The city of Vienna is rightly popular with tourists. They come to admire its imperial splendour and indulge in cake with their coffee. Filling a few days in the Austrian capital isn’t hard at all, especially considering the various day trips from Vienna that are possible.
The city may not be close to Austria’s other popular spots like the Alps, Salzburg or Hallstatt, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing much closer. Vienna also happens to lie extremely close to the borders with several other countries, so of the many Vienna day trips some are actually international excursions. Even the ones in Austria go a little further from spots just on the outskirts of Vienna like Kahlenberg.
Although it’s possible to travel considerably further to visit popular places like Budapest, let’s start with the easy day trips from Vienna first.
After Vienna, one of the other firm favourites in the country’s east is the Wachau Valley. This picturesque stretch along the Danube River often gets seen by river cruises, but it’s also probably the best of the day trips in Austria from Vienna. At this stage, I’ve actually visited the sights of the Wachau Valley three times and still have a few spots along the river to visit.
The Wachau rests roughly 80km west of Vienna and runs between the towns of Krems and Melk. Krems is a rather small destination, with colourful pedestrian streets and a striking city gate. Melk on the other hand is dominated by its massive abbey which sits inside an extravagant palace. This is one attraction that is really worth opening your wallet for, as its incredible interior easily outshines the building’s pretty exterior.
Last but not least is the charmingly historic town of Durnstein. A scenic town directly over the river, it sits between vineyards and the castle in which Richard the Lionheart was held captive after the Crusades. Besides the three towns mentioned here, the valley is home to castles, abbeys, orchards and towns each worth of your time.
Getting There: Both Krems and Melk can be reached by train in 1 hour, with buses running between and to Durnstein. It’s even easier to get about when renting a car or by joining a tour for the day.
Vienna isn’t the only place in Austria to admire the country’s glory days, as is proven by the small city of Eisenstadt nearby. South of Vienna almost at the Hungarian border, a day trip to Eisenstadt shows you another side of the former empire. With its green parks and gentle streets, the quiet city gives you a change of pace from the capital.
The centrepiece of a visit to Eisenstadt is the impressive Esterhazy Palace. The rest of the city seemingly revolves around this grand old building and the vast park grounds behind it. Besides touring the palace, the pretty city streets are a nice place to stroll as you take in other sights like the Cathedral, wonky Haydn Church and the remnants of the old Town Walls. Eisenstadt also shares in Austria’s musical pedigree as the long-time home of famed composer Joseph Haydn.
For those looking to delve even further into the grand, musical past of Austria, Eisenstadt is a valuable destination to consider.
Getting There: Despite how actually close it is to Vienna, the train to Eisenstadt is around 70 minutes one-way. The much faster alternative is renting a car for your time in and around Vienna.
This part of Austria is well-known for its imperial history, but did you know it has Roman history too? Well there is, and it can be see in an ancient Roman city a short trip from Vienna. Around 40km down the Danube River from Vienna you’ll find the remains of Carnuntum, once a major Roman settlement for the region.
The main starting point of a visit to Carnuntum is with the so-called Roman City Quarter, where you’ll find the main museum building. It is here that you’ll learn about the 400 years of Roman history in Carnuntum, as well as aspects of Roman life, such as religion and gladiatorial fights. They’ve even fully reconstructed several Roman homes accurate to life in the 4th century, allowing you to see just how people lived then. Of the many Roman ruins I’ve encountered, this is the first I’ve seen presented in this way, making for an entirely fresh perspective.
Besides the reconstructed city centre at the museum, there are various other remains located around Carnuntum. Most notably, these include several amphitheatres, one from the civil city and one from the military barracks. It may take a little time to get between the sites, but it makes you appreciate even more the scale of this unexpected side of Austria’s history.
Getting There: To get to Carnuntum, simply take the S7 train out past the airport or by renting a car. You may need to walk though or find local transport to reach the scattered sites in the area.
Given its popularity, many people probably think that Salzburg is Austria’s second largest city. That honour actually goes to the city of Graz in the country’s south. Graz is a rather intriguing destination, in that it blends typical traditional buildings with some quirky modern additions. Still, it tends to receive just a fraction of the visitors of places like Hallstatt.
The most popular historical landmarks of Graz tend to revolve around the Schlossberg, a hill overlooking the city. Now what remains of the castle fortifications have been turned into a giant park. It’s here that you find the symbolic clock tower that has become quite the icon. Below the hill you’ll find the UNESCO heritage-listed Old Town, with all the grand architecture you could expect from an Austrian city.
Graz’s modern flourishes tend to gravitate towards the waterfront of the Mur River in the city’s heart. For starters there’s the Murinsel, an artificial island in the river, that looks like a giant, floating basket. Close by lies the Graz Kunsthaus, a modern art museum with a frankly bizarre exterior. It’s this contrast of traditional and modern that really separates the city from Vienna.
Getting There: A little further than most, the city is 2.5 hours away by train. It’s also only a little quicker when taking your rental car there. Tours to Graz from Vienna aren’t all that common unfortunately.
Brno, Czech Republic
People often underestimate the size of Europe thinking you can get anywhere without too much trouble. While that’s mostly flawed, Vienna doesn’t help with the discussion. From the city, it’s actually quite possible to visit places in the Czech Republic to the north, including the major city of Brno.
Greatly overshadowed by Prague, my repeated visits to Brno have left me with a soft spot for the city. Located in the Czech region of southern Moravia, the city offers quite the contrast to the regions of Bohemia. Things aren’t always quite as grand as the capital, owing to their greatly different historical roles. But Brno is also more heavily shaped by its student population, with its cool cafes and modern places to eat.
As for attractions, the most impressive is the imposing Cathedral of St Peter and Paul whose spires stand out everywhere. Špilberk Castle with its views and dark history is a close second though. Brno is certainly a destination you can hope to see much of in a day, as most things are near the central Old Town.
Getting There: The quickest means of reaching Brno is the 1.5 hour train journey from Vienna. The drive is actually longer at closer to the 2 hours, but renting a car does have its benefits. Of course, as does visiting with a tour, although options are limited.
When it comes to a cheap and easy Vienna day trip then heading over the border to Bratislava is ideal. The capital of Slovakia is really quite close and there are so many ways of getting there. Oh and it also happens to be an interesting city, full of sights and insights into Slovakian culture.
With a day trip to Bratislava, you have all the pleasant landmarks of its great Old Town, not to mention the simple magnificence of Bratislava Castle. Within the Old Town, must-see spots include Michael’s Gate, the beautiful tiled roof of the Old Town Hall and the courtyards inside the Primatial Palace. The viewing terraces outside the castle though are possibly my favourite spot in Bratislava. Here you look out over the city’s rooftops and the Danube riverfront.
It’s also possible to experience a little bit of Slovakian cuisine and culture when in Bratislava. There’s the Old Market on SNP Square, to (more) coffee and cake at Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Plus, don’t miss trying halusky in the cellars of Segnerova Kuria. If you’ve ever wondered what Slovakia is like, this quick day trip from Vienna will show you.
Getting There: You’ll find public transport details here if you decide against renting a car. It also happens to be one of the more common day tours from Vienna.
Hungary is the other country that is easily reachable from Vienna, with historic Sopron one of its best offerings. Literally just across the border, Sopron is quite popular with the Viennese for shopping and medical work. What many don’t realise though is that its also quite a delightful destination as well.
The main focus of a visit to this Hungarian city is its walled Old Town as most of the things to do in Sopron can be found there. Within its fragmented town walls lie street after street of distinguished architecture. The city’s Main Square is a perfect example of that. Particularly interesting there is the Fire Tower, from which you get some nice views across the city’s rooftops.
As for learning a bit about Sopron and the history of this part of Hungary, step over to Storno House with its city museum. There’s also the medieval-era Old Synagogue, which details the history of the city’s Jewish community. All in all, Sopron is a simple, yet revealing place to visit from Vienna.
Getting There: From Vienna to Sopron is only 80 minutes by train, although renting a car allows for side trips to places like Eisenstadt above.
Making Day Trips from Vienna
If you’re still in the middle of planning your Vienna visit, these resources on when to visit Vienna and where to stay in Vienna will be extremely useful.
Whether visiting places by train or car is the better option greatly depends on which location. For all train information coming and going from Vienna visit the OBB website.
With a rental car though you can also go further and visit other destinations like Trencin in Slovakia, Koszeg or even Budapest in Hungary. If you do choose to drive into neighbouring countries, make sure to check whether you need a vignette to drive on their motorways, e.g. like you do in Czech Republic.
Finally, if you’re curious about all the different day trip options from Vienna, then its best to head over to Get Your Guide and see what’s available.