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Seeing Austria by Train


Ready to hit the rails in Austria for Vienna, Salzburg, and beyond? Adding places like Innsbruck and Graz, pictured above, to your train plans allows you to discover and experience the regional differences around this country filled with wonderful wines, spectacular scenery, delicious dining, and vibrant arts.

Excerpt below from 8/17/2022 Virtuoso article produced with the Austrain Tourist Office can be found here.

Just like its decadent Sacher-Torte dessert, Austria is worth savoring. Life in this mountainous central European country – surrounded by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland – waltzes gracefully from Alpine landscapes and farm-to-table meals in the west to museums, cafés, and vineyards around its eastern capital of Vienna. One of the simplest (and most sustainable) ways to get a taste of this beautiful country is to hop on a train – a mode of transportation that emits up to 75 percent fewer carbon emissions than air or car travel.

Reliable service on trains serviced by ÖBB Austrian Railways – such as the high-speed Railjet, the EuroCity, and the Nightjet – come complete with first-class carriages and lounges, and provide easy connections between the country's most elegant cities and its great outdoors.

Your Virtuoso travel advisor can help you with the logistics, but to get inspired, we’ve highlighted a few potential stops along a two-week, immersive train trip across Austria.

Vienna: Art, culture, and coffee.

While European travelers can make use of frequent rail connections to the Austrian capital and its showstopping Main Train Station (one of the largest train stations in Europe), global visitors will likely fly into Vienna to begin their journey. Remedy any jet lag with a Melange – espresso topped with steamed and foamed milk – and a flaky apple strudel in a classic Viennese café. The city takes its coffee culture seriously: Sink into a cozy, upholstered window booth and watch impeccably dressed men flick through crisp newspapers while tired students scribble in notebooks over cups of coffee.

Visits to Vienna revolve around culture – the city packs more than 100 museums into its modest footprint. The Kunsthistorisches Museum houses an extensive collection of fine art and curiosities, while Klimt's The Kiss draws visitors to the palatial Belvedere museum. Modernist art from Monet to Picasso decorates the walls of the Albertina museum, in the stately former home of Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph. The Secession Building showcases the birthplace of modernism in the Viennese art world, and Habsburg grandeur radiates throughout Schönbrunn Palace's manicured gardens and gold-leaf-covered royal residences.

Vienna was once home to Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. Take in a performance at the Vienna Opera House (known locally as the Staatsoper) or listen to the symphonic sounds of the Vienna Philharmonic inside the glittering, chandelier-lined Musikverein concert hall.

If you’ve got more than a couple of days to linger, contrast cosmopolitan life with the Vienna Woods, an expansive forest covering the Alps’ foothills just west and northwest of the city. Paved, signposted hiking trails wind past beech and oak trees and alongside vineyards, eventually leading to wood-paneled wine taverns known as Heurigen, which are open each summer and autumn in the surrounding suburbs. Head to Grinzing to taste sweet, young Viennese wine (less than a year old) paired with caraway-roasted pork belly and tangy, paprika-laced cheese spreads in eighteenth-century houses with forest-green doors and geranium-clad balconies. Beethoven used to summer in Nussdorf, where visitors can sip a glass of grüner veltliner in a deck chair overlooking the Danube.

Graz: Authentic cuisine and eye-catching architecture.

From Vienna, the train ride southwest to Graz, Austria's second-largest city, is one of the country's most scenic, including a beautiful crossing of the Semmering Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Graz is famous for its architectural diversity, and Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque architecture intermingle around the Old Town center, including decorative facades on the Hauptplatz (town square); the column-lined, arched balconies of the Grazer Landhaus palace; and Emperor Ferdinand II’s statue-topped mausoleum. Modern additions include the twenty-first-century Kunsthaus, which resembles a bubble-shaped spaceship and houses contemporary art exhibitions with a political, sociological, and cultural slant.

Architecture fans understand the benefits of elevation. For an impressive overview of the city, follow a wooded path, take a hillside funicular, or ride an elevator built inside the hill to survey the city’s red rooftops and church spires from the former fortress of Schlossberg. Prickett recommends the Schlossbergrutsche, the world's tallest underground slide, for a fun twist on getting back down.

Graz lies in the heart of Styria, a province known for its wine, artisanal bread, cured meats and cheeses, and local produce. A gourmet lettuce called Grazer Krauthäuptel was named after the city, and Styrian pumpkin seed oil is known locally as “green gold.” Visit a farmers’ market for picnic-worthy regional specialties, such as freshly baked bread and volcano-land cured ham spiced with horseradish. For a sit-down meal, stop into Der Steirer restaurant and wine bar for a taste of Styrian tapas – quinoa-stuffed zucchini, hazelnut biscuits with yogurt and sour cherry, or Backhendl, the local take on fried chicken – in a long dining hall under arched ceilings.

Salzburg: Sound of Music style and a stunning lake district.


Book a first-class seat with snacks and drinks for the four-hour train ride northwest to Salzburg, where narrow, cobblestoned streets meander around stuccoed baroque houses that hug the banks of the Salzach River. Like Graz, Salzburg is another place best admired from above: A 20- to 30-minute, paved, hillside hike (or a one-minute funicular ride) leads to the ivory Hohensalzburg Fortress, with views across the city and the Alps.

Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, and music lovers can visit his childhood home, complete with child-size instruments. If your musical stylings lean more “Do-Re-Mi” than Symphony no. 40, ask your travel advisor to book a private tour of The Sound of Music filming locations, scattered throughout Salzburg and the surrounding lake district. (The classic Julie Andrews film was shot here in 1964.)

Salzburg also makes a great base to explore the countryside. A two-and-a-half-hour train ride (plus a 15-minute ferry ride) takes travelers to Hallstatt, a pastel-hued, Instagram-beloved village clinging to the rocky edge of an Alpine lake. Hop on a boat from Hallstatt’s train station for the best views of this peaceful area.

Innsbruck: Medieval villages and Swarovski crystals.

Finish your Austrian grand tour in the Tyrol, a western Austrian Alps region two hours by train from Salzburg that feels like a Wes Anderson film set, with jagged Nordkette Mountain peaks rising behind tightly packed buildings in peach, mint, and lilac shades along the Inn River. As the golden hour approaches, get your camera ready to capture one of Austria’s most photographed buildings, the Golden Roof, an ornate fifteenth-century, mural-covered balcony that was built for Maximilian I, the Holy Roman emperor. Or take a field trip to Swarovski Crystal Worlds, a glittering theme park that includes mirrors and crystal centerpieces housed inside a Tyrolean hill that adds a bit of sparkle to the region – and your journey – with a crystal carousel, a hand-shaped hedge maze, and an 800,000-crystal cloud in the surrounding gardens.

From Innsbruck, head into the hills via a 70-minute train ride to visit the Alpine village of St. Anton am Arlberg, where you can hike the Antonius Trail to the Stockibach waterfall or take a cable car to admire the Alps from a viewing platform atop Valluga Mountain. Like everywhere else you'll journey via train in Austria, the views here will stay with you for years to come.

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