Austria is located in the heart of Europe, bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia, Hungary and Liechtenstein. With over 6,000km of public and private railways running throughout, it is easy to travel all the way across Austria by rail. Be inspired by our sample route below.
Vienna is undoubtedly one of the most charming European capitals. It is also easy to reach with great flight connections from the UK. On the morning of Day 1, take the U4 underground train to Schönbrunn Palace, a baroque delight and UNESCO World Heritage Site where Mozart played for the Empress Maria Theresia when he was just five. The extraordinary imperial park houses the world's oldest zoo and you can go up the Gloriette mounument for great views.
Most buildings of interest are in the old town. Here you will find the Gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral where Mozart got married, the Imperial Hofburg, plus countless narrow streets and hidden squares. In the evening, enjoy a casual dinner with popular local music at a traditional tavern in the neighbourhood of Grinzing (take tram 38). White wine such as the Grüner Veltliner is the Viennese speciality and it goes particularly well with a good pork dish.
Watch a morning exercise at the Spanish Riding School or attend a Vienna Boys' Choir performance and visit the central cemetery (Zentralfriedhof, take tram 71) where Strauss, Schubert and Beethoven lie. Falling in love with Vienna? You will find the world's most famous kiss in Belvedere Palace amidst the largest painting collection by Gustav Klimt. Vienna has plenty of great art galleries such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Leopold Museum, and in the Albertina you will find modern exhibitions. The coffee house, the second Viennese living room, is one of the best places to break up the day. Great writers like Stefan Zweig, Arthur Schnitzler and Thomas Bernhard came here to enjoy a 'Melange' and read the newspaper. And there's nothing like a piece of cake to go with your coffee, of course, such as the Sacher Torte or a slice of Wiener Apfelstrudel.
On Day 3, take the train leaving from Vienna Main Station to Graz (2h30m). Look forward to a vibrant city with two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, its old town and Eggenberg Castle. Graz also has a bit of a foodie reputation and you will love the charming farmers markets or sitting down for a meal at one of the award-winning restaurants.
We suggest using Day 4 to catch the direct regional train from Westbahnhof station to Melk (50 min). The romantic Wachau is undoubtedly one of the most magical regions Austria. The 33 km of riverside from Melk to Krems are UNESCO World Heritage, opening into a landscape of hills covered with vineyards and charming medieval villages. In early April, apricot trees bloom in splendor, being the most precious fruit of the region from which the famously delicious Wachauer Marillenknödel are made.
The comfortable 'Railjet' train takes just 2h22m from Vienna Main Station to Salzburg. Make sure you buy a 48h Salzburg Card at the tourist office beside the station upon arrival for free public transport and entry to attractions.
Baroque Salzburg is surrounded by magical mountains and its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the birthplace of Mozart, plus The Sound of Music was filmed here and in the surrounding areas. Hohensalzburg Fortress perches majestically on the Mönchsberg. For splendid views of the city, take a walk to the Museum of Modern Art.
One of Salzburg's most attractive markets is situated in the University Square, where you can try local products such as 'Kaspressknödel' (bread dumplings filled with cheese). Through a narrow passage you reach Getreidegasse, the most characteristic street where Mozart was born, along which you will find beautiful courtyards. For the sweet-toothed, it is a must to try the most famous dessert in town, the Salzburger Nockerl.
Next morning, take bus 25 to Hellbrunn Palace and enjoy the unique trick fountains in the park. Come afternoon, it is time to sample Salzburg's famous beer culture. There are countless breweries offering their own beer with pretty gardens that serve food, but we also recommend a visit to the Stiegl-Brauwelt where you will learn about brewing history. Salzburg is renowned for its music, and in the summer months it goes without saying that you should attend an opera or a concert at the famous Salzburger Festspiele.
Take an early train from Salzburg to Hallsatt (2h30m with a change in Attnang-Puchheim) to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of lakes surrounded by mountains. Hallstatt is a real feast for the eyes and at the top of the village you can visit the oldest salt mines in the world. Eat on the banks of one of the lakes where you can enjoy some fresh catch such as 'Forelle' (trout) or 'Saibling' (char).
After lunch, take a regional train from Hallstatt to Bad Ischl (25 min), a small historic town with hot thermal springs. It is a tradition to go to the Café Zauner and try their exquisite pastries. Continue with bus 546 (25 min) to St. Wolfgang, a charming village, to later take a boat trip along Lake Wolfgang (45 min) to St. Gilgen, the town where Nannerl, Mozart's sister, lived. As the day draws to an end, take bus 150 (45 min) back to Salzburg.
From May until late October, you have two options for enjoying the wonders of nature on Day 8 of your round trip. The first option takes you to the Krimml Waterfalls, the highest in Europe, in the National Park Hohe Tauern. Take two trains: first a regional train to Zell am See (1h35m) and then the local narrow gauge train (1h25m); a pleasant trip throughout which you will enjoy the scenery. On Thursdays and in the two summer months also on Tuesdays, you can take the nostalgic train with an old steam locomotive. From Krimml station a bus takes you to the village.
The second option is to take the train from Salzburg (40 min) to Werfen. Go to the medieval Hohenwerfen Fortress which is situated on a hill with an impressive chain of mountains in the background. Give yourself an hour to visit the castle’s interior and then try to make it to the inner courtyard gardens to watch the spectacular falconry demonstration.
Take an early train from Salzburg to Innsbruck (1h,50m). We recommend buying the Innsbruck Card for 48 or 72 hours which includes free public transport in the city and to surrounding villages, plus tourist attractions and cable cars.
This beautiful alpine city with its medieval old town is nestled in the Nordkette mountains. Hungerburgbahn Station is one of the most magnificent examples of modern design in Tirol. A rack railway and a cable car take you to where you can enjoy views of the city. And one last cable car takes you to an alpine landscape at over 2,000 meters.
Back down in Innsbruck you can try specialties such as Schlutzkrapfen (dumplings stuffed with cheese or spinach), Käsespätzle (pasta tossed with onions and cheese) and Tiroler Gröstl (a pan with potatoes, meat and vegetables) in one of the traditional restaurants. Dedicate the rest of the day to sightseeing and shopping in town.
Spend the day visiting three emblematic places around Innsbruck's historic centre. Take tram 1 to the Bergisel Ski Jump and then continue to the small mountain village of Igls (only 15 min with the busline J). In the afternoon, take tram 3 to Ambras Castle which houses a unique collection of art.
Early in the morning, take the STB train from Südtiroler Platz station (30 min) to the village of Mutters. From the station, walk towards the church, and on the main street you will find a typical Tirolean farm with painted facades. If you continue to the next stop you will arrive at the Mutteralm cable car (included in the Innsbruck Card) where you can enjoy a half-day hike followed by lunch in a mountain hut.
Return to Innsbruck and continue to the village of Wattens to admire the Swarovski Crystal Worlds, also included in the Innsbruck Card. From the station take either a shuttle bus (4 times a day, 30 min) leading you directly to the entrance, or a commuter train to Fritzens-Wattens (16 min) and continue 15 minutes by foot.
End the day taking a regional train (only 8 min) to Hall in Tirol. This beautiful medieval town with picturesque streets and squares is well worth a visit with its Hasegg Burg castle (where you find the Mint Museum, also called the birthplace of the Taler coin and the modern day Dollar), the fascinating Magdalena chapel with its frescoes and altar, and the churches of St. Nikolaus and the Jesuits. The town is even more charming admidst the colourful Christmas lights.
On the final day of your round trip, take a regional train from Innsbruck to Rattenberg (45 min).The ancient town by the river Inn is the smallest in Austria. Its highlights are the main street with colorful facades where you find glass shops, the church and the castle ruins. Continue your journey taking bus 4074 to Alpbach, undoubtedly the most scenic mountain village in Tirol with its characteristic wooden houses and balconies full of flowers. From here, take bus 4074 to Brixlegg (23 min) and then a regional train to Jenbach (7 min).
From Jenbach take the Achenseebahn - Europe's oldest steam cog railway - to Seespitz (50 min), enjoying a slow journey of 6.78 km of woods and at the end Lake Achensee, the largest of the bathing lakes in Tirol. Take a boat from here to Pertisau (10 min) and when you are ready to return take bus 8332 back to Jenbach (40 min) and from there a train returning to Innsbruck (20 min).
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