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Two Weeks in Austria with our Family of 5

Our family of 5 (me, my husband and 3 sons - 19, 21, 23) traveled on Turkish Airlines to Austria. We arrived in Vienna and took the metro to the city center. We walked to our budget AirBnB for one night which had a fabulous location not far from the Hofburg Palace and Spanish Riding School.
(Let me add that we decided not to use our cell phone plan for data or phone usage. We relied on wi-fi throughout the city. Vienna offered a good bit of free wi-fi. However, finding wi-fi became an issue at several critical points in our trip!)
After asking a local fellow at our apartment, we were directed to the best shnitzel in all of Vienaa at Figlmüller, https://www.figlmueller.at/en/location-contact/, where we enjoyed the first of many delicious schnitzels. After supper we walked around the pedestrian shopping area and took a quick look inside St. Stephen's Cathedral. We got gelato at Zanoni & Zanoni. From that night on, we searched for gelato every day!
The next morning, we picked up a rental car to start our drive to Hallstatt. My husband loved driving through the beautiful countryside of Austria. However, he had not driven a manual transmission in many years, and it took a minute to find the Reverse gear! We headed over to the Melk Abbey and stopped for a delightful lunch along the Danube River at Wellen.spiel https://www.wellenspiel.at. From there we continued to the Melk Abbey where we took a self-guided tour that included beautiful views and the breathtaking church with elaborate gilded decorations. We shopped our way down the hill (enjoying wine tasting and ice cream along the way). Let me add that we parked our car according to the instructions found in the Rick Steves Austria tour book.

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Thanks for the tour report, I love Austria and Hallstatt is one of my favorites places to visit.

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Learning how to shift into reverse is IMPORTANT. Our family trip in 1970 had us rent cars in France, Germany, Netherlands, and Denmark. Each car had a different way to reverse. Dad never asked how to do it. I remember at Neuschwanstein he had to park on an incline so the car could roll backwards. In Amsterdam we got boxed in and dad and I had to push the car back and forth as my sister manned the steering wheel. What fun #@*%

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Next, we continued our drive to Hallstatt. The drive from Vienna to Hallstatt was just so beautiful with lakes and mountain views around every turn. We took a small detour to drive through the picturesque town of Steyr, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop. From there we drove to Hallstatt, parking just as the Rick Steves’ Austria book advised. We didn’t have to wait long for the shuttle to take us to our hotel, Gasthof Simony, https://www.gasthof-simony.at/en/. We had a family room that had enough beds for all 5 of us, a private bath and extra shower and toilet in a shared hallway.

Hallstatt is just as beautiful and Instagram worthy as you can imagine! We walked around the lakeside taking in every view. Coming in later as we did, we missed the crowds and had the town to ourselves. We ended up eating right on the water at sunset, just incredible! We ate at the restaurant Seehotel Grüner Baum, at https://www.gruenerbaum.cc/en/restaurant/#lake-terrace. The food was delicious, but the view was the main attraction!

The next morning, we enjoyed a tasty breakfast at our hotel. Our host spoke limited English, but my oldest son knows a very limited amount of German, so we got along quite well.

We walked down through the town to the Salt Mine (https://www.salzwelten.at/de/hallstatt). As we were early, we got our tickets and avoided the later crowds. Keep in mind that even though we rode the funicular up, there was still a good uphill hike to get to the mines. We were all quite winded by the time we made it to the top. Beautiful mountain and lake views everywhere! We had a great time at the Salt Mines, especially going down the wooden slides. Afterwards we ate a quick lunch of sandwiches and sausages in the town square, finishing our time with a little bit of shopping. We actually wish we had had one more night in this beautiful lakeside town.

Robert we would live to hear more. Our family of 5 with 3 teens are traveling to Austria in August. Please share more of your trip! We have accommodations booked in Salzburg with the plan to daytrip but now wonder if we should spend a night in Hallstatt!

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For those reading along, we had to return our rental car in Salzburg by 3:30 at the airport. We enjoyed the drive to Salzburg as well, although myself and my 2 six-foot-tall sons were a bit squished in the back seat! LOL! Some minor damages to the tire (that we had not noticed before) were thankfully covered by the insurance we had bought. We were supposed to have had a taxi pick us up at the airport, but it was nowhere to be found. A nice young airport employee directed us to the bus stop and helped us buy tickets, along with pointing out which stops would get us closest to our hotel. Unfortunately, he was wrong! We ended up riding the bus for over an hour while we tried to figure out the actual bus stop we needed. Wouldn’t some internet have been helpful? Yes, but thankfully my oldest son figured it out, although not without a great deal of stress!

Once we finally got off the bus, we still needed internet to get directions to the hotel. We popped in a Billa grocery (which soon became a frequent stop for the delicious European version of Fanta, along with other treats) and used their wifi. Our hotel was not far, and ended up being in a great location, just downhill from the Hohensalzburg Fortress, the Apartment Kurt, https://apartment-kurt.allsalzburghotels.com/en/. Here we had two big bedrooms, a kitchenette and two full baths.

We walked around the beautiful old town area of Salzburg, taking in many of the pedestrian shopping areas. I was most amazed by the hand-painted eggs decorated for Christmas, Easter and other holidays. Sadly, I knew that our suitcases would not allow them to make it home in one piece. We finally ended up eating in a wonderful restaurant just one street from our hotel, Pauli Stubm, https://www.paul-stube.at. It had an authentic Austrian atmosphere, with a lively group and delicious food.

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Two full days in Salzburg
Having purchased the Salzburg City Card (for 2 days), we checked out the Salzburg Museum and the Panorama Museum. While there were some interesting displays, we discovered that museums are not a favorite for young men! My sons most enjoyed strolling through town, shopping, finding wi-fi, sipping on orange Fanta, and eating sausages, sandwiches and doner from street vendors!

We found a great restaurant for lunch Stern Biergarten https://www.sternbrau.at/rooms-garden/?lang=en. Food and outdoor seating were great and we tried the delicious Salzburger Nockerl.

That afternoon we did the Sound of Music bus tour with Panorama Tours. What a great time we had, singing from the soundtrack and visiting the movie sights, but only book this tour if you are a true Sound of Music fan. We loved our tour guide and the whole experience. It was a beautiful day and we saw more of the breathtaking Austrian countryside.

Our SOM tour guide recommended (as had many of you) the Augustiner Beer Garden. We found some delicious authentic food and tried the beer as well. We enjoyed a lovely stroll along the Salzach River back to our hotel, stopping for gelato along the way, as no day was complete without ice cream!

Monday, we made our way to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, taking the funicular to the top. This was all included in the Salzburg City Card. What an amazing view of Salzburg from the fortress. The City Card also included several of the museums within the Fortress.

On our way back, we made a quick tour through the St. Peter’s Cemetery and Catacombs (included with the Card). The Catacombs were the earliest settlement of Salzburg. Very interesting. Then we toured Mozart’s Birthplace. For lunch we had a picnic in the Residenplatz enjoying delicious sandwiches from a local deli and doner street stall. We walked over to Mozart’s Residence, but it was closed. Our last Salzburg Card activity was the Salzburg City Cruise. My husband and I toured the Mirabelle Palace Gardens as well, while the boys went shopping. For supper, we ate at an Italian restaurant close to our hotel.

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Two and 1/2 days in Innsbruck

Tuesday morning we took an early train to Innsbruck, arriving by 8:30am. Our hotel check-in was not until 2:30, but they let us store our luggage at the hotel. In hindsight, we should have taken a later train to Innsbruck, as we were exhausted from our travels thus far. We ended up crashing in a local McDonald’s, where we got some breakfast and some free wi-fi.

We loved our Hotel Central https://www.hotel-cafe-central.at/hotel-central/ where we had two modern rooms. The boys’ room was two story and had the better air conditioning! Once we settled into our rooms and rested for a bit, we explored Innsbruck. We quickly found the pedestrian areas and the Golden Roof, where we stopped for a photo. We strolled around the Marketplace, near the fast moving river. We ate sandwiches and some Greek food for lunch. That night we ate at a Rick Steves’ Austria recommendation Weinhaus Hopp. Finished the night with some delicious gelato.

We bought the Innsbruck City Card (for two days), which probably offered the most value of all the city cards we used.

Wednesday, we made our way to the Sightseer Bus and toured the Ambras Castle, Bergisel Ski Jump and the Tirol Panorama Museum with Imperial Infantry Museum. Lunch was Café Central at our hotel, consisting of more delicious schnitzel, this time Schnitzel Cordon Bleu. Later that afternoon we took the shuttle to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds exhibit.

Thursday was the highlight of our stay in Innsbruck, taking the Nordketten Cable Cars to the top of the mountains, with a stop along the way to the Innsbruck Zoo. The views at the top were spectacular and unforgettable. Definitely don’t miss this experience.

Once back in town, our younger sons went to shop and eat, while the rest of us enjoyed some pizza in an outdoor café. I loved every opportunity we had to eat outside in these outdoor cafés. With the mountain views, we enjoyed people watching and resting from our mountain climbing! Then we quickly toured the Imperial Palace and Golden Roof Museum. Our last night in Innsbruck we ate at an outdoor restaurant in the old part of town, again finishing up the night with gelato. An outdoor street concert entertained us as we walked through town to our hotel.

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Two and 1/2 days in Vienna

Friday, we were up early for our train to Vienna, about a 4 ½ hour trip. Thankfully, there was good wi-fi on the train, as my husband and I needed to do some grading for our on-line classes.

I thought I had checked the holiday schedule for Austria, but apparently I overlooked Ascension Day. Arriving at the train station in Vienna, it was obvious that many people were in town for the holiday! We waited around for a taxi (van) large enough for the 5 of us that took us to our hotel, Hotel Terminus https://terminus.at/de/, not far from the Naschmarkt.

We rested for a while and then went down to the Naschmarkt. At this point we were really tired, so the crowds at the market were somewhat overwhelming. We each found something to eat here and looked around at the various stalls and shops in the market.

We bought the Vienna City Card (for two days). Vienna was so crowded! We continued shopping and people watching, stopping to drink from the water fountains located around town. We sampled some treats at Café Dremel, where there was a considerable line. Then we ate supper at a Rick Steves’ recommendation Reinthaler’s Beisl consisting of more delicious schnitzel and other Austrian specialties. Of course we found gelato before retiring for the night.

Saturday was understandably a busy, crowded day in Vienna. The Naschmarkt had turned into a flea market this morning, so we shopped around and found a few trinkets here and there. We also grabbed a quick lunch here before walking back to the Vienna Opera House. We had hoped to take a tour (included in the City Card), but apparently that was not an option on such a busy weekend.

Instead we got on the Vienna Sightseeing Bus (included with the card) and rode around the city on two different bus lines. We took this bus out to Schönbrunn Palace to make sure to get a timed ticket for the next day, as we were worried they might sell out due to the crowds in town this holiday weekend. Having secured a timed entry for the next day, we took advantage of the beautiful day to tour the amazing gardens open at the palace. We hiked up to the Gloriette to see the views of Vienna from the top. The Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, along with assorted museums and the zoo, are so extensive that I’m glad we had two days to visit. The Sightseeing Bus returned us the Vienna Opera House. We walked back to the shopping area and ended up at Café Central. Be sure to visit Café Central. It was such a treat for the whole family. It’s a beautiful restaurant with delicious food, live piano music and our favorite waiter of the whole trip.

Sunday was our visit to Schönbrunn Palace. We had the Grand Tour with audio guide and loved every minute. Our Vienna Pass Cards also included many of the other experiences that we also took advantage of. First up, the Apple Strudel cooking show. Then the Carriage Museum and finally the Zoo, where seeing a panda for the first time was a highlight.

We returned to town and toured the Sisi Museum and Crown Jewels Exhibit. We ended up back at St. Stephen’s Church where a Sunday night market had been set up around the church with food and crafts and even live music. What a wonderful way to end our trip to Austria.

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Bonus: 24 hour layover in Istanbul

Yes, we actually scheduled a long layover on purpose, hoping to take advantage of Turkish Airlines "Stopover" program that offers a free hotel for one night. Sadly, a flight from the USA to Austria did not qualify us for this promotion, a fact that was unclear on the website. Nevertheless, we were glad to visit Turkey and hope to return for a longer stay!

I have never seen such a large city in all my life! Istanbul is huge, around 15 million people live here. Our van driver dropped us off on the street in front of what looked like a little street café. I must say, I was skeptical about whether or not this could actually be a hotel. But turns out, it was the cutest little “boutique” hotel with 8 rooms, of which we had two rooms for the night, at just over $100 total, Nika Hotel https://nika-otel-cafe.business.site/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=referral. The rooms were fresh and modern, with good wi-fi and the best air conditioning of our whole trip! And we were in walking distance from the main tourist attractions.

In our rooms we did the Binax Covid test for our return flight to the US. (Thankfully all 5 were negative). By now it was around 3 o’clock and we needed to get going. I grabbed a scarf, and we headed to the Blue Mosque which was pretty crowded and was undergoing some major renovations. A merchant offered to give us a tour, but he soon lost interest in us. From there we walked over to the Hagia Sophia Mosque, which was also crowded, but not unbearable. (Ladies do need a scarf or other head covering and everyone must take off their shoes).

While we did have a light meal on the flight from Vienna to Istanbul, we were still hungry. We found an outdoor café near the Grand Bazaar. We ordered a variety of menu items to sample. Then we headed to the Grand Bazaar. Another overwhelming shopping experience. So many different shops and so many people! We wandered around for a while, probably in circles. My youngest son found a chess set that he wanted, so the haggling began. Having settled on a price, the merchant also threw in a tea set. We also bought some Turkish delights and several spices.

Be sure to stop for the Turkish ice cream on the street. The ice cream vendors have the most fun doing stunts and tricks with the ice cream, which is really unique.

After two weeks of nonstop traveling, we were all beyond exhausted by the end of our trip. We rested in our hotel for a bit, before it was time to make one last supper and night walk in Istanbul. The two younger sons decided to call it quits and stayed at the hotel. My husband and I went with our oldest son to find a roof top terrace restaurant. Little did I know that we would have views of both mosques and of the water! It was such a beautiful night.

Thanks for following along!

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Thanks for the report. It was a quite enjoyable read! Did each of your sons happen to mention a favorite thing from the trip?