When Marcus Aurelius founded Vienna (then Vindobona), he did so with the sharp foresight of a realtor — location, location, location!
While Vienna itself has an incredible offering of tourist attractions, it is beautifully located in close proximity to a number of different sites. These new and exciting locations give you respite from the hustle-and-bustle tourism of Vienna, and all are convenient day trips away from the Gateway to the East. Four day-trip locales stand out above the rest, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Durnstein is two short train rides away from Vienna. It takes approximately an hour to get there, in which time the landscape shifts dramatically from an urban vista to a fertile green haven. While the landscape passes by the window, imagine how little has changed since the landmark event which put this tiny town on the map — the imprisonment of Richard the Lionhearted, King of England.
Once upon a time, Richard the Lionhearted, the King of England, set out on crusade. Upon his return, he was captured by a fellow crusader whom he had somehow offended, and imprisoned in Durnstein Castle. All that remains of Durnstein Castle now are its ruins, perched on top of a hill overlooking the town. These remnants are a fascinating look into the brutal and harsh world of medieval times.
Lower down in the town, Durnstein Abbey is worth exploring for its Baroque-style architecture and its views over the Danube.
Finish off the day with a visit to a heuriger. A heuriger is a very traditional Austrian restaurant, where you eat cold cuts and drink new white wine, locally grown. Enjoy your wine while sitting out under a covered trellis, and admire the slow pace of life outside the Austrian capital.
Graz is the second largest city in Austria, after Vienna, located in the province of Styria (also Arnold Schwarzenegger’s home province). Less than a two-hour train ride will take you down to this Styrian city.
Take time to explore the Old Town, one of the best-preserved in Central Europe. The fabulous architecture, including that of the modern art museum, are not to be missed. Lastly, get your daily exercise by climbing the steep steps up the Schloßberg (castle mountain). From the top, take in the panorama of the city.
Salzburg should not escape your list of fabulous day trips from Vienna. The city is renowned for two reasons: It was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and was the setting for the film The Sound of Music. It is an approximately three-hour train ride away from Vienna.
The Old Town is fascinating to explore, with magnificent cathedrals and quirky modern art museums. Located in the center of the city is a steep hill, at the top of which is the Hohensalzburg Castle — also offering breathtaking vistas. Take some time to stop for refreshments at a café on the cliff side before heading back down the hill.
If you so desire, you can also venture outside the city of Salzburg to visit various filming locations for The Sound of Music. Before heading home, stop into one of the city’s many fabulous restaurants, and see why Salzburg is a city known for its cuisine.
4. Bratislava, Slovakia
Yes, it is also possible to go to another country on a day trip away from Vienna. Wonderfully, the Slovakian capital is about an hour away by train from Vienna, and no visa/passport checks are required at the border.
Like our other day trips, the city is mostly small enough that you can see the highlights in one day. Wander around the beautiful Old Town, and take in the contrast between the Baroque architecture and modern sights like the Novy Most bridge. The highlight of Bratislava is the Bratislava Castle, which redefines ideas of what a castle should look like. Again, be sure to take a peek over the edge at the city lying below.