Getting around by train is easy, convenient, and cost-effective. Over 3,700 miles of railways run through Austria and connect both large cities and small villages. You can tour the whole country using the rail system, and this itinerary shows you how.
Day 1: Vienna
Most buildings of interest are in the old town. Here you will find the Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral where Mozart got married, the Imperial Hofburg, plus countless narrow streets and hidden squares. In the evening, enjoy a casual dinner with popular local music at a traditional tavern in the neighbourhood of Grinzing (take tram 38). White wine such as the Grüner Veltliner is the Viennese speciality and it goes particularly well with a good pork dish.
Watch a morning exercise at the Spanish Riding School, attend a Vienna Boys’ Choir performance, visit the central cemetery (Zentralfriedhof, take tram 71) where Strauss, Schubert and Beethoven lie. Falling in love with Vienna? You will find the world’s most famous kiss in Belvedere Palace amidst the largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt.
Vienna has plenty of great art museums such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Leopold Museum, and in the Albertina you will find modern exhibitions. A traditional Viennese coffee house is one of the best places to break up the day. Great writers like Stefan Zweig, Arthur Schnitzler and Thomas Bernhard came here to enjoy a ‘Melange’ coffee and read the newspaper. And there’s nothing like a piece of cake to go with your coffee, like a piece of Sacher Torte or a slice of Wiener Apfelstrudel.
Day 3 and 4: Graz
Use Day 4 to see Graz’ contemporary landmarks. The Kunsthaus contemporary art museum is a sight in itself. Blue and bubble-shaped, the construction looks like a space ship landed in Graz’ stuccoed Old Town. The “Friendly Alien,” as locals call it, is right by the up-and-coming Mariahilferstrasse, lined with cute design shops and coffee shops. Don’t leave without venturing onto the Murinsel, an artificial island suspended inside the Mur river. The shell-like construction is another contemporary accent in the city scape. Graz’ innovative architecture follows you all the way back to the train station. The main terminal’s interior is decorated with abstract graphics and the platform shelter is one undulating metal wave.
Day 5: Salzburg
Baroque Salzburg is surrounded by magical mountains and its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the birthplace of Mozart, and The Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg and its surrounding areas. Hohensalzburg Fortress perches majestically on the Mönchsberg. For splendid views of the city, take a walk to the Museum of Modern Art on the mountain.
One of Salzburg’s most attractive markets is situated in Universitätsplatz square, where you can try local productssuch as Kaspressknödel (bread dumplings filled with cheese). Through a narrow passage walk to Getreidegasse, the iconic main street where Mozart was born, along which you will find beautiful courtyards. For those with a sweet tooth, it is a must to try the most famous dessert in town: the Salzburger Nockerl.
Day 7 and 8: Excursions from Salzburg
Take an early train from Salzburg to Hallsatt (around 2h30m with a change in Attnang-Puchheim) to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of lakes surrounded by mountains. Hallstatt is a real feast for the eyes and at the top of the village you can visit the oldest salt mines in the world. Eat on the banks of one of the lakes where you can enjoy some fresh catch such as Forelle (trout) or Saibling (char).
After lunch, take a regional train from Hallstatt to Bad Ischl (around 25 min), a small historic town with hot thermal springs. It is a tradition to go to the Café Zauner and try their exquisite pastries. Continue with bus 546 (around 25 min) to St. Wolfgang, a charming village, to later take a boat trip along Wolfgangsee lake (around 45 min) to St. Gilgen, the town where Mozart’s sister lived. As the day draws to an end, take bus 150 (around 45 min) back to Salzburg.
From May until late October, you have two options for enjoying the wonders of nature on day 8 of your round trip. The first option takes you to the Krimml Waterfalls, the highest in Europe, in the National Park Hohe Tauern. Take two trains: first a regional train to Zell am See (around 1h35m) and then the local narrow gauge train (around 1h25m); a pleasant trip with great scenery. On Thursdays and in the summer months also on Tuesdays, you can take the nostalgic train with an old steam locomotive. From Krimml station a bus takes you to the village.
The second option is to take the train from Salzburg (around 40 min) to Werfen. Go to the medieval Hohenwerfen Fortress which is situated on a hill with an impressive chain of mountains in the background. Give yourself an hour to visit the castle’s interior and then try to make it to the inner courtyard gardens to watch the spectacular falconry demonstration.
Day 9: Kufstein
Take the Railjet from Salzburg to Kufstein (1h10m). The beautiful town in Tirol’s north has a medieval fortress at its core. Explore the stronghold and enjoy views over the region. Kufstein’s fortress has a local history museum and the world’s largest free-standing organ. Next, stroll through the town center and walk down Römerhofgasse, a charming street lined with wine taverns. Kufstein’s parish church is a late Gothic building dating from around 1400.
About a 15 minute walk south from the church is a traditional Tirolean glass maker. Riedel’s glasses are known around the world for their delicate design. At the factory, you can watch the glass blowers do their work and shop Reidel’s collection of stemware and artful decanters.
Depending on the time you’re traveling, you might be able to watch a performance at the Tirol Festival Erl. The classical music festival’s repertoire spans popular operas and is also known for its Passion Plays.
Day 10: Innsbruck
Take an early train from Kufstein to Innsbruck (40min). We recommend buying the Innsbruck Card for 48 or 72 hours which includes free public transport in the city and to surrounding villages, plus tourist attractions and cable cars.
This beautiful alpine city with its medieval old town is nestled in the Nordkette mountains. Hungerburgbahn Station is one of the most magnificent examples of modern design in Tirol. A rack railway and a cable car take you to where you can enjoy views of the city. And one last cable car takes you to an alpine landscape at over 2,000 meters.
Back down in Innsbruck you can try specialties such as Schlutzkrapfen (dumplings stuffed with cheese or spinach), Käsespätzle (pasta tossed with onions and cheese) and Tiroler Gröstl (a pan with potatoes, meat and vegetables) in one of the traditional restaurants. Dedicate the rest of the day to sightseeing and shopping in town.
Day 12: Excursions from Innsbruck
Early in the morning, make a visit to the village of Wattens to admire the Swarovski Crystal Worlds, also included in the Innsbruck Card. From the station take either a shuttle bus (4 times a day, around 30 min) leading you directly to the entrance, or a commuter train to Fritzens-Wattens (around 16 min) and continue 15 minutes by foot.
Return to Innsbruck and take the STB train from Südtiroler Platz station (around 30 min) to the village of Mutters. From the station, walk towards the church, and on the main street you will find a typical Tirolean farm with painted facades. If you continue to the next stop you will arrive at the Mutteralm cable car (included in the Innsbruck Card) where you can enjoy a half-day hike followed by lunch in a mountain hut.
End the day taking a regional train (only 8 min) to Hall in Tirol. This beautiful medieval town with picturesque streets and squares is well worth a visit with its Hasegg Burg castle (where you find the Mint Museum, also called the birthplace of the Taler coin and the modern day Dollar), the fascinating Magdalena chapel with its frescoes and altar, and the churches of St. Nikolaus and the Jesuits. The town is even more charming admidst the colourful Christmas lights.