find Brendan putting this ability to good use in the New York metropolitan area, where he is pursuing a career in writing and editing.

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