Barely an hour's drive from Vienna, Burgenland offers innovative vintners, chefs and artists determined to both preserve wonderful old traditions, and breathe new life into them. It is a noticeably warmer region, hence the array of white, sweet and red wines, all thriving in a climate stabilized by the striking Lake Neusiedl.
Once you land in Vienna, your first order of business is to leave. You’ll be back—for now, enjoy the pleasant hour’s drive into the wide-open serenity of Burgenland. When a timeless quiet engulfs you, broken only by the faint whoosh of a stork’s wings overhead, you’ve arrived.
Your first stop: Purbach. Park your car in this picturesque village and check in at Gut Purbach, the town’s most elegant restaurant and lodging, hidden behind charmingly unassuming old stone walls. Just a 5 mile drive away you'll find the Hoepler's Wine Rooms, offering a sensory tour to awaken your inner conscience to the world of wine. This is Austria, epitomized: the rustic and traditional blended with the modern and chic.
From Purbach it’s a quick drive to the village of Gols, where you’ll find Weinkulturhaus, a lovely winemakers’ cooperative housed in the oldest building in the village—meticulously restored, and a perfect entree to this historic wine region. For evidence of how little Burgenland has veered from that history, stop at the Dorfmuseum, an open-air museum that presents a vivid snapshot of life here just a century ago, from ancient wine presses to an old cobbler’s station.
Not everyone lived the simple life here. Mandatory is a stop at Halbturn Palace, the grand, 18th-century estate once used by the imperial family as a summer residence. The beautiful palace is still very much alive: cultural events, a lush garden, and local delicacies at Knappenstöckl, a restaurant on the premises. But don’t fill up. A multi-course dinner back at Gut Purbach will require an empty stomach, and many subsequent postcards to describe the sumptuousness.
Explore the surrounding villages: Donnerskirchen, Oggau, and Rust and even down to Mörbisch and learn more about Zweigelt, a local grapy varietal. Feeling even more ambitious? Rent a bike in Neusiedl am See, and pedal around the lush perimeter of the lake, admiring the birds and wildflowers, and perhaps popping into the hip (and architecturally daring) Mole West for lunch. Plan your time well and you’ll arrive in Podersdorf by nightfall, in time for a cozy dinner at Dankbarkeit, a family-run Gasthaus serving fresh local specialties.
Hit some wineries. Juris, Beck and Pittnauer are all conveniently close, in Gols, and worth the walk. And should the tastings put you in a contemplative state, a visit to Haydngasse, Haydn’s former home in Eisenstadt, is in order. The building is unremarkable—and therefore all the more compelling for producing such a remarkable figure. You’ll hum his sonatas throughout dinner at the delicious and fashionable Nyikospark, in Neusiedl am See.