How to See the Vienna State Opera for About $4
The Vienna State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) is home to some of the best opera in the world. Here’s how to see a show for about four dollars (instead of the hundreds that tickets often go for) and have a fun, memorable travel experience to boot.
Last-minute opera tickets, holla
On my recent trip to Vienna, Austria, I had more items on my bucket list than I did time and wherewithal to plan them in advance. I knew I wanted to see Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Vienna opera house, but I didn’t get my act together to buy a fancy ticket weeks to months in advance.
Sometimes fortune favors the flaky, and that’s exactly what resulted in one of the most memorable moments of this altogether memorable trip.
Standing-room only tickets
Vienna’s commitment to classical music is unparalleled, and one of the most beautiful ways in which that commitment expresses itself is in CHEAP tickets. It sounds funny, but it’s true. When you believe that classical music is for everyone, you can’t charge upwards of 100-200 euros for every ticket. So each night, the Vienna opera reserves over 500 standing-room-only places for people who want to appreciate great music without taking out a second mortgage.
How to get Vienna opera tickets for 3-4 euros
Okay, so here’s the deal on how to get cheap opera tickets. You can find details on some of the bullet points in the sections below.
- Find the Wiener Staatsoper at Opernring 2, 1010 Wien, Austria
- Arrive at the State Opera House at least two hours before the show and head to the sign pictured above, which says Stehplatz-Kasse / Standing Area. You’ll find it on the side of the building that runs along the street called Operngasse, close to the intersection with Opernring.
- The box office for standing room tickets is inside the door under that sign. (You’ll go down the hallway and turn right to find it.) The box office opens 80 minutes before the show each night, but it pays to get there earlier to get ahead of the long lines.
- When you get to the front of the line, have your exact change ready, and know which section you’d like to stand in. Austrians appreciate efficiency. :) Pay and get your ticket.
- Head inside the opera house and find an usher to direct you to your section. You’ll have to wait in line again as you wait for the doors to your standing room section to open.
- When the doors open, zoom in and grab the spot where you’d like to stand. This step is a little bit of a scramble, but it’s fun.
- Tie your scarf around the railing to reserve your spot, then go out and explore the opera house and the surrounding area before the show!
Where to stand at the Vienna opera house
There are three options for standing room tickets at the opera house:
Parterrestehplatz (Ground floor): 4 euros
Balkonstehplatz (Balcony): 3 euros
Galeriestehplatz (Gallery): 3 euros
I stood at the very top, on the Galeriestehplatz, and really loved it. I had a full view of the stage from my spot, more so than the photo indicates. And the acoustics in the hall are so good that even in the nosebleeds, the sounds are satisfying. I’m a real singing nerd and was listening for particular vocal choices the singers were making, and it was easy to do from the top level.
Point being, choose what makes you happy (or what’s available) — you can’t lose.
What to wear to the Vienna opera
WHAT TO WEAR
For regular performances, the opera house website suggests that you “match the way you dress to the elegant setting of the opera building.” However, in practice, people in the standing room line were dressed in all sorts of clothes, from fairly casual street clothes to dresses and suits. The standing room experience isn't inherently comfortable, so dress to prioritize comfort while still looking nice enough.
The woman behind me in line was wearing ripped jeans. A security guard approached her and said they couldn’t let her in, but she stayed in line and they let her go. The more you know.
WHAT YOU CAN BRING
It's fine to bring a purse or bag and your camera, but you won't be able to take photographs during the performance. There's a coat check available, but they didn't seem to be forcing anyone to use it.
What to bring to the opera house
EVERYONE WHO WANTS A TICKET
You can only buy one ticket per person, so everyone in your group has to be there.
Standing room only tickets require cash, in exact change. So bring three or four euros, depending on where you want to stand.
The sweetest (and most practical) tradition: You’ll tie a scarf or something similar around the railing where you’d like to stand, to reserve your place. Then you’re free to go have a pre-opera dinner, drink, or stroll before the show starts.