Itinerary for travelling in Austria for 1 week
Overview: Vienna (2 days) - Wachau, Melk (1 day) - Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut (1-2 days) - Salzburg and the Alps (2 days)
One week efficiently spent will be sufficient to pick some highlights from different parts of Austria. Don′t expect to see everything, but at least you will be able to get a good overview and a teaser for coming back.
Spend two days in Vienna exploring the historical first district (Erster Bezirk) and the Ringstraße with its impressive buildings (Staatsoper, Parliament, city hall, treasury, Hofburg, etc.). Have a melange in a traditional Café. See some of Vienna′s baroque and gothic churches, including the Stephansdom (the cathedral). Go to a concert or the opera in the evening. On day two, go to Schönbrunn Palace and dive into the baroque glory of 18th century Austria. Go to a museum (for example the Kunsthistorisches Museum) and a traditional Heurigen in the evening.
The next day, leave Vienna towards the Wachau area (Lower Austria). Stop by Dürnstein and Melk on your way to the Salzkammergut. On day 4, visit Hallstatt and enjoy the dramatic vistas of the "Ausseerland" region. Visit some of the recreational hubs of the past, like Bad Ischl or Mondsee on the next day and make your way to Salzburg. Explore the city centre (Altstadt), the baroque cathedral and the massive castle (you won′t make all of this in half a day, keep some for the next). Finish the day in the beer halls of the Müllner Bräu.
The next day, go to Mozart′s birthplace, do some "Sound of Music" tackiness if really necessary (note that most Austrians have never heard of the movie). Hike one of the hills of Salzburg or go straight up the Untersberg Mountain for a proper Alpine feel.
With a tour like that, you miss out on a number of top-notch sights, but going for example to the Großglockner (very, very cool road to the highest mountain of Austria) would be too much of a hassle. I suggested a tour that makes an efficient itinerary to see some Austrian highlights, but you can′t expect to get a feel for all of Austria that way.
If you want to vary this itinerary to do a 1-week-tour by public means of transport, I recommend to use Vienna and Salzburg as bases from where you can do day trips into the surroundings of Lower Austria (from Vienna) and the Salzkammergut (from Salzburg). For this case, read my articles on Day-Trips from Vienna and Day-Trips from Salzburg. Trains between Vienna and Salzburg are frequent. Appropriate bus tours in both places are very touristy, but efficient and available all year round.
Itinerary for experiencing all of Austria in 1 day
Stay in Vienna, get up early and secure yourself a nice spot in a Café that suits your preferences (traditional, arty, super-modern or whatever you like). Attach yourself to a Melange and start the day with a "Kaiserfrühstück" (full Viennese breakfast). Bring books, for example "Introducing Austria: A Short History (Studies in Austrian Literature, Culture, and Thought)" by Lonnie Johnson, short stories and novellas by my most appreciated Stefan Zweig, or "Heldenplatz" by Thomas Bernhard (for the more advanced Austria-aficionado; other gems by Bernhard are "Ein Kind" and "Der Untergeher").
I also recommend Arthur Schnitzler's "Traumnovelle", John Irving′s "Setting Free the Bears" or poetry by Georg Trakl. If you are hardcore, bring "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Spend most of the day reading, watching the people around you and drinking coffee. Go for a traditional lunch in some small restaurant.
Go for a walk through Vienna or maybe into a museum, but don′t waste too much of your precious time. Go back to the Café (or maybe try another one), drink more coffee, and go back to reading, watching people, and more reading. In the evening, go to the opera or a concert.
Return to my suggestions for "Austria in 2-3 weeks"
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