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Drive from Salzburg to Vienna

Hi all-I am a newbie to the Rick Steves community and looking forward to getting advice for a trip. Husband and I are taking a 25th anniversary trip in early May-trip will begin in Lucerne for the first few days and end in Vienna for the last several days with a few days in Salzburg in between. We have decided to rent a car in Salzburg for the last couple of days as my husband loves to wander and discover places that are off the beaten path. Now debating keeping the car to drive on to Vienna, instead of taking train, and turning the car in in Vienna upon arrival. My question is about the route from Salzburg to Vienna. Is it a scenic one with places we could stop and visit along the way? Or is there a another route that any of you may have taken that would be better?

We are mid-50's and excited about beautiful mountains, quaint villages, unique architecture, history, old churches, and each other even after all these years! I look forward to any advice and/or ideas.

Also, if anyone has done an "off the beaten path" wander around Salzburg, I would love to hear about it.

Many thanks,
Lynette

Posted by
58 posts

Hi Lynnette,

My husband and I did a similar trip in 2012. The route from Salzburg to Vienna can take you through Melk. We stopped there and toured the Abbey and had lunch in town. I highly recommend Melk Abbey, We had planned on driving through Krems and Durmstein as well to stop and taste wine and wander around. The weather did not cooperate, so we stopped only in Melk. With our GPS we successfully drove into Vienna and dropped off our luggage at the hotel then turned the rental car in at a downtown location and walked back to our hotel. If you are comfortable driving in any US city, Vienna is navigable with a GPS without undo stress.

I have a suggestion for an off the beaten path idea for the Salzburg vicinity. Drive your rental car to Gosau See. It is a small lake near Hallstatt. There is a gasthaus at the head of the lake and a flat trail around the lake. At the far end of the lake there is a trail leading to upper Gosau See. We did this hike/walk in about four hours with a stop at the upper lake to drink beer and watch school children play. The views of the glacier near the upper lake are stunning. It isn't mentioned in the Rick Steves guide, but our hotel matron told us about it. She was very insistent and we were not disappointed.

Posted by
25 posts

Janelle, thanks so much for answering. Your ideas were exactly the kind I was looking for!

Can you tell me if the hike to upper Gosau See is steep? My husband has a knee that gives him trouble on strenuous hikes/climbs but he's fine with a mild hike.

I assume you enjoyed your trip to Vienna also?

Thanks again for taking time to answer.

Lynette

Posted by
782 posts

Hi Lynette,
Janelle is right on about Melk Abbey.When driving Southeast from Salzburg stop at Hallstat,very historic with the Lake and a Salt Mine tour worth doing,also close by are the Ice Caves at Dachstein with Five Fingers Overlook at the top of the tram.This area has alot of Alpine attractions,you might research Lake Wolfgang,one of the most relaxing places I have ever been.
Mike

Posted by
5450 posts

Hi Lynette - Are you planning to do this journey is one day (leaving Salzburg in the am and arrive in Vienna in the pm)? If so, I would recommend that you visit the Wachau Valley as suggested above. This would be easiest by car. The Wachau Vally is a scenic portion of the Danube that is hilly (not mountainous) with vineyards, quaint villages and ruined castles. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Wachau stretches from Melk to Krems. Melk has a beautiful Abbey - hard to miss as it basically takes up the whole town. If it is a nice day, I would skip a tour of the inside and drive along the river stopping at either Spitz, Weissenkirchen or Durnstein. Then rent a bike from Nextbike and explore a bit. There are many wineries in the area to visit (over 500) so plenty of choice. The area is renowned for cycling as it is flat and scenic. Durnstein is definitely the star of the Wachau - be sure to wander around it a bit. I highly recommend a stop for lunch at the Hotel Richard Lowenherz terrace restaurant. From Durnstein to Vienna, the drive is about an hour. Enjoy!

Posted by
25 posts

Wow! Thanks you guys!

@Mike-I have a friend who spent a month at St. Wolfgang and her pictures are so beautiful. She wants us to promise to visit there, says it's like paradise! Thanks too for the other ideas-I need to do some reading now.

@Emily-yes, we will leave Salzburg early and plan to spend the whole day exploring and arrive in Vienna by evening. Your idea sounds exactly like what we would want to do!! We enjoy vineyards(and the wine of course!)and the Wachau Valley sounds beautiful. I assume there would be a place to park the rental car while we are biking about?

Posted by
25 posts

Hi again Emily, forgot to thank you for the restaurant recommendation. I assume it is in Durnstein?