Connecting in Vienna – what to see and do during a layover?

Last Updated: July 2018

Vienna is not only an amazing city, but also home to one of the world’s most efficient airports. The Vienna International airport (VIE) is located in Schwechat, 18 km southeast of the city center, as well as 57Km from Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital.

After wandering through Europe for years through countless flight connections to other European destinations, Japan and the USA, i still believe that VIE is the best European airport for connecting flights. My experience with the VIE airport has been flawless so far and in many instances, i was able to safely make connections into Non-Schengen flights in an hour or less.

In this comprehensive guide, i would like to offer a few ideas for things to do during your next layover in Vienna.

You have 5 hours or less – Staying in the airport

From previous experience, i suggest not to leave the VIE airport if your layover is 4-5 hours or less.

When arriving from international locations from outside Europe, go through passport control and head to your connecting flight. The relatively new terminal 3, which mainly operates Austrian and other Star Alliance (Lufthansa, Swiss etc’) flights allows for relatively short connections of 45 minutes or less. Allow an additional 15-20 minutes if you have a connecting flight in  Terminal 1.

Navigating Vienna Airport

Terminal 3 boasts impressive facilities with modern seating areas in which you can relax before your flight as well as charge your mobile devices.

Miles and More Silver or Gold members  or passengers Star Alliance Gold status, can use the Austrian Lounges in concourses G (Schengen) and F  (Non-Schengen) free of charge. Other passengers can use the JET, AIR and SKY lounges for approximately 30 euros.

Free WIFI is available for you to catch up with email and browse the web. Connection is relatively stable.

Smoking is permitted only in  designated smoking facilities.

If you have 5 hours or more – explore beautiful Vienna!

Finding your way from your flight arrival gate  to the city is simple. Just follow the Exit Wien signs posted everywhere in the airport.

Subject to visa requirements you might be able to leave the airport and enjoy a memorable half day sightseeing tour in Vienna.

Do i need a visa to leave the airport?

Although most nationalities might not need a visa to exit or transit through the Non-Schengen (international) area , we recommend to check your specific visa requirements before your trip.

Where can i lock my luggage?

You are welcome to store your carry on stuff in the Left Luggage service for 4/8 Euros for Small/Large items. Probably a gret idea,so you won’t need to carry your trolley with you in Vienna.

Going to the city center

Note: to avoid missing your flight, always make sure to arrive to the airport at least 1.5 hours before your connecting flight.

CAT (City Airport Train) – the recommend way into Vienna

 

To Vienna in 16 minutes!


With a journey time of just 16 minutes, the City Airport Train is the fastest and most convenient  means to travel from the airport to central Vienna while avoiding traffic jams. When booked online, one way tickets cost 11 Euro; Return tickets are 19 Euro. The CAT operates between 6:09 to 23:39 and departs every 30 minutes to the city.

The CAT Terminal is situated in the Wien Mitte station in the Landstrasse district. From there it’s a short 10 minute walk or a couple stations commute on subway line U3 to the Stephenplatz, the city central square.

Return trains to the airport departure from Wien Mitte every 30 minutes from 5:37 to 23:07. Remember this detail when planning what to do in your stopover.

Bus

Other possible way to reach city center is by Bus. You’ll be able to reach Morzinplatz in roundabout 25-35 minutes depending on traffic.From Morzinplatz, it a 5 minute stroll to Stephenplatz.

Note: If you are arriving during the morning, i would strongly recommend sticking to the CAT train option and avoid the traffic jams.

What to see and do in 3-4 hours

Here’s a quick walking tour in Vienna inner district (Innere Stadt) which you might want to try if the weather conditions are favorable for walking outdoors.

  • Assuming that you arrived using the CAT, take metro U3 (direction Ottakring) to Stephenplatz.

  • Get started with a visit to the Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral).  This amazing Gothic church was built during the 12th century and it’s probably Vienna’s most iconic sight. The church is open between 06:00-22:00 and it definitely deserves a short tour.If you are in good shape consider climbing the 334 steps towards the church tower, which offers amazing views of the City skyline.

St. Stephen’s cathedral

  • Next, stroll through the Stephensplatz square towards the Graben, a pedestrian shopping street and observe the golden baroque column.This would be probably a good place to grab some local food as there are several food stands serving typical Austrian Wurst (sausages) around.
  • Now, turn around and  walk down the pedestrian Kartner strasse towards the Opera House.
  • Take a right at Philarmoniker Strasse and get into Hotel Sacher.
  • If you have some time, taste the delicious Sacher cake (chocolate with apricot fill) at the Sacher hotel.
  • If time fits, consider a short tour in the Wiener Opera. Visiting agenda is available here.

Vienna Opera HouseVienna’s Opera building

  • Alternatively, you can walk 5 minutes towards Augustine Strasse pass the Albertina Museum into MichaelerPlatz, the beautiful Hofburg palace entrace.
  • Take a short stroll into the Hofburg Palace area.
  • Walk to subway station Herrengasse and take metro U3 (direction Simmering) towards Landstrasse .
  • Walk couple of minutes into the adjacent Wien Mitte station and return with the CAT to the Airport.

Top things to do in Vienna during a longer layover

If your layover is longer than 8 hours, you should have the time for exploring more of Vienna. On top of the above mentioned itinerary, you could consider the following attractions:

  • Stroll the Naschmarkt (Metro U1 – station Karlsplatz -one stop from Stephenpltz station). If you reach the City center before noon, you might want to take a stroll and try some nice street food in the Sixth Quarter food market; Naschmarkt. You can walk through the market in 30-60 minutes and find some nice Oriental food you can try. Also recommended is Ronie’s wine store, in which you can sip some nice Austrian Grüner Veltliner wine.
  • Visit the Sisi museum in the Hofburg palace, which is dedicated to the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Franz Joseph the first.
  • Visit the Albertina museum. A beautiful collection of impressionist  and expressionist paintings + temporary exhibitions. Located near the Opera house (Metro U1 Karlplatz)
  • Visit the Rathaus (City Hall) building located on the famous Ring Strasse; and sip a nice coffee in the Landtmann cafe located across the street.
  • Visit the beautiful Museum of fine Arts. The museum houses much of the Habsburg’s collection of artistic treasures.The museum is opening daily from 10:00-18:00 , except on Tuesday in which its stays open until 21:00.
  • Visit the Butterfly house (Schmetterlinghaus), which houses a small tropical forest which is home to a huge variety of butterflies . The house is located in between the Hofburg and Albertina museum.
  • Visit the Hundertwasser village – a somewhat refreshing architecture concept that clearly contrasts the typical Vienna’s. The small neighborhood can be reached by foot from Wien Mitte station, and could potentially be a good option if you have a short layover as well.
  • If you fancy some more royal splendor, then consider visiting the Schonbrunn palace, one of Vienna’s key attractions, which is a bit far away from center, but easily accessible by metro U4.
  • If you are a shopping aficionado, then you should probably stroll the Mariahilfer Strasse in the 6th district (Metro U3 – Museum Quarter stop), for some retail therapy.

Mariahilfer Str during the winter

  • Museums – quartier do not only boasts 7000 square meters of great exhibitions for all ages; during summer time the lovely museum square is a great place to hang out.
  • Another recommended location for summer is the Danube river Canal. Tel Aviv beach is probably the coolest and great for chill out.

You have an overnight stopover

In case of an overnight layover, our recommendation is to stay in the area of Mariahilfer Strasse, close to the Museums Quartier.

A night in Vienna is probably a good opportunity to enjoy an Opera concert. Tickets are typically in the area of 100-200 Euros or more and are typically difficult to book for the same night. That said, if you are an opera aficionado, have the time, don’t mind to queue and are willing to watch opera while standing – there is a budget option you could explore. If you arrive to the Opera building between 17:00 to 17:30, you could potentially buy standing tickets for the night concert, which are made available only a couple hours before the same night performance. The standing tickets typically cost 3-4 Euros. Locals have recommended to opt for the Gallery tickets if available. Note that the queuing time for buying the tickets could be somewhat random (on average roundabout an hour), and that you are not able to buy tickets on behalf of others.

These are just the essentials and obviously, there a lot more to see and do in Vienna. Feel free to leave us a comment and let us know your recommendations.

And last, if this guide was helpful, kindly consider sharing it with your friends on social media. Thanks a lot!

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