Vienna is known for its imperial glory, but did you know that there are other places in Austria with their own fair share of grandeur? Sure there’s Salzburg on the far side of the country, but a much nearer option is the city of Eisenstadt. Found just outside Vienna, a day trip to Eisenstadt allows you to continue soaking in all of Austria’s extravagance.
Featuring a splendid palace and a close link to renowned Austrian composer Joseph Haydn, Eisenstadt feels like a living museum to Austria’s heyday. That’s not to say the city has seen better days. In fact, it’s every bit as grand as parts of Vienna and proves that the capital wasn’t a one-off. It’s also notably the capital of Burgenland, one of Austria’s states.
So, if you’re considering a day trip from Vienna to Eisenstadt, this is what is in store for you.
A Day Trip to Eisenstadt, Austria
Before we get to the sights of Eisenstadt, a little on getting to Eisenstadt from Vienna. Lying almost due south of the capital, the city is almost the last stop before you reach the Hungarian border. In fact, just a little further and you reach Sopron. If you were to only spend a few hours in each, you could manage a day trip that includes both destinations.
If driving from Vienna, Eisenstadt is a 45 minute drive from the city centre, without taking traffic into consideration. Alternatively, taking the train to Eisenstadt only takes a little over an hour from Hauptbahnhof, meaning it’s a fairly stress-free journey.
The other aspect of day trips is finding somewhere to eat lunch. Rest assured, you’ll find several cafe/restaurants in the centre of Eisenstadt for a midday break. A fairly good choice is the Altes Backhaus restaurant, which features a slightly updated take on a typical Austrian cafe.
The main reason to visit Eisenstadt is without question, Esterhazy Palace. This impressive Baroque palace was the Esterhazy family residence, or more accurately, their main one. A Hungarian noble family that rose to prominence in the 17th century, they acquired the palace and transformed it into the masterpiece above. Less is known about the palace before the Esterhazys other than it dates back to the 13th century.
Visiting the Palace, there are two different tickets to choose from that each include various permanent exhibitions, the castle chapel and the famed Haydnsaal. This magnificent baroque concert hall was where Haydn worked and performed his compositions for over 40 years.
For those that don’t have the time of money to tour the palace, make sure to at least visit its courtyard. Free to the public, the courtyard gives you a better appreciation for how large the palace is. Across its facade you’ll spot sculpted faces that each hold unique and curious expressions on them. There’s also the chance that while in the courtyard, lyrical notes of one Haydn’s pieces will waft out its windows and treat you to a free show.
Streets of Eisenstadt
Given that Eisenstadt isn’t a large city, once you’re there it’s comfortably covered on foot. The city’s main streets, like Hauptstrasse, do their best to match the splendour of Esterhazy Palace. Interesting brick and tile patterns line the pretty streets, not to mention the typical charm of Austrian buildings. Ultimately, the old centre is a network of just a few streets.
People tend to think of alpine houses and chalets when they think of Austria, but this is the flat part of the country. Much like the Wachau, the houses here boast a refined simplicity, only occasionally embellishing a little. As with other places in central Europe, you’ll find a glittering and ornate plague column in the city centre. As I explained for nearby Sopron, these columns were raised after the Black Plague to thank God for its passing and to prevent its return.
Now, if you’re a diehard classical music fan, then you probably don’t want to miss the Haydn House. The composer lived in this house on Joseph Haydn-Gasse (naturally) for 12 years after his promotion to the noble court’s conductor. You’re able to visit this baroque house, admire its contemporary furnishings and see several original instruments.
Old Town Walls and Bastion
Although it’s not really obvious unless you’re standing in front of them, Eisenstadt was once a walled town. The remains of the town walls are found around the Dombastei, one of the bastions built in 1534 after repeat Turkish attacks. The original town walls date back to the 14th century. You’re able to enter into the Dombastei and even climb up its stairs, which bring you to …
The Cathedral and Haydn Church
Sitting just above the Dombastei is St Martin’s Cathedral. As the town of Eisenstadt grew in prominence, so too did the Cathedral. Originally a small 13th century chapel, it was constantly being added upon or repaired throughout its life. Not the most extravagant cathedral I’ve seen in Austria, it still boasts a nice pipe organ and stain glass windows.
Instead, the church that really grabbed my attention was the one we only spotted as we were leaving the city. With its wonky, unconventional roof the Haydn Church literally stopped us in our tracks. We had to pull over so I could get a snap of its segmented roof. Apparently, the church also houses the Haydn Mausoleum, where the composer was laid to rest.
Stroll in the Palace Gardens
A great way to finish off a day trip to Eisenstadt, especially after lunch, is to see the Palace Gardens. Effectively a large park, the Schlosspark as it’s known, features fields, several small lakes and the above Orangery. If you’re not familiar, an orangery was a greenhouse found by noble residences that boasted fruit trees. They protected the fruit trees from the effects of winter, which sound exactly like a luxury of the wealthy back in the 18th century.
The most attractive part of the entire park has to be the English Garden with its rotunda overlooking the small lake. Definitely a great spot to either have a picnic or snap a new profile pic. You can also see the rear, but actually front, of the Esterhazy Palace from here. This includes the impressive palace porte-cochère for the arrival of coaches. The Palace Gardens do help confirm just how well-to-do the Esterhazys must have been, and by extension, Eisenstadt.