Central Europe is the land of fairytales. Imagine medieval walled cities and towering clifftop palaces, enchanted storybook forests and steep snowy peeks. The romance of the Austrian countryside should be enough to lure you from Vienna, but as a bonus you’ll also find gorgeous old world cities, authentic local delicacies, hilltop vineyards and natural hot springs. As you plot your summer adventures, enjoy a look at our favorite destinations for a Viennese getaway, from the grand glamour of Budapest to the alpine charm of Innsbruck.
DRIVE TIME: 2.5 HOURS
Romantic stroll along the Danube, anyone? A cosmopolitan adventure awaits in Budapest, the capital of Hungary and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Go for the magnificent baroque architecture and the centuries-old food and wine culture. Stay for a dip in one of the city’s natural hot spring spas and perhaps make it an overnight with a room at the Ritz.
This countryside town just an hour outside of Austria features a mix of old and new. Since Krems is home to three universities, you might find yourself wining and dining at a hip new restaurant along the Danube. However you’ll also want to stop by a traditional “heurigen” wine tavern for a slice of the authentic Austrian culture that’s been part of the town for centuries.
You may want to trade your wheels for a river cruise when en route to Melk Abbey, one of Austria’s most spectacular baroque buildings. See the abbey’s bright yellow towers rising above the trees as you round the river bend. Explore Melk’s ancient cobble-stone streets or take a tour of the old Benedictine monastery for a look at the ornate, gilded interiors, the library and art collection, plus spectacular views of the Danube below.
Sound of Music fans—this is the day trip you’ve been waiting for. In picturesque Salzburg you might like to take a tour of the movie musical’s most memorable locales, see where Mozart grew up, or check out the magical storybook architecture. But if lingering over a cup of coffee and a pastry before perusing the modern art galleries sounds more appealing, Salzburg is the perfect place for that, too.
If a day of roaming the countryside hopping from one hilltop wine garden to the next sounds dreamy, round up your people and head to Austria’s scenic Wachau Valley. This world-class wine region along the Danube is full of tiny medieval villages, ruins and castles. You might opt to cruise around on a bicycle as you explore the area’s traditional “heurigen”—which are known to serve a fabulous family style lunch in true Austrian fashion.
At the foothills of the alps, Vienna is surrounded to the northwest by a lush forrest preserve—meaning you’re never far from an escape into nature. Inside the vast woods you’ll find hiking trails, thermal hot springs, small historic towns and hilly vineyards, all of which you can explore by foot, on bicycle, by car or with a dedicated tour.
Welcome to the quintessential Alpine city. Innsbruck has twice hosted the Winter Olympics and makes for a magical mountain getaway year round. A picturesque old town with its own baroque cathedral and grand Habsburg palace sits along the banks of the Inn River, nestled between snow-capped peaks. Perfect for a ski getaway in the winter or an outdoor adventure in the summer.
Just a quick jaunt down the Danube, Bratislava is one of the closest major cities to Vienna. The capital of Slovakia, this charming medieval city sits at the edge of a mountainous countryside that stretches across the nation. Not far from the charming sidewalk cafes in the old city center you can escape into the forrest to find ski runs, vineyards, farms and fairytale villages.