Feel the need to flee the city? We’ve put together a list of some gorgeous spots in Austria that you can reach from Vienna by train in less than 5 hours.
Here are 8 gorgeous locations in Austria where you can escape the city, and spend a weekend surrounded by nature .
Attersee – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Attersee in Upper Austria
How to get there: from Wien HBF to Kammer-Schörfling Bahnhof via Vöcklabruck (around 2h 45min), or to Attersee Bahnhof via Vöcklamarkt (3h)
If there was a beauty pageant for lakes in Austria, the Attersee would almost definitely be the winner. This lake, while damn cold most of the year, is a gorgeous thing to wake up, and fall asleep to, when on a weekend getaway. This is no doubt why one of the country’s most famous painters – yes, Mr Gustva Klimt, himself – holidayed and painted here nearly every Summer. There’s even a museum all about Klimt in Schörfling am Attersee which is well worth checking out.
The lake is surrounded by a number of towns that are filled with ‘Pensions – many of them run by families that are super hospitable. The lake is also surrounded by various other lakes. Staying here, you’ll be at the heart of Salzburg’s lake district, and we highly recommend you visit a couple and go swimming in a different one each day.
There are other fun nature activities apart from all the lake-side stuff for you to do when you’re in the area. You can check out the Nixenfälle, a 50-meter high waterfall, or hike the Mahdlgupf Klettersteig, a trail up a mountain that delivers a beautiful view over the lake. Then there’s also the Pfarrer-Salettl – a wild nature trail that the locals call, ‘Glücksplatz’ (‘Place of Happiness’) that you should visit to develop an inner sensitivity and delve into some self-discovery.
If that all sounds a bit too spiritual for you, there’s also the incredibly good Steckerlfisch eatery in the lakeside town of Moos. You’ll stay an extra day just so you can go for the trout grilled to perfection on a stick, again.
Ossiacher See – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Ossiacher See in Carinthia
How to get there: from Wien HBF to Annenheim Bahnhof via Villach (5h)
This weekend escape combines a lake and incredible mountain ranges – it’s like its the ultimate Austrian holiday combo’.
The Ossiacher See (Lake Ossiach) is located near Villach in Carinthia, and is in the southern region of the Gurktal Alps. It’s the place of dreams for those amongst us who love being up high on mountains and engaging in any activity involving hiking boots.
If you’re feeling a bit lazy, or don’t want to hike up the mountain, there’s a cable car that will take you up to the Kanzelhöhe sub-peak. From there, you can take another cable car up to the Gerlitze mountain top (1,909 m). There, you’ll have a panoramic view of the lake and the mountains.
Close to Annenheim, there’s the Finsterbach Wasserfälle (waterfalls), and on the east shore of the Lake Ossiach, there’s the Bleistätter Moor, a moor and nature reserve with an easy 7km loop hike (slow trail) on which you can catch a variety of flora and fauna species that you probably haven’t seen before.
Also really close to Annenheim is Landskron where the mountain of monkeys, ‘Affenberg,‘ is located. Yes, Austria has a monkey mountain, and yup, there are monkeys living there. We’ve been told it’s technically not a zoo, nevertheless, biologists and animal caretakers guide visitors through the area that is home to around 160 Japanese macaques that were rescued and are now studied there.
Ossiacher See © Martin Hofmann
Gerlitzen Alpe © Franz Gerdl
Gerlitzen Bahn © Markus-Ramsbacher
Dachstein region – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Obertraun in Upper Austria
How to get there: from Wien HBF to Obertraun Dachsteinhöhlen Bahnhof via Attnang-Puchheim (around 4h)
Dachstein mountain is the highest mountain that straddles Upper Austria and Styria, and the Dachstein region in which it’s located is one dramatically beautiful place.
The fastest way to reach Dachstein is to travel to Obertraun (a small village in Upper Austria) and use this as your homebase for your weekend trip.
Obertraun is located next to the South end of the Hallstätter See (Lake Hallstatt) and, more or less, in the foothills of Dachstein mountain. If you’re a cave girl, or guy, (with that, we mean that you’re interested in checking out caves), take the Dachstein World Heritage cable car up to the Giant Ice Cave and the impressive Mammoth Cave. If you take the cable car up a bit further, you’ll reach the Krippenstein on the Dachstein plateau. From here, you’ll have a stunning panoramic view of the Salzkammergut.
When you’ve had enough of all the mountain goat kind of fun (which you probably won’t, but anyway), you should definitely lay your eyes on Lake Hallstatt – it’s one of the most photographed lakes in Austria. When you’re there, be sure to go for a swim, or take a pedal boat out onto the lake so you can enjoy the spectacular view of Hallstatt from the water.
Dachstein Treppe ins Nichts © Gery Wolf
5fingers Aussichtsplattform © Dachstein Tourismus AG / Himsl
Cave © Dachstein Tourismus AG / M. Schöpf
Wachau – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Wachau in Lower Austria
How to get there: from Wien Westbahnhof to Melk (1h) or from Wien Hbf to Krems via St. Pölten (1h 17min)
You’ve probably had a glass (or more) of a Grüner Veltliner, or a Riesling, from the Wachau region as this is one of Austria’s premiere wine regions. They’re also mighty proud of their apricots here, surprisingly enough. Anyway, the Wachau valley is just a short train ride away from Vienna, but you’ll feel very disconnected from the city when you’re exploring one of its medieval towns , and sipping at a wine in one of its many Heuriger.
The Danube river weaves through the Wachau, right between the towns of Melk and Krems. You could pick either of these city’s as your base for the weekend. This region is also on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites for its architectural and agricultural history. Ancient castles and forts balance on hilltop ledges, while the hiking trails are plentiful.
While you’re there, you’ve got to hike up Dürnstein mountain for a great view over the vineyards lining the valley, the river, and the ancient monasteries, castles and other ruins located in this area.
If you’re feeling up for it, there’s actually a long distance hiking trail (180km), called the Welterbsteig. As an extra incentive, the hike hosts a total of 180 Heuriger on its way – that’s one Heuriger per kilometre!
Meanwhile, it’s a popular biking trail that goes all the way to Bavaria in Germany cuts through the Wachau, so there’s also that option for those that never leave home without their two-wheeled stallion.
Schloss Schönbühel, Wachau © Donau Niederösterreich / Lachlan Blair
Welterbesteig Wachau © Donau Niederösterreich / Franz Hauleitner
Spitz an der Donau, Wachau © Donau Niederösterreich / Steve Haider
Semmering – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Semmering in Lower Austria (on the border to Styria)
How to get there: from Wien HBF to Semmering Bahnhof (1h 16min)
You don’t have to journey far from Vienna to find all that mountain and forest beauty that Austria’s famous for. The Semmering mountain pass, which forms a natural border between Lower Austria and Styria, is just over an hour train ride from Vienna.
This mountain range hosts breathtaking scenery, and plenty of hiking trails for you to get your dose of nature on. Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of trains, you should definitely make this trip. There’s a special hiking trail called the ‘Bahnwanderweg’, which follows the impressive UNESCO World Heritage listed viaducts and buildings that make up the Semmeringbahn, which, by the way, was the world’s first mountain railway opened in 1854.
Semmeringbahn © Niederösterreich-Werbung/ Michael Liebert
Trail © Wiener Alpen/Franz Zwickl
Mariazellerland – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Mariazell & surroundings in Styria, on the border to Lower Austria
How to get there: from Wien HBF or Westbahnhof to St. Pölten (30min), then take the Mariazellerbahn to Mariazell (around 2h)
Mariazell is known for being a place of pilgrimage, mainly because of the Basilica located there (and probably a bunch of other reasons). However, we’re recommending it based more on it’s nature and the mountains credentials. Plus, it’s not that far away from Vienna, meaning you can be back in the (home) office by Monday.
Even the train ride on the Mariazellerbahn is a mini-nature adventure on its own – you’ll be riding on board Austria’s longest narrow-gauge railway through the beautiful Pielach Valley, and then up to Mariazell.
From the town of Mariazell, you can go on various hikes, and explore the surrounding mountains, such as the Bürgeralpe, the Gemeindealpe, and even the tallest mountain of Lower Austria, the Ötscher.
There’s also the ‘Erlaufsee’ and ‘Hubertussee’ lakes that are great for swimming and other water activities.
Bad Gastein – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Bad Gastein in Salzburg
How to get there: from Wien HBF to Bad Gastein Bahnhof (4h46min)
OK, it’s official – this chunk of Austria, Bad Gastein, is one of the country’s best looking spots. It may be famous for its thermal spas and grand villas, but it’s also a region of picture-perfect nature (we’re serious, you’ll be photographing the F*** out of this place). Situated in the high valley of the Hohe Tauern, you’ll be surrounded by towering mountains and the very beautiful (yet also somewhat noisy) Gastein waterfalls.
There’s plenty of hiking trails for you to check out in the area, and for those of you who are not afraid of heights, you should definitely walk across the suspension bridge on the Stubnerkogel. We’ve also heard that the nature surrounding Bad Gastein is a popular spot for ‘Forest Bathing’ (also known as Nature Therapy) where you can really become one with yourself while being immersed by nature.
© Vienna Würstelstand
© Gasteiner Bergbahnen AG
Neusiedlersee – Nature weekend escapes from Vienna by train
Where: Neusiedler See in Burgenland
How to get there: from Wien HBF to Neusiedl am See (40 min)
OK, so some say that the Neusiedlersee isn’t the most beautiful lake there is in Austria. Sure, there’s definitely lakes that are bluer and a bit more inviting to take a swim in, but hey, the Neusiedler See is really close to Vienna, and there’s plenty of reasons to visit it for a nature weekend getaway.
Let’s start with the wine – on the eastern shores of the lake, there’s a wine-growing region where some of Austria’s best drops are produced. You should definitely spend some time in the vineyards and Heuriger tasting the products of one of nature’s ever-giving fruits – the grape. All hail the might grape!
Listen up if you’re a foodie for the next tip – the modern take of a Heuriger, Gut Oggau, in the town of Oggau is a must visit. Just trust us on this one. Amazing place created inside a hundreds of year old winery.
If you want to live out your part-time image as a blonde beach babe surfy for a while, learn to wind surf on the lake. It’s actually considered one of the best lakes for wind surfing in Europe. Sailing is another popular water sport done here, along with stand up paddling. If you’re more the ‘reading a book on the shore while watching everybody else do these things,’ kind of person, there are plenty of so-called ‘beach areas’ where you can get comfy on a patch of grass and jump in when you’re feeling a little hot.
On land, the bike path encircling the lake makes for a very scenic (and flat) ride.
If we had to name one town on the lake to visit, we’d definitely direct you towards Rust. This town is packed with the looks and atmosphere of a mediterranean holiday town along its main street.
© NTG/Mike Ranz