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I’ve always been fascinated with Austria. My grandfather emigrated from Austria to the United States and I’ve been obsessed with tracing my roots. This year marked my third visit to Austria and I stayed around a month this time in Upper Austria. I have booked yet another trip to Austria for next year.
In the meantime, I hope that I can help you plan your perfect Austrian vacation based on my time exploring much of Austria. I’ve created this itinerary for Austria to be more flexible depending on your amount of time, so feel free to cut out what isn’t interesting to you.
A lot of people quickly pass through Austria en route to nearby countries, but Austria has a lot to offer for lovers of nature, history, and beautiful cities. Although Vienna and Salzburg are lovely, I hope that I can inspire you to see the rest of Austria beyond these cities. This Austrian itinerary showcases the highlights of Austria.
Included in this Austrian itinerary:
- Day trip to Wine Region/Durnstein*
- Mauthausen Memorial*
- St. Gilgen*
- Upper Austria
- Skiing/Hiking in the Mountains
Notes on traveling in Austria
What I find really great about traveling in Austria is that you can drive between its major cities within a span of a few hours and if you’re open to it, you can take the non-highway routes to enjoy the scenic route. (The highway is faster!)
We found that a car was key in helping us visit smaller towns on a tighter schedule as parking in Austrian cities was generally well-located and affordable (for a few euros). Generally, traveling in Austria is not so cheap. Having a car can help cut travel costs in Austria by enabling you to find cheaper accommodation in towns surrounding major cities. Due to the limited hours at many supermarkets, we found having a car helpful for finding open shops. (Click for tips on traveling in Austria on a budget.)
The trains in Austria are incredibly well run and actually quite affordable if you book in advance. There are several train companies in Austria that regularly run between the major cities. For smaller destinations, you might need to take local buses from regional hubs (e.g. Linz or Salzburg) or hop onto a scenic ferry if you opt not to rent a car.
Vienna (2 days)
Vienna is one of the cities that just charms you. Full of stunning palaces and picturesque buildings, Austria’s capital is perfect for the history and culture lover looking for a city to call their own. It’s easy to spend a whole day exploring the spacious Hofburg palaces where the Habsburg Empire once reigned or sitting at one of Vienna’s gorgeous coffeehouses enjoying traditional Viennese coffee and cake!
Vienna isn’t all traditional. You’ll also find the Naschmarkt, a lively market where you can sample local foods. Similarly, you’ll find the lively Prater amusement park close to where Vienna’s traditional fall festival takes place. Two days should be enough to give you a taste of Vienna.
Day trip from Vienna: Durnstein/Wachau (1 day)
Attention wine lovers and castle lovers: You need to take a day trip from Vienna to Durnstein. This picturesque town in Austrian wine country is straight out of a fairytale book. When you’re done tasting wines, you can enjoy the steep walk up to the abandoned castle on top of the hill for epic views over the valley….
Linz (1 day)
Linz is often overlooked, however this Austrian city is full of colorful houses, picturesque streets, and great shops. Luckily, the crowds haven’t discovered Linz yet, so take advantage of the affordable hotel rooms to use Linz as a base for exploring Upper Austria. Of course, you can’t visit Linz without trying its namesake dessert: the Linzertorte.
Day trip from Linz: St. Florian
You’ve probably heard of Melk Abbey, however for a fraction of the price and the crowds, you can visit St. Florian Monastery instead. This stunning monastery is an easy day trip from Linz by bus. It’s certainly worth the bus trip for the one hour tour of the stunning library (shown above) and the catacombs underneath the impressive basilica…
Day trip from Linz: Mauthausen Memorial (1 day)
Although many people visit Auschwitz and other former Nazi concentration camps elsewhere, it’s worthwhile to spend a morning visiting Mauthausen. This memorial stands in the place of one of former Nazi concentration camp where numerous prisoners were murdered.
Visiting a concentration camp is not easy, but it’s important. You can take the bus from Linz to the Mauthausen Memorial. Click for more information about visiting the Mauthausen memorial.
Salzburg (1 day)
You might have heard of Mozart and the Sound of Music. Salzburg is much more than a cultured hub or a film location. This stunning Austrian city has something to offer for everyone from beautiful palaces to modern art museums to picturesque walks. Be sure to give yourself at least a day in Salzburg to enjoy the quiet of the historic city center after the tour groups have left.
Day trip from Sazlburg: St. Gilgen (1 day)
Luckily, St. Gilgen isn’t too famous yet. This charming lakeside town just outside of Salzburg (accessible by bus from Salzburg) is beautiful and quiet. It’s most famous for the Christmas market, a favorite of numerous Austrians that I met who prefer the laid-back charm of St. Gilgen during the Christmas season. Above the town, you’ll find a cog railway that was included in the Sound of Music.
Day trip from Salzburg: Hallstatt (1 day)
The picturesque Austrian town of Hallstatt is famous for a reason,
Skiing*/Hiking/Climbing in the Mountains (2-7 days)
One of the reasons why I keep returning to Austria is the outdoors. If you’re visiting Austria in early fall, late spring, or summer, you should be able to enjoy some of the spectacular hiking that you can do in the mountains. (Check the weather!) If you’re hiking up a mountain that has a lift, you can save some money by hiking only one direction (e.g. up!)
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, you’ll find lots of great rock climbing in Austria. The most popular form of climbing is called
If you’re visiting Austria in winter, it’s hard to ignore the fantastic skiing that you can do in many parts of the country! Although skiing in Austria is not particularly a budget activity, there’s a reason why people flock each year to revisit Austria…