3 Hours in Vienna: From the Airport to the City and Back

By Jercyl Lerin Sep 18, 2019

If you are arriving or departing from Vienna International Airport (Flughafen Wien) and have a few extra hours to spare before your flight or onward journey by train to other parts of Austria or Europe, a quick visit to the city is worth the trip. Here's how I traveled from the airport to explore a little bit of Austria's capital city.


Baggage Storage


My return flight was in the early evening. But I wanted to see a bit of Vienna before I leave so I left Linz in the morning going to the airport to leave my luggage. Terminals 1 and 3 each have a Baggage Service Centre where you can leave your baggage for €4 per day for each item. Storage fee for oversized baggage costs €8.


Getting to the City

At Flughafen Wien (Vienna Airport railway station)


You can take a bus, car, taxi, or train from the airport. The City Airport Train (CAT) and Schnellbahn S7 stop at the Wien Mitte (Central Station) while the ÖBB (Austrian Railways) railjets stop at Wien Hauptbahnhof (Main Station). Having passed by Wien Hauptbahnhof twice already when I traveled to and from Linz, I felt more comfortable taking it. The main station is the first stop coming from the airport and travel time takes roughly 15 minutes. You can buy the ticket from the ÖBB ticket counter in the arrivals hall or at the ticket machines on the way to the platforms. (Ticket price = €4.20)


Getting Around


With limited time to enjoy the sights in Vienna, I decided to explore the areas near the Karlsplatz and Stephansplatz underground subway stations. I just followed the signs leading to the U1 Hauptbahanhof Subway Station after I arrived in Wien Hauptbahnhof and bought the €8 day pass at the Wiener Lienen ticket office. Another option is to buy from the ticket machines at the stations.


First Stop: Karlsplatz

One of the eye-catching buildings near the Karlsplatz  underground subway station


From U1 Hauptbahanhof Subway Station, board the train heading to Leopoldau. If you want to see the Vienna State Opera, the city's famous opera house, get off at Karlsplatz which is the second stop from Wien Hauptbahnhof. The underground station here has many exits so it can be a bit confusing. I just randomly picked one which led me to Resselpark. This inviting green space seemed to be a popular place among locals and tourists alike as I saw a lot of people just sitting around the many benches or walking around enjoying the noontime break. The Karlskirche, a beautiful Baroque church, stands grandly nearby. It would be hard not to notice this church despite the many other eye-catching and impressive buildings surrounding it. I walked around some of the nearby streets and alleys admiring the architecture then retraced my steps to the underground subway station to take the train to my next stop.

The Karlskirche

Ads for upcoming concerts

Walking around the area


Second Stop: Stephansplatz

St. Stephen’s Cathedral


From U1 Karlsplatz Subway Station, I got on the train towards the direction of Leopoldau again. The next stop was Stephansplatz which thankfully had an exit that leads directly to the main square. Here I was even more overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Vienna. After spending almost two weeks enjoying the quieter and slower pace of Linz, I found the overcrowded area a bit intimidating. But I soon forgot about it as I took in all the sights. It was like the crowd melts away the moment you see the awe-inspiring St. Stephens Cathedral and all the gorgeous buildings surrounding the area. If you only have an hour to visit Vienna, I would recommend this place as there are many things to see and do in and around the main square. Explore the charming side streets and alleys where it can be less crowded. The church, coffee shops, souvenir shops and many other attractions around Stephansplatz make it my favorite stop in my short visit.

View of the cathedral from one of the quieter alleys where you can find boutiques, coffee shops, and souvenir shops

Near the subway station exit

Outdoor café at the main square

Sunny day at Stephansplatz


Going Back

Wien Hauptbahnhof (Main Station)


To get back to Wien Hauptbahnhof, take the train heading towards Oberlaa at the U1 Stephansplatz station. Get off at the third stop. I chose the wrong exit and had to ask directions on how to get to the main station. Thankfully, it was just a short walk aboveground and I got to see a little bit of the area in the process. I noticed some cafes and restaurants near the entrance to the main station. There was a McDonalds so I decided to finally check out their veggie burger.

Veggie options at McDonald’s

Veggie burger


Going to the city from the airport is easy and convenient. So if you have a fairly long wait time for your flight or train trip to somewhere else in Austria or Europe, making a quick trip to Vienna would be worth your it.

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