The Joys of Train Travel in Austria Span Everything From Adventure To Art (2024)

The Joys of Train Travel in Austria Span Everything From Adventure To Art (1)

ÖBB Personenverkehr AG/Harald Eisenberger

There are unforgettable train journeys tucked away in every corner of the Earth, but perhaps the most under-recognized are those with Austrian Federal Railways. Classic melds with the contemporary aboard Austria’s ÖBB, the country’s national railway company, where the romance of train travel meets engineering ingenuity. There’s no easier (or more sustainable) way for you to relax as you enjoy the views zipping from Vienna, the artistic and intellectual capital of the country, into the heart of the countryside where farm-to-fork cuisine beckons, landscapes amaze, and small villages offer hiking, biking, and intimate retreats.

Along the way, those in first and business classes can enjoy spacious leather seats with electrical outlets, Wi-Fi, a welcome drink, meal service at their seat, and digital access to more than 100 publications. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to take your eyes off mountains and castles, however, as ÖBB whisks and wends you across Austria’s most historic and beautiful sights and cities. Here are some highlights to consider.

Start in the capital, Vienna

Of the few urban cities in the world ringed by lush forests and well-marked hiking trails, Vienna is one of them. Trekkers and cyclists can enjoy the view of oak trees and then segue to oak barrels on City Hiking Trail 5, where cozy Heurigen wine taverns await oenophiles who love to sip what’s local and fresh. Regular rules don’t apply here when it comes to aging, and you’ll learn that in Viennese German, the word heuer translates to “this year.” What’s available for sampling is typically produced from a recent harvest.

If coffee is more your speed, then you’ll want to stop in at Cafe Hawelka. The kaffeehaus has been owned by the same family for three generations, and their buchteln sweet rolls are a highlight.

Coffeehouse culture in Vienna is legendary, and for centuries artists, writers, and thinkers have thrived in their bohemian atmosphere. You can check out some of their masterpieces at the MuseumsQuartier or spend a night listening to classical music at the Vienna State Opera. After all, Austria is the birthplace of Mozart, Strauss, Mahler, Schubert, Bruckner, and Schönberg, to name only a few.

Discover Graz’ museums, architecture, and cuisine

From Vienna, head directly via Railjet to Graz. It’s Austria’s second-largest city, but for many travelers from outside the country, Graz is a gem waiting to be unearthed. The UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site is also a UNESCO City of Design, and there are just as many modern marvels as historic ones. Check out the juxtaposition at the bubble-shaped Kunsthaus museum in the arts district around Mariahilferstrasse, or grab a co*cktail at Murinsel, a floating, glass-paneled island.

Food fans will want to hit up one of two daily farmers markets, since Graz, surrounded by hundreds of farms, is the culinary capital of Austria. Make a picnic from the seasonal treasures at Kaiser Josef Markt or Lendplatz, and grab a souvenir like nutty pumpkin seed oil, Styria’s so-called “green gold.”

Castles, Mozart, and beer in Salzburg

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ÖBB Personenverkehr AG/Georg Pölzleitner

All that glitters isn’t simply gold, as you’ll see while admiring the treasures at Hohensalzburg Fortress after a scenic four-hour train ride to Salzburg. The castle watches over the baroque city from high atop Mönchsberg mountain, Mozart’s birthplace and the filming location of The Sound of Music. You can walk in the composer’s footsteps on charming Getreidegasse, a street lined with courtyards and tiny boutiques where chocolate lovers will find tasty Mozartkugel nougat treats.

Or raise a glass to good times and new discoveries at the Stiegl-Brauwelt museum, an institution devoted to the art of making beer. Brewing culture is strong in Salzburg—Austria’s beer capital with 11 breweries— and it’s easy to strike up a chat with locals at one of the communal tables that fill the beer gardens here.

Hot springs, hikes, and other day trips surrounding Salzburg

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Courtesy of ÖBB/Harald Eisenberger

The beauty of making Salzburg your home base for a few days includes what’s nearby. The city makes for a convenient jumping-off point for taking trains to nearby villages that aren’t often explored by travelers outside of Europe.

If you’re seeking some R&R, head by rail to the hot thermal springs in the small village of Bad Ischl. The healing salt waters made it a fashionable resort in the early 19th century after doctors recommended Archduch*ess Sophie receive saline treatments.

If the Middle Ages fascinate you, there are two must-visit attractions in the countryside outside the city of Salzburg. A train to Werfen includes hiking along the Sound of Music trail, and an opportunity to feel the wind whip through the feathers of birds of prey at Hohenwerfen Fortress. The medieval landmark hosts falconry demonstrations in its impressive courtyard gardens, where other period entertainment includes sword fights.

In Kufstein, a little more than an hour west of Salzburg by train, medieval meets multimedia at the Kufstein Fortress, built in the year 1205 C.E. Visitors can wear 3-D glasses to interact with a hologram, a “talking” painting, and 270-degree projections. It’s an impressive way to experience what life was like here a millennium ago.

Jump into Innsbruck’s mountainous history

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Christof Lackner/Innsbruck Tourismus

Reaching great heights is easy in Innsbruck, a train ride that’s just under two hours from Salzburg. Whether you’re more into the arts or athletics, there’s plenty to marvel at Bergisel Ski Jump. The Zaha Hadid-designed architectural masterpiece towers high above the city overlooking the Nordkette mountain range, and you can visit the lift, jump tower, and glass-walled café for stunning panoramas and traditional Tirolean treats like kasspatzln, a traditional Tirolean dish of spätzle (egg noodles) with cheese.

Use Innsbruck [LINK TO: 3 Ways to Experience Innsbruck, Austria’s Imperial Gem] as your hub for other regional adventures, too. In nearby Wattens, Swarovski Crystal Worlds’ intricate topiary awaits, while 17 futuristic Chambers of Wonder exhibits put you in the center of a gleaming jewel box.

Or, in the village of Mutters, admire the wooden balconies and painted facades of farmhouses en route to take the Mutteralm cable car up the mountain for a hike followed by lunch in a cozy mountain hut. Typical dishes include tasty schlutzkrapfen (dumplings stuffed with cheese or spinach,) and hearty Tiroler gröstl, (a dish of potatoes, meat, and vegetables).

Journey to the top of the world in the Arlberg region

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DIE WEST Werbeagentur/Arlberg Marketing

Venture even further into Alpine paradise in Arlberg, just a one-hour train ride from Innsbruck. There, five intimate villages all feature hikes for varying abilities winding past pristine lakes, streams, and flower-filled fields. Serious trekkers will want to plan ahead to spend several hours outdoors, while others may choose to take the “easy way” on the Galzig and Valluga cable cars that whisk you up 9,222 feet to the top of Valluga, the region’s tallest mountain.

The Joys of Train Travel in Austria Span Everything From Adventure To Art (2024)


The Joys of Train Travel in Austria Span Everything From Adventure To Art? ›

The Semmering Bahn scenic train route runs between Glognitz and Semmering, crossing over 16 viaducts and passing through 15 tunnels. Along the way, you'll see some of Austria's most beautiful nature.

What is the most scenic train ride in Austria? ›

The Semmering Bahn scenic train route runs between Glognitz and Semmering, crossing over 16 viaducts and passing through 15 tunnels. Along the way, you'll see some of Austria's most beautiful nature.

Is it easy to get around Austria by train? ›

Austria's extensive train system is easily one of the most convenient ways to travel between its major cities and small forgotten hamlets.

Is the train ride from Salzburg to Vienna scenic? ›

​IS THE TRAIN ROUTE FROM SALZBURG TO VIENNA SCENIC? ​Apart from enjoying great onboard service, during the ride, you get to witness numerous breathtaking sceneries of picturesque Austria.

Is the train from Vienna to Graz scenic? ›

The Vienna - Graz railway route provides some of the most impressive views in Austria, making a train ride a popular way to travel between the charming cities. But the beautiful sceneries are far from being the only reason to opt for traveling by railway.

What is the most beautiful train journey in Europe? ›

See stunning Alpine views with the Bernina Express

This Swiss train line runs between Chur or St. Moritz in the Alpine nation to Tirano in Italy via the Bernina Pass. This scenic route is often hailed as one of the most stunning train journeys it's possible to take worldwide.

What is the most beautiful train ride in the world? ›

Here are 10 of our favourite rail journeys in no particular order.
  • Glacier Express, Switzerland. ...
  • The Himalayan Queen - Kalka to Shimla Railway, India. ...
  • Journey Through The Tea Country - Peradeniya to Ella, Sri Lanka. ...
  • Vietage Train Da Nang to Quy Nhon, Vietnam. ...
  • California Zephyr – Chicago to San Francisco, USA.

Do Austrian trains have bathrooms? ›

All cars have toilets, all seats have 230v power sockets. Suitcase symbol = large luggage rack.

Should you buy train tickets in advance in Austria? ›

Yes, the further in advance you book, the more likely you are to find cheaper tickets. For long-distance and intercity services such as the Railjet, the cheapest Sparschiene fares are available to book up to six months in advance.

Is it better to drive or take the train in Austria? ›

Driving conditions in Austria can be difficult in winter. Renting a car is not the most economical way to see the country; by train or bus is cheaper. Some mountain roads require a toll. The good news is that there is almost no delay at border crossings.

What is the best way to tour Austria? ›

Explore Austria By Train

Travelling through Austria by train is reliable, comfortable, and convenient. Relax, sit back, and enjoy your vacation, the Austrian Railways takes you to Austria's most beautiful places.

How much is the train ticket from Salzburg to Vienna? ›

How much is the train ticket from Salzburg to Vienna? The cheapest tickets we've found for trains from Salzburg to Vienna are €21.02. If you book 30 days in advance, tickets will cost around €26, while the price is around €57 if you book 7 days in advance.

How far is Switzerland from Austria by train? ›

The fastest trains from Zurich to Vienna take around 7 hours and 50 minutes, covering a distance of approximately 590 kilometres. On weekdays, the first train leaving Zurich is scheduled to depart at around 06:40. The last departure is usually at around 21:40.

What is the most beautiful train ride from Vienna? ›

From Vienna you can head to the Unesco city of Salzburg by train where Mozart, mountains and magnificent architecture proffer cultural and natural heritage at every turn. Austria is also home to a Unesco rail route, known as the Semmering Railway, which is one of the most celebrated Alpine journeys in the world.

What is the most scenic train journey in Austria? ›

  • Semmering Railway: The Semmering Railway is a scenic 2-3 hour train ride across the Semmering mountain pass revealing breathtaking alpine views. ...
  • Salzburg to Innsbruck railroad: ...
  • Arlberg Scenic Train Ride: ...
  • Brenner Line: ...
  • Arlberg Railway: ...
  • Pinzgauer Lokalbahn: ...
  • Montafon Railway: ...
  • Mariazell Railway:
Mar 29, 2024

Is Graz a walkable city? ›

A Walking Tour of Graz

Graz, Austria's second-largest city, is a treasure trove of historical and cultural landmarks, all easily accessible on foot.

What is the most luxurious train in Austria? ›

About the Majestic Imperator Train de Luxe

The luxury carriages are based on the imperial train of the Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi).

Where is the most scenic train ride? ›

1: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - Durango, Colorado. The historic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad once hauled silver and gold between these two Colorado towns.

What is the most beautiful train ride through the Alps? ›

The Glacier Express

The Glacier Express - known as the 'Slowest Express Train in the World' (and arguably the most scenic) - connects the mountain resort towns of Matterhorn adjacent to Zermatt and St Moritz in the Swiss Alps.

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