In a word, Vienna is awesome. Not in the way that everything seems to be “awesome” these days, so much so that is has lost its meaning. Vienna is awesome in the truest sense of the word – inducing awe and inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration.
Driving from Vienna to Salzburg is a quick and easy way to visit two of Austria’s magnificent cities. Salzburg is approximately 300 km to the west of Vienna, and you can easily reach it via the A1 motorway (West Autobahn) in 3 hours.
But while Vienna and Salzburg both have much to offer, a scenic road trip across Austria’s countryside will give you a more delightful overview of the country. Rolling hills, majestic mountain ranges, sparkling lakes, and storybook towns await in this amazing road trip itinerary from Vienna to Salzburg!
For nine consecutive years now, Vienna has been crowned the world’s best city to live in. Surely, you would think, that endorsement would have been enough to draw the tourist crowds in? But surprisingly, Vienna remains one of Europe’s underrated tourist destinations. While it does enjoy the constant stream of culture- and art-lovers finding their way to the historic capital’s cobbled streets and famed opera houses, there’s much, much more to Vienna that largely remains under the radar.
We started our drive from Vienna at 10 AM, and since then it has been one amazing scene after another. We gawked at Vienna’s grand buildings, at the countryside that looked like Tina Blau’s oil paintings come to life, the roads so smooth and well-maintained, and at the BMWs and Audis zipping past us as we drove our rented Seat within the 130 KPH limit. Little did we know, the best view was yet to come.
After brief stops at several points in Lower Austria and Wachau Valley, we entered Salzkammergut and began our mountain drive. It was like entering a dreamland – we passed through serene villages complete with cows grazing contentedly on emerald pastures, which turned into narrow mountain roads overlooking a glistening lake. Less than half an hour in, we caught the first glimpse of our day’s final destination. As we rounded a curve, the trees parted on one side of the road, and there it was, hundreds of meters below us – Hallstatt lying snugly between the imposing mountains and the serene lake.
As the sun set, we finally rolled in to our pension. The next few days we would explore Hallstatt and Salzkammergut, which became one of the most relaxing holidays and a welcome break from Central Europe’s busy cities.
It’s almost difficult to tear yourself away from Austria’s magnificent cities. You can spend days roaming around Vienna’s architectural wonders, marveling at Schonbrunn and the Gloriette, getting lost in mazes of manicured gardens and abundant artwork. There’s much to see and do in Vienna and Salzburg, and indeed, visiting these cities is a great way to discover Austria’s glorious history and culture.
But to get to the heart of Austria’s rustic charm, you must venture to its small countryside villages. You’ll find that there’s more to Austria than operas and schnitzels and all-out opulence. There are also stunning natural landscapes, breathtaking vistas, picture-perfect storybook towns, and plenty of outdoor adventures to be had.
If you only make it to one town, make it Hallstatt. Nestled in Salzkammergut’s mountainous region, Hallstatt is a narrow town sandwiched between a mountain and a lake, lined with pastel houses decked with flowerboxes, and with swans gracefully plying the coastline, making it the perfect storybook town to take a break from the cities. It’s a great stopover on a drive from Vienna to Salzburg, and a great base for exploring the rest of the gorgeous Salzkammergut.
If you’re thinking of venturing to Salzkammergut soon, here are our best recommendations on where to stay in Hallstatt.
My train stops on the border town of Mikulov in South Moravia, and as I step out onto the platform, I am treated to the distinctive beauty of a Czech castle town: red terracotta roofs, twisted cobblestone streets, and an imposing 13th-century castle set against the backdrop of rolling hills and the outline of a distant mountain range.
But the normally sleepy town is abuzz this beautiful September weekend. It’s the annual Palavske vinobrani, a weekend-long wine festival that transforms the usually sleepy town into a big wild street party. And even first-time festival-goers like me know: where wine flows, merriment follows. Continue reading “South Moravia – revelry and relaxation in the Czech Republic’s wine region”
From its medieval castle to its meandering cobbled alleys, Cesky Krumlov is the stuff of fairytales. Until now, it remains one of my favorite destinations in the world – and definitely worth more than a day trip from Prague.
You can easily spend two to three days in Cesky Krumlov. The first day will most likely be spent staring at the beautiful town square from the castle tower, pinching yourself in disbelief at just how amazingly gorgeous the old town is. Visiting the town’s top sights will take a day or two, while the enchanting Blansky forest surrounding the old town is worth a couple of days of short, relatively easy hikes.
If you’re still thinking if an overnight trip to Cesky Krumlov is worth it, you should definitely go for it. On my first visit, I originally planned to stay just for 3 days. I ended up extending my stay – and still I wished I stayed longer.
So skip the day trip and go for at least an overnight trip. Once you get there, you’ll know what I mean. In the meantime, here’s where to stay in Cesky Krumlov. Book early – Cesky Krumlov’s not quite Prague yet in terms of tourist density, but it’s getting pretty close now that this romantic medieval town’s “secret” is out.
Have you ever had one of those crazy fantasies where you are the king or queen of a medieval kingdom? That the land is at peace, your subjects adore you and there isn’t a brewing coup or an impending invasion? And more importantly: that the person with whom you are betrothed is actually your secret childhood love and not some stranger you had to strategically marry?
Pardon the flight of ideas – it’s easy to get lost in a web of absurd medieval fantasies when you’re looking down on the old town of Cesky Krumlov from the castle tower. Continue reading “Cesky Krumlov travel guide – a trip to the Czech Republic’s magnificent fairy-tale town”
It started with the smell of roast pig.
As we walked down the meandering pathway from our pension to the old town, I stopped in my tracks. The sweet smell of garlic, herbs, and smoke wafted from a window, bringing with it the memories of fiestas, weddings, and summers spent with cousins and grandparents in the countryside. Roast pig had always been the star of every happy occasion, and now it heralded another one. Giddy with excitement, I declared to my boyfriend even before I set foot into the old town: “I love Cesky Krumlov!”
When it comes to relaxing holidays, there’s no town like a wine town. One: you have the perfect weather that helps create the perfect grapes. Two: these grapes create amazing wine that inspires delicious food. And three: this makes everyone giddy happy and friendly!
But too much of a good thing can be oh-so-wonderful, so we add one more ingredient to this perfect holiday recipe: the open road. And that’s exactly how we spent our holiday in Alsace, France’s northeastern wine-growing region: a road trip through beautiful towns, lush vineyards, and breathtaking mountain roads, all while filling up on good food, great wine, and amazing sights.