Austria does Baroque architecture and classical music better than anybody. But they also do trains pretty well. Austria's national railway operator, ÖBB, run an efficient network of high-speed Railjet, Nightjet, and regular services across the country. Given the mountainous Austrian terrain and lush landscapes, many of these journeys are incredibly scenic as well.
To give you an idea of how easy it is to see a lot without rushing, here's our ultimate seven-day Austria itinerary by train. Intrigued? Read on for more!
Days 1 to 2 – Vienna
Vienna is the logical place to start one week in Austria. Loaded with attractions and close to other major European cities. If you’re flying into the city, the train from Vienna Airport to Vienna takes just 15m. If you’re travelling into Vienna by train, you can get from Budapest to Vienna in 2h 38m, Prague to Vienna in 3h 59m and Bratislava to Vienna in 1h 6m. There's even a direct Munich to Vienna service, taking 3h 53m. All these trains arrive into Vienna Hbf station at the southern edge of the city centre.
Day 1 – Baroque palaces and trendy hangouts
Check into your accommodation, or store your luggage at the station, then walk 10m to the beautiful Belvedere Palace. Through the expansive Belvedere Gardens is Karlskirche, a domed Baroque cathedral. Take the metro from there to Schönbrunn Palace (about 35m). This opulent, 1,441-room rococo palace, a former royal summer residence, is one of Austria's most important landmarks. It's worth spending a few hours looking around.
In the afternoon, visit the Sigmund Freud Museum, housed in the famed psychoanalyst's elegant former office, on your way to Prater. This gigantic public park comes alive in the early evening. Ride the famous 1897 Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel. Sample some of the city's best street food at nearby Karmelitermarkt, or chill out at one of the trendy bars lining the river around Leopoldstadt.
Day 2 – Old Town, classic compsers, and world-class museums
Start your day with a visit to the magnificent Hofburg and St. Stephen's Cathedral. Shoot up the spire of St. Stephen's for great views over the Old Town. Then, take a tour at the Burgtheater or nearby Vienna State Opera House to learn about Vienna's rich classical music heritage. Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and Strauss are just some of the legendary composers who have called Vienna home. The latter three are buried in Vienna's Central Cemetery.
Spend the afternoon around the MuseumsQuartier, a 60,000-metre2 area dedicated to cultural institutions. The Leopold Museum and mumok boast world-class art collections. Visit the Az W architecture museum, or catch a contemporary dance show. The MuseumsQuartier is also famous for its large, sleekly designed outdoor public lounge furniture. It's a great chill-out area. And there's plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants nearby.
Day 3 – Melk
09:00 to 14:30 – Melk Abbey
Melk Abbey should be your first port of call on day three. This vast, 11th-century Benedictine monastery is built high above the town on a rocky outcrop. The huge domed Abbey Church is adorned with gold statues. An impressive library houses a huge collection of medieval manuscripts. And the views over the Danube from the abbey are amazing. After spending several hours exploring, head back down and enjoy a walk through Melk Old Town. The 1657-vintage House for Itinerants, Old Town Hall, and the former shipping master's house on the banks of the Danube are some of the architectural and historical highlights.
14:30 to 21:00 – Historic Wachau Valley
The Wachau Valley is a beautiful area of natural landscapes and famous castles. Take the 10m local bus ride from Melk to Schönbühel Castle, a gorgeous riverfront fortress dating back to the 12th-century. Schallaburg Castle, Lower Austria's most impressive piece of Renaissance architecture, is just 5 km south of Melk and easily reachable by bus. Or, hire a bike and cycle the 16 km (roughly 1h 30m) along the Danube to Aggsbach, to visit the spectacular ruins of Aggstein Castle. In the evening, return to the Old Town for a meal at one of many cosy restaurants along Hauptstrasse and Linzerstrasse.
Day 4 – Linz
Linz combines historic Baroque buildings and cutting-edge contemporary art. Melk to Linz takes 1h 5m by train, via Amstetten NÖ station. There are around 66 trains per day and Linz station is just a short walk south of the town centre.
09:00 to 14:30 – Linz's Old Town
Walk through the Old Town and visit the Alter Rathaus (Old Town Hall) and Alter Dom (Old Cathedral). The Landhaus is a magnificent, Renaissance-era building with an impressive rococo church and arcaded courtyard. The impressive New Cathedral (Linzer Mariendom) is the largest church in Austria. Although it's not the tallest church in Austria, the views from its spire are still fantastic! See what's happening at the OÖ Kulturquartier. This contemporary cultural centre hosts innovative exhibitions and performances throughout the day and night.
14:30 to 22:00 – Museums, dragon trains, and a night of jazz
After lunch, visit the Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, which houses a major modern art collection in a distinctive, eye-catching glass building. Just across the river, enjoy the innovative and interactive displays at the cutting-edge Ars Electronica Center. Take the tram up to Pöstlingberg, a historic hill with panoramic viewing platform, an eponymous pilgrimage church, and the unique Linz Grottenbahn. Great for kids and kids at heart, this features an underground dragon train ride through the cavernous "Land of Dwarves." Afterwards, head down for a cocktail and live music in the Taubenmarkt district around Dametzstrasse.
Days 5 to 6 – Salzburg
The city of Mozart, the Sound of Music, and salt mines, Salzburg is an absolute must on our Austria itinerary of 7 days. It's just 1h 6m by train from Linz to Salzburg on the direct Railjet service, arriving into Salzburg Hbf station right in the city centre.
Day 5 – Mozarthaus, DomQuartier, and Kapuzinerberg
Start your visit to Salzburg with a walk around the Old City (Altstadt). Visit the birthplace and museum of Salzburg's most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, at his former house on Getreidegasse. Getreidegasse is Salzburg's most famous shopping street, so window shop at some trendy boutiques and historic businesses. Then head to Salzburg Cathedral, the marbled 17th-century city icon. Set aside a few hours to visit DomQuartier, which comprises the luxurious former archbishop's palace and a magnificent 17th-century cathedral with a 4,000-pipe organ.
In the afternoon, stroll over Staatsbrücke bridge to the New Town side of the river. Just 10m on foot from the DomQuartier, Kapuzinerkloster is a picturesque monastery at the base of the Kapuzinerberg hill. It's a gentle 30m walk from there up to Franziskischlössl, the 1629-vintage fortress at the top of the hill. Needless to say, the views are superb. And the castle has been converted into a quaint inn and restaurant.
Day 6 – Fortress Hohensalzburg and Mirabell Palace
Start your day with a tour to the historic Berchtesgaden Salt Mine, just right over the border in German Bavaria. This includes a breathtaking journey along the Kings Lake up to the Obersalzberg, also known as the Eagle's Nest, in the Bavarian Alps. After returning to the city for lunch, get your first taste of Salzburg's Hollywood history at the humble Mozartsteg bridge, which featured in The Sound of Music. Then, do your best Julie Andrews impersonation around the fountains and rose garden of Mirabell Palace, which featured prominently in the film.
Head to Fortress Hohensalzburg for the climax of our Salzburg itinerary. This 11th-century fortress is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Overlooking the city from the top of the Festungsberg mountain, backdropped by snow-covered mountains, it's also one of Austria's most picturesque locations. Treat yourself to a really memorable experience with the unique Dinner + Fortress Concert ticket option. This includes dinner in the castle, and a classical music concert overlooking Salzburg from Hohensalzburg's lavish Goldener Saal.
Day 7 – Innsbruck
Innsbruck is the capital of Austria's western Tyrol district. It's best known as a winter sports destination, as well as its blend of imperial and modern architecture. Salzburg to Innsbruck takes just 1h 48m, arriving into at Innsbruck Hbf station right on the edge of the town centre.
09:00 to 14:30 – Bergisel Ski Jump
Even if you're not a ski fan, the Bergisel Ski Jump is well worth a visit—even just for the ride up the funicular alone! The amazing 26,000-seat arena, which hosts the prestigious Four Hills Tournament each year, is an impressive piece of architecture and engineering. This is also where you get the best views of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains. Take the 45-minute walking trail through the woods around the back of the ski jump. On your way back to town, visit historic Ambras Castle or the unique Glockenmuseum, an award-winning museum dedicated to bells.
14:30 to 20:30 – Innsbruck's Old Town and Nordkette cable car
Don't miss seeing Innsbruck's historic Court Church and famous Golden Roof, a unique former royal residence-cum-museum featuring 2,657 shining tiles. Maria-Theresien-Strasse is Innsbruck's best shopping street, encircled by great lunch spots. After fuelling up, it's time to hit the hills again—this time going even higher. From the centre of Innsbruck take the futuristic, panoramic cable car up to Nordkette. This reaches 2,269 metres above sea level inside the Karwendel Nature Park. The cable car returns you back to town right beside the beautiful Hofgarten. It's an ideal spot for an evening stroll before you return to the Old Town for an evening drink or meal.
And with that, we're at the end of our Austria itinerary. If you're planning to leave Austria after Innsbruck, you've got plenty of options by train to other countries. Innsbruck to Munich is just 1h 45m, Innsbruck to Zurich is 3h 32m, and Innsbruck to Venice takes 4h 34m. If you're returning to Vienna, it's just 4h 6m back from Innsbruck to Vienna by high-speed train.