Should you rent a car in ViennaAustria>Vienna

James says - a few trip notes:

Now I know somebody is going to have a go at me for this, but if ever there was an index for the ratio between the attractions a city has to offer within and the nearby attractions without (i.e. just outside the city), then Vienna would be a pretty good case for being represented almost entirely by the within camp.

The city also has excellent public transport and it is a delight to travel around under your own power, so why would anyone even consider wanting to get a hire car in Vienna?

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Although there are sadly very few flights to Vienna from anywhere in the UK outside London, the Austrian capital remains one of Europe’s most impressive cities to visit, and even if you can’t easily find direct flights there, you can always travel to nearby Bratislava just across the border in Slovakia, and pop across to Vienna from there. Given that these two venues can easily make a combined dual city break, is there really any need to even consider getting a hire car?

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Why should you hire a car in Vienna?

  • Flexibility — as with anywhere else, Vienna car hire will give you the flexibility to drive wherever you wish, but that goes without saying.
  • Scenic Alpine drives — of course, you can drive west towards the Alps, where the scenery is absolutely stunning, but if you want to do this, you would be much better off looking at flights to Salzburg or Innsbruck and picking up a hire car from there, especially as it is actually much easier to find flights to these cities that it is to find flights to Vienna anyway, or it is from the UK at least! However, Vienna is still the main gateway for long haul flights to Austria.
  • Drive south — if you are a fan of the architect Hundertwasser (see below) and you really want to do the complete tour, then you will need to drive south on the E autobahn towards Graz, and to include the Bad Fischau service station on the way. Considering how terribly drab most motorway service stations are, the idea that somebody can turn such a dull building type into a work of art is actually quite refreshing!
  • Hundertwasser tour – Is there any contrast more startling between the formality of Imperial Vienna’s imposing palaces and the apparent randomness of the architectural delights of Frederick? Hundertwasser? Whilst it is easy to go round a tour of his most notable buildings within Vienna, the true aficionado will also want to make an excursion to the fabulous spa at Bad Blumau.
  • Pedestrian paradise – the sheer scale and order of Vienna’s architecture make it perfect for a walking tour, which might end up taking several days to do the city justice. As ever, sturdy shoes recommended!

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Visiting Vienna without a car:

  • Excellent public transport – Vienna has a comprehensive network of buses, trams, underground and suburban rail. One thing I like about turning up at some of the metro stations I have used in Vienna is that the running information is displayed at the station entrance, rather than just on the platforms. This is the sort of nice little detail that always helps make a system more usable. However, it is worth familiarising yourself with a metro map of Vienna on arrival, because the lines don’t always intersect with each other in the way you might expect. Sometimes a bus or tram might be much quicker than trying to take the metro over a short distance and having to change twice.
  • Gasometer – this dramatic retail and leisure district has been built out of the interior of 2 former gasometer units. You might recognise it from the Bond excursion “the living daylights” as a place from which 007 escapes in a Harrier jump jet. As with the Hundertwasser tour, this iconic brick built structure with contrast in steel and glass adaptations makes a great contrast to the formality of the rest of the city.
  • Prater wheel – need we make any film references here?
  • Hundertwasser tour – some of the organic architect’s most impressive works are in Vienna, whilst the Bad Blumau resort mentioned above can also be reached by train.
  • Opera in the Quarry – for a truly spectacular “bucket list” experience, go to a performance of an opera in Europe’s largest outdoor stage. This is at St Margarethen, around 70km due south of Vienna, near the Austrian border. There’s no need to hire a car just to get there, as a return shuttle coach is available. Make sure you book the whole lot well in advance. Note that if you already have a hire car, you can park here for free.
  • Airport Express – Vienna International airport is easily accessible from most of the city, and like most major European airports, it has its own railway station on site. I don’t personally recommend taking the airport express, as this is a very expensive premium service that is unlikely to save you more than 5 to 10 minutes, especially as the local S-bahn services provide better connections anyway.

Vienna car hire Verdict

It would be easy to sum Vienna up by saying there’s just no need at all to get a hire car, but when I visited, I spent a day and a half in the city itself, and then picked up a hire car at Vienna airport and drove down to Bad Blumau. I was planning to exit via Graz anyway, and having a hire car made a lot of sense to travel between the two places.

Should I hire a car in Vienna? Naturally, a car will give you more options for excursions, but for the most scenic parts of the Austrian Alps, we would recommend taking flights to Salzburg or Innsbruck in the first place. We’ve covered a lot of Alps, including western Austria in our Zurich car hire guide.

Another option would be to pop across to Bratislava in neighbouring Slovakia, which has some of the worst driving standards in Europe. Much better to stick to trains and trams!

Although there are a few other options for excursions in a hire car from Vienna, there are plenty of options for getting out and about by rail too, made all the more easy by the new central station.

Should you rent a car in Vienna?

Verdict – no

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Author: Carometer

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