One of Europe's most picturesque and historic capital cities, Vienna is a relative breeze to navigate. Unlike sprawling Berlin or London, the Austrian capital is a mid-tier city that you'll likely find manageable, even on a first visit. It boasts a reliable, fast, and pleasant tramway network, as well as a subway (U-Bahn) and bus network that are relatively easy for travelers to master. Still, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with public transportation options in Vienna before your trip. In many places, information and announcements aren't readily available in English.
How to Ride the Straßenbahn
The iconic red tramways snaking through the old streets of Vienna are as much a part of the city's identity as its grand palaces and graceful cafés.
The Straßenbahn (pronounced "StrAH-sen-BAHn) comprises some 30 different tram lines criss-crossing the city and its outskirts. For that reason, you can easily rely on this mode of transport to see most major attractions in the city center. Some lines even allow you to get out to vineyards and other sites for an enjoyable day trip. Most tram lines operate daily between around 5 a.m. and 12:50 a.m.
Popular Tram Lines and Where They Go
Busy and popular tram lines that service the city center include:
- Line 1: Serves the central Burgring area, Rathausplatz (City Hall), Opera House, and the sprawling "Prater" park
- Line 49: Serves the "Ring" area and the Volkstheater
- Line 62: Serves the Opera house and Karlsplatz
- Line 2: Serves the transport hubs of Stubentor and Schwedenplatz and ends at Friedrich-Engels-Platz.
Other Practical Tips
- A safety note about trams: Pedestrians should use extreme caution around trams, which zip around the city in all directions and cannot brake. Cross busy intersections only after looking both ways first, and watch for any signals telling you to stop.
- Accessibility: Most trams in Vienna are accessible to passengers with wheelchairs, and are either equipped with ramps or have level access or "ultra low floors" at entrance points. Over the next few years, all tramways are expected to be fitted with level access for wheelchairs.
How to Ride the U-Bahn
If you intend to take the U-Bahn (subway) system, it can take a bit of practice, but you should be able to get a hang of the network quickly.
There are a total of five lines (U1, U2, U3, U4 and U6). These subway trains operate daily from around 5 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. (Monday to Friday), and through most of the night on weekends.
How to Ride the Bus
While it may prove unnecessary to get around by bus, they may occasionally be useful. This is especially the case if you want to take a day trip to a destination that extends beyond the city's tram lines (including certain vineyards, country estates, castles, etc). There are nearly 100 different lines, which can feel a bit overwhelming to visitors. If you think you may need to use a bus, consult the online trip planner to simplify the process.
How and Where to Buy Tickets?
There are several ways to buy tickets for trams, U-Bahn, and buses. To decide which type will best suit your needs during your stay (single tickets or 24-hour, 48-hour, or weekly passes), visit the ticket information page. You can find information on current ticket fares, points of sale, and transportation passes on the official transport authority's website.
Ticket machines can be found at most U-Bahn underground stations; you can pay with Euros, a debit card, or a credit card. Be wary of international transaction fees if using the latter.
- Tickets are also sold at Vienna's 850 tobacco (Tabaktrafik) shops. You'll find these all around the city center.
- You can buy tickets online in advance. A smartphone app allows you to easily purchase tickets and daily, weekly, or monthly passes from your phone. The app is available on the Android and Apple app stores.
How to Validate Tickets and Make Transfers
- Validate your tickets by inserting them into the designated validation machines in trams and buses (and at the entrance point of UBahn lines). You may transfer freely between trams, buses, and UBahn lines using the same ticket. You can do this as many times as you'd like to during a single trip; if you make a stop somewhere, you'll need to use a new ticket. Make sure you stamp your ticket upon entering the tram, bus, or subway station when you begin your trip, or you may be subject to fines.
For more details on how to navigate the city, information for visitors with limited mobility and advice on what types of tickets and passes to buy, check out the Wiener Linien transport authority's ticket guide. You can also find more info at the Vienna Tourist Board site.
Renting a car generally isn't necessary if you plan to primarily stick to the city center, and you can even embark on many popular day trips—from nearby vineyards to Prague and Bratislava—by train, tram, or bus. If you do prefer to rent a car, we recommend that you avoid the city center and make sure to study local driving laws in advance.
Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?
From Vienna International Airport, there are several ways to get to the city center. One is via the City Airport Train, which shuttles passengers from the airport to the Wien Mitte station in central Vienna in only 16 minutes (Note: This service is currently suspended for renovations, and until further notice).
Travelers can also board OBB Railjet trains (operated by the Austrian national rail authority), which serves Vienna Main station (15 minutes) and Wien Miedling (around 30 minutes). Tickets can be purchased at the airport or online in advance; trains depart every half hour between approximately 6:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Finally, passengers can opt for coach transfers to Vienna city center, or take the S7 Express train.
Tips for Getting Around Vienna
- If you want to enjoy a late night out on the town, you can use the U-Bahn. While tram lines generally close at midnight, the subway operates 24 hours a day on Friday and Saturday evenings, running every 15 minutes. Night buses are also available, but can be tricky to navigate. You can find scheduled and timetables on the official Wiener Linien public transit page.
- Taking taxis is generally not recommended outside of certain airport transfers late at night or very early in the morning, as traffic jams in the city center can make for long and expensive rides.
- In the warmer months (spring to summer), walking and cycling can be wonderful ways to explore the city at a more relaxed pace. The city center is generally quite manageable on foot for those who feel fit enough to attempt walking from point A to B, and you'll learn more about the city by choosing this mode of transport at least some of the time. Walking can often prove faster, too, especially if you're staying within the center-most part of the city.
- Make sure you have a good print map of Vienna or a fully charged phone equipped with Google Maps (or another reliable app for navigation).
- The city has an extensive bike path network, including around the Danube canal. In the summer, cycling can be a pleasant way to explore the city, but be extremely cautious in the city center, and especially watch out for tramways.
- Consider purchasing the Vienna City Card, which offers unlimited trips on all city public transportation lines, discounted entry to several museums and attractions, and the option of including airport transfers and guided tours. You can choose between cards that are valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours.