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Austria itinerary advice - Salzburg, Vienna, and plenty of daytrips

Hi folks,
Last year I decided to go to Austria, and many of you gave me lots of advice here. But in the end, decided I'd better scale back my vacation for that year, and despite this, ended up going to Switzerland! But this year, it's on, and nothing's going to change my mind this time.

My proposed itinerary has changed a bit from last year though: I'm planning on staying 5 days in Vienna, including a daytrip to Budapest, and another up the Danube to see Melk and Krems, and 4-5 days in Salzburg, including a daytrip to see Berchtesgaden, and another to see Hallstatt - or possibly I might visit Hallstatt on route from one base to the other - is this a good idea, or are there other stop offs on route? To be clear, I'll be on public transport throughout, staying in backpackers hostels.

Those are the set destinations anyhow, which should take up 10 days. I have 2 days more to use, and a few loose ideas on where to go, although I'd welcome suggestions and opinions:

I've heard good things about the Wolfgangsee area, although there are no train lines nearby, so it'd be buses - I hear it's possible to fit this in with Hallstatt if you start early;
Feldkirch is another attractive place I've heard about, and although it's at the western end, it's also not far from Appenzell, which could be interesting to visit, as well as other places in the Vorarlberg region;
Innsbruck could be interesting for a daytrip, a ride up the mountain, and/or other places in the Tyrol region?

I like to keep a roughly even mix of cities, attractive towns and rural/natural locations. I've got plenty of city content, so it's really the last two I'll be looking for. Also would be good to know where best to base myself if too far from Salzburg or Vienna.

Thanks all!

Posted by
3026 posts

Hallstatt is a more pleasant place in the evening after all the tourists have gone and in the early morning before they arrive. So, in my opinion, it's best experienced with an overnight there. I arrived in the afternoon, wandered around, stayed the night, watched the sun rise over the lake/mountains, went to Dachstein Krippenstein by bus while the tourist hordes were in Hallstatt during the day, and then returned late afternoon to spend another night in Hallstatt.

A Salzburg activity that no one ever takes me up on: go to the Stadt:Bibliothek Salzburg (library) in the Neustadt, admire the bright red carpet, and then take the nifty horizontal elevator to the Panoramabar that has really nice views of Salzburg and the surrounding mountains. You can grab a late breakfast (opens 10 am Mon/Thurs/Fri/Sat), coffee, a small lunch, whatever. Servers (and food preparers) have intellectual disability and other developmental disorders, so you need to be able to order in German. It's a cool place. Some might even say... a backdoor.. if you believe in such things.

Berchtesgaden has a lot of great hikes. If you can get your hands on the Cicerone Guide Walking in the Bavarian Alps, it describes several. A fairly easy one that is not in the Cicerone Guide and that allows a person to hang out on Königssee is the hike to Röthbachfall (waterfall):

  • Head to the Königssee boat dock (try to be there in time to catch the first boat -- a link to a pdf version of the summer schedule is at the bottom of the webpage with winter/spring hours here)
  • Buy a round trip ticket to the Salet stop
  • Walk to Obersee and look straight across the lake at Röthbackfall in the distance
  • Take the path around the right side of the lake (a little rocky -- can be a little slick if wet) to the snack hut on the other side of the lake
  • Then walk through a glorious alpine meadow surrounded by granite mountains to the waterfall (you can't get too close to the waterfall). Watch your step! The meadow is shared with the cows who live there during the summer months.

If you do that early, you can still get in another activity while in Berchtesgaden like the Jennerbahn.

Happy planning!

Posted by
95 posts

Hey Dave, thanks for all the great tips. I shall certainly look into staying a night in Hallstatt. I've heard before that it's better during the evening, and that it loses its charm around midday.

I'll certainly take you up on that Salzburg Bibliothek - I love to visit interesting libraries, and that horizontal lift intrigues me. I should be fine with the German ordering, but it's good to know.

I had planned to visit Berchtesgaden in 2017 when I was in Bavaria, but cancelled as the weather was bad. Should have enough Salzburg days to pick a good one this time. I had indeed planned to do that walk and then head to the Kehlsteinhaus, I should be able to get that in on one early start.

Posted by
4252 posts

I know some people really have an aversion to changing hotels, but I would be hesitant to see Budapest on a day trip. It's a long train ride and there is so much to see. I would really encourage you to go and stay a night or two. It really is quite a marvelous city. Bratislava is closer to Vienna and I think of that more as a day trip.

Posted by
95 posts

Hey Jules M,

Yes, I was planning to stay a couple of nights or so in Budapest at first, as I can see from the RS show on it that the city has much to offer. Ordinarily I'd never give a capital city such a small amount of my time, but with staying in Salzburg and Vienna, I decided that another city was too much - as I mentioned, I like to keep it varied. But I still wanted to see it, if only superficially and 2:37 didn't seem too long of a journey. Indeed, when last year, I had planned to go to Bratislava for the day, it was suggested that Budapest would be the more interesting day-trip.

Back in 2017, I had planned to stay in Salzburg as my last stop on a German holiday, but cut it out in the end as it didn't seem that interesting. However I did stop there to catch a night train (when I thought better of visiting Berchtesgaden in the rain), and had an evening free due to the train arriving after midnight. Salzburg absolutely enchanted me, and here I am, 2 years later, going back for a longer visit - could be the same with Budapest.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks R. Jean, that was really helpful. I remember stumbling across that site when planning to visit Berchtesgaden the first time. Can't say that the daytrips from Vienna really appealed (apart from the ones I've already picked), but the Salzburg ones absolutely. Wolfgangsee is most definitely on the list now, and I'll probably take a night train back from Innsbruck, giving me the day to explore there too. Got one day more I could possibly use (or not), and then I've filled my itinerary.

Anyone recommend a place to stay in Hallstatt? I'm usually a hostel kind of guy, but as there's none there, I could stretch to a private room assuming it doesn't cost the earth. Also not fixed on a Vienna hostel as yet - There's always Wombats I guess.

Thanks

Posted by
4252 posts

You really can't go wrong with some of these places, can you? We really loved Salzburg. There really is something for everyone and a nice variety. Don't miss the Salzburg Cathedral even if you just pop in for a couple minutes. It is really quite different than many of the cathedrals we have seen in Europe. It's brightly lit and white inside with beautiful stained glass and ornate plasterwork.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks - will be sure to visit the cathedral then. Impressive enough as it is from outside.
I really do think that this middle part of Europe has so much to offer. Stunning cities, magnificent mountains and lakes, picturesque towns and villages. Having 2 great cities like Munich and Salzburg so close together - it's backpacker heaven!

Posted by
95 posts

Looks like I might be better off staying nearer the other lakes for a couple of days - Hallstatt looks rather expensive. There's a youth hostel in Bad Ischl, which is fairly central and near a station; or there's a rather nicer looking hostel in St Gilgen, right on the lake. So I'm thinking that I'll stay at one of those for a couple of days now.

Posted by
12887 posts

In Vienna Wombats has a hostel in three locations. The one I stay at (solo ) when I choose the hostel option is that on Mariahilferstrasse, across from the Westbahnhof....very nice place, both private rooms and dorm rooms. I have stayed in both when I don't want a private room.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks Fred, that sounds like a possibility. Always try to get near the station in any city, especially when doing excursions! Although I notice that The Westbahnhof isn't used as much since the Hbf took over, so It'd be no good for getting the train to Budapest, more's the pity.

Just noticed the nearby Hostel Ruthensteiner has gardens - may sound odd to look for in a hostel, but they are nice to relax in at the end of the day, especially in Summer. Seems to get great reviews. Might even spoil myself and go for a private room for this part of the trip.

Posted by
12887 posts

True about Westbahnhof, since the main trains depart from Hbf. Westbahnhof is also a big junction point for the tram. One of them (18 or 6 ?) goes direct to Hbf, (sorry, I just know it when I'm there), otherwise taking the U-Bahn requires transferring at Stephansplatz.

The Westbahn trains stop at Westbahnhof, the ÖBB trains go to Hbf.

On hostels within walking distance from Westbahnhof, there are 3 of them, Wombats, Ruthensteiner, can't remember the 3rd one.

Staying Westbahnhof you can get to the Army Museum, Zentralfriedhof (the main cemetery), and Schönbrunn all by taking the tram direct, two U-Bahn lines stop there too.

Posted by
12887 posts

Hi,

Part 2 here...If you're interested in history, see Bad Ischl. the Kaiservilla of the Emperor Franz Joseph is there. Only accessible by guided tour, which is only in German. I've done it twice, two different guides. The first time seeing me as the only foreigner there for the tour, the girl asked me in German if I spoke German, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" So, I said, "Ja, doch, kein Problem" You might run into that too? The second time...nothing.

There is in Bad Ischl en route to the Zentrum a small WW1 monument memorial, but can be easily missed too.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks again Fred, I'll look into that. I had hoped to be able to base myself in Bad Ischl for 3 nights, but it seems like all the hostels in the area are booked up for the duration. Might have to commute from Salzburg!

Posted by
1490 posts

The Westbahn trains stop at Westbahnhof, the ÖBB trains go to Hbf.

Westbahn company has now two lines, called the green and the blue line, one stops at Westbahnhof, the other at Hbf (Hauptbahnhof) as well as at other stations, eventually ending at Praterstern (previously called Vienna north).

Posted by
4690 posts

For your time in Vienna - as wmt1 noted, Westbahn trains stop not just at Westbahnhof anymore, but also Meidling, Hauptbahnhof, Rennweg, Landstrasse/Mitte and Praterstern. Do yourself a huge favor and avoid the Westbahnhof area as it is about as ugly as Vienna can get. Don't also be sold on the idea that Westbahnhof is a transport hub as truly all of Vienna is a transport hub. You don't have to walk 2-3 minutes anywhere in the city before you reach a station or stop of some sort. In my opinion, Westbahnhof is pretty remote from the major sites anyway. That said, Vienna is really a compact city and the center can be traversed in about 15 minutes. Do yourself a favor and stay at the Wombat's at Naschmarkt. A day trip to Budapest will be a long day as will a day trip to the Wachau.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks everyone, it's great to get the benefit of your collective experience.

Fred, sorry I didn't see your first comment. Yes I did see that there is a direct tram to Hbf, which would be useful if I decide to stay there. Sounds from all the comments that there's no real advantage to staying near the Westbahnhof in terms of transport links, although on departure it's a place to catch a train to Salzburg at least.

Found a place in Bad Ischl with availability, so that's back on.

Emily, can you tell me why you think that the Naschmarkt Wombat's is the best choice? Is it the area in particular, or something special about the hostel? I stayed at the Munich Wombat's 2 years ago which was fine, but seemed a bit party/fun orientated (the video of the Naschmarkt hostel reaffirms this). I'm looking for somewhere a bit more relaxed, with common spaces for reading or chatting to other guests. Hostel Ruthensteiner really appeals in that way, and if the area is ugly, it doesn't bother me too much.

Concerning the day trips out, I know I'll have to make an early start for Budapest, plus the train ride is going to be long, but that doesn't bother me - I enjoy train rides where I have ample time to read. The Wachau valley doesn't look too far away - or were you meaning it'll take time to explore?

Thanks again folks.

Posted by
12887 posts

@ Mike...I know the area around the Munich Wombats, stayed there in 2009...not really great, somewhat gritty. the advantage was that in 2009 an internet café was next store, don't know if it's still there.

On the other hand, Ruthenstein's immediate area is all right, much better than that of Wombats' in Munich. I've checked it out when looking for other hostels close to train stations to stay at.

True, now that all the action is at Hbf, there is no real advantage to staying at Westbahnhof insofar as trains are concerned. The advantages are those pointed out above with the tram lines and the 2 U-Bahn lines

Posted by
4690 posts

Well I wouldn’t stay at Hauptbahnhof either. As you can get from the city center to Hauptbahnhof in about 7 minutes on the subway, why stay at the soulless Hauptbahnhof?

Anyway, Mike, I must admit I’m not a hostel girl anymore. I did spend many a night in hostels in my twenties sleeping on paper sheets in rooms with 20 other girls. I’m too old for that now so I suggested Wombats Naschmarkt because of its vastly better location. Vastly better. If you’re just looking for a cheap hotel, then stick with districts 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9. Any of these areas are considered central and cool with easy access to sites (with minor exceptions). Honestly, Ruthenstein is located directly in the armpit of Vienna. No way I’d stay over there. Ugly, nothing to see, nowhere to eat, brothels, pawn shops and betting parlors. Oh my!

Posted by
1490 posts

To put this first, there is no area in Vienna where you have to be scared when walking around. As in every city there are nicer places and less appealing places. If you are on low budget you have to make compromises.

The most important issue in Vienna is close access to public transport, giving you the possibility to get everywhere quickly.

I do not agree with Emily's chronic deprecation of the railway stations' areas. Westbahnhof had been refurbished nicely, and Hauptbahnhof is brand new. In the wake of that improvement there are some good, reasonably priced hotels in walking distance of both stations, although they may be "soulless". Both are not located at touristic hotspots, but provide excellent public transport connections.

Emily's selection of city boroughs where to stay seems a bit biased to me, constantly excluding the 2nd and 5th. In both of them there are nice areas as well - my relations stayed in the 5th already several times - and there are less beautiful parts in most other boroughs (with the exception of the 1st); even in the 3rd, i.e. Emily's residence. ;-)

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks again everyone. I've gone ahead and booked the following:-
5 Nights in a single room at Hostel Ruthensteiner;
3 nights in Sandwirt Hostel, Bad Ischl (dorm);
3 nights in YoHo Youth Hostel, Salzburg (dorm).

I don't usually go for single rooms, as I sleep well enough in a dorm, and don't mind sharing at all, but the price was pretty good at Ruthensteiner, thought it'd make a nice change to have a bit of privacy for half the holiday, but still be in a hostel. I don't just choose hostels because of the cheap sleeping, I really do like the communal feel. Really not keen on bed and breakfasts or guesthouses either.

Really appreciate all your help, now I get to do the enjoyable part of finer details planning! One last question (I think) if anyone can help - I'll have from midday Saturday until Monday night after leaving Vienna to explore the Salzkammergut - in particular Hallstatt and Wolfgangsee. I'll give each a day, but can anyone suggest which days to visit each? There may be no difference, but I've found before that Sundays can mean that nothing much is open and the trains/buses stop sooner.

Posted by
12887 posts

@ Mike...Keep in mind that one disadvantage of getting a private room means that the private room is only a double, ie, singles don't exist.

As such, you as a solo traveler will be paying for both beds, yours and the empty bed. The total room cost could be more than staying at a Pension. (I've compared the prices with those of Pensionen in the same district)

This is the policy at Wombats. Ruthensteiner may or may not be like that. Check it out so that at check-out your bill is not double the amount you expected.

Like you I have no problems staying in a coed six bed dorm room, even if the hostel is a party hostel. I'm 69 way beyond the age of my fellow roomies, if they have a problem with my presence, it's on them, isn't it? They have the option of changing rooms.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks Fred, Just double checked, and yes they definitely are singles and I'm only paying 46 euros per night. I remember their website said something like "Our cosy mini singles are...". Now you mention it, I did wonder why the other hostels were so much more expensive for single rooms!

Slightly annoyed that I missed the 10% discount for Interrail pass holders that I could have got through another booking website. I could cancel, but it looks like mine is the last of the singles available, so would be a risk to cancel and try to re-book.

I wish I had your view of sharing in a hostel. Can't help feeling a little self conscious sometimes when sharing with a young crowd. It doesn't help when pretty much every single hostel video they show is full of twenty-somethings.

Posted by
4252 posts

A couple years ago, due to high accommodation charges, I stayed in a hostel in Geneva with my then 20 yr old daughters. We had 6 in our room. Another aprox 20 yr old, a professional woman probably early 30s and a woman, like myself, in her 50s. I had a hard time understanding why the woman in her 50s was there. Not because of her age, but because she was so rude and unfriendly. She was there first and obviously bugged each time a new person arrived, and would greet the person with, "close the door". Honestly, it just became rather amusing. The rest of us rather enjoyed ourselves and loved hearing about each other's travels. I honestly left with the feeling that if one is friendly and open minded, any age could stay in a hostel. We didn't arrive with any kind of towel, so we improvised. I have since seen that there are some options out there for fast drying travel towels.

Posted by
12887 posts

@ mike...Your points are well taken. Admittedly, I do have the self-conscious feelings too being amidst all these twenty-somthings in a hostel. At my age I could care less when faced with other millennial coed dormies. When I was their age, I stayed in hostels exclusively, and 40 plus years later, I still do, at least that option is still not precluded. I only stay at Womats.

Good that your price for a single is 46 Euro, which is equivalent to a single in a Pension or a small 2 star hotel in Germany. Wombats only offers doubles, (which is one disadvantage with Wombats); as a solo traveler, one has to pay for both beds.

Re the age factor in hostels, a few private independent hostels do have the age limit, ie 18-35. They will tell you that. All the HI hostels have abolished the age limit.

I would suggest seeing the music hall of the operetta composer Franz Lehar (of "The Merry Widow/Die Lustige Witwe" fame). It's a large yellow building once you enter the Zentrum walking from the train station to the Kaiservilla, for which you have buy a ticket to enter.

Two types of tickets are sold, one with the tour of the Kaiservilla, the other only for seeing the grounds.

Very informative, enlightening, and poignant too to visit the place, if you are into the history.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks Jules M & Fred for your posts, apologies I've taken ages getting back to you. Yes, hostels may well accept all ages, but they don't seem to go very far to advertise the fact. It really doesn't help when you see someone in the reviews complaining that they were put in a dorm with an "old guy". I'm 42, and don't really own that description yet, but to some younger travellers I'm sure old is anything over 35!

Some advice please: I was planning on visiting Innsbruck on my last day and catching night train from there back to Cologne. I've decided against that though as I wouldn't be able to do it justice - the train starts there and leaves just after 20:00. So I thought maybe to head into Bavaria and spend the day in an attractive town before heading to Munich to catch the night train - the same one incidentally that starts from Innsbruck, it arrives in Munich at around 22:30, which is much better. I first saw a recommendation for Passau, which looks good, but then Regensburg, which seems to be the better of the two according to people on Tripadvisor.

I'll be travelling with my backpack of course, unless I pass through Munich and leave it in a locker. But it seems to take about 3 hours direct from Salzburg, and 4 if I make a stop in Munich, and a couple hours to get back to Munich in the evening. I would still have 6 hours in Regensburg, but it seems a lot of traveling, especially as I'm on trains for the next 18 hours. I could alternatively catch the night train from Vienna which passes through Passau and Regensburg and joins the Innsbruck train at Nuremberg, but it doesn't arrive there until after Midnight. No fun!

Any recommended destinations in Bavaria as an alternative to Regensburg? I've already checked off a good number of places: Fussen, Garmisch, RODT, Landsberg, Andechs, Nurnberg, and Munich itself (twice). Already planning to visit Berchtesgaden this time.

Posted by
794 posts

Both Augsburg and Ulm should be on the train route (one or the other). Both are easily worth spending a day in.

Posted by
13546 posts

okay, the day trip to Budapest is a good idea, but since Budapest is so freaking beautiful at night take an early train in and an early train out the next morning. It's only 2.5 hours and you can be back in Vienna by 10am easy. Then you have the day in Vienna. Nothing really lost and a spectacular experience under your belt. Do this and there is a very good chance your next trip will start in Budapest.

If the idea appeals to you, then PM me and I will help you find the perfect hotel and perfect iteniary for a one night stand in Budapest.

I don't think you will regret it. 15 years ago, when Vienna didn't really speak to us we got on a train to Budapest, just because, and it turned into a love affair. Maybe you will get lucky too.

Posted by
12887 posts

"...as an alternative to Regensburg?" As suggested, Ulm is a good cultural choice since the cathedral , das Ulmer Münster, is one of the most famous in Germany, as to size.

I would suggest too Ingolstadt, see the museum in the Schloss if you're interested in seeing some esoteric history.

Don't have any reservations about the age factor. I've seen in the Wombats hostel on Mariahilferstrasse (Vienna) Asian women in their 40s and 50s (they were Korean). I'm a generation your senior and that age "thing" is totally immaterial, when I book a bed in a dorm room.

Based on what I've seen in HI hostels in Germany, ie Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, Weimar, Düsseldorf from 2009 to 2012, there were a good number of "grown ups" with or without their kids, traveling as families, not just 20 somethings.

Who were they? All Germans, say a German women's group, or something like that, or retirees.

Posted by
12887 posts

@ mike...If you go for the Budapest idea, as suggested, there is a night train from Munich to Budapest, if that is an option for you, depending on your traveling style. No problem with me then at 42 or either now. At 42 I was doing a trip in Europe too, that was in the summer of 1992.

Posted by
95 posts

Wow, thanks all for the comments. Will respond more later, but the Budapest idea sounds good, especially with the night train suggested by Fred. However I wouldn't be going to Munich on that day, really just to the Salzkammergut. Even Salzburg it gets there in the middle of the night. Will have a think about the overnight option then.

Posted by
95 posts

OK, so on the Budapest front, I think it would be best to go there straight after arriving on the night train to Vienna on my first morning. Granted, this is not a very early start, and would have me arrive in Budapest at around midday, but then if I'm staying overnight, I can enjoy the afternoon and evening, then head back when I'm ready the next day, which can be anything up to mid afternoon I guess. Just arranged accommodation for Budapest (thanks for the offer James E - Itinerary advice still most welcome!), and amended my stay in Vienna.

As for where to go in Bavaria, you've all given me plenty of ideas, so thanks for that. I think I'll probably head for somewhere near Munich and then go back to the city to catch the night train from there.

Thanks again folks!

Posted by
12887 posts

@ Mike...Just so that you know exactly the EN night train goes from Munich to Budapest via Wien Hbf. If you intend to get off in Wien Hbf, that's at 0635, a good time to arrive on a night train, stay for a few hours, stashed the luggage in a coin locker, ...fine. I can't tell you exactly where they are located, just know how to get there on the second floor, the large lockers cost 5 Euro, ie one Euro less than for large ones in Germany.

In Wien Hbf for breakfast if you want something "German" ie, Leberkäse, there's "Pepy's" (It's a chain). I go there since I like Leberkäse, they take a credit card too if you want to save on the cash. Next to Pepy's are bakeries and a cafe, etc.

Doing that you can always take a later train to to Budapest.

On the other hand, if you intend to go straight to BP on the night train, stopping in Wien Hbf is ca 5 mins. You arrive in BP ca 0920 hrs...still a good time to have a good relaxing breakfast.

I've arrived in Wien on the night train, got to the hotel by 0930 or so, checked in, (this can be done in Vienna), and still was on time for breakfast which I knew was served until 10:30.

Posted by
4690 posts

The stand Fred is referring to is called Leberkas Pepi, but not exactly breakfast food. The lockers are on the same level. Exit the train station if you want a good breakfast - try a typical cafe, like the nearby Cafe Goldegg.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks for the breakfast suggestions - it's a very important meal to me!

As for the night train, sorry I should have been clearer - the one I'm talking about is the Dusseldorf to Wien Nightjet, getting on at Koln at 21:18, arriving 09:18. In hindsight I probably would go for the Munich to Budapest one, but I've already booked my Eurostar passholder tickets and the late crossing (15:04) is too late to get me to Munich for the 23:20 Euronight.

I will have 24 minutes between trains at Wien, so Pepi's would probably be more suitable (I will definitely be dining in typical cafes when I'm back in Wien Emily), although having just looked up what Leberkase is, I don't think it's my kind of breakfast food either! Will be sure to try some on another day, perhaps for lunch, always nice to try the specialities of the region.

Posted by
12887 posts

@ Emily...thanks for listing the exact name of the eatery. True that's it's not exactly breakfast food but still good very good with a coffee and roll, plus locals I see eat there at breakfast , if anyone, and at any other time.