Situated at the heart of Europe, Vienna is perfectly located for day trips. Whether you want to enjoy Austria’s alpine scenery, see Prague’s fairy-tale castles, view the architecture in Budapest or go wine tasting along the River Danube, there are trips to suit all tastes and budgets.
From Vienna, it’s easy to travel to the Eastern European destinations that neighbour Austria, which offer everything from glorious architecture to buzzing bars and charming old towns. And there’s also plenty to explore in the country itself – experience the beauty of Austria’s natural surroundings by wandering through the Vienna Woods or the vineyards of the Wachau Valley. Alternatively, venture further afield to the mountains and lakes of the Salzburg region, or head to Salzburg city itself to admire Mozart’s birthplace and view film locations from The Sound of Music (1965).
Enjoy river views and make time to relax in Bratislava
Take a trip to the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, which boasts craft-beer bars, an attractive old town and historic palaces. Just an hour’s drive from Vienna, Bratislava is also a great place to relax with a leisurely pace and welcoming cafés and pubs, and the mainly pedestrianised old town is a charming location to enjoy a reasonably priced drink. Those interested in the city’s heritage can explore Bratislava Castle, from where you can enjoy views stretching as far as Hungary and Austria. The castle has towered over the city since the 9th century and once housed the crown jewels of the Kingdom of Hungary. A trip to Bratislava includes the option of a scenic boat ride back to Vienna along the Danube.
World-famous Prague is the ideal location for a romantic day trip from Vienna. Situated around four hours’ drive from the Austrian capital, the Golden City more than delivers with its Gothic architecture, historic centre, boutique shops, microbreweries and cocktail bars. Prague Castle, the former seat of power of the Kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperors, draws millions of visitors annually, and it’s not hard to see why. This tour will show you the sweeping views from Charles Bridge, encompassing an array of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance buildings. You’ll also get the chance to explore the city’s long history, with elements of its Slavic, Hapsburgian and Communist past influencing Prague’s culture and architecture.
The enchanting Wachau Valley in Lower Austria, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, is easily reached from Vienna in around an hour. This wine-tasting tour includes a river cruise between Spitz and Melk and a visit to the popular, pretty town of Dürnstein. Castles and a grand abbey line the River Danube along the way, where vineyards producing the region’s best wines also boast stunning views over the water. While sampling Austrian wines will probably be your priority, it’s also well worth tasting local delicacies at the rustic inns in the area, or try schnapps and other produce made from the region’s famous apricot trees.
The Wachau Valley is not only worth visiting for its wine; the area is also steeped in history. The ancient town of Melk is particularly interesting for history lovers; this tour takes you through the 11th-century Melk Abbey, which towers above the Danube River. View beautifully illuminated medieval manuscripts in the abbey’s library and learn about this area’s storied past. Nearby, the ruins of a castle where Richard the Lionheart was held captive in 1192 loom above the cobbled streets of the town of Dürnstein. Visitors to the region can explore the area by car or take a boat trip along the Danube to take in the attractive river views.
The birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the hugely popular The Sound of Music (1965), Salzburg is a must-see city for many visitors to Austria. Even the journey is an event; the three-hour drive from Vienna to Salzburg is spectacular, winding through mountains and lakes before arriving at the city’s Baroque squares, impressive fortress and pretty cobbled streets. This tour takes you to the house where Mozart was born and many The Sound of Music film locations, such as Mirabell Palace, where the song ‘Do Re Mi’ is sung, and which has beautiful views of the Hohensalzburg Fortress. You’ll also visit some of the city’s main historic sites, such as the 17th-century cathedral where Mozart was baptised and the ancient monastery of St Peter.
Those who want to escape from the bustle of Vienna’s city centre can retreat to the tranquil Vienna Woods, which stretch for miles from the city limits to the foothills of the Alps. In just under an hour’s drive from Vienna, you will arrive in the Helenental Valley, where the secluded Mayerling Hunting Lodge is located. This lodge is where Crown Prince Rudolf and his lover Baroness Vetsera died in an apparent murder-suicide in 1889, changing the course of European history forever. Nearby in the southern part of the Vienna Woods is Heiligenkreuz Abbey, one of the oldest monasteries in the world. Finally, this tour takes you to the spa town of Baden, encircled by woods, where visitors can enjoy hot springs, Biedermeier architecture and beautiful parks.
Visitors can take in the scenery of Austria’s stunning mountains and lakes by travelling around three hours by car to the picture-perfect Hallstatt Lake. Towering mountains are mirrored in the lake, which is bordered by the tiny, fairy-tale village of Hallstatt, with a population of just 750 people. Its alpine cottages date back to the 16th century, though the nearby salt mine has been worked for thousands of years. On the journey back to Vienna, this tour stops at the breezy riviera town of Gmunden, which is known for its handcrafted ceramics and its 11th-century castle, Schloss Ort, in the middle of Traunsee Lake. You can even pick up some authentic porcelain from the town to take home with you.
Lively Budapest is just over a two-and-a-half hour drive from Vienna, and offers a range of fascinating attractions and enjoyable activities. From Art Nouveau spas to grand architecture, cool bars and historical castles, the Hungarian capital is rightly known as the Paris of the East. This bus tour takes you to some of the best sites in Budapest, including Baroque Buda Castle, which is surrounded by cobbled streets and grand houses in the Castle Quarter and is one of the main symbols of the city. Other notable buildings that you’ll learn about include St Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament building, inspired by London’s Palace of Westminster. After a day appreciating the city’s architecture, the trip ends with a relaxing visit to Margaret Island, an oasis of green in the middle of the Danube.