Lively Austrian towns to visit

Next April (17-25 if it makes a difference!). Roundtrip in/out of Vienna or return from Munich.

We love friendly fun towns. Easy hikes. Historical museums more than art museum - WWII sights. We like castles but just if they're convenient (don't need to make a day if it). Have visited Salzburg and Munich already.

Have not been to Budapest - would love to hear about that as we could include that also. We like non touristy towns usually best.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5742 posts

I really like Budapest, and it doesn't feel touristy (there are tourists, but they're concentrated in just a few places, and the city is large enough to absorb them). You can "hit the highlights" in 2-3 days, but of course more time will be more relaxing. It's worth a trip for the food alone. For historical museums, there are two that you'll want to see. The House of Terror is about the Nazi and communist periods (parts are as grim and depressing as the name implies, so be prepared). And Memento Park, while out of the center and so somewhat hard to reach, has the communist era statues (Lenin, the glorious proletariat, etc) that other places got rid of after the fall of the Iron Curtain, but Budapest kept.

The other towns in Hungary that I've seen are Szentendre and Vac as separate daytrips from Budapest, and Eger and Pecs as separate overnights from Budapest. I liked Szentendre, but it is indeed very touristy. I loved Vac and had it to myself (the other tourists are missing out). I didn't like Eger (although it was raining for much of my time there). I liked Pecs a lot, and could have spent an extra day; again, at least in 2008, there were few tourists. I found Pecs and Vac in Frommers Budapest; at the time, neither was in Rick's Budapest book, although Pecs is now.

I haven't been to Sopron, but it's right near the Austrian border, can easily be seen between Vienna and Budapest (although not on the most direct route between them) and sounds interesting. It's also covered in Rick's Budapest book.

Sorry, I don't have any information about your main question, as the only place I've been in Austria is Vienna.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
1400 posts

Villages in the Wachau Valley, particularly Duernstein, Weissenkirchen and Spitz
Maria Zell
Villages on the Neusiedler See, particularly Rust, but nice to bike around the lake

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9896 posts

Near Melk, Mauthausen Concentration Camp is a very moving memorial, accessible by train, plus taxi for the last 3 miles. See also Rick's itinerary priorities an idea of timing within Austria.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5061 posts


"Historical museums more than art museums." In Budapest there's one that fits that description. When you get near enough to it (on foot), you'll see the sign in English pointing to the direction..."Museum of Military History." on Gellert hill. (Gellert is also a street south of SF in San Mateo County). Well worth your time, esoteric, more so the upstairs floor, (I found), depending on your interest., unlike what you see in western museums. No rules on picture taking. Budapest also kept its Soviet Memorial on WW II but that's not unusual.

Since you'll be in Munich, take a day trip out to Bad Ischl, very doable by taking the train to Salzburg Hbf, then the bus, ca 1.5 hr. See the Kaiservilla in Bad Ischl, the Habsburgs summer escape from Vienna,

Posted by James E.
4480 posts

Try Sopron, Gyor and the Archabbey at Pannonhalma. The latter two are on the way from Vienna to Budapest. Budapest is one of the least densely touristy of the major European cities. Fred mentioned one interesting museum in town. The other two worth consideration are the Hospital in the Rock and the House of Terror. This was a communist country for 50 years so you know they memorialized technology so you can also find Technology Museums, Railroad Museums, Transportation Museums and there use to be a post office museum (sadly closed last year). The best museum however is the city it's self. You will walk in a pretty well preserved (not restored, but preserved) late 19 and very early 20th century relic frozen in time by the Soviet occupation complete with ancient bath houses, bullet hole riddled building facades; holocaust deportation ghetto and a remaining love for the performing arts evident in the number of performance houses in town. If you want a place that is very decentralized, sort of slow moving, stunning views, interesting shops, outstanding food in remarkable venues and just plain nice folks then you might be interested in Budapest. For monuments you will enjoy Vienna more. For party and play you might enjoy Prague more. Come visit the Hungary Forum here on RS and learn some more.