Last Updated: June 2019
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 en-route 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 30-40 minutes gate to gate, including a quick visit to the lounge.
In this comprehensive guide, i would like to offer a few ideas for things to do during your next layover in Vienna. Depending on the time you have available you could either stay in the airport, or if time and weather permits, spend a great few hours in one of he most beautiful cities of the world.
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.
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 newly renovated Austrian Lounges in concourses G (Schengen) and F (Non-Schengen) free of charge. Note that the Showers in the Austrian lounges are available to Senator or Start Alliance Gold members only.
If you don’t have airline sponsored lounge access, and you have some time , you could consider using 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.
Finding your way from your flight arrival gate to the city can’t be easier. 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.
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.
You are welcome to store your carry on stuff in the Left Luggage service for 4/8 Euros for Small/Large items. This is probably a very good idea if you are traveling with a hand bag ,so you won’t need to carry it with you in Vienna.
Note: to avoid missing your flight, always make sure to arrive to the airport at least 1.5 hours before your connecting flight.
With a journey time of just 16 minutes, the City Airport Train (CAT) 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.
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.
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.
Vienna’s Opera building
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:
Mariahilfer Str during the winter
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!