Road trip through Austria: the Romantic Road from Salzburg to Vienna
Heading to Austria this summer? We have the perfect suggestion for your holiday; the Romantic Road from Salzburg to Vienna! Discover magnificent lake and mountain views, splendid Baroque architecture and exquisite craftsmanship across 380 kilometres in seven days. If you are travelling by bike instead of car, then obviously you should allow a little more time. Also, choose the federal roads instead of the Westautobahn as the journey is the destination here! We have summarised the most beautiful places and picked a few insider tips for you. Pack your suitcase for a road trip through Austria!
Two days crammed with culture and nature in Salzburg
The starting point of the Romantic Route is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. One of the highlights of this charming, attractive city is the old town, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover magnificent squares such as the Residenzplatz, the Kapitelplatz and the Mozartplatz strolling through winding alleys.
In the heart of the old town lies the Domplatz with the Salzburg Cathedral located here. It dominates the skyline of the old town with its two Baroque towers. Consecrated in 1628, it was damaged by bombs a few months before the end of the Second World War on 16 October 1944. The cathedral’s dome collapsed completely. It was reopened in 1959 and now stands in its new, yet old glory.
Incidentally, Café Tomaselli, the oldest coffee house in Salzburg, is extremely close to the cathedral. Strudels and cakes are still baked according to old customs here. Enjoy a slice surrounded by the charm of old coffee house traditions.
Equally appealing is Salzburg's most famous historic alley, the Getreidegasse. It was already an important traffic route back in Roman times. Even today, numerous wrought-iron guild signs characterise the image of this shopping promenade.
The Mirabell Gardens at Mirabell Palace
From historic buildings to historic gardens, the tour then continues to the beautiful Mirabell Gardens at Mirabell Palace. It was designed in 1690 and has barely changed since then. Mythical creatures and ancient gods are enthroned around every corner. 17 of the original 28 marble dwarfs await your visit in the dwarf garden.
As you would expect, Mirabell Palace itself is also worth seeing. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his father Leopold once played music here in the Marble Hall - nowadays the ballroom is considered one of the most beautiful wedding halls in the world. For opening hours it's best to check the City of Salzburg's website for the current status.
Chic or hearty?
Our tip for a great first evening is to finish the day in style above the rooftops of Salzburg at Imlauer. This restaurant with a rooftop terrace may not be cheap, but it rewards you with a magnificent view of Salzburg. It is less than a three-minute walk from the castle. A little more traditional and down-to-earth is the Gasthaus Wilder Mann, which has been spoiling its guests with local specialities since 1884. You can also reach the inn after just a few minutes walk.
Excursion into nature
Do you fancy a trip into the countryside on your second day? The 640 metre Kapuzinerberg is also popular with Viennese walkers and sportspeople. You can stroll up on footpaths to the Capuchin monastery right in the heart of Salzburg, yet in the middle of dense forest. There are three possible routes. From Linzer Gasse, the path leads up past eleven small Way of the Cross chapels. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the old town.
Also, if you would like to start right after breakfast in the morning, an overnight stay at the nearby Mercure Hotel is a good idea. It is only 800 metres away from Linzer Gasse, the starting point of the trip.
In addition to Mirabell Palace, there is no doubt that Hellbrunn Palace is worth a visit. The castle, which is also well worth visiting, was built in only three years from 1612 to 1615. Alongside the banqueting hall in the castle, the water features in the park are a real highlight! Numerous moving figures and grottos adorned with sculptures make the water features a very special experience - a few refreshing splashes of water are also great on hot days.
Another landmark of the city is the Hohensalzburg Fortress with its Baroque towers and world-famous silhouette. It was built back in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard and is home to many rewarding museums, such as the Festungsmuseum, the Marionettenmuseum and the Rainer-Regimentsmuseum.
Extra tip: Every Sunday at 11.45 a.m. the trumpeters play from the tower. The Baroque fanfares resound all the way down to the Old Town.
Before you get back into the car, you should stop by Konditorei Fürst. This is where the original Salzburg Mozartkugel is made - or more precisely, up to 10,000 a day.
The first stop along the Romantic Road after the city of Mozart is only 30 kilometres away from Salzburg.
The municipality of Mondsee, along with the lake of the same name, is extremely well-known due to its small basilica. This was where the Hollywood musical "Sound of Music" was shot. However, this appealing spot is popular mainly because of the surrounding nature.
150 kilometres of hiking trails offer a variety of options. Whether you simply enjoy a pleasant hike or you are a climbing junkie, you will get your money's worth here. The circular trail from Forsthaus Wartenfels via the summit of the Schober and Frauenkopf only takes two hours. But watch out, the trail is partly secured with ropes, so pack good non-slip footwear.
Fantasiana Strasswalchen Amusement Park
If you're in the mood for a little more action, or you're travelling as a family, then it's worth taking a detour to the Fantasiana Amusement Park in Strasswalchen. More than 50 attractions are divided into seven imaginative theme worlds, from the castle courtyard to the fairytale forest and the western town of "Lucky City".
St. Wolfgang on the Wolfgangsee
The market town of St. Wolfgang lies directly at the foot of the 1783 metre Schafberg mountain - and on the northern shore of the Wolfgangsee. The popular Sommernacht festivals usually take place every 14 days from 29 June onwards (please check with the organiser for daily updates).
St. Wolfgang is worth a detour even after the summer festival. Take a detour up the Schafberg with Austria's steepest steam cog railway. The rack-and-pinion steam locomotive climbs 1,190 metres in 35 minutes. With a bit of luck and good weather, you can take in the panoramic view of the Alpine foothills as far as the Chiemsee and marvel at the mountains as far as the Watzmann.
Craftsmanship in Gosau
Natural scientist Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt called the Gosausee "the eye of God." The municipality of Gosau lies at 767 metres and is surrounded by mountains. As you would expect, there are numerous hiking routes perfect for enjoying wonderful mountain panoramas here.
Alternatively, you can take a little breather from the mountains here and discover something completely different, the craftsmanship of the Gamsjäger family. That’s because this is where unique wood craftsmanship from the Gosau Valley is created. The family is known by the name "Waldweber". Call ahead to ask if and when you can watch the wood turners in action (https://salzdirndl.com/drechseln-gosau/).
Hallstatt - a World Heritage Site
Continue to Hallstatt, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 as the “Hallstatt–Dachstein/Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape”. And why? Take a trip back in time through its 7000-year history at the Welterbemuseum Hallstatt.
If you want to experience history up close and personal, then the oldest salt mine in the world is the place for you. The Hallstatt Salt Worlds are still active today. This is also the site of Europe's oldest wooden staircase, which was only discovered in 2002 in the prehistoric part of the Hallstatt salt mine. If you feel like some daylight, you can head up to the free-floating "Welterbeblick" skywalk 360 metres above the roofs of Hallstatt and look down over the lake and Alpine backdrop.
"Sisi's Kaiservilla" in Bad Ischl
The pretty spa town of Bad Ischl is best known for the Kaiservilla. You can stroll through the original preserved chambers here where Empress ""Sisi"" and Emperor Franz Joseph spent their summer months.
A visit to the Kaiservilla is generally only possible as part of a guided tour. It is best to find out in advance when guided tours will be available once more.
“Via Historica" culture trail in Traunkirchen
The small village of Traunkirchen has numerous historical attractions such as the Baroque parish church, the Johannesbergkapelle and the oldest Calvary in the Salzkammergut on the "Via Historica" culture trail.
Rather than go on a discovery tour on your own, discover the region with its legends and fairy tales here with Franz Bernegger. He knows the story of the “sorceress at the stone" and not only knows how to tell it, but also likes to unpack his Bockpfeife - the Alpine version of the bagpipe.
Grüngeflammte pottery from Gmunden
Gmunden is also a place steeped in history. Follow the "Stories of History" theme trail, which is only 1.2 kilometres long and takes you past many buildings and sights steeped in tradition. Alternatively, you can admire the surrounding landscape on a boat trip with Gisela, the world's oldest paddle steamer built in 1871. The shipping company requests on its homepage that you cover your mouth and nose.
As an Austrian, you are certainly familiar with Grüngeflammte pottery, perhaps there is even one of those ceramic plates in your home? At the Gmunder Keramik Manufaktur in Keramikstrasse 24, you can purchase both traditional and more modern ceramic treasures directly on site.
A little overnight tip in between - the ibis in Wels is just under 40 minutes drive from Gmunden. You are guaranteed a good night's sleep in this modern hotel, which only opened in January 2020.
Benedictine Abbey in Kremsmünster
In Kremsmünster, the Benedictine Abbey from the Baroque period awaits as an impressive work of art. The mighty building complex is one of the largest and most important monastery complexes in Austria, and the history of the monastery dates back to the year 777.
Maria Taferl Pilgrimage Church
The Maria Taferl pilgrimage church - also called the Parish Church of Our Lady of Sorrows - is located in the market town of the same name, on a hill 233 metres above the Danube. As you would expect, the visit is worthwhile not only because of the magnificent long-range view over the Danube valley to the Alps.
The church impresses with its Baroque wealth of golden elements and ceiling frescoes.
Göttweig Abbey is another Baroque jewel, just under an hour's drive from Vienna. This Benedictine monastery, perched 422 metres above the Danube, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Welk Abbey. The monastery was founded back in 1083, and a community of 45 monks still resides there today.
Highlights of this Baroque building certainly include the magnificent gold-decorated organ in the collegiate church and the monumental Kaiserstiege, one of the most imposing Baroque staircases in Europe.
The southern side of the monastery has the highest apricot garden in the Wachau. From the terrace of the monastery restaurant you have a magnificent view of the Danube valley in the Wachau.
Last stop Vienna
After this visit, you will now finish off your trip with two days in the Austrian capital. Although finish is certainly the wrong word, because Vienna offers so many things to see and do that you could fill the two days to the brim with activities.
How about a guided walk to start? In all likelihood, this is probably not your first visit to this historic city of almost 2 million people. On the site http://www.viennawalks.com/ you can book not only the classic history tour but also special tours through the Viennese underworld or get to know the Jewish side of Vienna.
The team of four state-certified guides does not just inspire tourists from abroad. The maximum number of people currently allowed per group is 10. According to the homepage, you can register up to six hours before the tour in question, but it is better to phone or email one day in advance.
The most popular highlights
If you haven't had your fill of Baroque buildings, monasteries and complexes, there are still probably the most famous Viennese cultural treasures to visit.
Schönbrunn Palace was built for Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century, however Kaiser Maximilian had a hunting lodge built there earlier in 1570. Today's palace has no fewer than 1441 rooms and Kaiser Franz Joseph was born in one of them. Mozart once played music in the Hall of Mirrors as a six-year-old prodigy, and Napoleon chose the castle as his headquarters during his occupation. He is said to have used the Napoleon Room, named after him, as his bedroom.
In terms of a personality cult, the magnificent Baroque Belvedere Palace may not quite have the same weight, but today it houses one of Austria's most valuable art collections. Major works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele can be admired here, including Klimt's world-famous Kiss.
Experience Lipizzaners and horsemanship during your romantic road trip at the Spanish Riding School. For information on the opening hours of the oldest riding school in the world, please visit https://www.srs.at/.
The Hofburg is the second imperial residence next to Schönbrunn Palace, and was still the political centre of the monarchy until 1918.
A place in the heavens
You will find peace and complete seclusion in Vienna-Döbling, on the "Am Himmel" site. Kuratorium Wald, a local environmental organisation, has created a splendid place for relaxation in the open air. The Tree of Life Circle consists of 40 trees planted in a circle, where classical music is played at weekends.
The adjacent 484-metre Kahlenberg is also a popular destination. It is one of the most famous vantage points in Vienna - from the Stefaniewarte you can see as far as Lower Austria and, in good weather, the neighbouring Carpathian Mountains in Slovakia.
Finish the evening in style in one of the traditional wine bars, Viennese Heurigen! By the way, Heurige, Viennese wine from the current vintage, is considered young wine until 11 November.
Start your second day in Vienna on the wild side of life: in the Lainzer Tiergarten, the former imperial hunting ground. Today's nature reserve covers an area of 2,450 hectares and is home to deer, roe deer, mouflon as well as wild boar. It is also home to beech and oak trees with trunk diameters of up to four metres.
In total, the zoo has 94 different species - including 13 bat species alone, alongside rare bird species such as the white-backed woodpecker.
Before visiting, find out in advance whether a tour of Hermesvilla, which Kaiser Franz Joseph once gave to his wife Sisi, will be possible. The murals and private glimpses into the lives of the royal couple are fascinating.
The Naschmarkt and other local markets
From strolling through nature to wandering through fruit and clothing stalls, Vienna's Naschmarkt is located right next to the Kettenbrückengasse underground station and is the largest market in the city centre with over 120 stalls and restaurants. You can find Austrian specialities as well as Greek, Turkish or Yugoslavian delicacies here. And an equally popular flea market takes place here every Saturday.
In addition to the most famous Viennese market, there are of course other smaller, local markets:
There are many organic products at the Kutschkermarkt, and on Saturdays farmers from the region come to sell their regional products - a must for many Viennese. The adjacent cafés offer mainly organic and Fairtrade coffee.
Both traditional products and stalls with vegan or gluten-free products can be found at the MeidlingerMarkt. Tradition and modernity meet in the cuisine offered around the market in the form of newly interpreted classics and unconventional concepts.
The area around Brunnenmarkt has now developed into an artists' quarter, with hip eateries setting up shop alongside traditional cafés. This Viennese street market is worth a visit for the multicultural atmosphere alone.
The Rochusmarkt is located on a historic site and an important trade route passed by here as early as 1192. It is popular with the Viennese nowadays not only because of the various food stalls but also because of its wide range of fresh flowers.
The choice of museums in Vienna is vast.
The Natural History Museum invites you to see dinosaurs and Neanderthals.
At the Museum of Illusions, you can once again take creative pictures with optical illusions.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an absolute must for art lovers, both because of its magnificent architecture and its art-historical treasures!
Wiener Schnitzel to finish
What would a visit to Vienna be without Wiener Schnitzel? The Figlmüller is no longer an insider tip, but it is also considered an absolute favourite among Viennese. When there, you can choose between the Wiener Original with veal and the huge Figlmüller Schnitzel made of pork. Make sure to reserve a seat - you won't be the only ones with a big appetite for one of the best Wiener Schnitzels!
Properly satisfied and hopefully with lasting, new impressions, we are now heading back - only that the journey home will be shorter this time.