Thanks to its location on the banks of the Danube in the northeastern foothills of the Alps, the Vienna area offers an abundance of beautiful landscapes to explore, from soaring peaks to emerald green valleys. The town’s central location makes it a convenient base for day trips by train to some of the nearby towns and villages, where you will find magnificent abbeys, lavish palaces and historic sites. For a longer train journey, take the Semmering Railwaythrough the scenic countryside or even travel as far as the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg. If you’re willing to travel even further afield, add some cross-border cities to your itinerary, such as Prague and Budapest. From the beautiful Vienna Woods to mountain peaks and from fine old palaces to exciting day trips by boat, train and road, the city offers some of the best scenery in Austria right on your doorstep.
Plan your adventures with this list of the best day trips from Vienna :
1 The Wachau Valley and Melk Abbey
The beautiful Wachau Valley stretches for about 40 kilometers between the towns of Melk and Krems, about an hour’s drive from Vienna. It is a World Heritage Site for its spectacular scenery and rich history and culture. The River Danube meanders through the valley, past picturesque monasteries, grand castles, villages and vine-covered hills, evoking a scene from the Middle Ages. The area is also a hot spot for foodies and it is one of the most popular places to visit near Vienna.
One of the valley’s top attractions is the magnificent Benedictine Abbey of Melk , perched high on a hill overlooking the River Danube. Highlights include the octagonal domed entrance gate; the Imperial Corridor, lined with priceless art; the museum; the marble hall with frescoes; and the beautiful gardens. The Abbey Church , with its symmetrical twin towers and impressive 18th-century ceiling paintings, is renowned as one of the finest Baroque churches north of the Alps.
An easy way to explore the Wachau Valley, without the stress of driving and possibly missing the highlights, is the Melk Abbey and Danube Valley Day Trip. This full-day tour begins with an air-conditioned coach journey through the beautiful Wachau Valley, while an experienced guide shares information about the area’s history and attractions, and makes a stop at the medieval castle ruins of Burgruine Dürnstein. The tour finale is a relaxing cruise along the Danube River (in season) to Melk, where you can explore the beautiful Benedictine Melk Abbey. This tour includes pick-up from selected hotels, the boat trip (in season) or lunch, and entrance to the abbey.
Read also: Panna National Park
About 240 kilometers from Vienna, Budapest is affectionately known as the “Paris of the East.” It enjoys a beautiful location on the Danube River and is one of the most picturesque cities in all of Europe. While this is a long day trip, it’s worth it for the wealth of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, breathtaking architecture spanning styles from Baroque to Neoclassical and Art Nouveau, and the chance to soak in the city’s famous therapeutic springs. Top attractions here include the World Heritage-listed Castle Hill , home to the 18th century Buda Castle ; the late 19th century Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church ; the beautiful Parliament Buildings ; Heroes’ Square; and City Woodland Park, home to an impressive array of museums, as well as the stunning Vajdahunyad Castle . You could spend days here exploring all the cultural jewels.
An easy way to visit the city from Vienna without moving is with the Budapest Day Trip, which takes you to many of the city’s most famous sights. Vajdahunyad Castle, the Parliament Buildings, Heroes’ Square and Opera House are just a few of the highlights. This full-day tour includes pick-up at selected hotels, a scenic drive through the Hungarian countryside, and a city tour by air-conditioned coach.
About 2.5 hours by train from Vienna, Salzburg is one of Europe’s beauty queens. Dotted with elegant buildings and surrounded by mountains, this picturesque city sits on the Salzach River and is known as the birthplace of Mozart, as well as being the setting for the movie The Sound of Music. Highlights of the city include the World Heritage Old Town , with its beautiful baroque architecture and Salzburg Cathedral ; Hohensalzburg Castle; Mozart’s Birthplace , one of the world’s most popular museums; and the beautiful Mirabell Palace and Gardens , for which the Von Trapp children were famous. A great place to start a walking tour of the city is from the Residenzplatz, one of the city’s largest squares and home to the Residenzbrunnen , an impressive marble fountain by Italian sculptor Tommaso di Garone.
If you don’t want to do this excursion on your own, try the Salzburg Day Trip. This full-day adventure offers plenty of photo opportunities during the spectacular drive through the Austrian Alps, stopping at Lake Mondsee along the way, as well as a stroll through the old town and a visit to the medieval Hohensalzburg Castle, one of the largest in Europe.
Brist with spires and breathtaking architecture, Prague boasts a beautifully preserved Old Town that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s about 180 miles from Vienna, a long day trip, but you can do it and back in one day and get a good feel for the city. The Old Town Square is a wonderful place to start a walk. From here you can visit many old churches, including the famous Týn Church , and the Jewish Quarter . Other important things to do include visiting Prague Castle , with St. Vitus Basilica , St. George’s Basilica and the Old Royal Palace ; and explore Wenceslas Squarein Prague’s New Town, which is also home to the National Museum, as well as fantastic shops and restaurants. Also save time for a walk across the famous Charles bridge and try to see a performance at the National Theater .
To get as much as possible visiting here, consider the Prague Day Trip from Vienna. This well-planned 14-hour tour takes you through the pretty Moravian countryside to Prague for a 2.5-hour guided city tour to see sights such as Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and the National Theatre.
By train you can reach Vienna in less than an hour, the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava is an affordable, fun and easy day trip. The old borders the new in this bustling city, where 18th-century buildings line the streets of the old town and Soviet-era architecture lies not far beyond. The Danube cuts through the city, and Bratislava Castle is the focal point, perched on a plateau above the river, with its stark white walls and red-tiled roof. Start your tour in the 18th-century old pedestrian zone, where you’ll find the old Town Hall , home to Bratislava City Museum , and Michael’s Gate from the original medieval fortifications, as well as many restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Another top attraction isGrassalkovich Palace , where the President of Slovakia resides, and if you feel like getting back to nature, hiking trails run along the surrounding Carpathian Mountains close to the city.
A fun way to travel from Vienna to Bratislava and explore the city without the stress of navigating the city is the Bratislava Day Trip tour. This full-day tour includes a comfortable bus journey to the capital, a walking tour of the old center and all its sights, and a visit to the Rococo-style Grassalkovich Palace. You can upgrade to a high-speed catamaran trip along the Danube on the way back, passing through the Danube wetlands and the Donau-Auen National Park.
6 Klosterneuburg Abbey
On the edge of the Vienna Woods on the northern edge of town, the Augustinian Abbey in the small town of Klosterneuburg draws many visitors. Perched high above the Danube, Klosterneuburg Abbey (Stiftes Klosterneuburg) was founded in the 12th century, and many newer buildings were added in the 18th and 19th centuries. Highlights of this sprawling complex include the church, with its Romanesque and Baroque features, the Leopold Courtyard, and the cloisters of the monastery. The famous Verduner Altarin the Leopold Chapel is especially noteworthy and consists of 45 enamelled panels dating from 1181. The newer baroque building has two copper domes, one surmounted by the German Imperial Crown, the other by the Lower Austrian Archduke Bank. Other notable features include the baroque main staircase; the Marble Hall, with its fine frescoes; the Imperial Apartment; the Tapestry Room; the treasury; and the monastery museum. Also of interest is the nearby town of Kierling , with its Kafka Memorial erected in the room of the sanatorium where the famous writer spent his final days.
Address: Stiftsplatz 1, 3400 Klosterneuburg
Official site: www.stift-klosterneuburg.at/en
7 The Vienna Woods
Famous in song and a favorite destination for the Viennese, the Vienna Woods also has a number of interesting attractions for tourists, including a beautiful monastery, historical sites and natural wonders. A good place to start is atop the 484m Kahlenberg , Vienna’s own ‘mini mountain’, with sweeping views across the city and the Danube to the Little Carpathians and Schneeberg. The baroque Kahlenberg Church (St. Josef auf dem Kahlenberg) was built on the spot where the Polish prince Sobieski defeated the Turkish army and laid siege to Vienna. The Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, built in 1133, is the oldest continuously inhabited Cistercian monastery in the world and one of the most beautiful medieval monasteries. The highlights are the vaulted Romanesque nave (1187); the 13th-century ribbed vault; and the 13th-century choir, considered a masterpiece of Austrian Gothic.
Also in the Vienna Woods is Mayerling , the former Imperial hunting lodge where in 1889 the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth, Crown Prince Rudolph, was found dead with his mistress Baroness Vetsera, an event that shook the Imperial Court to its very foundations. The largest underground lake in Europe, the Seegrotte was formed when a former gypsum mine was flooded, and you can take a boat trip through its underground caves and passages. A good way to combine many of these sights is on the Vienna Woods and Mayerling Half Day Tour, which includes guided visits to the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz and Mayerling, a boat trip on the Seegrotte and a scenic drive through the Vienna Woods, past the fairy – storyLiechtenstein Castle .
Address: Kahlenberg, 1190 Vienna
8 Editor’s Pick De Romeinse stad Carnuntum
Fields, meadows, vineyards and forests are the distinguishing features of the beautiful March-Donauland region east of Vienna. It was here that many famous battles were fought, including one against the Romans and centuries later against the Hungarians, the Turks and the French under Napoleon. The region was perhaps most important to the Roman Empire, as seen in the spectacular ruins of the fortified city they built here, once home to a population of over 50,000. Now part of a beautiful historical attraction, Carnuntum Archaeological Parkis a reconstruction of the main buildings of the 1st-century city, including a manor house, civic house and Roman baths, as well as a semi-reconstructed gladiatorial training arena discovered in 2011. The park offers fun events and programs for the whole family.
Address: Hauptstrasse 1a, 2404 Petronell-Carnuntum
Official site: https://www.carnuntum.at/en
9 Wildpark Lainzer and Baden near Vienna
The Lainzer Wildlife Park (Lainzer Tiergarten) covers 24 square kilometers of the Vienna Woods. Famous as a place of relaxation and escape from the big city, it is a haven for ancient oak and beech trees (some over 350 years old), as well as wildlife such as deer and boar. Once the hunting reserve of Emperor Joseph II, it was enclosed in 1787 by order of Empress Maria Theresa with a 15-mile stonewall. This important protected area was opened to the public in 1921 and includes more than 80 kilometers of hiking trails and a 14-meter-high Hubertuswarte lookout tower on the Kaltbründlberg. Another tourist attraction on the edge of the Vienna Woods is Baden near Vienna, a spa known for its healing waters (the Romans called the city Aquae). Today, nearly 2,000 years later, the city’s sulfur springs still dispense six and a half million gallons of therapeutic hot water every day.
Address: Hietzing-West, 1130 Vienna
10 The village of Grinzing
Just 17 kilometers northeast of Vienna, the pretty village of Grinzing was first mentioned in 1114. Destroyed numerous times by war, the current structures in the village date mainly from the 19th century, and its wooded surroundings, quaint gardens and winding streets, make it a fun place to explore. Grinzing is also unique in that local laws allow individuals to purchase tiny plots of land where grapevines can be grown. It is also known for its many typical Austrian restaurants (Heuriger), famous for indicating whether they are open by placing spruce branches above their entrances. The area is also popular with hikers, especially for the trails around the nearby Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg hills.
11 Heiligenstadt by Beethoven
The oldest of the “Vienna Villages” on the outskirts of the city, Heiligenstadt was incorporated into the Döbling district in 1892 and is famous for its quiet, narrow winding streets, especially around the historic houses of Probusgasse and Armbrustergasse. Be sure to wander around St. Jacob’s Church on Pfarrplatz, built in the Romanesque style on Roman foundations. However, Heiligenstadt’s main claim to fame was the fact that it was visited several times by Ludwig von Beethoven, including in the fall of 1802 while he was working on his Second Symphony. It was here, at 6 Probusgasse, that he wrote his Heiligenstadt will, a letter to his brothers lamenting his increasing deafness (and which he never sent). The house is now a museum – the Beethoven Wohnung Heiligenstadt– dedicated to this period in the life of the composer. (Later a resident of Vienna, Beethoven is buried in the Zentralfriedhof , the city’s largest cemetery.)
Address: Probusgasse 6, 1190 Vienna
12 Haydn’s birthplace and Rohrau Castle
Famous as the birthplace of composer Joseph Haydn in 1732, a trip to Rohrau– just 46 kilometers east of Vienna – is a pleasant way to spend a day. A museum dedicated to the great composer is now housed in the small thatched farmhouse where he was born and features plenty of fascinating exhibits and artifacts related to his life. Also open is the actual room he was born in, refurbished as it would have been at the time. Another highlight of a visit to Rohrau is the castle that once belonged to Count von Harrach. This beautiful attraction is now a fine arts museum with the Count’s vast collection of paintings. In total, more than 200 paintings are kept here, including works by Rubens and Van Dyck.
Address: Schloss Rohrau 1, 2471 Rohrau
Official site: https://schloss-rohrau.at/en/the-castle/
13 Danube boat trips
A trip along the Danube by boat, through the Danube Valley, offers you the chance to see some of the most beautiful scenery around Vienna. Destinations include cities such as Budapest and Bratislava (up to four days round trip), or just a short one or two hour jaunt. In the other direction (upstream) the Danube leads to the Wachau valley or to Melk with its famous abbey. A variety of fun themed cruises are also available, from fine dining to evening classical ballroom dancing. Alternatively, visitors can hire a boat taxi to explore Vienna from the water.
14 Eisenstadt and Esterházy Palace
About an hour south of Vienna, scenic Eisenstadt is known for its connection to one of Austria’s greatest composers, Joseph Haydn. Haydn lived here for many years, and today his house serves as a museum celebrating his life and times (he was buried in the Bergkirche above the town). Be sure to discover the beautiful Old Town , also known as Freistadt (Free City), traversed by three long streets leading to the main square – Hauptstrasse, Pfarrgasse and Haydngasse. Here you will find the 17th century Town Hall (Rathaus). After that, go to Schloss Esterházy, the former palace of the Princes Esterházy. Originally a medieval stronghold, it was rebuilt in Baroque style in 1672, with its beautiful rear facade renovated in Neoclassical style between 1797-1805. Highlights of a visit include the exquisite Haydn Room , with its colorful frescoes and busts (guided tours in English are available).
15 Laa an der Thaya
The old town hall in Laa an der Thaya
Laa an der Thaya is located about 68 kilometers north of Vienna on the Czech border. Highlights of a visit include the remains of the medieval city walls and the huge 13th century moated castle – Laa Castle – with its well-preserved battlements and towers and fine panoramic views. Be sure to visit the Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus), home to the Südmährermuseum Thayaland , an informative local history museum with exhibits of artifacts and traditional clothing. Other notable highlights include the 13th-century Gothic Parish Church of Saint Vitus, with its 1740 High Altar and 1680 Plague and Trinity Columns.