8 Fantastic Day Trips from Vienna: Wachau Itinerary, Salzburg, Castles, and more!

> March 30, 2023
8 Fantastic Day Trips from Vienna: Wachau Itinerary, Salzburg, Castles, and more!


This list of the best day trips from Vienna will come in handy if you have some extra time when visiting Vienna, or if you decide Vienna is boring like I did and need another place to visit for the day. Or if you simply like to be based in one place as opposed to traveling around.  

If you do want to travel around more, check out my Austria itinerary that’ll have you changing hotels faster than you can say Österreich. And before you head out, read up on these tips and tricks for an Austrian vacation.  

Each recommendation for the best one day trips from Vienna includes a map, driving distances and times, and the practical details that’ll make it a breeze for you to create your itinerary. And, as always, my personal opinion and tips, with no filter and no effort for it to sound all hunky-dory.   

I’ll start with the places that are closest to Vienna (under half an hour away), and then work my way out to the further-out spots. 

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1. Day trip to Klosterneuburg Abbey Winery

Map of route of day trip to Klosterneuburg Abbey from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map

The plan: A tour of Austria’s oldest winery, but can also include the actual monastery that it’s housed in. Wine tasting optional but very much recommended. You can easily connect this stop with a visit to Kreuzenstein Castle (see next item on this list). 
Distance from Vienna: 14 km/9 miles (25 minutes)
Visit time: 3 hours
Notes: Admission to the winery includes entrance to the Klosterneuburg Abbey. Wine tasting is extra.

Klosterneuburg Abbey winery tour

From the Klosterneuburg winery tour

This isn’t just any random vineyard and winery, it’s Austria’s oldest!  

You need a guide to take you through the four underground levels and explains the 900 year history of wine making at Klosterneuburg in about 60 minutes.  

Note that some tours are in English and some are in German with an English audio guide. I highly recommend getting in for the English tour, because it’s just weird listening to your audio guide while there’s an actual human there talking to you. Even weirder is when the German-speakers start laughing and you have no idea why, because your audio guide didn’t crack the same joke.  

The tour takes you through well-maintained, modern wine cellars. Everything is well lit, clean and not musty and smelly.  

You can then buy wine in the vinoteque. If you want a proper wine tasting, you’ll need to arrange that separately from the tour, though the tour does end with you getting two little glasses of wine. Not really a tasting as much as a farewell. They won’t explain anything about the wine you taste.  

When you buy the ticket for the winery tour you automatically are allowed entrance to the Klosterneuburg Abbey itself, so spend a little time looking around there if you feel like it after your wine tour.  

Tip: If you want to read about a more far-away vineyard experience, check out my tour of Ica vineyards in Peru

Boutiquehotel Das Tyrol, best place to stay in Vienna, Austria

Design elements galore @ Boutiquehotel Das Tyrol

Since you’re basing yourself in Vienna for all of these day trips, you’ll need a place to stay that you’ll be happy returning to after your adventures.  

The 4-star Boutiquehotel Das Tyrol is located on Mariahilfer Straße shopping street, just a short walk from a metro station, making exploring the city proper super easy.  

It’s  full of art—pieces from Vienna’s best designers decorate the interior. If you don’t feel like doing too much on one of your days in Vienna, you can stay in the hotel and still say you explored Viennese art!

The beds in this hotel are uber-comfortable, the staff goes above and beyond and Prosseco is served with breakfast. I mean, come on—how does it get better than this?

Prices start from EUR 180 per night with breakfast.   

2. Day trip to Kreuzenstein Castle 

Map of route of day trip to Kreuzenberg Castle from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map

The plan: Tour a (sort of) medieval castle just a 30-minute drive north from central Vienna. You can easily connect this stop with a visit to Klosterneuburg Monastery Winery (see previous item on this list).
Distance from Vienna: 25 km/16 miles (25 minutes)
Visit time: 1 hour 
Notes: Guided tour only

Kreuzenstein Castle near Vienna, Austria

Kreuzenstein Castle

Kreuzenstein Castle was built by the Wilczek family in the 19th century on the remains of a medieval castle.  

Why does it look so medieval then? It’s because the family scavenged Europe for sections of medieval structures and built their castle out of them. Upcycling at its best!  

Tip: If you love castles, you’re going to love the best castles in Scotland!  

You can only visit Kreuzenstein on a guided tour. Tours start hourly and take 45–60 minutes. It’s only in German, which is a little unfortunate, but hey, at least you get to see the thing! Pull up some information on your phone and read about the history of the castle while you walk through.  

They also sell an English guide book, but for some reason they like to keep that bit of info a secret. Make sure to ask for it at the ticket desk.  

If you are lucky and if your group is small enough and English-speaking, the guides actually are capable of explaining things to you in English and are willing to explain things in more detail to you. If you are in a large group and don’t speak German, all you get is the English name of the next room you’re walking into.  

No photos are allowed inside the castle, but the exteriors are up for grabs and still make very nice pics.  

Note that in the end of October, opening hours are shortened if it’s too dark outside. Are they afraid of ghosts or something? So make sure to get there when it’s still light out or you may be out of luck.  

Kreuzenstein is a very nice and well-maintained castle, so don’t get discouraged by the German-only tour and give it a chance.  

3. Day trip to Castle Liechtenstein and the underground lake

Map of route of day trip to Liechtenstein  Castle and Seegrotte Hinterbrühl  from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map

The plan: See the castle on one of the most interesting castle tours in Austria. Head underground to the nearby Seegrotte Hinterbrühl to see one of Europe’s largest underground lakes.
Distance from central Vienna: 26 km/16 miles (30 minutes) + 1 extra km (0.6 miles) to mines
Visit time: 2 hours (+extra 1 hour for the underground lake)
Notes: Guided tour of the castle only. Bring jacket for the caves.    

Castle Liechtenstein

Castle Liechtenstein, day trip from Vienna

Castle Liechtenstein

Let me guess, you’d love to see not one, but two sort of similar castles that are close to Vienna, right? Happy to oblige! But let’s head south this time—30 minutes from downtown Vienna.  

If Castle Liechtenstein reminds you of Kreuzenstein Castle (previous item on this list), then you aren’t totally wrong. Both were restored by the same architect in the 19th century, and he clearly used the same notes for both castles.  

That said, they still each have a different feel, and it visiting both won’t have you feel like you stepped into a copy machine.  

This castle is privately owned, and the owners take great pride in providing tours that are very informative and entertaining, and that attention to the guide quality shows. Guides are very well prepared, fun, and every tour is in German and English.  

The interior of the castle can feel small, but at least you’re never bored. Our guide was entertaining and I was never trying to catch a glimpse of the next room to see if I can escape to it early.  

There are several types of tours at Castle Liechtenstein, lasting from 1 to 2 hours. I’d say go for the Grand Tour, because you can’t climb the tower on any of the other tours and the views from there were pretty cool. You also see the previously private fireplace room.  

The Grand Tour takes 2 hours.  

Tip: There is one special pre-Christmas tour every year where the Vienna State Opera singers accompany the tour with their music. Or, try to take the monthly night tour and see the castle lit by lanterns.  

Seegrotte Hinterbrühl 

Snapshots from Seegrotte Hinterbrühl tour, trip near Vienna Austria

Seegrotte Hinterbrühl tour

Since you’re already in the deep south of Vienna, why not take a look at one of Europe’s largest underground lakes! The caves are only 1 km (0.6 miles) down the road.  

Straight off the bat I will say that you need to go in with low expectations, because yes the lake is nice and turquoise, but the boat ride lasts barely 10 minutes.  

Besides your short tour on the water, you’ll be told about the history of the former gypsum mine while walking and standing. 

The few “exhibits” trying (are they really?!) to show what life was like down there are pathetic, not gonna lie. 

But overall, an ok little side-trip if you are at all interested to see some very clean water underground and have time on your hands.  

The tour at Seegrotte Hinterbrühl lasts about 45 minutes and they just keep going throughout the day. If there isn’t anybody in the ticket office when you arrive, they’re out on a tour, so just hang back and wait. They’ll be back like Schwarzenegger.  

Remember to bring a jacket, because no matter how warm it is outside, it’s only 9°C (48.2°F) underground. They rent blankets, too.  

4. Day trip to Wachau Valley from Vienna—full road trip itinerary!

Map of route of day trip to Wachau Valley from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map

The plan: You’ll be taking a loop drive from Vienna. On this day trip, I recommend starting with what most people end with—Melk Abbey. Then you’ll drive by the river, stopping at a couple of ruins, optionally hiking to one of them, and end up in one of the cutest villages in the region, Dürnstein. 
Distance from Vienna: 88 km/55 miles to Melk Abbey, another 30 km/19 miles to Dürnstein, a total of 210 km/130 miles for the entire loop
Total driving time: 3.5 hours
Main stops: Melk Abbey, Aggstein Castle (with optional hike), Ruine Hinterhaus, Dürnstein  

Just 1 hour away from Vienna is Wachau Valley, a serene area along the Danube River (which is why it’s also referred to as Danube Valley) full of vineyards, forests, ruins and little villages. And a Baroque monastery overlooking it all.  

Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey in Wachau Valley, day trip to Wachau from Vienna

Mel Abbey

Leave Vienna in the morning and be at Mel Abbey by 9 am to skip the largest crowds. It is a very popular day trip from Vienna and the summers there are very busy.  

The abbey sits above the town of Melk overlooking the Danube, so even if old church-like places aren’t your jam, you’ll still enjoy the views from the balcony and the fascinating library. I’m personally all Baroque’d out for probably the next decade, but I’d make an exception for Mel Abbey.  

An interesting thing about Mel Abbey is that it’s still an active Benedictine Monastery. I wonder how much the half million annual visitors disturb the monks’ spirituality.   

You can tour the abbey on your own or on a guided tour during most months of the year. Do check the website if you’re visiting between November and March. Guideless tours are only available on weekends or not at all.   

Plan on spending 1.5 hours at the abbey.  

There’s also the gardens which are not free to visit even if you don’t want to see the abbey, though there is a discounted ticket available for just the gardens.  

Aggstein Castle

Aggstein Castle in Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggstein Castle

After Melk, drive north towards Dürnstein. There are many places you’ll want to take photos, so I’ll just point out two that I think are worth a stop and a little wander.  

The first one is Aggstein Castle, a ruin about 300 m above the right bank of the Danube. Can anyone say “views”? You can either drive up to the castle parking lot or turn this stop into a little hike and leave your car under the hill and make your way up using good old leg power.  

This ruin is much more than some leftover rocks and still looks like a complete castle. You can walk around inside, ponder the workings of the allegedly escape-proof prison and relax at the café or have lunch in the tavern.  

You can also have a wedding there, but I’m almost certain you won’t be doing that as a day trip from Vienna!  

Ruine Hinterhaus

Ruine Hinterhaus, Wachau Valley, Austria

The views from Ruine Hinterhaus

The second stop on your drive through Wachau Valley is also a ruin, Ruine Hinterhaus.  

This one is similarly dramatically up in the hillside, but much less complete than the Aggstein Castle. It’s free to visit (and always open), though the 10-minute uphill scramble up from Spitz riverside will be more than enough payment for some couch potato-type folk.  

Ruine Hinterhaus is on the other side of the Danube than you’ll be driving on, but don’t fret, there’s a car ferry that’ll get you across to the town of Spitz.   

There are steep parts, stairs, and even a ladder to the tower of Ruine Hinterhaus. But you can see far and wide over the Danube and the countryside, so it’s worth the mild sweat to get up there. Plus, it’s fun!  

If you like boats, needs some place other than a ruin to take your kids, or just have extra time, consider visiting the local maritime museum. You can easily reach it down another path from the ruins.  


The blue tower and hilltop castle of Dürnstein, Wachau Valley, Austria


Finally, end your day in the village of Dürnstein at the northern end of Wachau Valley. It’s a popular tourist destination, so if you don’t like people, you’ll be miserable. Still, it’s just a tiny place in Austria’s countryside, so you shouldn’t be too overwhelmed.  

Wander its alleys and stare at the very blue tower, or, if you haven’t had enough ruins for the day, take a little trip out to Dürnstein Castle.  

There are many places to stop and eat, some notable ones being the little bistro called Schloss Greisslerei or Schloss Dürnstein Restaurant with river views.  

The drive from Dürnstein back to Vienna will take about an hour. You’ll be completing the loop, so no backtracking is necessary.

Top hotel in Vienna, Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof

Classy vibes @ Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof

If you plan on taking a long drive or a morning-to-night day trip one day, you’ll appreciate a hotel smack in the middle of Vienna’s city center, meaning you can see the sights in the city with very little effort (and no commute). There’s no need to feel like you need a vacation after your vacation! 

Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof is a 5-star hotel that has probably the best price/quality/location ratio out of all of Vienna’s hotels. And it has a private parking garage.

The rooms in this historical building are pleasantly modern (with AC), with 21st century interpretations of various styles. Two whole floors of the hotel are dedicated to a spa and fitness center—also a great bonus for a bit of a rest day.

The breakfast and basically all meals are amazing here. 

Prices start from EUR 250 per night with breakfast.  

5. Day trip to Linz from Vienna

Map of route of day trip to Linz from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map

The plan: You can take in most of Linz’s highlights within a day, so if you depart from Vienna early in the morning, it’ll be a very full but very worthwhile day trip. 
Distance from Vienna: 180 km/114 miles (2 hours)
Notes: Nothing really, just maybe not to overlook Linz, it’s a very cool city!

Day trip from Vienna to Linz

Linz—The City of Media Arts

Linz isn’t on most people’s radar, and it’s a shame! An industrial city turned technology center, Linz now has not only a generally charming, colorful historical center, but is also made just a bit cooler with its media center and futuristic gallery space. UNESCO didn’t make it one of its Cities of Media Arts for nothing! 

You can drive to Linz from Vienna in an easy 2 hours, so it’s still just barely ok to turn into a day trip from Vienna.  

The ARS Electronica Center is every futuristic nerd’s dream and it’s the best place to visit in Linz. There are plenty of other art spaces in the city, like  Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz’s museum of modern art. At Höhenrausch (literally “height rush”), you climb up structures (a ship in the sky, anyone?) and walk across rooftops and it’s… an experience! Even if you don’t especially crave strange art (there’s a lot of it), you’ll enjoy the views and adrenaline rush.

The Ars Electronica Center, Linz

The unmissable, luminous Ars Electronica Center

There are of course also your more typical tourist spots, like the castle and the cathedral, and a nice stroll by the river.  

One tourist spot that is not in the historical center is Pöstlingberg, a hill above Linz. This is not the Alps, mind you, but the tram route that takes you up the hill, Pöstlingbergbahn, is the steepest adhesion railway in Europe.   

I have details, opening times and prices of all of Linz’s highlights in a dedicated Linz article, so hop on over there if you’re going to visit Linz as a day trip from Vienna (or even if you stay overnight!).  

6. Day trip to Graz from Vienna

Map of route of day trip to Graz from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map

The plan: Graz is 2 hours away from Vienna, so you’ll need to plan for a full day of travel if you want to see all of the city’s highlights. You’ll have no trouble fitting everything in and getting back to Vienna in time for a good night’s sleep. 
Distance from Vienna: 200 km/124 miles (2 hours)
Notes: Graz is great for modern art fans and history fans alike.

Kunsthaus Graz in Austria

Friendly Alien a.k.a Kunsthaus Graz

Graz is an Austrian city that’s an art hub (it’s also the second-largest city in Austria). Besides that, it has one of the largest best-preserved historical city centers in Europe where all of the beautiful historical structures live in harmony with the more modern ones and artsy design elements that have made their way into the city.  

You’ll need 2 or 3 hours to stroll the Old Town and see the most important sights: the Main Square, the Town Hall, the cathedral, the castle, the Gemaltes Haus (historical house with full-painted fresco facade from 1742), Luegghäuser (17th-century arcade house with rich facade decoration). And if there’s one thing you can’t miss in Graz, it’s the Clock Tower on Schlossberg.  

Here’s a Google map with all the sights marked.   

You will be dumbfounded by one building in particular—the big, black, gug-looking thing, or “Friendly Alien” as the locals call it, houses contemporary art in the Kunsthaus Graz.  

And last but not least, Murinsel, a steel man-made island on the river Mur, also very interesting in appearance. It was designed by New York artist Vito Acconci, who thought about it as a floating shell, linked to the banks with footbridges. Don’t forget to grab a coffee at the cafe.  

All in all, I think Graz is the perfect day trip from Vienna. It’s not too far and it doesn’t really need to be visited as an overnight trip unless you prefer slow travel. If you do, book one of the cool Graz hotels and enjoy another day.  

7. Day trip to Salzburg from Vienna—is it possible?

Map of route of day trip to Salzburg from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map. Notice all the other places you could take a trip to instead… Salzburg is just too far as a day trip from Vienna!

The plan: Don’t do it. Salzburg is too far from Vienna for a day trip. If you want to visit Salzburg, stay overnight (I’d recommend in Hallstatt).
Distance from Vienna: 300 km/180 miles (3 hours)
Notes: I have an overview of Salzburg’s highlights and an itinerary for 1 and 2 days in Salzburg in a separate article.

Mirabell Castle and Gardens in Salzburg

Me, Mirabell Castle and Gardens in Salzburg

I for one think that Salzburg doesn’t warrant more than a day of you time, which sounds like it would make a great day trip from Vienna in my book, but there’s a big BUT. It’s a 3-hour drive one way. That’s 6 hours in the car… just to see Salzburg! No thank you.  

What I recommend you do is take a trip to Hallstatt instead and overnight there. Then take a day trip to Salzburg from there, because it’s only a 1-hour drive as opposed to 3 hours from Vienna. 

I have a whole article on what to see in Salzburg that also includes an itinerary for a 1- and 2-day trip, so jump on over to that for details. If you want the general gist:  

The Salzburg Fortress is quite impressive, but the rest of the city is boring as hell. From my perspective, it’s somewhere between Vienna and Prague: better than Vienna, less interesting than Prague. And again, just too far away!  

Even in my Austria itinerary, I only give Salzburg part of a day.  

If you make the trip, make sure to stop by the Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum. A small museum with a historical collection of Christmas decorations, toys, and various Christmas-related this and that. 

Besides the fortress and some Christmas fun, you’ll spend most of your time around Residenzplatz (the Residence Square), with all the mandatory sights at your fingertips: Salzburg Cathedral, DomQuarter/Alte Residenz, Neue Residenz with the famous Glockenspiel (nowadays home of the Salzburg Museum), St. Peter’s Monastery, Cemetery, and Catacombs.  

Besides the main sights, you won’t have time for much more. Perhaps choose one of the following based on your interests:  

  • Hellbrunn Palace with its trick fountains, magnificent well-preserved frescoes and even a unicorn inside. 

8. Day trip to Hallstatt from Vienna—too far?

Map of route of day trip to Hallstatt from Vienna

Click over to Google Maps for the route map

The plan: Just like I said for Salzburg, I think Hallstatt is too far and also too interesting to visit as a day trip from Vienna. The town has so much to offer (for a tiny place), so stay overnight and go on a day trip to Salzburg, too. See this article for Hallstatt highlights and itineraries for 1 and 2 days. 
Distance from central Vienna: 280 km/185 miles (3.5 hours) 
Notes: Treat Hallstatt and Salzburg as a package deal and connect the two into an overnight trip.

Day trip to Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, a beautiful town by the lake, surrounded by mountains

Hallstatt is my personal favorite city in Austria, so I’d really consider it a destination on its own as opposed to a day trip from Vienna (which I don’t really like anyway!).  

A drive to Hallstatt from Vienna takes 3.5 hours, which makes absolutely no sense for a day trip. You need to stay overnight (or 2) to see Hallstatt’s highlights and perhaps add Salzburg as a day trip from there. This isn’t Peru, where a 3 or 4 hour drive still seems perfectly doable for a day trip (like these from Cusco)!  

Once in the town, take in the charm of this picturesque village and stare out onto the lake and surrounding mountains. Just that can take up a good chunk of your afternoon, but there are some other more unexpected experiences waiting to be had.  

One notable one, since Hallstatt gained its glory mainly for salt mining, are the Hallstatt Salt Mines (Salzwelten). It’s the oldest salt mine in the world with 7,000-year history. The ancient tribes were working in these mines 7 000 years ago, which means the mines are older than the Egyptian pyramids

This is a must visit. The tour of the salt mines is super fun—it starts with a train ride and includes going between the individual floors on wooden slides! You can get details of my visit to the salt mines in my Hallstatt article, or on the official website of the Saltwelten.

The view from Welterbeblick above Hallstatt in Austria

The view from Welterbeblick

The salt mine combination ticket (EUR 32) also gets you to the second-best experience in Hallstatt—the Hallstatt Skywalk (Welterbeblick). Take the Salzbergbahn funicular up 838 m (2,750 ft) onto the mountain. Then, cross the suspension bridge leading to the Rudolf’s tower (looks more like a villa than tower, but ok) and right under the tower, you will see the viewpoint platform.   

Yes, the platform hangs there as if in thin air, and yes, the views are spectacular. Don’t miss it!  

But what about days trips from Vienna to Budapest and Bratislava?

Day trips from Vienna to Budapest and Bratislava

1. A carriage ride through the centre of Vienna, 2. The Parliament building in Budapest, 3. The Bratislava UFO

I’ve decided to stay within the country borders for this list, so Bratislava and Budapest aren’t included, at least for now. At the moment I don’t even have city guides written up for them, so maybe in the future I’ll add them to this list.   

That said, both of the neighbors’ capitals make fine day trip destinations, but there is a BUT.  

I’d seriously skip Bratislava since it’s even more boring than Vienna. Every single item on this list is a better choice. 

As for Budapest, it can be reached from Vienna in 2.5 hours, so semi-easy, but that’s also the problem. Using up 5 hours of your day for the drive would mean running around Budapest, which is honestly quite nice, in what—6 hours? It’s just too rush-rush.  

Granted, I did recommend Paris as a doable day trip from Brussels that one time, so compared to that, seeing Budapest in a half-day seems effortless.  

If you ask me, an overnight in Budapest would be better than a day trip to Budapest from Vienna.  

Is visiting Austria worth it?

Best places in Austria

1. Hallstatt, 2. Grossglockner High Alpine Road, 3. The Krimmler Waterfalls, 4. Dachstein Glacier

If you can’t decide if you want to limit yourself to just a one part of Austria—the part without the magnificent mountains, no less—check out my list of the best places in Austria. I vote that the nature in Austria surpasses the man-made tourist destinations.  

Case in point: Zell am See-Kaprun is the must-visit location in Austria.  

See my Austria itinerary if you voted to get the best of the entire country.  

See my Vienna itinerary if you’re limiting yourself to the capital and surrounding area.  

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About me

About me

Hi! I’m Jan. I live in Prague, Czech Republic. I try to experience the best the world has to offer, and I don’t cease to be impressed. But if I’m not, I’m sure going to tell you! You can count on my full honesty and real opinions here. No bullcrap. I own and run several companies, which gives me great (but not unlimited) freedom to roam the world.  

I was first inspired to start this blog by my own experience of researching for upcoming trips—I often struggle with a lack of good information, accuracy, and authenticity of resources. You wouldn’t believe how many “travel bloggers” don’t even visit the destinations they write about! 

My goal with this blog is to provide you with complex and practical information so that you can plan your own vacation, complete with insights you’d only get if you visited the place. I also put together itineraries that are fully planned out trip guides.

Another aspect that drives this platform is my curiosity about the history, geography, politics, and economy of each country I visit, so I try to include this information in my articles, too. It’s always great to get the bigger picture, right? 

And just to be clear, I am not trying to compete with backpacking blogs or provide hacks for an economical and affordable experience. My vacations follow the standard pattern of traveling by plane, staying in good hotels, and renting a car on the spot to get around. I’m also always up for a fantastic meal, though I don’t shy away from local delicacies and street food, either.  

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