Alright. We’ve all probably watched The Sound of Music. If you’ve not, then I think that’s where you should start. Because in my book, inspiration comes before the action.
And here’s a disclaimer so all the other “travel bloggers” out there can sleep in peace. I’M NOT A TRAVEL BLOGGER and this is simply an account of my five-day trip to beautiful, mesmerizing, relaxing, enchanting Austria. I’m sure there are many other such posts out there. But if you want to make a trip to Austria to see (almost) everything it has to offer, and if you’re at the end of your vacation budget, this could be just what you’ve been looking for.
As mentioned above, this is a five day trip that we took to Austria. To be more specific, we left on a Tuesday and returned on Sunday. This is important, as most of the planned outings that I participated in, are available only on specific days of the week. And some of these are actually worth planning your entire trip around! I may not have been the most efficient planner, but I still had no regrets at the end of the trip. So here are my five days in Austria, just as they happened.
I’m currently living in Estonia. And I had this nice little period of break from COVID to visit other European countries and Austria was one of them. I few out on Tuesday morning. It was a fairly early flight, which got delayed by a couple of hours due to mechanical issues and I still landed in Vienna at around 10:00 AM.
It was fortunate that I did not have any of the outbound trips planned for my day of arrival. I had simply set this day aside for local sight seeing. So I arrived in Vienna and checked into my awesome AirBnb smack downtown. This is crucial as I later realized that staying in the city center actually saved me a lot of time and money.
Given that I’d woken up fairly early in the morning to get to my flight, I kept this day fairly chill. Once I’d checked into my AirBnb and changed, I headed out for lunch.
You can remove me from India but you can never remove the Indian within me.
So naturally, I sought out an Indian restaurant and ended up at In-Dish which was my first meal in Austria, and it was by far the best as well. They had this cute little outdoor sitting area, typical of any European restaurant in the summer, I guess, and served the most delicious Indian food I’ve had in a while.
We hadn’t made any plans for the first day — we had set it aside for exploring the city of Vienna. This was a good call, as our early morning red-eye to Vienna was delayed by a few hours and we were in no state to do any long trips.
So after that scrumptious meal, we just walked around the city, and thought we’d check out the Belvedere. Many of my friends mentioned that this was a must see for anybody visiting Vienna, and they were right. This opulent palace housed some mind-blowing works of art and the stories to go with them. The gardens were serene and perhaps the only good thing to come out of this COVID pandemic — the place was relatively empty. Unfortunately, the lower Belvedere was closed for renovation, so we had to sate ourselves with just the upper palace. But it was still a nice way to dip my toes into Austrian history, culture and elegant opulence.
After the delayed flight, some delicious Indian food and an enriching tour of the Belvedere, it was time to call it a day in preparation for the early-ish morning we had in store.
The next morning (Wednesday) we were up bright and early for our very own self-planned trip to quaint little Linz in Upper Austria. It was a place that we decided to visit just for the sake of covering all major spots in Austria, and it turned out to be one of the best trips. The two-hour train ride takes through the Austrian countryside, is perfect for you to drink in the sights, as you watch a movie.
The place has such an awesome charm about it, that it made me consider moving there for good! This guide to spending one day in Linz was where it started and ended for me. I did not have to look any further and Pöstlingberg is a beautiful treasure, with an awesome tram ride up the hill and everything! You can spend a morning there, having breakfast, taking a stroll around the Cathedral, and just drinking in the breathtaking views of Linz sprawling before your eyes.
Also, don’t miss out on the many historic cathedrals in the old town of Linz, they’re just pure tourist gold. The people are very warm and welcoming in Linz, and the city has a very laid back pace about it. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to take a walk along the Danube that cuts right through the city. With good weather, this could be very romantic.
After the morning in Pöstlingberg, and the afternoon exploring old town Linz on foot, it was a day well spent and time for the train journey back to our AirBnb in Vienna. By the way, if you’re looking to find a place to stay in Vienna, find yourself an AirBnb in downtown Vienna, ours was in Karlsplatz, smack in the middle of the city and walking distance, as we discovered later on, from many of the city’s attractions including the shopping district and innumerable Cathedrals, like this one which our AirBnb overlooked.
After a busy day exploring Linz, it was time for another day exploring Vienna. The city has so much to offer and my only regret, if I would even call it that, is maybe not seeing everything in this vibrant culture cauldron. The adventures of the previous day had left us a little tired. So we slept in, had a late breakfast and headed out into the city to check out the Schönbrunn palace — a must-see for anybody visiting Austria, and especially Vienna. We got to learn a lot about the interesting queen who was the central figure of the history of the royal family that called the palace home until the end of the First World War.
The palace is breathtaking, and the history and the sights it enshrines, even more so. There’s a very sophisticated guided audio tour of the place that tells you everything you need to know, and I quite enjoyed this personalized journey through the gates of Austrian history. Also, there’s a nice little horse-carriage tour of the palace grounds, if you’d rather not walk the sprawling campus. Also, there’s a zoo within the palace confines as well, which we unfortunately could not visit.
After spending the better part of the day at this landmark venue, we headed over to some of the other important tourist attractions such as St.Stephen’s Cathedral, the Mozart memorial and The Hofburg, talking a stroll through many other historic buildings such as the Austrian Parliament, and other houses of political, administrative and historic significance.
We ended the day at Cafe Central, another landmark in Vienna, that came highly recommended by all my friends who had visited Austria recently. This historic cafe, situated close to St.Stephen’s and other monuments, is a great place to relax, try some Austrian dessert, sip on coffee or tea, and enjoy beautiful live music, if you’re lucky!
Drinking in all that vibrant Vienna had to offer, we headed back (walked) to our AirBnB for the night. The next two days were going to be hectic.
We had a day’s trip planned to Saltzburg, because well, who wouldn’t, right? It was going be a group tour on Thursday but it got pushed to Friday as there were not many people who had signed up for it. Also, it was supposed to be a bus tour which got upgraded to a private tour in a Tesla! (thanks to COVID). So, both this and the trip the next day, were converted into private tours in this same Tesla. Special shout out to Get Your Guide for their awesome service and customer-first approach to their business.
So on Friday, we set out to the land of The Sound of Music. The drive itself was breathtaking. The vista of the Austrian Alps is an endless string of “oohs” and “aahs”. As you leave Vienna, and start driving through the sprawling woods that bound the city to the west, you’re already in the lower Alps.
Not long after, you’re engulfed by tall imposing mountains and you can notice the highway meandering along the curves of the Alpine mountains, opening up breathtaking vistas for your eyes to feast on. The Austrian Alps are home for a gazillion lakes and we had the opportunity to stop at a few of them, on our way to Saltzburg.
First stop was Mondsee, a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains, peppered with fishing boats and small yachts—a lake apparently owned by some rich lady. A private lake? My mind was already blown.
But the next stop took that to a nuclear proportions! Wolfgangsee, setting an emerald-green background to the picturesque village of Sankt Gilgen, the ancestral village of Mozart, having housed both his grandfather and his mother. Children playing on the little beach, Lovely old couples decorating the many quaint benches, families enjoying some ice cream and clicking pictures freezing the moment, sailors testing the winds and themselves, this lake is by far one of my most favorite places I’ve ever been to.
A quiet ride across the lake on one of the many electric boats available for affordable rent — ours was Monika — completed this wonderful pit-stop on our way to Saltzburg.
By the way, did you know Red Bull’s global headquarters are in a tiny little village in the Austrian Alps? I didn’t! It was a nice surprise and the campus looked the part, with its own private lake and everything—not a bad sight to stop for a few quick pictures.
Sated abundantly by all these beautiful sights, we arrived at Saltzburg, and went around the city covering many of the landmarks from The Sound of Music—for those of you who’ve watched it — including the infamous catacombs, the archway that the lead lady from the movie runs through, Love Lock bridge, the city square, the main shopping street, the church where Mozart was baptized, the Saltzach river, and one of the most beautiful cemeteries that I’ve ever seen.
The city is beautiful — a bit commercialized and touristy — but well worth the time and the drive up, with it’s own history and Alpine beauty.
The last day of our trip was reserved for Hallstatt — I was personally excited for this one. It was the same Tesla, a private tour, but with a different driver/guide. It was also the longest journey we’ve had within Austria, nudging 4 hours, one way. But it was a drive through the pristine Alps, so we did not complain. The only bummer was that Mother Nature had decided we had had enough good weather and threw a nippy, wet day our way.
On the way though, we had one more stop — the Admont abbey— the largest monastery library in the world. Unconventional for the times, this place housed books not just in theology and religion, but also other subjects like science, math and even history. The library itself was an ornately decorated hall with high ceilings and floor to roof shelves, stacked with books.
After checking out the library and learning a bit about its history, we pushed on towards Hallstatt, our final destination. And this little village nestled deep in the bosom of the Austrian Alps, is a sight to behold. This is a beautiful little town, perched on the shores of the impressive Hallstattersee, and home to some of the oldest salt mines in the world.
Parking was a bit of a hassle as the town is so small. We had to park at the entrance to Hallstatt and hike along the lake’s promenade for a couple of kilometres. This walk was well worth it, as you get to drink in the impressive sights of the imposing mountains bordering the lake, and beholding the town manifest itself in front of you, adding man-made elegance to sheer natural awe.
The town itself is small and quaint, with a church at the center of it, as with most other places in Austria, only this church houses the best cemetery in my opinion — talk about living the afterlife with a view, albeit an expensive one.
Everywhere you turn in Hallstatt, you’ll see something that just makes you stop and stare. The quiet little city square, a roaring waterfall somewhere in the background, picturesque streams and rivulets — if only there could have been some sun that day.
But look at that, that’s hard to complain about, no matter how much I try. With rain coming down more heavily later in the evening, we began our four-hour drive back to Vienna. We grabbed dinner at an Asian restaurant in the central shopping district, strolled around for a bit and then headed to bed to be well rested for our flight back to Tallinn the next morning — satisfied with everything our eyes had seen and we had experienced, not to mention the million pictures we’d clicked through those five days.
Hope this was a helpful read, and I hope you get to enjoy Austria in all her beauty and splendor. If you have any unique experiences, or other places that you think I should visit the next time I go there, drop a line in the comments and I’ll keep them in mind. Happy traveling!