Vienna may be beautiful, but boy is it built-up. And come summertime…sweat-soakingly muggy. That means the stately inner-city parks fill up in no time, and even finding a canal-side patch of concrete can be a struggle. So thank heavens there are plenty of excellent escapes to be had closer to home from Vienna. Whether you fancy treading lush vineyards, forests, and mountains, roaming charming towns, exploring historic castles and magnificent abbeys, or enjoy chilling by the water, our selection of the absolute best day trips from Vienna should cater to day-trippers of all stripes. So… bon voyage!
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23 Best Day Trips from Vienna
Some of our favorite day trips from Vienna can be done easily with the aid of the efficient Austrian public transportation system. If you are planning on doing several (or even just one) during your stay in Vienna, we recommend that you book your accommodation close to one of Vienna’s main train stations. Hotel Motel One Wien Westbahnhof and Novotel Wien Hauptbahnhof are excellent mid-range hotels just outside the stations.
However, due to the remote location of some of these places, they are better reached with the aid of a car. Public transport will still get you there but might take double or triple the time. For detailed transport connections, we suggest you check the Austrian journey planner website or download their app.
I have divided this list into ‘Short Day Trips From Vienna’ and ‘Long Day Trips from Vienna’ based on the distance and general amount of time you would need to spend there. In a nutshell, these are our 23 favorite day trips from Vienna:
- Klosterneuburg Abbey
- Vienna Woods
- Melk Abbey
- Korneuburg & Kreuzenstein Castle
- Baden bei Wien
- Wachau Valley
- Krems an der Donau
- Göttweig Abbey
- Aggstein Castle
- Spitz an der Donau
- Carnuntum Archaeological Park
- Altenburg Abbey
- Grafenegg Castle
- Lake Neusiedl
- Forchtenstein Castle
Short Day Trips from Vienna
We first take a look at the best ‘short day trips from Vienna’. The places listed are located less than 100 km from Vienna and wouldn’t necessarily require a full day to see.
1. Klosterneuburg Abbey
One of the most popular day trips from Vienna, Klosterneuburg Abbey (Stift Klosterneuburg) lies in the small town of Klosterneuburg, just outside Vienna. This imposing Augustinian monastery is oldest and richest in Austria, and its Baroque domes and Neo-Gothic spires soar above the right bank of the Danube River.
Klosterneuburg Abbey traces its origins back to the 12th century when the Babenberg Duke Margrave Leopold III, who, as legend has it, vowed to build an abbey on the spot where he found his wife’s veil, which had been carried off by the wind from a nearby castle. After Leopold was canonized in 1485, and later went on to become the patron saint of Austria, Klosterneuburg became a popular place of pilgrimage.
The vast monastery complex includes a castle tower, a Gothic chapel, the abbey church, and a museum with a collection of Gothic and Baroque sculptures and a gallery of paintings. The abbey’s Romanesque church underwent a series of changes until the 17th and 18th centuries when it acquired its present Baroque interior, replete with frescoes and mountains of stucco-work. The richly gilded choir stalls, the exuberant high altar, and the lovely frescoes all vie for your attention.
Other noteworthy features include the early-Gothic cloister and St. Leopold’s burial chapel. The latter is home to the Verdun Altar, the greatest treasure in all of Klosterneuburg. This stunning winged altarpiece was masterfully crafted by Nicholas of Verdun, a goldsmith and master of enamel from Lorraine. It consists of 51 gilded and enameled tiles depicting Bible scenes.
The former imperial residence at Klosterneuburg is also worth a short visit. Marvel at the Baroque opulence of the royal apartments and the glorious Marble Hall. The Marble Hall is absolutely amazing with its giant oval dome, supported by coupled composite columns and decorated with frescoes extolling the Habsburg dynasty.
I also recommend seeing the monastery’s museum, which holds an impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century paintings, Renaissance bronzes, and Gothic and Baroque sculptures. Particularly worth seeing are the four painted panels, originally attached to the Verdun Altar in 1331.
Klosterneuburg Abbey remains open year-round, but the museum of the monastery is only open on the weekends. The museum can be visited without a guide. Visiting the monastery itself, however, requires participation in a guided tour. For more information about tour times and entrance fees, check here.
Since most of the destinations we’ve listed in this article are in Lower Austria, it might be a good idea for you to purchase the “Lower Austria Card” if you plan on visiting several attractions in the region. This all access card accords you free admission/discounts to over 300 of Lower Austria’s most prominent attractions. The Lower Austria Card is valid from April-March of the following year and is an unbelievable bargain costing only 63 EUR.
2. Vienna Woods
The Vienna Woods (Wienerwald) are a favorite weekend destination for the Viennese. The forested hills of the Vienna Woods span from the northwestern tip of the city limits to the foothills of the Alps, away to the southwest making Vienna one of the few capitals to boast such an impressive green belt on their doorstep.
In the 18th century, affluent folk came to the villages on the vine-clad slopes of the Vienna Woods for the summer. Today, hordes of Viennese and foreign tourists usually descend on the local wine taverns (Heurigen) and cellars on weekends – I strongly advise you to visit here on the weekdays in summer.
The Vienna Woods have been romanticized in operetta, literature, and the famous Strauss waltz and rightly so. Crossed by numerous walking and cycling tracks, the wooded hills covering an area over 1000 sq km are a perfect place for walking, climbing, and mountain biking. There are also some interesting works of art and unique scenery worth seeing.
There are several attractive settlements dotted along the Vienna Woods trails, such as the grape-growing towns of Perchtoldsdorf and Gumpoldskirchen. Also worth seeing are the Liechtenstein Castle, a Gothic castle near Maria Enzersdorf with imposing towers and battlements and the Abbey of the Holy Cross (Stift Heiligenkreuz), a Cistercian abbey that has retained its fine Romanesque-Gothic character and which has more relics of the Holy Cross than any other site in Europe, except Rome.
The picturesque town of Mödling, once a retreat for artists, is situated in the beautiful natural scenery of limestone rocks. If you’re into rock climbing, pay a visit to Peilstein Klettersteig, one of the most picturesque climbs in the region and a favorite among the Viennese.
In the heart of the Vienna Woods lies Mayerling, a tiny hamlet best known for the unresolved deaths of Archduke Rudolf, son of Emperor Franz Joseph, and his mistress, Mary von Vetsera in 1889. The event, which took place in a hunting lodge (now a Carmelite convent), altered the line of Austro-Hungarian succession. The heir apparent became Franz Joseph’s nephew, Archduke Ferdinand, whose murder in Sarajevo sparked World War I.
The small town of Laxenburg, situated 15 km outside the capital, is a popular joint for day-trips from Vienna. Having begun as a hunting lodge, Lachsenburg, the town was restored and enlarged in the 17th century, when it became a favorite retreat for Maria Theresa and other members of the imperial family.
Laxenburg was chosen as a venue for the signing of many important state treaties, including the Pragmatic Sanction which made it possible for a woman, Maria Theresa, to accede to the throne. The beautiful main square of Laxenburg is dominated by the attractive Town Hall (Rathaus) and the imposing spire of the Church of the Holy Cross.
Laxenburg is also famous for its former imperial palace. The impressive palace is well known for its manicured, English-style palace garden. These historic gardens were one of the grandest such palace parks in Europe at the time of Emperor Joseph II. Its woods are dotted with various follies: a Neoclassical temple, a grotto, and a jousting arena. The gardens offer many recreational facilities such as boat rentals, cycling, skating, swimming, mini-golf, etc.
The part of the palace buildings particularly worth visiting is the early 19th-century Franzensburg Castle, a mock-Gothic moated castle. Built on an island in an artificial lake within the palace grounds, it features numerous turrets, watch-towers, iron gates, and portcullises.
The castle was furnished with original objects collected and pillaged from all over the Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as the ceiling in the Hungarian Coronation Room from the Hungarian town of Eger and the 12th-century columns from Klosterneuburg. There’s also plenty of arms and armor, and portraits and busts of the Habsburgs on display.
The Laxenburg Palace Gardens are open daily from 08:00-19:00. The entrance costs 2.80 EUR. From April-November, you can also explore the Franzensburg Castle, either individually or as part of a guided tour. For more information check the website.
4. Melk Abbey
The venerable Melk Abbey (Stift Melk) towers dramatically on a high bluff above the left bank of the Danube, approximately 60 km west of Vienna. Of all the magnificent abbeys in Austria, Melk is undoubtedly the most famous. The words of Empress Maria Theresa speak volumes about Melk: “If I had never come here, I would have regretted it.”
Melk was of great importance to the Romans and later to the Babenbergs, who built a castle here. In the late 11th century, Leopold II invited the Benedictines from Lambach to Melk and granted them land and the castle, which the monks turned into a fortified abbey.
Melk’s influence and renown as a center of learning and culture were well known throughout the region. It’s not hard to see why the Italian philosopher, Umberto Eco, no doubt aware of Melk’s reputation at the time, named the narrator of his 1980 monastic story, The Name of the Rose, after the town.
The original Melk Abbey was gutted by fire during the Turkish invasion of 1683 and lay in ruins till the early 18th century when it was given the full Baroque treatment. The abbey continues to function today, and its monastery school, with around 700 students, remains one of Austria’s most prestigious academic institutions.
Access to the monastery is via several courtyards. Don’t miss the majestic Prelates’ Courtyard which is surrounded by imposing buildings crowned with statues of the prophets and frescoes showing the cardinal virtues. The grand passage is a vast gallery with putti and sculptures. It is designed to provide access to the 88 imperial apartments, some of which are home to the abbey museum where a good deal of medieval reliquaries is on permanent display.
The rest of the abbey museum can be quickly skipped in order to access the two rooms that make the visit to Melk Abbey worth the effort. The first is the red-and-gray Marble Hall, featuring a stunning fresco depicting the Enlightenment. Due to the trompe l’oeil–painted tiers on the ceiling, it appears much higher than it really is. Despite its name, the only furnishings in the hall made from real marble are the doorframes.
The second room is the alluring library. It overflows with ancient tomes that are rebound in matching 18th-century leather and gold leaf and which are stacked up to the ceiling on beautifully carved shelves of aspen, walnut, and oak. In all, there are some 100,000 volumes, including 2000 manuscripts and 1600 incunabula. The ceiling is decorated with a cherub-infested Allegory of Faith fresco.
From here, you take the cantilevered spiral staircase which connects the library with the monastery church of St Peter and St Paul. The unbelievably ornate staircase is predominantly pink with old patterns and blue rails and is a truly stunning piece of Baroque design.
The monastery church dominates the abbey complex with its fanciful symmetrical towers and octagonal dome. Damaged by fire in 1947, the church has been fully restored, and you can’t help but admire ceiling frescoes and the red stucco interior dripping with gold paint. Other highlights of the church are the gilded pulpit and the high altar with its gilded papal crown suspended above the figures of the church’s patron saints, the apostles’ St. Peter and St- Paul.
Throughout the year, the Melk Abbey is open every day from 09:00-17:30. From November-March, you can explore the abbey only as part of a guided tour (tours in German take place every hour while English tours start at 11:00 & 14:00 daily), while from April-October, you can explore the abbey on your own. The regular ticket to the Melk Abbey costs 12.50 EUR while a guided tour costs 14.50 EUR.
5. Korneuburg & Kreuzenstein Castle
The small town of Korneuburg in Lower Austria is one of the best places to visit in the vicinity of Vienna. It once formed a single town with Klosterneuburg and in 1298 it became independent, growing into a vital trading and administrative center. The town is renowned for its main square, which is surrounded by houses with late-Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque facades.
Korneuburg’s lovely Neo-Gothic Town Hall is one of the town’s biggest attractions. This large, irregular, four-winged structure stands out due to its octagonal oriel towers and the presence of its 47-meter tower at the rear. Statues of Emperor Franz Joseph and Duke Albrecht I and the coats of arms of ten crown lands grace its facade on top of the balcony. The foyer and staircase of the interior are fabulous to see and the far-reaching views from the tower make it a great place to visit. The Town Hall tower is freely accessible from Easter to All Saints’ Day (10:00-17:00).
The other notable sight in Korneuburg is the Rococo Church of St. Augustine (Augustinerkirche), whose Baroque decor and rich stucco work are a treat to see. Highlights include the church’s main altar and the Last Supper fresco.
Located immediately north of Korneuburg at the top of a small mountain overlooking the village of Leobensdorf, Kreuzenstein Castle (Burg Kreuzenstein) is one of the most beautiful and historical sights in Lower Austria. Built in the 19th century in Romanesque-Gothic style on the site of a former 12th-century fortress, Kreuzenstein is a must-see for all fans of fortresses and for romantics wishing to travel back in time.
The castle itself is absolutely stunning and its high walls and inner courtyard are reminiscent of the many medieval castles you often see on celluloid. Some well-known films and TV shows have been filmed at Kreuzenstein Castle, most notably Three Musketeers (1993) and Season of the Witch (2011).
There are several interesting things to see inside Kreuzenstein’s interior. The armory has one of the largest and most historically significant weapons collections in Austria. Its chamber is split into two rooms – the anteroom and the cannon room. On display are armor, weapons, shield, and other paraphernalia from various eras.
The majestic Knight’s Hall is another highlight, and its magnificent furnishings lend insight into social life during the heyday of the knighthood. Showpieces include the tiled stove painted with biblical representations, decorative tapestries, a heavy dining table, historic drinking vessels, wooden figures, and a massive cabinet.
Kreuzenstein Castle is open daily (April-October) from 10:00-16:00 (until 17:00 on Sundays and public holidays). Visiting the castle is only possible on a guided tour which usually takes place on the hour. A guided tour generally lasts between 45-60 minutes. Unfortunately, tours are only held in German, but you can get a leaflet in English at the beginning of the tour.
The guided tour costs 12 EUR, payment in cash only! Try going there on a weekday as it gets pretty crowded on the weekends. The one downside of visiting Kreuzenstein Castle is that they are restrictive about taking photographs inside.
6. Baden bei Wien
Poised on the eastern slopes of the Vienna Woods, the spa-town of Baden bei Wien is an easy day-trip from Vienna. At first glance, Baden seems like a sleepy provincial haven of peace for its elderly spa patients. But back in the 18th and 19th centuries, Baden was the most fashionable spa-town in the Habsburg Empire and was for years the summer residence of the Habsburg court. A swim in Baden’s hot thermal baths comes highly recommended and, as the town lies on the cusp of the Vienna Woods, hiking and picnicking possibilities are an additional lure.
Baden bei Wien was already popular in Roman times after Emperor Marcus Aurelius praised its 15 thermal springs. You can still see the Römerquelle (Roman Spring) in the Kurpark, in the center of Baden. Peter the Great of Russia ushered in Baden’s golden age by establishing a spa there at the beginning of the 18th century. For over a century after this time, the list of Baden visitors read like a Who’s Who of the glitterati, with bigwigs like Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, and even Napoleon coming here to wallow in the medicinal waters.
It was also during this period that Baden received many of its characteristic magnolia and ocher Neoclassical buildings and Biedermeier-style villas. Baden’s famous Römertherme bathing complex was constructed over more than a dozen sulfur springs. These springs reach temperatures ranging from 24°– 35°C. I assure you that taking a hot sulfur bath is such a relaxing experience, that you won’t want to leave the water. In summer, you can swim in the open-air thermal springs.
Besides the baths, you should take a short stroll around Baden bei Wien to see some of the other sights. The small, triangular main square, at the center of Baden’s pedestrian zone, is surrounded by Neoclassical buildings including the Town Hall (Rathaus) and the Kaiserhaus, Emperor Franz II’s summer residence from 1813 to 1834. The center of the square is dominated by the Trinity Column, built in 1714, which commemorates the lifting of the plague that swept over Vienna and the Vienna Woods in the Middle Ages.
Classical music aficionados can pay a visit to Beethoven House, a small museum commemorating the time he spent here. Inside you’ll find a trio of relatively modest rooms, furnished with one of Beethoven’s pianos, his bed, pieces of porcelain, some mementos, and photographs of others of his residences around the German-speaking world.
My favorite sight in Baden bei Wien, however, is the lovely Kurpark, which is laid out on the steep slopes of the Vienna Woods. This place is the ideal spot to head to if you desire a leisurely stroll or a picnic area, as the park’s web of paths can take you high above the town. The park is full of pretty flower beds that go well with the monuments to famous artists. If you’re coming to Baden in the summer, you can attend concerts and operas at an open-air theater, or try your luck at the casino.
7. Wachau Valley
The Danube, one of Europe’s most legendary rivers, carves a particularly picturesque path through the Lower Austria’s hills and fields. The Wachau, a narrow stretch of the Danube valley, forms the heart of Lower Austria, famous for its fertile plains, rolling hills, vineyards, and postcard-perfect villages.
Throughout this region, you’ll find swathes of forested slopes, historic towns, imposing castles, ancient monasteries, and ruins from the Stone Age. Due to its natural splendor and cultural importance, the Wachau was added to the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2000.
The Wachau Valley is a place worth visiting solely for its incredible wines. With a 2000-year heritage in viticulture, Some of the world’s greatest white wines grow on the steeply terraced hillsides of the Wachau. Two of the most famous ones produced here are the delicately fruity Rieslings and Grüne Veltliners. Besides these, Neuburgers and Gelbe Muskatellers are also greatly esteemed by wine connoisseurs.
I’m not much of a wine enthusiast but I got to admit there’s something special about sipping a classic wine enjoying the bucolic charm of the Wachau Valley. I highly recommend visiting the famous Kellerberg and Loibenberg vineyards if you love wine.
One of the most popular ways of seeing the Wachau Valley is traveling in tranquility by boat and taking in the pleasant rural vistas. Most of which operate between April and October. This is when the Wachau Valley is at its most picturesque. If you’re interested in a boat tour, I suggest this great one.
8. Krems an der Donau
The 1000-year old town of Krems an der Donau (or simply Krems) lies on the left bank of the Danube River about 80 km west of Vienna. During the 11th and 12th centuries, Krems was a serious rival to Vienna. Together with the once separate town of Stein, Krems is one of the prettiest towns on the Danube. Krems’s allure comes from its townhouses, old churches, courtyards, cobblestones, and partially preserved town walls, all of which certainly make it worth visiting.
Krems’s main thoroughfare, Landstrasse, is a busy, pedestrianized shopping street lined with old buildings. Arguably, the finest of the lot is the Bürgerspitalskirche, built in the mid-15th century on the site of the old Jewish ghetto as the town’s hospital chapel. One of the most prominent buildings here is the 16th-century Baroque Town Hall, whose Renaissance origins are evident in its corner oriel window.
Other notable sights along the street include the medieval Göglhaus and the exquisite arcaded courtyard of Fellnerhof (now home to the Austrian Cultural Association Adult Education Center), completed with Tuscan pillars. The hilly cobbled streets and squares to the north of Landstrasse are home to some of Krems’s best late-medieval buildings. One of the most popular attractions in Krems is the Steiner Gate (Steiner Tor), a chunky belfried 15th-century town gate, flanked by two cone-capped bastions.
The honor of the finest attraction in Krems goes to the late Gothic Piarist Church (Piaristenkirche). It boasts a beautiful ribbed Gothic ceiling, richly carved pillars, and a stunning Baroque altarpiece.
The district of Stein is less frequented than Krems, and kind of feels like a separate town. Much of what to see in Stein lies along its narrow main street, Steiner Landstrasse, a sequence of crumbling old 16th century Renaissance facades with beautiful arcaded courtyards and small cobbled squares. Many of the buildings here sport white quoins that are typical of many of Stein’s old buildings. One of the most enchanting buildings is the Gothic-style Grosser Passauerhof at no.76 which features semicircular crenellations.
9. Göttweig Abbey
The Benedictine Göttweig Abbey stands atop a hilltop on the south bank of the Danube River. It is also called the “Austrian Monte Cassino” due to its magnificent mountain location and its resemblance to the Benedictine mother abbey. Founded by the Bishop of Passau in the Romanesque fashion in the 11th century, the abbey experienced several turbulent times and was eventually rebuilt in the Baroque manner in the 18th century.
The size of the monastery is nothing short of gargantuan and includes a museum spanning three floors covering exhibitions about the history of the abbey and surrounding area, graphics, art, and music. The graphic collection is the second largest in Austria, and most of the graphics are from the Baroque era with works of German, Dutch, Italian, French, and English masters. The music archive of Göttweig Abbey comprises music textbooks, manuscripts, prints, magazines, and historical musical instruments.
To get to the museum, you climb the Imperial Staircase (Kaiserstiege), Göttweig’s most celebrated Baroque masterpiece. This magnificent staircase is lined with pilasters featuring marvelous atlantes, statues representing the four seasons and niches containing urns, symbolizing the 12 months. To top it all, the staircase is decorated with a ceiling fresco celebrating the apotheosis of Emperor Charles VI.
Finally, pay a visit to Göttweig Abbey’s collegiate church. The interior of the church incorporates elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque, and is enriched in pink-and-blue color. The richly gilded Baroque furnishings are the church’s most tantalizing feature, The glittering main altarpiece, flanked by turquoise and gold barley-sugar columns, the painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the magnificent organ are other highlights.
Göttweig Abbey is open daily. The entrance to the church is free while a ticket to the museum costs 8 EUR. The church is open from 05:30-19:30 while the museum runs from 10:00-17:30.
In my humble opinion, the tiny, walled town of Dürnstein is the most beautiful town in the Wachau Valley and probably the most photographed spot in the area. Part of Dürnstein’s fame comes from the fact that the English king Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in the castle above the town.
Dürnstein is tiny and a short stroll on the town’s pretty little main street (Hauptstrasse) takes you past richly adorned 16th-century residences with creamy stucco walls. The street will lead you to the remains of Dürnstein Abbey (Stift Dürnstein), a former Augustinian monastery originally founded in 1410. The Collegiate Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Stiftskirche) is all that remains and stands out due to its striking ice-blue and white Baroque tower, a prominent landmark in the Wachau Valley.
The church received its Baroque facelift in the 18th century when the Baroque style swept Austria. The tower is covered with precious reliefs of Christ’s suffering. The church interior is adorned with plain white stucco reliefs of scenes from the New Testament, The chancel is richly decorated with a large golden globe embellished with reliefs.
Dürnstein Abbey is open from April-October. Opening times are 09:00-18:00 (Monday-Saturday) and 10:00-18:00 (Sundays and public holidays). The entrance costs 6.50 EUR.
The ruins of the Kuenringer Castle (Burgruine Kuenringer) of Dürnstein are a fascinating destination if you don’t mind a stiff fifteen-minute climb up the steps from the town. This is where King Richard the Lionheart of England was held captive after having been captured in 1193 by the Babenberg Duke Leopold V, who kidnapped him on his way home from the Third Crusade. According to popular legend, Richard’s loyal minstrel French minstrel, Jean Blondel, discovered him with a song known only to the two of them. A ransom of 35,000 kg silver was paid and Richard was released.
Kuenringer Castle was established in the 11th century and was heavily damaged in 1645 during the Thirty Years’ War by the passing Swedish army The best thing about ascending to the top of the castle ruins is for the stunning views of Dürnstein and the Wachau Valley. Free entrance and open 24/7.
11. Aggstein Castle
Of all the numerous ruined castles that crown the hills of the Wachau Valley, Aggstein Castle (Burg Aggstein) is easily the most impressive. Literally built into the rock, this 12th-century hilltop castle was built by the Kuenringers, a family of medieval robber-barons who were notorious local highwaymen. The Kuenringers and subsequent owners of the castle exploited its position to control transit traffic on the Danube.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Aggstein was one of the most important fortresses in the region and served to repel attacks by Turks and Swedes. Although much of the old castle is in ruins, large parts of the outer defenses, hidden stairways, courtyards, towers, and the keep are still intact. The old castle kitchens now serve as a small tavern with tables outside in the main courtyard. The viewing platform of the castle ruins provides incredible views of the Danube River and the Wachau Valley.
A macabre spot in the Aggstein Castle is the Rose Garden (Rosengärtlein). The romantic name is misleading since the rose garden is just a rock ledge. Prisoners who refused to pay the unscrupulous Jörg Scheck von Wald a hefty toll to allow their barges to pass were locked up here. Captured prisoners could choose to either starve or jump to their death. Yikes! Because of his horrific acts, Jörg Scheck von Wald ultimately became known to the locals as “Schreckenwald”.
A visit to Aggstein Castle comes highly recommended. Interactive stations and a themed walk through the ruins provide extensive insights into life during the Middle Ages. Aggstein Castle is open daily from 09:00-18:00 (April-October). The entrance to the castle costs 7.50 EUR.
The small village of Weissenkirchen possesses arguably more charm and character than any other place in the Wachau Valley. What makes it fantastic to visit is that it exudes a laid-back elegance and also has stayed under the radar from big crowds. Weissenkirchen’s setting is absolutely gorgeous, set back slightly from the river amidst sloping vineyards.
Weissenkirchen’s narrow lattice of streets focuses on a small cobbled square, overlooked by the pink 16th-century arcaded Renaissance courtyard called Teisenhoferhof. Naturally, a place as beautiful as this has consistently attracted artists since the early 20th century, who come to paint the breathtaking scenery of the Danube Valley. Today, their works can be seen in the Wachau Museum (Tuesday-Sunday: 10:-17:00, April-October) amidst folk artifacts from the region.
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Gothic Parish Church (Pfarrkirche) just above the museum which features superb Gothic statues and a lovely Baroque altar.
13. Spitz an der Donau
Spitz an der Donau (or simply Spitz) is yet another village in the Wachau Valley that enjoys a fairy-tale-like setting. Located at an incredibly scenic curve on the Danube River, the village lies at the foot of steeply terraced hillsides. It’s worth taking a quick stroll through the center of Spitz, particularly around Kirchenplatz, the confluence of several cobbled streets.
There aren’t a whole deal of sights in Spitz except the Gothic Parish Church (Pfarrkirche), which features lovely dappled roof tiles, is well-known for its elaborate window lacework and its remarkable parade of 14th-century sculptures of Christ and the apostles, set in niches of the church’s interior.
Although today the village’s economy depends heavily on viticulture and tourism, less than a century ago the Danube River played a more vital role in local life, through fishing and as a means of transport. This and the history of Danube navigation is highlighted in detail at the excellent Maritime Museum (Schiffahrtsmuseum).
Another attraction worth visiting in Spitz is the ruins of the 12th century Hinterhaus Castle (Burgruine Hinterhaus). Touring the ruins accords you an interesting insight of what medieval defense methods were like. The ruins still offer visitors a fantastic view of the Danube River even today. Free entrance and open 24/7.
14. Carnuntum Archaeological Park
Carnuntum was founded by the Romans as a permanent military camp around 40 AD, In the course of the next century, this little-known ancient settlement became a major strategic, political and economic center of the empire’s fortifications for the region from Vindabona to the east. With a population of over 50,000, it made Vienna seem like a tiny village in comparison. Carnuntum was abandoned by the Romans around 400 AD and soon afterward sacked by the Goths.
Today, the Roman remains are spread across 5 km between the villages of Petronell and Bad Deutsch Altenburg. The whole area has been dubbed the Carnuntum Archaeological Park (Archäologischer Park Carnuntum) and is divided into three main areas: the Roman City Quarter, the Military City’s Amphitheater and the Museum Carnuntinum. Together, all three make Carnuntum a fascinating day trip from Vienna.
The Roman City quarter is an open-air museum, with palace ruins, a Roman villa, and a totally reconstructed temple of Diana. While these are interesting, the road that runs along the western perimeter of the excavations brings you to the more intriguing public baths complex. At certain times throughout the year, the park’s employees put on togas and sandals and take you on a tour of Roman life in the Danube Valley.
The most impressive of the ruins actually stands in the fields a kilometer or so to the southwest of the village. It is the Heathen’s Gate, a gargantuan gateway that was probably a triumphal monument.
The Museum Carnuntinum lies in the spa town of Bad Deutsch Altenburg. Housed in a building looking something like a giant Roman villa, the museum is a pleasure to visit. It houses an extensive collection of ancient Roman pottery, reliefs, busts, and bronzes providing an insight into ancient Roman life.
One of the best individual pieces in the museum is the mostly reconstructed Mithraic relief in the foyer. The relief depicts the Persian deity Mithras slaying a cosmic bull, while a scorpion grasps its genitals and a dog licks its wounds.
Carnuntum Archaeological Park is open daily from 09:00-17:00 (mid-March to mid-November). The entrance to the park costs 12 EUR.
15. Altenburg Abbey
Though not as well known as its sister abbeys of Melk and Göttweig, Altenburg Abbey (Stift Altenburg) is just as beautiful and worth visiting, if not more. It’s definitely my favorite abbey in Lower Austria. Built in the mid-12th century in Romanesque manner, the abbey has a turbulent past and was destroyed and reconstructed as a result of numerous attacks.
After it was ravaged by the Swedish army in 1645, the abbey received its present Baroque makeover. The abbey complex is humongous and comprises a number of landscaped gardens, several courtyards, a collegiate church, a great library, a treasury, and, above all, a crypt.
The collegiate church is simply stunning and a high point of Baroque in Lower Austria. You will find yourself overwhelmed by the sinuous lines, marbled walls, rich stucco work, and over-the-top allegorical scenes. Highlights include the marvelous church organ, richly crafted gilded pulpit, high altar, and the painting of the Assumption of Mary, topped by a representation of the Trinity.
Similar to Göttweig Abbey, Altenburg Abbey also features a grand imperial staircase which is decorated with elaborate tracery, pilasters, busts, and urns. The ceiling fresco depicts Emperor Joseph II as Apollo the Sun King demonstrating how faith, along with the arts and sciences can peacefully coexist.
The library of Altenburg Abbey is one of the best of its ilk I’ve seen. The library’s stupendous Rococo interior and ceiling frescoes show vast allegorical scenes. The most distinctive frescoes are the Judgment of Solomon, the Wisdom of God, and the Light of Faith. It’s also impossible not to be mesmerized by the sheer amount of tomes that rise to three floors in height.
Finally, the best part of visiting Altenburg Abbey is descending to the tantalizing crypt which is entirely covered in stunning ceiling paintings depicting the Dance of Death. You will see illustrations such as skeletons dancing with 18th-century ladies, a vain woman turning to her mirror, and seeing only a skull, all intertwined with images of Christ triumphing over death and Masonic symbols.
Besides this, there is a lot more to see at Altenburg Abbey including some other ornate Baroque rooms, the underground cloister, and a vast Baroque art collection. The great thing about visiting Altenburg Abbey over Melk Abbey or even Göttweig Abbey is that it is way less crowded than the other two.
Altenburg Abbey is open daily from 10:00-17:00 (1st May-26th October). The entrance costs 12 EUR. Ask for an information sheet in English at the ticket counter. So, what are you waiting for? Go there pronto!
16. Grafenegg Castle
The Neo-Gothic Grafenegg Castle (Schloss Grafenegg) is one of the most enchanting castles in Austria. Dating to the end of the 13th century, Grafenegg Castle underwent a metamorphosis several times in the following centuries as the owners changed.
The present cream-colored building dates back to the mid-19th century and features a soaring tower, turrets, grandiose facades, mock-crenellations, stepped gables, and atmospheric arcades. Frankly, the castle’s appearance comes off as English and you can see the influence of the Gothic Tudor style.
As you make your way past the historic courtyard, the first place to head for in the castle is the chapel (Schlosskapelle), an immaculately restored Neo-Gothic chapel energetically decorated in cobalt blue. Note winged altarpiece, and the stalls bursting with pinnacles and rich filigree work.
The decadence of the castle becomes evident as you weave your way through Grafenegg Castle’s numerous state rooms (Prunkräume). These feature heavy wood furnishings, fantastically carved ceilings, lovely figurines, and splendid fireplaces. A ceiling in one room is covered with more than 100 coats of arms. However, they do feel rather empty due to the lack of furniture or other old artifacts.
Grafenegg Castle’s wooded English-style landscaped park features verdant lawns, exotic trees, sculptures, and numerous winding pathways making them a perfect place for picnicking. Grafenegg Castle is also famous for hosting the eponymous music festival, which combines tastings from Austria’s top vineyards with musical programs. Running between mid-June and mid-September each year, a spate of renowned musicians and conductors from across Europe descend upon Grafenegg to delight an auditorium of connoisseurs and music lovers.
Grafenegg Castle is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11:00-17:00 (mid-April to the end of October). The admission to the castle costs 6 EUR. Check the castle website for exact opening hours and prices.
17. Lake Neusiedl
Lake Neusiedl (Neusiedler See), often called the “Jewel of Burgenland” makes for a great day trip from Vienna, especially in the summer. One of the largest lakes in Europe, it lies on the border between Austria and Hungary. The lake itself is a bizarre ecological anomaly as it has no major water source feeding into it – the water just sits on the surface of the land and has a slightly saline quality to it. Underground springs feed it, but when they fail it dries up.
Never much more than one or two meters deep, Lake Neusiedl warms up rapidly in summer making it a magnet for anglers, boaters, kite surfers, and windsurfers. In the summer, hordes of people flock to its lakeside beaches. Other activities include swimming and cycling along its banks. The steppe landscape makes for interesting hikes as well.
One special aspect of Lake Neusiedl is the presence of a thick belt of tall reeds which are ideal nesting grounds for a varied flock of birds. In all, some 250 different species of birds inhabit the lake, including the usual collection of storks, geese, duck, and herons.
There are a couple of places along the periphery of Lake Neusiedl that are especially worth visiting. The best of these is the town of Rust, an exceedingly picturesque little town, built from the profits of the local wine trade. It has a well-preserved Old Town centered on the lovely cobbled Town Hall Square.
The Town Hall is one of the town’s numerous pastel-colored houses, many of which are Renaissance and Baroque in style. Above all else, though, Rust is famous for its white storks, whose nests perch permanently on the chimneys of almost every house in the Old Town.
When visiting Lake Neusiedl, make sure to try the Steckerl, a tasty local fish caught from the lake and grilled barbecue-style with spices. You can get it in most restaurants, but only in the summer months. Burgenland is also famous for its wine and there are endless rows of wine taverns and wineries in the towns by Lake Neusiedl. Stop off at one of the numerous wineries and sample the excellent Chardonnays, Welschriesling and white Burgundies.
Podersdorf am See is one of the best places to go swimming in Lake Neusiedl, as the shore here is relatively free of reeds. Podersdorf also offers excellent pedal boating, sailing, and windsurfing facilities. Over the years, the little town has become a modest summer resort. Just like in Rust, you might see storks nesting in the chimneys of the town’s thatched-roof cottages. One of the most popular romantic photo spots in Podersdorf is by its iconic lighthouse, especially at sunset.
Mörbisch am See is one of the most picturesque towns in all of Austria, with its whitewashed houses strung out like a ribbon. The town’s beautifully scented cobbled courtyards are full of potted plants, vines, and dried corn cobs, which creates an enchanting atmosphere.
If you’re into birdwatching or simply admire the beauty of nature, you definitely ought to visit Seewinkel. The marshy grasslands are a large wildlife sanctuary, laden with tiny saltwater lakes and reed thickets, which provide a haven for a wide variety of flora and fauna. Take a pair of binoculars to spot spoonbills, egrets, storks, the great bustard, or one of the more exotic species of flora that pass through the marshlands.
18. Forchtenstein Castle
Located in a region renowned for its castles, Forchtenstein Castle (Burg Forchtenstein) stands head and shoulders above the rest. This late medieval castle was built in the 14th century by the Mattersdorfer family and occupies a virtually unassailable position on the eastern slopes of the Rosalia Mountains. It was later acquired by the Esterházys, one of the wealthiest and most influential Hungarian noble families.
Forchtenstein Castle saw action in the Turkish sieges of Austria in 1529 and 1683 and was the only fortress in the region not to be captured by the Turks. After the Turkish threat mitigated, the castle became a family arms depot and was later converted into a museum.
The is now home to one the largest private collection of historical arms in Europe. The extensive collection includes Esterházy family memorabilia, a portrait gallery, large paintings of battle scenes, war booty, and hunting arms. The Treasury is another highlight, with its bejeweled armor and stunning Meissen porcelain. One of the best things to see at Forchtenstein Castle is the sublime frescoed courtyard.
Forchtenstein Castle is open daily from April-October. To find out more information about opening hours, guided tours, and prices, check here.
Eisenstadt, the provincial capital of Burgenland, has a rich history which makes it one of the best day trips from Vienna. The town lies on the southern slopes of the Leitha Hills and is very small, known chiefly for its association with the Esterházy family and their famous choirmaster, Joseph Haydn.
Eisenstadt’s Old Town is really small and just consists of three streets. The lively pedestrianized main street is the prettiest of the lot and features striking classical facades. The most prominent building in the Old Town is the magnificent Town Hall (Rathaus). Its fanciful facade is decorated by shapely Baroque gables, oriel windows, folk paintings, and a trio of biblical scenes including the Judgement of Solomon.
Other notable sights worth seeing in Eisenstadt include the Haydn House (where the great composer lived from 1766 to 1778 and which contains a museum geared towards giving an intimate perspective Haydn’s private life), the Burgenland Provincial Museum, the Bergkirche (which contains the tomb of Joseph Haydn), and the Jewish Cemetery.
Of course, the best thing to see in Eisenstadt is the fabulous Esterházy Palace (Schloss Esterházy). This castle was actually built as a medieval fortress in the late 14th century and was given a Baroque facelift in the mid 17th century. It now looks quite like an oversized ocher-yellow French château. Many of the castle’s 256 rooms are now used as offices by the provincial government, but a few rooms are open to the public.
While the Esterházy family rooms are worth viewing, the main attraction of the interior is the majestic Haydn Hall (Haydnsaal). The ceiling of this spectacular room is plastered with more than thirty colorful frescoes, and its walls are lined with painted roundels of Hungarian heroes. Boasting crystal clear acoustics, the legendary composer himself conducted numerous performances of his own music here.
The castle is also home to a gorgeous English-style landscaped park. Its verdant lawns are home to a vast Orangerie and a Neoclassical folly of the Leopoldine Temple. Though Esterházy Palace is open year-round, it has different opening hours depending on the season. To find more information on opening times, guided tours, and prices, check here.
Long Day Trips from Vienna
We now focus on the best ‘long day trips from Vienna’. The places that follow are either located in excess of 100 km from Vienna or would require a full day to see.
Located less than an hour from Vienna by train, Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, makes for a convenient and fun day trip from Vienna. Often overlooked in favor of its more glamorous neighboring capitals of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, Bratislava is relatively free of mass tourist hordes making it a pleasure to explore. Check out our in-depth article about how to spend the perfect day in Bratislava on a day trip from Vienna.
Most of Bratislava’s major attractions lie within the boundaries of its compact Old Town, which itself is a treat to stroll around due to its atmospheric cobbled lanes, colorful historical houses, quirky statues, and inviting public squares. Some of the major attractions in Bratislava’s Old Town include the imposing Gothic-style St. Martin’s Cathedral, the undeniably gorgeous Art Nouveau-style Blue Church, and the 14th-century Gothic Michael’s Gate. To learn more about Bratislava’s Old Town, check out our comprehensive self-guided walking tour of Bratislava.
Just outside the Old Town lie two of Bratislava’s most famous landmarks, the magnificent hilltop Bratislava Castle and the distinctive UFO Bridge. Other noteworthy attractions include the ruins of Devin Castle and the superb Danubiana Art Museum.
Graz, Austria’s second-largest city, is also the most underrated city in the nation. I personally prefer it over any other place in Austria. One of the reasons is that unlike Vienna and Salzburg, which are literally swamped with tourists year-round, Graz has managed to avoid mass tourist hordes, meaning you can enjoy the city in relative solitude. Sure, I may be a little biased since I live here, but there’s no denying that Graz is an unbelievably attractive city with one of the best-preserved Renaissance centers in Europe.
Historically, Graz has always been both politically and culturally very important to Slovenes and Croats. The name Graz even comes from the Slavic word gradec, which means “small castle”. It was formerly spelled as Gratz and the ‘t’ was dropped later.
Graz’s Old Town is the city’s major sightseeing draw. It is packed with atmospheric cobbled alleys, gorgeous red-roofed old buildings, and Baroque church spires. No wonder it has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Some of the best things to explore in the Old Town include the Styrian Armory-the world’s best-preserved collection of old arsenal, the impressive Clock Tower-a symbol of the city, and the historic Graz Cathedral.
Graz is also famous for its diverse collection of museums, the most notable of which is the unique Modern Art Museum. Other notable attractions in the city include the beautiful Eggenberg Palace and the venerable Mariatrost Basilica. To find out more about the best things to do in Graz, click here.
Sitting astride the Salzach River, the city of Salzburg dazzles like a Baroque jewel against a pristine mountain backdrop. A historic city with more than a 1300-year-old history, Salzburg initially prospered from the region’s salt mines. For many, Salzburg is quintessential Austria, offering the best of the country’s Baroque architecture, subalpine scenery, and rich musical heritage.
Due to its architectural splendor, Salzburg is known by a variety of sobriquets such as “the Golden City of High Baroque” and “the Florence of the North”. But it is mostly regarded as “the city of Mozart”, who was born here in 1756. The best place to start exploring Salzburg is its elegant Old Town, known for its narrow streets (many from the Middle Ages) and slender houses. Many of Salzburg’s most famous attractions such as the Salzburg Cathedral, Mozart’s Birthplace, and the former Archbishop’s Residence are located in the Old Town.
When visiting Salzburg, you should definitely try sampling two special desserts. The first is the famous Salzburger Nockerl, a sweet soufflé like dumpling made from a mixture of stiff egg whites, flour, and vanilla, mixed into a thin dough. The second is the ubiquitous Mozartkugel, small round balls containing a core of pistachio, marzipan and nougat and is coated in dark or milk chocolate.
Surveying the city from its rocky dolomite ledge to the south, the Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg) originated in the 11th century. Ascend to the fortress and soak in the atmosphere among its courtyards, bastions, and canons. Take a look at the elegant staterooms, whose interiors are masterpieces of late-Gothic woodcarving. The view from the top of the fortress is breathtaking.
The right bank of the Salzach River is the New Town. Its most interesting sights are the Mirabell Palace, the Mozart Conservatoire, and Kapuzinerberg Hill. The Mirabell Palace and its excellently landscaped gardens are one of the highlights of Salzburg. The gardens are well-known for their statues, most famously displayed in the Dwarfs’ Garden.
Mirabell Gardens is one of the locations in Salzburg where Julie Andrews and the seven Von Trapp children showed off their singing ability in The Sound of Music, and you’ll always see someone enacting the scene from the movie. In fact, it’s difficult to go exploring throughout Salzburg without hearing someone humming a tune from The Sound of Music. If you’re a The Sound of Music buff, you should definitely follow our extensive self-guided Sound of Music Tour Locations Tour which takes you to all the locations used in the film. However, if you don’t want the hassle of a self-guided tour, opt for The Original Sound of Music Tour.
Our final recommendation for a long day trip from Vienna is Linz, Austria, third-largest city. Straddling a scenic spot on the Danube River, Linz has always been an industrial city at heart and owes its former importance and wealth to its position at an intersection of waterways. Greatly overshadowed by Vienna and Salzburg, Linz seems like a modest destination. Still, it is an interesting city to visit and is one of the cultural centers of Austria.
Adolf Hitler spent nine years of his childhood in Linz and always considered the idyllic old city to be his hometown. He eventually planned to retire in Linz, in a home on a hill overlooking the city. Hitler zealously wanted Linz to be the most beautiful city on the Danube, eclipsing both Vienna – which he detested, and Budapest – a city which, in Hitler’s mind, then outshone German cities of the Danube in beauty. He desired to transform Linz into a cultural mecca adorned with monumental buildings and the world’s largest collection of artworks, built around the art Nazis had looted from Europe and stolen from affluent Jews in Germany. Of the grand projects that Hitler had envisioned for Linz, only the Nibelungen Bridge (Nibelungenbrücke) and a spate of communal housing projects were carried out.
Linz’s main square (Hauptplatz) is considered as one of Austria’s most beautiful architectural complexes. The square is one of Europe’s biggest and most beautiful squares, with Baroque and Rococo facades surrounding it. On the east side is the Gothic-style Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus), built in the early 16th century. The heart of the square is dominated by the Baroque Trinity Column (Dreifaltigkeitssäule), built in 1723 to mark the Linz’s deliverance from plague, fire, and Turkish invasions.
When sightseeing in Linz, be sure to check out the Old Cathedral (Alter Dom) and the New Cathedral (Neuer Dom). Both are hallmarks in their own right with the Old Cathedral boasting a beguiling Baroque interior while the Neo-Gothic New Cathedral is the largest (not tallest) cathedral in Austria. Other prominent sights in Linz are the Linz Castle (Linzer Schloss) and the early Renaissance-style Landhaus.
Home to numerous start-ups and global technology companies, Linz is often touted as being the future “Silicon Valley of Central Europe”. The city boasts the avant-garde Ars Electronica Center. Often resembling a huge glass and steel ship when illuminated at night, this futuristic museum hosts alternating exhibitions reflecting the cutting edge of technology and its relationship to humans.
Every September, the museum hosts the annual Ars Electronica Festival, a playground for the next generation of hundreds of creative individuals from around the world active in art, science, technology.
Now, what do you think? What are your favorite day trips from Vienna? Any place we missed on this list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!