(Updated April 2020)
On my last flight to Vienna, I was surprised how many passengers were on their way to farther destinations. Obviously, for them, Austria’s capital was only a layover.
Therefore, after having already published an extended article on my stay, I put together my best tips in this “24 hours in…”-post.
Generally, it’s meant as an itinerary for just a layover or a short stop on a road-trip through Europe. Austria has eight(!) neighboring countries*, after all!
Euro (EUR) / 1 EUR = 0,91 US$ (April 2020) / current rate
Vienna International Airport, IATA Code: VIA
Tourist Info Online and Onsite
The official Vienna Website is excellent and very informative.
At the airport are dispenser with free maps – albeit only showing the very center.
You get information and help either right away at the airport
Tourist Info Vienna Airport
at the arrival hall
Open daily from 7 a. m. to 10 p. m.
or at the info point downtown
Open daily from 7 a. m. to 7 p. m.
Furthermore, all the hotels can supply you with info material, tourist cards and more.
Getting Downtown and Back
In order to get from the airport to the city center, your best option is to take the S-Bahn 7, which is the regional train, towards Floridsdorf and get off at Landstraße/Mitte.
This train takes only about two minutes longer than the CAT (City Airport Train) and costs a fraction.
If you just buy one way, it’s 4,40 €uros. If you get a 24 hours ticket – for 8 €uros highly recommendable since a single ride costs 2,40 €uros – you only have to pay an additional 2 €uro for the trip from the airport – while the CAT costs 12 €uro (and the shuttle bus 8 €uro).
There are so many different tickets and options – you might want to check for yourself.
There even is a Queer City Pass and although I did some research online, I don’t get what’s the difference and what makes it queer. Once you get, give me a hint, please.
Even on a sunny day, a visit to the Stephansdom is, obviously, indispensable.
Saint Steven’s Cathedral is Vienna’s most important landmark and within walking distance from the hotel respectively the Schwedenplatz.
Built in the early 12th century, it is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and also the seat of Vienna’s Archbishop. It has four towers, the highest being the southern tower with 136 meters.
Accordingly, there are 343 steps to be climbed to get to the tower chamber from where you have an incredible view of Vienna. Besides precious altars and chapels, there are also the treasury and the catacombs to be visited.
Domkirche St. Stephan
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 515 52 3054
Open daily from 6 a. m. to 10 p. m. (Sunday from 7 a. m.)
You probably will enjoy strolling a little around the Stephansplatz.
However, this is a good opportunity for watching street artists perform, listening to the hoofs of the horses pulling the ancient carriages, and stocking up on traditional wafers and other delicious treats at iconic Manner.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 513 70 18
Open daily from 10 a. m. to 9 p. m.
Shopping the Old Fashioned Way
Still in the mood to saunter?
You’re at the perfect location: The Stephansdom is facing the Graben, Vienna’s most important, pedestrian shopping street with the flashy plague column in its center.
Although most of the stores and cafés are more or less like stores and cafés in any other city center, I’d like to point out – believe it or not – H&M: In 2004, this chain opened its 50st store in Vienna and chose the beautiful building of the former ritzy department store Braun & Co.
Even though you are at H&M, in the antique furnishing and decoration you’ll feel like shopping at a posh boutique.
Don’t miss out on a ride with the ancient wooden elevator!
Phone: + 43 – 810 – 90 90 90
Walking down the Graben away from the Stephansdom, you’ll reach another Viennese institution, the coffee roaster and deli Meinl am Graben.
Here you’ll find all sorts of wonderful Austrian delicacies – i. a. of course Meinl’s famous coffees – to sample on the spot or take with you home. This is also a good place for a short break. Get a light snack on Meinl’s terrace while you watch people.
Meinl am Graben
Phone: +43 – 1 – 532 33 34
Open weekdays from 8 a. m. to 7.30 p. m. and Saturday vom 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Crossing Squares and Parks
Ready to move on?
Walking up the Habsburgergasse, you’ll get to the Hofburg, the former Royal Castle, that today is the Austrian President’s official seat.
While admiring the magnificent architecture, cross the Hofburg to the huge Heldenplatz, the hero’s square, with the equestrian statue of Prince Eugen.
Then, at the Burgring, turn left and walk a couple of minutes to the gate that opens to the Burggarten, the castle garden with the prominent Mozart statue.
The Burggarten with its huge trees and the little lake is a also perfect place to just hang out a bit on a hot day.
In case you get thirsty, there’s the Palmenhaus serving light snacks or hearty Austrian food. It’s located next to the Hofburg, so it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s really beautiful and if you’re not on a budget, absolutely worth the visit.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 533 10 33
Open weekdays 10 a. m. till midnight, Saturday 9 a. m. till midnight and Sunday 10 a. m. till 11 p. m.
Don’t worry, even if you’re not up for a fancy lunch, you won’t spend the day hungry.
As you leave the Burggarten on the right side of the Palmenhaus, you find yourself at the Albertinaplatz. Here is also Vienna’s most famous sausage booth, Bitzinger Würstelstand.
Of course, every place looks much nicer in bright sunlight, but if there’s a city ready for liquid sunshine than it’s Vienna with its many, many exhibitions of world-famous paintings and sculptures, but also rather unusual museums like e. g. the Museum of Heating, the Third Man Museum or the Museum of Contraception and Abortion.
Vienna’s public transportation is excellent and if you stay at the recommended hotel or at another one in that neighborhood, you’re centrally hence perfectly located.
Since in the rain you cannot explore Vienna itself, let’s do the next best thing: Explore Vienna’s culture and all the quirky stories around it.
Expressionist Superstars at the Belvedere
One of the best places is the Belvedere, which consists of the ‘Lower Belvedere’, the garden palace, built around 1714 for Prince Eugen, and the ‘Upper Belvedere’, which was added a couple of years later (from 1720 on) and is even more luxurious.
Both are connected by a manicured garden. While the Lower Belvedere houses temporary exhibitions, the permanent collection at the Upper Belvedere is indisputably a must-see since it shows some of the most important works of mainly Austrian painters like the masterpieces by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Catch the streetcar #2 towards Dornbach at Schwedenplatz and go to Schwarzenbergplatz where you can take a quick look at the Soviet War Memorial.
If it’s not raining too hard, you can enter the Belvedere complex here and walk through the garden to its upper building. If that’s not an option, you can also change at Schwarzenbergplatz to streetcar #D towards Alfred-Adler-Strasse and get off at the Schloss Belvedere stop right next to the gallery.
The good thing about bad weather is, it’s a great excuse to take the tram instead of walking – like you do now back at the Schloss Belvedere stop.
High Density of Art
Eventually, the D-tram towards Nussdorf will take you in only ten minutes to the stop Burgring.
Without a doubt, this stop is located in one of Vienna’s most amazing spots, between the Hofburg complex and two magnificent buildings housing the Natural History Museum to the left and the Art History Museum to the right.
And between them is sitting enthroned monarch Maria Theresia.
Your destination should be the Art History Museum, which houses an incredibly rich collection from any art epoch and every region: the Cranachs, Raffael and Tizian, Caravaggio’s ‘Madonna of the Rosary’ – and of course the masterpieces by the Bruegels like the ‘Tower of Babel’. Besides the paintings, they also show art from Egypt as well as Greek and Roman statues, a coin collection and much more.
Your lunch options on a sunny day are a couple of snack stops along the way that I’ve mentioned in the morning itinerary.
On a rainy day, you’ll probably won’t be up for a quick bite on your way, but will enjoy a hearty hot meal at a cozy restaurant, so it’s good that you’re just a five minutes walk away from a typical Beils, a pub, serving authentic Austrian food.
Cross the Museumsquartier west of the Kunsthistorisches Museum – where our first afternoon stop will be, anyway – and you’re practically there.
Breite Gasse 4
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 526 56 60
Open daily from 11 a. p. to 2 a. m. (Sunday to 1 a. m.)
It’s possible to walk from the Bitzinger sausage stand to the Belvedere; but it’s not exactly close by.
However, if you choose to walk, go down the Walfischgasse and turn right into Schwarzenbergstraße. Continue till you get to the Soviet War Memorial – you cannot miss it. The Belvedere complex begins right behind this very socialist piece of art.
If you prefer not to walk, just take either tram #1 (towards Prater) or tram #2 (towards Friedrich-Engels-Platz) at Opernring/Karlsplatz and get off at Schwarzenbergplatz.
As I explained in the itinerary for a rainy day above, the Belvedere consists of two main buildings that are connected by a very elegant park with fountains and statues.
You can just stroll along the gravel paths, rest on the many park benches and be enchanted by the beauty and majesty of the place.
If you choose to visit the buildings, that today house museums, please check the rainy weather part above for details.
Right next to the Belvedere is another elegant yet cool park that’s worth a visit, the Stadtpark, the city park. Besides its shady paths and lush trees, there are many romantic statues of Vienna’s great artists – the most famous among them is the Johann Strauß statue, made by Franz Metzner and Edmund von Hellmer in the symbolist style of the Vienna Secession.
The Glacis Beisl is three minutes from the next great museum.
The Leopold Museum is focusing mainly on Austrian art from the turn of the last century – a truly exciting era with many ingenious, daring artists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Albin Egger-Lienz, Anton Kolig, Richard Gerstl, and many others.
Since not only the paintings of these gentlemen are colorful, but also the artists’ lives, it’s worth it to get an audio guide telling you about their shenanigans.
As a matter of fact, no Vienna-sojourn is complete without a visit of the Hofburg,
the Royal Castle, that was the Habsburg’s residence between the 13th century till the end of WWI in 1918.
Later, after WWII in 1945, it became the Austrian President’s official seat.
Besides the official apartments, the Hofburg houses Austria’s National Library and a couple of museums like the Sisi-museum, focusing on the beloved Empress, the ancient State Apartments and the Silver Chamber.
If after all the snacks or hearty lunches you’re still hungry, there’s one of Vienna’s most rustic and traditional restaurants just a few steps from your hotel.
If you are coming – on a sunny day – from the Stadtpark, you can also walk there along the Bäckerstraße from which the Sonnenfeldgasse deviates.
Coming on a rainy day from the Hofburg, you walk back to the tram stop Burgring and take either #1 (towards Prater) or #2 (towards Friedrich-Engels-Platz) back to Schwedenplatz.
Vienna might be historical and traditional, but it’s of course also trendy and hip and there are many clubs and bars.
The Motto am Fluss is a pleasant place for a nightcap – especially since it gives you the opportunity to say Good Night to the city: It’s located on the bank of river Danube and there is a fantastic view over Vienna.
Motto am Fluss Cafe
Franz Josefs Kai 2
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 252 55 11
Open daily 8 a. m. till midnight
Even if you have a very early flight, it’s not necessary to stay at an airport hotel. A trip from downtown Vienna to Schwechat, where the airport is located, takes only 45 minutes max – and, in addition, you have four options to get there. I’ve stated them above.
Only if you intend to take the S7-train you might have to adjust your schedule since these trains are running only every 30 minutes.
A walk from the highly recommendable Ruby Lissi Hotel & Bar** to the train station Mitte should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
Having more time to spend in Vienna? Need further ideas and inspiration for your stay? Here is my comprehensive guide.
Map – sunny day itinerary
Map – rainy day itinerary
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* In case you’re curious: Austria adjoins to Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Hungary.
Disclaimer: ** Obviously, this article contains affiliate links. Therefore, by purchasing items through my affiliate links or booking hotel rooms at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission that helps to run this site.
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