Vienna is the natural start for your tour. Not only do all direct flights from the US and connecting flights from Australia land here, it is also the historic focal point of the country, the seat of the former Austrian emperor, and of course Austria's largest and most international city.
Visitors to Vienna will find a diverse, innovative, and thoroughly modern city. But for most of the last 70 years, the capital was defined by its grand past: the hub of a vast, multinational empire. Understanding that great history is key to discovering its identity today.
A tour of the Old Town delivers a wonderful introduction to Vienna. Whether you choose a guided tour or want to explore on your own, we recommend going on foot so you'll have ample time to take in the city's grand architecture. From the great gothic details of the newly renovated St. Stephen's Cathedral to the Imperial Palace and the intimate little alleys in between, there's much to see and do. Leave room for a Wiener Melange or a typical Viennese lunch at any of the beloved coffeehouses there – Demel or the Hawelka, for instance.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at one of Vienna's sprawling farmer's markets. Located in the heart of Vienna and surrounded by art nouveau buildings designed by Otto Wagner, the Naschmarkt is an unforgettable experience. The surrounding architecture tells the story of the epic struggle that shook the city at the turn of the century, as modern thinkers and artists attempted to shatter cultural norms. At the market itself, you'll find local specialties, plus spices and delicacies from all over the world. No shortage of culinary souvenirs here, either: Stop at Gegenbauer's for unique and surprisingly delicious vinegar and oil varieties, or try Szigeti's for a bottle or two of Sekt, Austria's beloved sparkling wine.
Next, stop at the Secession building to see the famous Beethoven Frieze, by Gustav Klimt. From there, head to the Museums Quartier for an afternoon of art and architecture. At the MQ, former imperial stables now house one of the largest museum complexes in Europe. You could spend days here, exploring the small galleries, exhibitions spaces, and installations tucked into the baroque buildings -- but for a single afternoon, we suggest the modern Leopold Museum, home of the largest Schiele collection in the world. Next, head across the street to the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the vast art collection the Habsburgs amassed over the centuries. Again, you could lose yourself here -- but if you only have time for one collection, head to the Kunstkammer for unique art treasures, such as Benvenuto Cellini's precious salt cellar, the Saliera, dating back to the 16th century.
With that in mind, start your tour at Mozart's Birthplace, in the charming Getreidegasse. The museum gives a wonderful overview of the composer's life and his relationship with the city. Next, head to the Domquartier, where a tour of the prince archbishops' seat of power illustrates the enormous worldly and spiritual influence Salzburg's former rulers once wielded. Spend the afternoon touring Hohensalzburg Fortress. Even if you don't have time for the excellent exhibits there, the panoramic views over the surrounding countryside are magnificent in their own right.
At first glance, Salzburg city is all about Mozart and "The Sound of Music." But you'll soon find there is much more to it than that. From the magnificent Baroque architecture of the Old Town to a wealth of local traditions, outstanding modern art galleries, and international performing art festivals of the highest caliber.
Use the remaining half-day in Salzburg to go a bit further afield. For a bit of exercise, join Fräulein Maria's Bicycle Tour for a "Sound of Music"-themed tour of the city and its outskirts. Alternately, head to Hellbrunn Castle, where a mischievous former archbishop created a water park filled with hidden trick-fountains to surprise his guests. Parks of this kind used to be quite popular in their day; now Hellbrunn is the only one remaining
In the afternoon, take a train to Innsbruck. The scenic two-hour journey delivers you to the heart of the Alps, where the culture, mythology, and local economy revolve largely around the majestic mountains. The capital of Tirol, Innsbruck is a sizeable city that's managed to retain its medieval charm throughout the centuries. The former imperial city is a cultural center and winter sports destination -- so far it's hosted three Olympic games.Celebrate your first evening in Innsbruck with a traditional Tyrolean dinner in the heart of the Old Town -- at the Hotel Goldener Adler, for example.
In the afternoon, visit the Panorama Museum with its 360-degree panoramic painting, depicting one of the most momentous events in the city’s history. Then head to the iconic Bergisel Ski Jump, designed by architect Zaha Hadid. There you'll see firsthand the daring heights from which ski jumpers hurtle themselves down the ramp. Or you can explore the mountains by taking the Hungerburgbahn -- another Zaha Hadid creation -- from the city center to the top of Nordkette Mountain. Enjoy the views over Innsbruck from the mountaintop restaurant, or take the panoramic tram ride from Innsbruck to one of its Holiday Villages, Igls, for a leisurely stroll through the village.