How to See an Opera at the Vienna Opera House for 4 Euros or Less
You read the title right! It is possible to see an opera at the world renown Vienna Opera House for four euros or less. All you need is patience, strong legs, and a scarf. I’ll explain.
Vienna has a long-standing (ha, get it) history of being a place of learning and culture. The Opera House followed in this tradition by offering cheap standing room for their shows. This was in an effort for all the people of Vienna, poor and rich, to have an opportunity to experience the arts. The standing area is an area at the back of the opera where, for between three and four euros, you can watch a world-class opera without paying the hundreds of euros that a similar quality show would cost. This tradition exists to this day, here’s everything you need to know to get in:
What to Bring
There are several items that you will want to bring to make sure you successfully get into (and keep) your Vienna Opera House standing spot.
A Scarf (or anything you can tie around a hand rail)
In order to reserve your place, you will need to tie something around the hand rail in front of your spot. If you want to go for sophistication, bring a scarf. However, you can use anything that will get the job done and no one will bat an eye. For instance, the man next to me used some old newspaper which he crumpled around the rail. More on this later.
The Opera House standing tickets are cheap, but they expect you to be able to pay in exact change. Bring 4 euros exactly. The best combination of change is one 2 euro coin and two 1 euro coins. That will keep you covered whether the price is three or four euros.
A Book, Journal, or Something to do While You Wait
You are going to be waiting in line for a considerable amount of time, so I recommend bringing something to do. Many people read, journal, or listen to music. I even saw one women knitting! They do not check bags, so feel free to bring a backpack full of whatever time-passing materials you want!
Checking Opera Times
The Opera’s are different every day of the week, so it is important to know what you will be seeing and at what time you will be seeing it. The best way to check this is through the Vienna Opera House’s website, click here for a link. I recommend arriving between two and three hours before the opera begins. Three hours early will put you at the front of the line (which will lead to the best spots). Two hours early will guarantee you get in.
Once you have figured out what opera you want to see and what time it begins you are ready to get in line. As I mentioned before, you will want to arrive between two and three hours before the opera begins to get in. Obviously, the earlier the better in terms of seat positions (it is first come first serve, more on this later). For standing tickets, there is a specific standing ticket zone on the side of the Opera House. You will most likely see people waiting there (see picture below).
Once you have found the standing ticket zone, get in line. Depending on how early you arrive, you may have to wait outside for a some time. However, as soon as the Opera House staff open the door (located directly under the sign) you should get inside to wait.
You will notice that many of the attendees are “vets.” Usually older men and women, who know one another. Sometimes they even bring a small stool or foldable chair to sit on while they wait. Just like them, feel free to plop down on the ground to wait and read your book or do whatever else you do to pass time. Usually, the ticket booth does not open until about 45 minutes before the Opera begins.
Buying your ticket
Once the ticket booth opens, there will be something of a mad rush to get your ticket and get to the next line. There will be several ticket options, all that refer to different standing zones. I recommend getting yourself a seat in the gallery section, it is the most central area. Remember to have exactly three or four euros and be ready to get your ticket and quickly get to the next line. The gallery section is shown in the red box below:
Getting to the Second Line
After buying your ticket, another mad rush to get to the front of the seating lines will begin. The “vets” will be the first to pass you as they quickly get to the front of the next line at the base of the stairwell. Follow the crowd into the central section of the opera house and position yourself at the base of your respective area’s stairwell. The gallery seating stairwell is the first stair case on the left once you enter the center of the Opera House. You will see an Opera House attendee at the base of the stairwell and a new line will begin to form behind this person.
Getting your spot
Once in this second line, expect to wait another 15 or so minutes, until seating opens up. You will be lead in an orderly fashion up the stairs to your respective area over this 15 minutes. However, as soon as the 15 minutes is up and the attendee allows you to find your seat, the third and final mad rush will begin.
At this point, you will be at the top of the stairwell and will be able to see the doors leading into the Opera itself. As quickly as you can, head to the doors and find yourself and open standing area. The best spots are in the middle of the stage, but depending on your position in line, you may have to find a spot to the side or farther back than those at the front of the line.
Each position will have a small screen attached to the rail in front of it. These screens will translate the Opera into English or German. Each standing spot has one screen. No screen means no spot. You will not be allowed to stand in-between two translators, so make sure there is a translator directly in front of you and that there is no scarf, plastic bag, or anything else tied to the railing at which you are standing.
Reserving your spot
Once you have found a clear area, tie your scarf (or whatever else you brought to reserve a seat) to the hand rail in front of you. This will reserve your spot. Make sure it is securely tied and that you have seen the people next to you in case someone tries to remove your reservation. It is always good to have someone who can vouch that your spot is, in fact, your spot. The Opera House staff also keep a close eye on this so you should not have a problem.
Once your standing spot is reserved, feel free to leave the main viewing area and explore the Opera House. Typically, the opera will not start until around 30 minutes after you have reserved your spot and in this free time you have the ability to roam the house freely. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire experience. No one is monitoring you and you can go just about anywhere you please within the house. I even went out onto the roof!
After your 30 minute exploration, they will announce that the opera is about to begin and you can head back to your spot. Find your reserved spot and enjoy!
For more about Vienna, click here.