The Perfect Austria Road Trip
This blog post was created in partnership with the Austrian Tourist Office, the official tourist office of Austria. Learn more about their services below.
For a small country, Austria holds immense geographic and cultural appeal. This Drive to Discover Austria itinerary will take you on the perfect road trip from Innsbruck to Vienna and includes recommendations for hotels & restaurants along the way. With an Austrian car rental, you can discover the picturesque roads and sweeping vistas of the Austrian Alps. You will find art, music, and stunning scenery in the heart of Europe. Catch a concert in Salzburg
, the proud hometown of Mozart, and then enjoy the modern art and music scene in nearby Linz. Sit in one of the storied cafes of Vienna, or splash into the alpine lakes near Kufstein
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Upon arriving in Innsbruck, you'll find the capital of Tirol a sizeable city with a vibrant history dating to the early middle ages. The old town's colorful facades contrast beautifully with the rugged peaks rising in the background. There are enough cultural attractions to fill several days, but Innsbruck’s main draw is the easily accessible, unspoiled nature surrounding it. Take the Nordkettenbahn directly from the city center to the top of the Nordkette mountain, for stunning views over the town and beyond.
Things To Do in Innsbruck
Innsbruck’s Old Town is a one-stop shop for all kinds of local Tirolean specialties, from speck (cured ham) to the finest Schnapps. Taste your way through samples while exploring landmarks like the Speckschwemme, Innsbruck’s smallest shop and the ultimate destination for delicious cured meats.
Restaurant Recs Innsbruck
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
Things to do in Kufstein
Your journey continues east to the medieval town of Kufstein, which is located halfway between Innsbruck and Salzburg, With its 30,000-year-old history and rich cultural roots, Kufstein is fascinating in its own right -- and a perfect introduction to Tyrolean antiquity, design and arts. From Kufstein continue your journey to the scenic resort town of Zell am See.
Next stop:2 hours & 24 minutes
2. Zell am See
From bluer-than-blue Lake Zell to the snow-white peaks of the Hohe Tauern mountains and then on to its charming village center, Zell am See is tailor-made for the active traveler. In summer, dive into the lake, cycle the picturesque shores or search out the best mountain views. The towering Schmittenhöhe boasts some of the most beautiful vistas of any Austrian mountain. Views feature 30 different 10,000-foot peaks, the lake, the river basin and the entire Saalach Valley. The new cable car from Porsche Design zips to the top, where a high-altitude promenade awaits.
Things to do in Zell am See
A stroll along the Lake Esplanade in Zell am See: Don’t miss the relaxing and scenic walk along the lake Esplanade in Zell am See. In warmer months, visitors can the spectacular late-evening Lake Show featuring water, light, music and lasers. The show is free and happens three times a week in 2015, from May 17 until October 15.
- Organic food and locally sourced produce governs the outstanding menu at Mayer’s at Castle Prielau
- Local, organic food prepared in a regional, traditional way is best enjoyed at the Pfefferbauer. Include stunning views!
Where to Stay in Zell am See
Next stop: 1 hour & 42 minutes
Enjoy a scenic drive from Zell am See to Hallstatt via the Pongau Region and either stay in Hallstatt overnight or continue to Salzburg. Hallstatt, a gorgeous village tucked between majestic peaks and the glassy waters of Hallstätter See, is a pedestrian-only village, so leave your car at one of the nearby parking garages; a shuttle or short walk will take you to the center. The town is known not only for its picturesque beauty and spectacular landscapes but a remarkable 5,000-year history. Both the local World Heritage Museum and the spectacular Salzwelten Hallstatt -- probably the oldest salt mine in the world -- provide an excellent glimpse of that history. And for an excellent view of the town itself, check out the new viewing platform 360 meters above it. The same cable car that takes you to the salt mines will carry you up.
Things to do in Hallstatt
For a refreshing little hike high above the clouds, head to Obertraun, across the lake from Hallstatt. Take the Krippensteinbahn to the top of the mountain, then walk 20 minutes to the "5 Fingers" viewing platform. Shaped like an outstretched hand, the platform hangs 500 meters above the ground and affords spectacular views of the surrounding lakes and high-alpine territory -- including Styria’s highest mountain, the fabled Dachstein.
Restaurant Tip Hallstatt
Next stop: 1 hour & 12 minutes
In Salzburg itself, a spectacular fortress towers over the baroque city center and the city's scattering of museums, palaces and grand churches, all demanding several days of exploration and discovery. But for all its pastoral landscapes and traces of deep history, Salzburg has a thoroughly modern streak, as well. Case in point, the internationally celebrated Museum of Modern Art and the provocative art installations found throughout town. Meanwhile, the flourishing gallery scene and array of music festivals are a testament to a rich life beyond "The Sound of Music."
Restaurant Tips Salzburg
- For more modern decor, a spacious terrace and unforgettable views over Salzburg, visit the M32 at the Museum der Moderne.
- Hotel Sacher Salzburg - Feast on the best Salzburger Nockerl in town while taking in the beautiful views of the city center from across the river on the restaurant's terrace.
Where to Stay in Salzburg
Next stop: 1 hour & 57 minutes
5. Melk via Linz
The A1 highway will take you directly to the quaint riverside town of Melk, roughly two hours away. The first scenic stretch of highway traces the northern edge of the Lake District before reaching Linz after about an hour.
The capital of Upper Austria, Linz is the third-largest city in the country and known for its excellent modern art and science museums, the Lentos and the Ars Electronica Center, respectively. No less rewarding: a piece of famous Linzer Torte, from any number of cafes. Stop at the Konditorei Jindrak
for a slice of Linzer Torte, said to be the oldest known cake recipe in the world. Nearby sites include the St. Florian Abbey, a Baroque jewel founded in the ninth century, and the Mauthausen Memorial, a museum and permanent exhibition on the site of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.
From Linz, head an hour west along the Danube and you'll find the incomparable Wachau Valley. Near Melk, take exit 80-Melk and continue along the B3 until you reach your destination.
The villages of Melk, Duernstein and Krems are without parallel, and a visit to any and all is highly recommended. With its authentic villages, gently rolling hills and lush vineyards, the Wachau Valley is one of the most striking UNESCO world cultural heritage sites to be found. In spring, the riverbanks explode with blooming apricot trees, while fall lights the vineyards in gorgeous reds and yellows. Stop at a wine tavern or wine-tasting room to sample the local signature grapes, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling.
Wine lovers wanting to explore further will be grateful for Langenlois, a wine-growing village in the neighboring Kamptal. Here, the LOISIUM world of wine includes a vinotheque selling local wines at wholesale prices, an architecturally stunning wine visitor center and tasting room, and a museum focusing on the winemaking process and the region's 2,000-year-old viticultural history.
Things to do in Melk
One of the most magnificent abbeys in Austria, Melk Abbey perches above the quaint village of the same name and looks out onto the Danube. The building, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, embodies all the grandeur and splendor of the Baroque age. Explore the library, museum, church, and gardens, then amble through the village below for striking views of the building and its surroundings.
- The Landhaus Bacher is a pilgrimage site for gourmets from nearby Vienna. The popular tasting menu includes wine pairings from one of Austria’s most celebrated kitchens.
- Enjoy simple, authentic and delicious dishes in the romantic garden of the Restaurant Loibnerhof, part of the Knoll family winery.
Where to Stay
Next stop: 1 hour & 7 minutes
Vienna is only an hour from the Wachau. From the B3, merge onto the S5, then follow the A22/E49/E59 until Donaukanal Street/Spittelauer Lände. Follow the B227 along the Danube Canal toward the city center. A car is great for day-trips to the Burgenland and other destinations further afield – otherwise you won't need one in Vienna. The city center was designed for pedestrians, and parking can be a hassle. Instead, rely on the excellent public transportation system to get around.
Most historic sights are located in the 1st district, including the Imperial Palace, the Spanish Riding School and the Mozarthaus Vienna. The Ringstrasse Boulevard circles the inner city and was built on the site of the former city wall. The Ringstrassen Tram offers a convenient way to see all the magnificent buildings that line this famous boulevard, from the Vienna State Opera to the Parliament to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Further afield you’ll find Belvedere Palace, now a celebrated art museum, as well as the beautiful parks, galleries and historic porcelain manufactory of the Augarten. And of course don't miss Schoenbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Imperial family.
Getting to know Vienna from a local perspective means adopting the great Viennese tradition of taking your time to enjoy the finer things in life. Linger over coffee and pastries at a Viennese coffeehouse
, spend an evening tasting local wines and food specialties at a Heuriger (wine tavern) or browse the stalls of fresh produce and local delicacies at the farmers' markets, sampling a bite here and there as you go.
Things to do in Vienna
One of the best ways to explore Vienna is on foot. Most of the attractions inside the magnificent Ringstrasse Boulevard are within walking distance of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, in the heart of the city. It is also one of the greenest metropolises in Europe, with its numerous parks, vast stretches of vineyards and even parts of the Danube-Auen National Park. A guided walking tour with Vienna Walks and Talks takes you off the beaten path and onto the one locals use.
The most authentic Viennese food can be found at a typical Beisl, a kind of inn serving local specialties. Many of these bistros are terrific, but one of our favorites is the Gasthaus Poeschl
, a homey place tucked away on a quiet street off the Kaerntner Strasse.
Where to Stay in Vienna
See a comprehensive list of recommended hotels in Vienna
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