Known for its grand imperial architecture and classical charm, Vienna is a city where a few days spent sightseeing will only scratch the surface. And yet, one of the best things you can do while in Vienna is to leave the city behind, to one of the many other wonderful places which are not that far away. With countless options for day trips, it’s best you build at least one day into your Vienna itinerary for day trips, if not more. Not only are there all the things to see in Austria outside of Vienna, but there are also other major European cities within reach. Since you’re going to need some ideas of where to visit, we’ve put together this list of the best day trips from Vienna to help get the ball rolling.
Honestly, Prague should only be visited on a day trip as a last resort as you could easily spend several days here seeing all that it has to offer. Sadly, that’s not always possible, so sometimes a day trip will have to do. Start your visit with the Old Town Square, the lively heart of Prague where you can see attractions like the Prague Astronomical Clock, Old Town Hall, and Church of Our Lady Before Tyn all in one go. From there, venture into the city’s old Jewish Quarter of Josefov to see synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Next, it’s time to see the city’s iconic Charles Bridge which crosses the Vltava river and is lined with saintly statues. At the far end of the bridge you reach the historic neighborhood of Mala Strana which will take you up to Prague Castle. There’s much to see inside the castle grounds, from the Vladislav Hall to St Vitus Cathedral and the panoramic terrace on Hradcany Square which lets you see all of Prague at once.
Getting there: Getting from Vienna to Prague by train can take as long as 4 hours so it’s best to think about a guided tour to help with transport and getting around once in Prague.
Mostly known for its ties to the beloved movie The Sound of Music, there’s a lot more which makes Salzburg one of the best places to visit in Austria. First off, visit the beautiful gardens of Mirabell Palace with its carefully arranged flower beds, statues, and fountains. Then make your way through the city’s Neustadt area, to the Mozart Residence where you’ll find a museum dedicated to the composer’s life in his old family home. Crossing the pretty Salzach River, you’ll come to Salzburg’s Old Town, full of quaint cobblestone streets and the faint sound of classical music. On the spacious Residenzplatz and neighboring Mozartplatz you’ll find various landmarks and museums, including the Salzburg Museum, the Christmas Museum, and the majestic Salzburg Cathedral. Last but not least, venture up to the impressive Hohensalzburg Castle which watches over Salzburg.
Getting there: The quickest way to reach Salzburg from Vienna is to hop aboard the hourly trains which gets there in 2 1/2 hours. If, however, you’d really like to understand why Salzburg is special you’ll need a tour guide to show you around.
While it may seem unlikely, the Hungarian city of Budapest is actually one of the more popular Vienna day trips. Another dynamic capital city of central Europe, Budapest has much to delight visitors with. It only makes sense to start with a trip up to Buda Castle, the large complex which dominates the western bank of the Danube. Not only will you see the large central castle, the Matthias Church, and several key museums, but you can also visit the photographer’s dream of the Fisherman’s Bastion with its lookout towers. Venturing to the city’s other bank you’ll see Hungary’s gorgeous parliament and magnificent Dohány Street Synagogue. Then it’s time to either put on your swim trunks for a thermal bath like Széchenyi Thermal Bath, or hang out in the city’s ruin bars. There’s truly something for everyone in Budapest.
Getting there: You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to travel to Budapest, with hourly trains making the 2 hour 20 minute journey and buses which are only a little slower. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to be shown around and relax as you go, a guided tour is a good option.
It’s not everyday that you can visit one nation’s capital from another’s, but Vienna and Bratislava are close enough to make it a reality. Just across the border into Slovakia, Bratislava just so happens to be one of the best places to visit from Vienna. Much like Vienna, Bratislava is a historic city which centers around its Old Town. On the Main Square you’ll immediately find classic architecture and sights like the vivid tile roof of the Old Town Hall. From there it’s just a short walk to the Primatial Palace where you’ll find an expressive fountain of St George inside the main courtyard. Moving through Old Town, it’s time to see the city’s beloved Michael’s Gate. Leaving the center of the city it’s not too far until you come across the impressive Presidential Palace. Before you leave, one landmark you won’t want to miss is Bratislava Castle sitting on its hill overlooking all of the city and the Danube River.
Getting there: With frequent buses, trains, and even boats traveling between Vienna and Bratislava, you have plenty of choices. Trips usually take 2 hours give or take 15 minutes. For an interesting mix of transport options and a guide to show you around, a tour to Bratislava is what you want.
5. Wachau Valley
Not far from Vienna is the Wachau Valley, which is surely one of the best side trips from Vienna. This enchanting stretch of the Danube River has everything from spectacular landscapes, noteworthy history, and glamorous architecture. Begin at one end of the valley with the immense Melk Abbey, which boasts a palatial interior. From there, head into the quiet valley past sights like Schönbühel Castle to the ruins of Aggstein castle which provides a superb viewpoint. Further on, wander the quaint medieval streets of Durnstein and take a walk up to the castle ruins where Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner. While in town, treat yourself to a taste of the valley’s local apricot liqueur and schnapps. Nearing the other end of the valley, there are places like the town of Krems and Gottweig Abbey to see if you’d like.
Getting there: Both Krems and Melk at either end of the Wachau Valley are more or less an hour from Vienna by train. Public transport through the valley though is only by local bus. For a stress-free trip and the chance to see the valley from a riverboat, an organized tour is the best option.
6. Baden bei Wien
One easy train trip from Vienna and a gentle break from city life, is Baden bei Wien. This town just beyond the Vienna city limits has been known for its thermal springs since as far back as Roman times. While you can certainly spend your time here soaking in the restorative waters of one of the town’s spas, there’s also other things to be done in town. Because it is so close to Vienna, many of the city’s most famous composers throughout history frequently came here to focus, and there are many plaques around town showing where they stayed. Baden is at its prettiest in Kurpark, a formal city garden which gradually merges with the forest of the Vienna Woods. The park is a great place for a stroll and the hilltop offers a nice look at the town below.
Getting there: Baden bei Wien is easy to reach from Vienna, with frequent trips only taking 30 minutes to get there. It’s so close, you can even take a tram there, although that will take more like an hour.
Although Grinzing is actually one of the outer districts of Vienna, you wouldn’t know it by visiting. Sitting at the base of the hills to the city’s north, Grinzing feels more like a small village than part of the nation’s capital. This is because of traditional houses, smaller city streets, and expansive vineyards which surround the district. This is the heart of Vienna’s winemaking industry. The many wine taverns known as heurigen, make popular spots for drinks come the weekend and summer holidays when you can take advantage of the outdoor seating. There aren’t all that many major landmarks here, so just wander around town and go sample some local wines. From Grinzing, it’s just a short trip up the hill to the lookout point of Kahlenberg. With the vineyards around Grinzing in the foreground and the Danube River and Vienna in the distance, this has to be one of the best Vienna views.
Getting there: From the center of Vienna, Grinzing is pretty straightforward to reach. Taking the metro and then a local bus you can reach Grinzing in 30 minutes. Also, there is a tram which goes from just outside the inner city. You can also see Grinzing on this Vienna Woods hiking tour.
For a dose of Austria’s early history before its grand imperial days, Carnuntum is the best place to go and is just a short trip from Vienna. Down by the Danube you’ll find a collection of ruins which were once part of the ancient Roman city of Carnuntum. In its time, Carnuntum was even more important than the Roman city of Vienna, and that clearly comes across when you visit still today. The central focus of the Roman sites is the open-air museum of the Roman City Quarter where buildings have been reconstructed to show what life was like for Romans here. Close by you’ll find the Museum Carnuntinum which houses the most important artefacts discovered from Roman Carnuntum. The rest of the Roman sites however are scattered about in the surrounding countryside. These sites include the Military City’s Amphitheatre, the Civilian City’s Amphitheatre, a practice arena for gladiators and an ancient monumental gate.
Getting there: Your only real option without a car is to catch the train to Carnuntum, with hourly trains getting there in 1 hour 15 minutes.
For many visitors to Austria, Hallstatt is a bucket list destination, making it one of the most sought after day tours from Vienna. Visits here start with a walk through the village to admire the alpine houses, boatsheds, and stunning waterfront. Big landmarks to see include the Marktplatz and Charnel House, a small building of St Michael’s Chapel completely decorated with skulls. What many people don’t realize is that even once you’ve seen Old Town, there’s still plenty more around Hallstatt to visit. There’s the Skywalk Hallstatt Viewpoint which sits up in the hills over town, as well as the fascinating Hallstatt Salt Mine not far away. For more epic views, head around Lake Hallstatt to the 5 Fingers viewpoint on Mount Krippenstein.
Getting there: Reaching Hallstatt from Vienna by public transport is pushing the limits of what is possible in a day trip, which is why it’s best to go with a guided tour. It’s not only a quicker option but they’ll help you maximize your time in Hallstatt.
Austria’s second biggest city, Graz tends to be passed over by travelers who instead seek cities closer to Austria’s incredible Alpine mountains. It’s a pity because this city along the Mur River boasts some lovely sights and great historical character. You’ll want to begin a visit by exploring the Old Town of Graz which has been added to UNESCO’s world heritage list for its renaissance and baroque architecture. Next, it’s up to the top of the Schlossberg, a hill covered in forest and parks where some castle fortifications still remain. Also up on the hill you’ll spy a symbol of the city in the Graz Clock Tower. Back in town, hit up the Landeszeughaus, a museum with the largest historic armoury in the world. It’s then time to cross the river, taking the fascinating Murinsel artificial island to get across. It’s here on the far bank that you’ll reach the bizarre Kunsthaus Graz art museum which is full of modern art.
Getting there: Despite the distance, Graz is easily accessible by both bus and train. Regular buses make the journey in 2 hours 15 minutes, while hourly trains are only a tad slower.
While there are some great trips and tours from Vienna on this list, there are many more places you can visit if you’d like. Think of these ten places as a starting point, day trips you can’t go wrong with, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.