One of the most convenient train connections in Austria is also one of the most stunning, and historically significant. A two-hour journey from Vienna to the southern city of Graz leads across Semmering mountain pass — and with that, across an astounding 19th century viaduct that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whether you’re seeing Austria for the first time, or are a return visitor, Vienna is a great place to start exploring. With an international airport and an abundantly rich cultural life, the capital is a no-brainer for first arrival. Immerse yourself in the museums, peek behind the scenes at Habsburg palaces, and taste your way through Vienna’s iconic food and wine scene.
Once you’ve had your fill of Klimt’s masterpieces and Tafelspitz, the easiest way to see more of the rest of the country is by train. Graz, Austria’s second city and an almost Mediterranean gem, is a perfect complement to Imperial Vienna and just 2 hours by rail. Hop on the state-of-the-art Railjet at Vienna’s Main Station and try to get a seat by the window.
About halfway between Vienna and Graz, Semmering mountain reaches upward with dramatic pitch. It’s hard to imagine how a train could traverse the pass today, let alone in 1848 when the Semmering Railway was built. Made up of 26 miles (41 km) of tunnels and viaducts, it represents maybe the most impressive feat of civil engineering in the era of early railway construction (according to UNESCO). Enjoy the view of the romantic stone viaduct from your window and know that by crossing the Semmering you are still part of its pioneering history.
The cultural immersion continues at Graz’ Main Station, which was recently given a quirky design makeover with a colorful main hall and amorphous transport shelters outside. Graz is a UNESCO City of Design and lives out this title through fascinating contemporary architecture: the Kunsthaus museum of contemporary art seems like a blue UFO that landed among the Renaissance courtyards, while the Murinsel floats as a an artificial, conch-shaped island in the city’s river. Your Graz itinerary wouldn’t be complete without the city’s historic side, which involves a trip to Eggenberg Palace, and the largest historical armory in the world!
Continue your train journey from Graz to Salzburg, or Austria’s Alps, or book your return ticket back to Vienna. Because let’s be honest, you can never have enough Tafelspitz.