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Vienna is one of Europe’s most beautiful and elegant cities, with a rich cultural and historical legacy. Centrally located on the banks of the Danube and at the foot of the Alps, the Austrian capital makes for a wonderful vacation and serves as a great base for one-day excursions into the countryside or even to other countries.
Whether you want to take in bucolic landscapes, explore mountain villages or check out historic abbeys and palaces, these are the best day trips from Vienna.
Wachau Valley is one of the best day trips from Vienna. The valley stretches eighteen miles along the Danube River between Krems and Melk, and is lined with picturesque villages, ancient castles and some of the country’s best vineyards. At Dürnstein, visit the castle where English King Richard the Lionheart was held captive in 1192. Then, head upstream to Melk Abbey, a stunning monastery built in 1089. Perched on the top of a hill, the Benedictine abbey offers spectacular views of the Danube and the valley below. Visit the monastery’s opulent church, marvel at the lavish interiors, including the Marble Hall’s ceiling frescoes by Austrian Baroque artist Paul Troger, and admire the library’s impressive collection of medieval manuscripts.
How to get there: Rent a car to explore the valley at your own pace. You can also take the bus or train from Vienna to Krems, a 48-mile ride that will take just under an hour, and join a river cruise from there.
The Vienna Woods, formerly the hunting grounds for Austrian royalty, make for a fun and memorable day trip from Vienna. A favorite escape from the city for Viennese people, the woods and its many trails are the perfect place for nature lovers, hikers, and bikers to explore. The Kahlenberg Hill offers breathtaking views of the city. Climb up the nineteenth-century Stefaniewarte viewing tower and visit the historic St. Joseph Church. Then, head to the twelfth-century Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, a stunning display of Romanesque architecture. You can also visit the Mayerling former imperial hunting lodge where Crown Prince Rudolf, heir to the Habsburg crown, was found dead with his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, in 1889. Be sure to sample some wine at a heurige, a local wine tavern.
How to get there: We recommend renting a car to explore the many sites at your own pace. The Woods are a 30-mile ride from the city, and it takes less than an hour to get there.
Located on a hill at the edge of the Vienna Woods, the twelfth-century Gothic-style Liechtenstein Castle looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. Join a guided tour to explore the castle and learn about the fascinating 900-year history of the house of Liechtenstein, and take in the spectacular views of Vienna. Then, walk ten minutes to Seegrotte Hinterbrühl, a vast network of underground caves with the largest subterranean lake in Europe. It was formed by accident in 1912 when a blasting operation in a gypsum mine caused severe flooding in the area. You can take a boat tour through the mysterious underground channels.
How to get there: Liechtenstein Castle is around 17 miles outside of Vienna. Take the train from Vienna’s Meidling train station to Mödling, which will take 15 minutes. From there, take Bus 262 to Siedlungsstraße and walk five minutes to the castle. Seegrotte Hinterbrühl is a ten minute walk from the castle.
The ancient alpine village of Hallstatt makes for a charming day trip from Vienna. Set on the banks of Lake Hallstatt, the old salt mining village is picture-perfect, with its colorful houses reflected into the crystalline water. Take the funicular or hike up the mountain to the Hallstatt Salzwelten (salt mines), which are the oldest in the world. Join the guided tour through the tunnels and enjoy a multimedia light show in the Salzwelten subterranean salt lake. From the Hallstatt Skywalk viewing platform, you can take in sweeping views of the town, the lake, and the surrounding Dachstein mountains. Visitors who are up for an adventure can follow the trail through Echern Valley to the breathtaking Waldbachstrub Waterfall, about one and a half hours from the center of Hallstatt.
How to get there: Take an early train to Attnang-Puchheim, which will take around just over two hours. From there, switch to the train to Hallstatt Station, which will take an hour and ten minutes, and ride the 15-minute ferry across the lake. You can also rent a car, as the 180-mile drive offers wonderful views of the Austrian countryside.
Graz, Austria’s second largest city, makes for an exciting day trip from Vienna. The beautiful city is known for its art, design and architecture, delicious Styrian cuisine, and its mixture of traditional and modern influences. In the center of the city, the Schlossberg Hill is home to the ruins of an ancient fortress and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the Uhrturm (Clock Tower), which offers splendid views of the city.
In the city center, the fifteenth century Gothic Graz Cathedral, filled with religious art and historical relics, is well worth a visit. Graz is also a great city for art lovers, who will enjoy the Kunsthaus Graz (or Graz Art Museum), and the seashell-shaped Murinsel, a floating structure in the center of the River Mur. Be sure to stop at a local restaurant or farmers’ market to try traditional Styrian cuisine, including specialties like Styrian cider, runner beans and pumpkin soup.
How to get there: Take an early train from Vienna’s Wien Hauptbahnhof station to Graz. The 90-mile ride is around two and a half hours.
Klosterneuburg, a magnificent twelfth-century Augustine abbey, is a great day trip from Vienna for visitors passionate about history and theology. The abbey has beautiful stained glass windows, a large wooden Tree of Life, and an important collection of religious art, including the famed Verdun Altar in the Leopold Chapel, which features gold engravings depicting Christian history. In the monastery’s Treasure Chamber, the Archducal Hat of Austria, one of the country’s most precious objects, is on display.
Klosterneuburg is also one of the largest wineries in Austria, producing a variety of wines. You can visit the cellars to learn about the wine operations, and sample some wine at the Klosterneuburg Vinothek.
How to get there: Take the train or Bus 239 from Vienna’s Heiligenstadt station to Klosterneuburg. Ten miles from the capital, the ride to Klosterneuburg takes around forty minutes.
Carnuntum is an ancient Roman archaeological park that makes a great day trip from Vienna for history lovers and families traveling with children. Carnuntum was established in 6 A.D. as a Roman military fortress, and evolved into one of the empire’s most important cities, serving as Marcus Aurelius’ military seat. Start your visit at the Roman City Quarter, where you can walk through fully functional reconstructed homes and public baths to get a sense of what daily life was like in ancient times. Then, visit the Bad Deutsch-Altenburg (Military City) amphitheater where gladiators fought to their deaths, and explore the Bad Deutsch-Altenburg Museum to learn about Vienna’s Roman heritage and life at Carnuntum.
How to get there: Rent a car or take the train from Vienna’s Wien Hauptbahnhof station to Petronell-Carnuntum. The 27-mile ride takes around one hour and fifteen minutes.
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is an easy day trip from Vienna. Explore the cobblestone streets of Bratislava’s Old Town, where you can visit a number of attractions including the famous Bratislava Castle and its Baroque gardens, the well-preserved fourteenth-century Michael’s Gate, which houses the Museum of Arms, and Old Town Hall, home to the Bratislava City Museum.
Art lovers will enjoy the Nedbalka Gallery, showcasing artworks from the nineteenth century onwards. The twentieth century art nouveau Blue Church, dedicated to St. Elizabeth, makes for a memorable visit. From the UFO observation deck over the SNP Bridge, you can take in amazing views of the city, enjoy a romantic dinner, and see a spectacular sunset.
How to get there: The 50-mile train ride from Vienna’s Wien Hauptbahnhof station to Bratislava central station takes just about one hour. You can also take a catamaran along the Danube between the two cities, which will take around one hour and fifteen minutes.