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Austria

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Whether you’re the type who likes to slowly immerse yourself in a destination, soaking up the culture and your surroundings, or someone who likes to head into nature and hike or fly down snow-covered mountains, Austria has it all. This means that whatever type of traveller you are you should find something in the country for you.

Although Austria can easily be visited for shorter 2-3 day trips (depending on where you’re from of course), if it’s your first time, then why not see a mix of gems that this country has to offer. To help you plan your trip, here is an itinerary for Austria that will give you a fantastic taste of some of the country’s highlights and best experiences.

Places include: Vienna, Wachau Valley/Melk, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Zell am See-Kaprun

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Where to start?

For many, Vienna would be a great place to start your Austrian itinerary. This is due to its international connections both via plane but also using trains and buses. You can search for trains using Omio, Trainline or the Austrian websites (OEBB and Westbahn). For buses we generally recommended Flixbus.

Salzburg is also a possible starting point and has a decent number of connections via its airport, as well as using buses, trains or roads from nearby countries.


When to go?

Austria has a very seasonal climate, where you might get snow in the winter, fantastic autumn colours in the fall and beautiful greens in spring and summer. You’ll also find the temperatures hottest in the summer (June-Sept), coldest in the winter (Dec-Feb) and moderate temperatures outside of this.

So to answer this question it really depends on what you’re after. Head to Austria in the winter for Christmas markets (Dec) or skiing (Dec-Mar), or head in the summer and warmer months for hiking, general city sightseeing and other trips.

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Austria itinerary ideas

Here is a selection of places that would be great to add to your Austrian itinerary.

Vienna

Vienna is the beautiful capital of Austria and a must-visit. From exploring the baroque architecture, getting lost in the Schönbrunn Palace gardens to experiencing a play at the theatre, the city is packed full of experiences and things to see and do. As well as this due to the fantastic connections and day trips available it makes for a good starting point and base to explore the rest of the country.

Highlights of Vienna

  • Schönbrunn Palace – The Schönbrunn Palace is one of Vienna’s most famous attractions. Built with beautiful baroque architecture it was once the summer home of Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph and Maria Theresa. It makes for a great day out with plenty to explore, including the beautiful flowers around the Great Parterre (see further below), seeing the views from the Gloriette or exploring the interior of the palace.
  • Innere Stadt – The Innere Stadt (Inner City) is the famous historic district of Vienna. Here you’ll find cobbled streets, beautiful churches such as St. Peter’s and Stephansplatz as well as shops and restaurants. This part of Vienna has lots of character and within a few minutes of walking around you’ll be struck by the beauty of the city.
  • Vienna woods – For those after a more rural scene then head up to the Vienna woods (Kahlenberg) north of the city. Here you can hike around the vineyards, stopping for wine during the summer. Or just get the bus up to the Skyline Lounge Restaurant which has a large (free to visit) outdoor area too.
  • Austrian Parliament – Just outside of the city’s Innere Stadt and along the famous Ringstrasse you’ll find the Austrian Parliament. This stunning building has Greek-style architecture and the exterior features large pillars and a magnificent fountain. You can also visit the interior on a tour.
  • Rathaus – The Rathaus is the city hall which is strikingly beautiful (especially at night). It’s often the location for various events throughout the year, including one of the main Christmas Markets, an Ice Rink, film festival and more.
  • Belvedere – The Belvedere is another grand palace in the city. Located a bit more central than the Schönbrunn it has a slightly different design, but also comes with a free-to-access garden and views over the city.
  • Heurige – A Heurige is a gem of Vienna and these are essentially wine taverns that you can visit and enjoy local and delicious food and drinks. Many are located near vineyards too so provide a nice place to walk and enjoy the scenery too. To find them check out the tourism board’s suggestions.
  • Christmas Markets – Christmas is a great time to visit Vienna and this is due to the many Christmas markets that you’ll find around the city. You’ll find market stalls (big or small) around the most famous attractions. Around the Graben in the Innere Stadt, there are beautiful lights in the shape of chandeliers which are some of the most beautiful decorations we’ve ever seen. See Christmas in Vienna: The Best Places to See and Photograph the Lights

 

Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace

Tour ideas

Here are some tours you may like while in Vienna. Click the blue-button for more or see our article on some of the best tours that we’d recommend: Vienna: Best Day Tours and Activities.

Length of stay

To see the main sites in Vienna you’ll only need 2-3 days. If you plan on going on day trips from Vienna then add more days as needed. A few day trip ideas include the Wachau Valley and Melk (see next section), Gruner See, Hallstatt, or Bratislava (to name a few ideas).

Accommodation in Vienna

Here are a few accommodation ideas:

  • Budget – Wombats Hostels Vienna Naschmarkt – Located a short walk from the city centre and some of Vienna’s landmarks, this hostel offers a range of rooms including dormitories as well as private rooms. There is also free wifi and a bar.
  • Mid-range – 25 hours hotel – This hotel is fun and funky with a large rooftop bar and great atmosphere. It’s also located very central so perfect for exploring the city.
  • Luxury – Imperial Hotel Vienna – One of the city’s most grand hotels the Imperial Hotel Vienna will provide an extra special experience. Read more in our article: Luxury in Vienna: Hotel Imperial Vienna.

How to get to Vienna?

You can get to Vienna via its international airport which has lots of connections, or via bus or train from nearby countries. Vienna makes for a great city to combine into a multi-destination trip. Check out Omio or Flixbus to see connections.


Wachau Valley & Melk

Wachau Valley is an area slightly north-west of Vienna located along the River Danube. The area is a UNESCO world heritage site and includes scenic landscapes, hills, vineyards and cute architecture. It makes for a wonderful day trip and most people will likely take one from Vienna. Some of the day trips include just visiting, cycling and exploring the vineyards, whilst other day trips might include a cruise along the river ending with a few hours in the small city of Melk and visiting the Abbey.

Highlights of Wachau Valley & Melk

  • Exploring the vineyards – In the Wachau Valley and all along the banks of the River Danube you’ll see vineyards, small towns and castles. A nice and more active way to explore is through a bike tour which also comes with the opportunity to stop at some places for a glass or two.
  • River Cruise – Another way to explore the Wachau Valley is by going on a bus and river tour. These provide a nice peaceful experience and if you’re visiting in the warmer months (Summer, Spring and early Autumn) then crack open a beer (or other drink) and enjoy the ride.
  • Melk Abbey – Towards the end of most tours from Vienna is Melk Abbey which is a fantastic baroque style abbey. When taking a tour you’ll learn more about the abbey, get to see the library containing around 16,000 books, enjoy views from the terrace looking out over the hills, and see the wonderful Imperial Staircase.

Vienna and Wachau Valley

Tour ideas

Here are some tours you may like for Wachau Valley and Melk:

Length of stay

Generally, you would probably visit Wachau Valley and Melk on a day trip, however, you could also get the train to Melk and stay there the night.

Accommodation in Melk

Here are a few accommodation ideas:

  • Budget – Mid-range – Hotel Restaurant zur Post – Located in a central location and a short walk to Melk Abbey this hotel offers private rooms, free wifi, a restaurant and a bar.
  • Luxury – Zum schwarzen Bären – This family-owned hotel would be perfect for those after a more luxurious experience. Including a spa and wellness centre, sauna, swimming pool, restaurant, bar and other facilities. What’s more, some rooms come with breakfast included.

How to get to Wachau Valley & Melk?

Consider a tour/day trip option. Alternatively, you could hire a car from Vienna and drive, or take the train or a bus.

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Salzburg

Salzburg is a few hours on the train from Vienna and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The main highlight is its Old Town which has colourful baroque architecture, magnificent cathedrals and overlooking the city is the mighty Fortress Hohensalzburg. Of course, it would be rude not to mention the city is also the birthplace of Mozart and there is now a museum which is one of the top attractions.

Highlights of Salzburg

  • Hohensalzburg  Fortress – An unmissable site, the Hohensalzburg Fortress sits atop a hill in the Old Town. You can visit the castle easily by taking a funicular, or even by walking up. Once in the fortress, you can explore the various exhibits and museums, or simply enjoy the views over the city.
  • Sound of Music tours – Go on a Sound of Music tour where you’ll get to see some of the famous movie locations located in and around the city. You’ll also get to learn more about story behind the Von Trapp Family and capture some wonderful pictures whilst doing so.
  • Explore the viewpoints – You’ll find lots of really great viewpoints all around the city. Some of these are free to access as well. Read about 8 of the Best Instagram and Photography Spots in Salzburg.
  • Mozart’s Birthplace – Visit Mozart’s Birthplace located along Getreidegasse to learn more about the famous composer and his life. Here you can see some of the rooms complete with furniture and original designs.
  • Christmas Markets – Salzburg is simply stunning at Christmas with fantastic lights, markets and decorations around the Old Town. If you can, then this would be a great time to visit where you can enjoy the wonderful festive atmosphere with a nice glass of gluhwein (mulled wine).
Salzburg Skyline during the blue hour
Salzburg Skyline during the blue hour

Tour ideas

Here are some tours you may like on your trip to Salzburg:

Length of stay

2-3 days would normally be plenty of time, allowing you to explore the main attractions and also go on tours that you might fancy.

Accommodation in Salzburg

Here are a few accommodation ideas:

  • Budget – YoHo – International Youth Hostel – This hostel would be a good choice for budget travellers and offers both dormitories and private rooms. The hostel also has free wifi, a bar and restaurant.
  • Mid-range – Hotel am Mirabellplatz – A nice mid-range hotel in a good location not too far from the centre. This hotel comes with free wifi, the option of breakfast and offers single rooms through to family rooms.
  • Luxury – Hotel Goldener Hirsch, a Luxury Collection Hotel – This hotel is part of The Luxury Collection hotels which are a prestigious brand offering the most stunning properties. As such this hotel located in the centre of Salzburg is just that, absolutely stunning. Although pricey if this is your budget you wouldn’t go wrong.

How to get to Salzburg?

Salzburg is easily reached from Vienna using the OEBB or Westbahn trains. This only takes a few hours. You could also fly into Salzburg and start your trip off there instead.


Hallstatt

Hallstatt is a picturesque village along the Hallstätter See (lake) in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. The village has beautiful and traditional style architecture with buildings appearing to almost climb up the mountain. The destination has become extremely popular which might be partly due to Instagram, and although we shouldn’t always follow the crowds, Hallstatt is so pretty, it’s hard not to add to an Austrian travel itinerary. The village is fairly small and can be visited on a day tour, public transport or even for an overnight visit.

Highlights of Hallstatt

  • Visit the photo spots – Of course, a visit to Hallstatt wouldn’t be complete without capturing a classic photo such as below. Click here for the location on Google Maps.
  • Hallstatt Skywalk “Welterbeblick” – If you’re after aerial views then head up to the Skywalk located above the village. To get there you can actually hike up a path, although it might be easier to just take the funicular up and then walk down. You can see prices for this and for the Salt Mines (mentioned below) here: salzwelten.at/en.
  • Salt mines – The Salt Mine in Hallstatt is the oldest in the world and a visit allows you to learn more about mines and their history.
  • Hallstatt Museum – Located in the centre of the village is the Hallstatt Museum. Here you can learn more about the history of Hallstatt, the culture, the Salt Mines and more.
  • 5 Fingers – As well as the Skywalk viewpoint there is another viewpoint a bit further out called the 5 Fingers. This platform includes 5 platforms that reach out from the mountain and offer visitors spectacular views of the lake and surrounding landscapes.
Hallstatt in the Autumn, Austria
Hallstatt in the Autumn

Tour ideas

Here are some tours you may like on your trip:

Length of stay

One day is plenty of time in Hallstatt. You could alternatively stay a bit longer, such as if you’re a photographer and want to capture the town in a different light, or you simply want to take your time soaking up the village and scenery.

Accommodation in Hallstatt

Here are a few accommodation ideas:

  • Mid-range – Weisses Lamm In a central location and offering a restaurant, free wifi and other great features this hotel would be a nice choice. There are also rooms available with a balcony and mountain views.
  • Luxury – Seehotel Grüner Baum – A beautiful hotel along the lake with great rooms and also a spa and wellness centre. You also get free breakfast with some of the rooms.

How to get to Hallstatt?

Hallstatt is one of Austria’s most popular places to visit. You can get here through various tours (see above), by driving there, or also by taking the train (OEBB) and a boat.


Zell am See & Kaprun

Zell am See and Kaprun provides a more rural experience and is a destination in Austria that is nice to visit both in the winter or the summer. In the summer you can explore gorges, colourful lakes and hike, whilst in the winter Zell am See-Kaprun is great for winter sports, such as snowshoe hikes, skiing and snowboarding.

Highlights of Zell am See & Kaprun

Here are a few of the highlights.

Summer

  • Cruise on the lake – Sit back, relax and take a relaxing cruise on the lake whilst enjoying your surroundings.
  • Sigmund-Thun Klamm Gorge – Explore the Sigmund-Thun Klamm Gorge which was created approx 14,000 years ago. A visit will allow you to walk along a 320-metre platform whilst listening to the rush of water below.
  • Lake Klammsee – When visiting the Sigmund-Thun Klamm Gorge at the end you’ll arrive at Lake Klammsee which is a very picturesque lake with turquoise water.

Winter

  • Skiing and snowboarding – Zell am See and Kaprun are home to some fantastic ski resorts including Kitzsteinhorn and Schmittenhöhe. These are pretty easy to get to, and if you’re staying in the town of Zell am See you can pretty much walk to the gondola that leads up to Schmittenhöhe. The other resort Kitzsteinhorn is closer to Kaprun and a short drive. Both resorts can provide a good few days or more enjoyment up the slopes as well as huts to enjoy refreshments.
  • Snowshoe hikes – Another great activity which you can find up Schmittenhöhe is snowshoe hikes. These will take you on a nice leisurely pace around the mountain and are a great way to enjoy the scenery and also take photographs.

Anytime

  • Tauern Spa Zell am See-Kaprun – Austria has some incredible spas throughout and one of the best is Tauern Spa Zell am See-Kaprun. This huge complex which is 20,000m2, contains 11 pools, 10 saunas/steam baths and heaps more features.
Views of Zell am See from Schmittenhöhe in the winter
Image by @mikecleggphoto/team

Tour ideas

Here are some tours you may like on your trip to Zell am See:

Length of stay

Zell am See would be nice to visit for 2-3 days, although if you’re visiting in the winter for skiing and snowboarding then you might want to stay longer.

Accommodation in Zell am See

Here are a few accommodation ideas when visiting Zell am See:

  • Budget – Gästehaus Haffner – In a central location not far from the lake and train station, but also only a short walk from the City Xpress cable car. Also offering free wifi and a range of room types.
  • Mid-range – Hotel Kaprunerhof – A fantastic hotel built in a traditional style. Complete with a pool, bar and also a fantastic restaurant. Note that this hotel is in nearby Kaprun and close to various attractions such as Sigmund-Thun-Klamm and Kitzsteinhorn.
  • Luxury – Grand Hotel Zell am See – As the name suggests a Grand Hotel located on the lake. Complete with a swimming pool, spa and wellness centre, as well as a bar, restaurant and pretty much anything else you’d expect from a top luxury hotel.

How to get to Zell am See-Kaprun?

Similar to many destinations in Austria you can get there using public transport. Alternatively, if you are driving then that will provide even more flexibility and will certainly help you get around Zell am See. For train routes have a look on the OEBB site or Omio.


Summary

Offering a huge amount of experiences for all types of travellers a visit to Austria should be on all travellers wish list. From exploring the mountains to getting dazzled by the cities this itinerary would be sure to give you a whole range of memorable experiences.

Want more ideas to add to your Austria itinerary? Check out 15 Photos of Beautiful Places to Visit in Austria or see some of the tour options below.

Mike Clegg

Editor-in-chief at travelanddestinations.com
Mike is the creator and primary author of Travel and Destinations. He started this website so as to share his experiences and tips with travellers. He is from the UK and has travelled to many places around the world. He loves to shares his pictures and stories through Instagram and this website... [Read full bio]
If you would like to write a guest article so as to raise your profile then please get in touch.
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