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Austria’s largest city just happens to also be its cultural and political centre. Vienna has been a world power since the days of the Habsburgs, whose legacy remains evident all over the UNESCO Old City core. This city is pure magic, from its castles and palaces to the engaging morning markets. Vienna is a city to truly indulge yourself in. But be warned, there are also many tempting highlights just outside the city that are ripe for exploration if you have your own wheels.
Who to Book With
Most arriving travellers rent their cars at the train station or airport, where most of Europe’s respected car hire companies, such as Hertz, Enterprise and Europcar, have offices. You can also find rental outlets around the fringes of the city centre, particularly near major highway exits. Vienna is a four-season travel destination, so rentals should be booked in advance. To avoid disappointment and higher last-minute rates, go online and book your vehicle as early as you can.
Best Time to Go
There is not really a bad time to visit Vienna. The peak tourist season runs from April right through to October, with the holiday months of July and August proving extremely busy. Winters here are cold but magical when it snows, great for a visit if you don’t mind a little nippy weather. The ideal windows for crowd-free trips, however, are the spring and autumn, when the weather is lovely but most tourists are preoccupied back at home working.
Need to Know Essentials
These documents are usually needed when you go to collect a car rental:
- A valid EU or UK driving license or International Driving Permit
- A secondary form of photo ID
- The credit card used to book the car online
- A print out of the rental confirmation if possible
If at all possible, you should avoid driving within the city centre ring. This is the historic core, where narrow medieval streets are one-way, confusing and often congested at rush hour. Vienna’s public transport system is a dream, so park the car at your hotel or a peripheral car park and enjoy this magical city on foot.
It is possible to find short-term parking on the street in Vienna, but spaces are charged for and often have a time limit of 90 minutes. A more convenient option is to use a long-term car park, where time is not an issue. One of the city’s park and ride lots will allow you to park before using public transport to into the centre of Vienna. The parking garages are not cheap, however, ranging from around €2 to €4 per hour.
Getting out of Vienna is easy thanks to excellent motorway connections like the Autobahn A-1 from Salzburg, the A-2 from Graz, the A-4 from the east and the A-22 heading northwest. Route E-10 is also a good highway if you want to reach southeastern Austria. Vienna is at the crossroads of Austria, which makes taking daytrips from the city a real joy and a major time-saver.
Vienna has an awe-inspiring public transport network that involves buses, light rail trains, trams and an underground subway. There is truly no need to use a car for moving around the centre of Vienna thanks to its incredibly efficient, fast and useful system of transportation. As a quick fix, taxis are always available and on call 24/7.
Within Vienna proper, all forms of transport are included in a single integrated ticket. You can buy a ticket for a single journey or by the day. A single-trip ticket costs around €2 on any form of transport and can be used to travel as far as you want in one direction within a single zone. Tickets can be bought at the automated machines at each station. It’s also possible to buy a single-fare ticket on board, but it costs more. There are also passes for unlimited travel within a 24 (€6.70), 48 (€11.70) or 72-hour period (€14.50). All tickets and passes must be validated by a machine or the driver when first entering the transport. Your time limit begins from that moment.
The Vienna Card is another useful tourist deal that provides unlimited travel on the public transport, discounted entry to museums and attractions and other benefits. It costs around €20 and is valid for 72 hours. You can buy the card at hotels, the airport and underground stations.
There are five U-Bahn lines that run throughout Vienna. These underground subway lines are the most popular form of transport in the city, stopping at all the major sites and arriving at stations every 2-7 minutes. S-Bahn trains are useful for reaching towns on the edges of Vienna. The underground subway runs from 06:00 to midnight daily.
Taxis are a common sight on the streets of Vienna. They can often be hailed or found waiting at a taxi stand near transport hubs and major attractions. Most taxis use a meter to determine the fare, although they are also open to negotiation for longer distance drives. Fares start at around €2.50 then add on €1.90 per kilometer.
Buses cover the entire city of Vienna, running all day and after dark courtesy of the night bus lines. Schwedenplaz is the central bus terminal, with routes radiating in all directions even after dark. Tickets for buses can be bought directly from the driver. Buses are particularly useful if you need to travel after the subway has closed.
The only dilemma surrounding daytrips from Vienna is which country to visit first. There are three to choose from less than an hour away, where worthy highlights like Bratislava, Brno and Gyor are an easy drive away along solid highways. There are plenty of places to explore in Austria as well, such as the important town of St Poltan. With a car rental, there is no end to the adventures you can have.
St Poltan - The capital of Lower Austria, boasts a number of interesting historic attractions and a very pretty setting. Its baroque cathedral, the City Hall and Pottenbrunn Castle are just the tip of the iceberg. Driving down the E-60 motorway is a breeze.
Bratislava - The capital of Slovenia, is just an hour by highway with no troubles crossing the border. This city on the Danube River features a charming medieval centre, a fairytale castle and plazas endearing cafés to tour.
Graz - Austria’s Second City, offers a fantastic mix of university academia and historic attractions. This 2003 Cultural Capital of Europe has plenty to see and do, with a more relaxed and creative atmosphere than Vienna.