How to Visit the Best of Austria by Train

What better way to travel through Austria's stunning alpine scenery, lush valleys, and historic towns than from the comfort of a train car?

Photo by OEBB, Barbara Seyr

Words by the Austrian National Tourist Office

Jan 26, 2022

ONE OF THE MOST ROMANTIC ways to see Austria is by rails. What better way to travel through stunning alpine scenery, lush valleys, historic towns than from the comfort of a train car?

Getting around this way is also easy, convenient, and cost-effective: Over 6,000 km of railways run through Austria and connect large cities with charming picturesque villages and scenic countryside. You can essentially tour the entire country using the extensive rail system.

Travel all over Austria from Vienna

If you are staying in Vienna and want to see as much of Austria as possible, don’t miss out on one of the many day trips on offer from the capital. Here are our top five favorite destinations accessible by train from Vienna:

1. Salzburg

Salzburg Austria
Salzburg. Photo by Tourismus Salzburg GmbH

Salzburg owes its fame throughout the world to the incomparable charm of its historic urban appearance, the scenic beauty of its surroundings and the coincidence that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born here in 1756. Must visit landmarks are Festung Hohensalzburg, Central Europe’s largest intact fortress which offers fantastic views of the city. Take time out to visit Mozart’s Birth Place in Getreidegasse with its quirky old buildings and romantic alleyways. Other highlights are the cathedral district (DomQuartier), Mirabell Palace with its splendid gardens and Hellbrunn Castle with its ingenious trick fountains and water-powered figures.

The Trapp family and The Sound of Music are inseparably linked with Salzburg. Follow Maria’s footsteps and explore the many locations in the city of Salzburg and the surrounding countryside. The acclaimed Salzburger Festspiele, founded in 1920, are the high point in Salzburg’s culture calendar each summer and include numerous concerts, opera, and theatre performances.

Salzburg is an absolute must-see for any visit to Austria and only 2 ½ hours from Vienna by train.

2. Wachau

Duernstein in Wachau Valley Austria
Duernstein in the Wachau Valley. Photo by OEW, 1000things

Wachau is the perfect destination for a couple’s escape. With its medieval castle ruins and wild and romantic vineyards, the Wachau region is one of the most impressive landscapes in the heart of Austria. The 36 km stretch along the Danube River has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its steep, terraced vineyards are a distinctive characteristic of the region. In spring, the blossoms of the famed Wachau apricot trees fill the air with their sweet aroma and in summer both the delicious wine and yummy apricot dumplings can be enjoyed during a visit to a local Heuriger, a tavern where local winemakers serve their new wines. Other highlights of the Wachau region are the Benedictine abbey of Melk, one of Europe´s most beautiful integrated baroque ensemble and the magnificent village of Dürnstein with its Gothic Abbey, whose blue-and-white tower can be seen from miles around the valley. Believe it or not, this romantic escape is just an hour from Vienna. Catch a train to either Krems or Melk to enjoy the diverse landscape the Wachau region offers.

3. Graz

Graz Austria
Graz. Photo by Graz Tourismus, Harry Schiffer

Considered one of Austria’s hidden secrets, Graz, Austria’s second-largest city, is located in the south of the country and is a popular spot for foodies, history buffs and nature lovers. In its charming historic city center, Graz combines impressive buildings from different architectural epochs and tight alleyways with modern design and architecture. Must-visits are the Styrian Armoury (Landeszeughaus), the world´s largest historic armory collection from medieval times, the Schlossberg hill and clocktower, and the Eggenberg castle, a stunning Baroque palace complex.

Local cuisine using regional and seasonal products can be found at every corner and events like the Graz Food Festival in August and regular farmers’ markets are integral parts of the city. And even the trip to Graz itself is a treat. The Semmeringbahn railway, which was built between 1848 and 1854 and travels 41 km across mountains, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While you simply lean back to relax and marvel at the mountain peaks, castles and forest landscapes passing by, the train comfortably whisks you away to your destination in just over 2 ½ hours from Vienna.

4. Salzkammergut

Hallstatt, Salzkammergut Austria
Hallstatt, Salzkammergut. Photo by OEW, Cross Media Redaktion

Famous for its picturesque village, Hallstatt can also be reached comfortably by train along with many other picture-perfect places in the Salzkammergut region. Take the cable car up the mountains of the Dachstein massif around the lake to encounter the world’s oldest salt mines, the giant ice caves or to simply enjoy the most stunning view across the lake. Visit the enchanting pottery town of Gmunden, where a tram takes you directly from the train station to the town centre and the shore of Lake Traunsee, where you can take a boat tour or visit the famous pottery factory. In Bad Ischl, the train station is located right in the town center. A walk of only a few minutes will take you to the healing springs of the thermal bath, the stunning promenade or the historic Imperial villa (the former summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph and his beloved Sisi). Depending on your chosen destination you might travel just under 3 hours from Vienna.

5. Innsbruck

Innsbruck. Photo by Innsbruck Tourismus, Christof Lackner

In just over four hours from Vienna, you can even get as far West as Innsbruck, also called the capital of the Alpes. Innsbruck offers a unique alpine-urban mixture of mountains and valleys, nature and city. Its most important sights such as the Golden Roof, the Hofburg Palace, the Hofkirche and the cathedral are all within an easy 15-minute walk from the central railway station. But the Alps are also within reach: From the historic city center, it takes only 20 minutes by cable car to reach Nordkette mountain, offering unique views at an altitude of 1,905 m and the chance of combining outdoor activities in alpine nature with city sightseeing at any time of the year. Another must-visit is the magical Swarovski Crystal Worlds with their sparkling chambers of wonder designed by famous artists from around the world. Located just 20 minutes outside of Innsbruck in the village of Wattens, a visit also gives the opportunity to shop at the largest Swarovski store in the world.

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