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Five underrated towns you can visit in a day from Vienna

Vienna is well located for trips to large cities in Austria and other neighbouring countries, but don't neglect the historic and beautiful small towns you can also visit for the day.

Vineyard Krems
One of the advantages of living abroad is the chance to explore your new country at a slow pace. Photo: Patrick Langwallner/Unsplash

With plenty of train connections to Salzburg, Graz and Hallstatt, not to mention Bratislava, Budapest and Prague, you’re spoilt for choice if you ever want to get out of the Austrian capital.

But alongside these tourist hotspots, living in Vienna allows you to explore the country at a slower pace and take time to appreciate the smaller towns along the route. Here are five which are worth taking a day to visit.

Baden bei Wien 

Baden has been a popular excursion for centuries thanks to its hot springs, and as well as warming up in the water, it works as a good starting point for hikes and bike rides through summer and autumn, while another draw of the town is its casino. You can also soak up some of the history by visiting the Kaiser-Franz-Josef Museum (which also has a good cafe with gorgeous views).

Spot the Kaiserhaus in the main square where Emperor Franz I used to holiday, and stroll through the Kurpark for a Mediterranean vibe with its flowers and options for both short and long walks to beautiful viewpoints.

 
 
 
 
 
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How to get there: Trains run direct to Baden from the Hauptbahnhof, lasting around half an hour, or take the tram (Badner Bahn) lasting around an hour from the Opera.

Don’t miss: The main event are the sulphurous mineral springs. You have two options: the outdoor Thermalstrandbad in the summer season (day tickets for adults are €10.10 on weekdays and €11.70 on weekends, with a tiny discount if you start your visit after 1om) or the Römertherme (for adults, the price for three hours is € 15.60 on weekdays and €17.90 on Sundays and public holidays, but you get a discount of around a third by visiting after 6pm. Students and children also enter at a lower price).

Eat and drink: Wine lovers should visit the Badener Hauervinothek, where you can sample and learn about a huge variety of local wines.

Krems an der Donau

One of the prettiest and most historic towns along the Danube, Krems is a must if you’re living in Vienna or even having an extended visit there. 

Medieval meets modern with the city’s Kunstmeile or Art Mile housing museums that showcase art from caricatures (at the Karikaturmuseum) to contemporary (at Kunsthalle Krems) and classic (at the changing exhibitions of the Landesgalerie Niederösterreich or Lower Austria State Gallery). If you’re an art fan, get the combi ticket to visit all eight sites on the street.

If you have enough time for an overnight stay (perhaps at the Steinberger spa hotel), during the summer months a trip further along the Danube to Melk with its abbey and cobbled streets, the ruins of Dürnstein or the fairytale Aggstein Castle is highly recommended. Melk and Krems could be done in a day, taking advantage of the boats through the summer (just make sure to get to Melk first in that case, as the fast current of the Danube means the journey is much slower in the other direction).

Photo: Aneta Pawlik/Unsplash

How to get there: From Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof there are regular direct trains taking just over an hour.

Don’t miss: Sampling apricot schnaps, wine, strudel, or any number of other delights you can find featuring the fruit this area is famous for.

Eat and drink: Step back in time at the Cafe-Konditorei Hagmann (which serves a variety of apricot-flavoured cakes) and Gasthaus Jell for authentic Austrian fare. For more modern dishes, try the Poldi Fitzka in the State Gallery, and excellent views of the city are to be had at the upmarket restaurant Gozzo by Late — go at lunchtime for a more affordable version of the menu.

Klosterneuburg

The closest town on this list, Klosterneuburg’s big draw is its monastery, 900 years old with a claim to having the country’s oldest winery.

It’s a very sleepy town, but a nice change from th bustle of Vienna. Families with children can also try Happyland, a sports centre with facilities including pools, a climbing gym, and an ice rink, while active travellers can hike from Vienna to enjoy the views along the way.

 
 
 
 
 
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How to get there: You can take the S40 train or Bus 239 to Klosterneuburg from Heiligenstadt on the U4, which takes a little over ten minutes.

Alternatively, the hike there is a steep but scenic route. From Heiligenstadt station, it takes about an hour to climb up the hill to the panoramic terrace at Kahlenberg, and then another hour to walk down to Klosterneuburg (through a beautiful residential neighbourhood), but you will want to budget in time for photos along the way.

The other choice is walking along the Danube for a flatter walk. 

Don’t miss: The monastery and its wines. If you’re at all interested, it’s worth paying the extra for tours of the monastery and its wine cellar (non-German speakers will need an audio guide) rather than just the general admission, which won’t allow you to access much of the complex.

Eat and drink: Head to Kerbl am Weinberg to round off your day trip with traditional Austrian cuisine and beautiful views.

Eisenstadt

The capital of Burgenland, Eisenstadt is grand in a modest way. Its main claim to fame is as the home of composer Joseph Haydn, and there’s usually an annual classical musical festival in September. The Esterhazy palace is the city’s main attraction, with a charming garden and lots to learn if you take a tour of the interior. You can spend the rest of your day strolling through Eisenstadt’s streets, or explore the other gems of the region, whether it’s wineries or just relaxing at Neusiedler See.

 
 
 
 
 
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Don’t miss: The chance to fit Eisenstadt into the itinerary if you’re travelling to Neusiedler See; accommodation here is generally cheaper than the spots among the vineyards. Check out whether the Neusiedler See Card can save you money if you devote some time to exploring the region.

Eat and drink: 2Beans will take care of all your coffee and cake needs, while FreuRaum is a community hub serving up veggie food.

St Pölten 

St Pölten is the oldest recorded town in Austria, and one of the oldest in all of Europe. Despite that claim to fame, we’ll be honest, your Austrian friends will probably be bemused as to why you’d bother visiting. Most skip straight to the more scenic spots along the Danube (like Krems and Melk) or only see St Pölten as a stop on longer journeys.

Nevertheless, at such close proximity to Vienna, it’s worth going there for a change of scenery and a stroll around the centre will take in lovely Baroque architecture. The Landesmuseum (State Museum) and Stadtmuseum (City Musem) are worth visiting.

 
 
 
 
 
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How to get there: Regular trains run from the Westbahnhof and Hauptbahnhof to St Pölten, taking less than half an hour.

Don’t miss: Entry to the Klangturm (Tower of Sound) is free, and you can climb or take the lift to its panoramic terrace for views.

Eat and drink: Gasthof Winkler serves up classic Austrian fare, or stop at Schau.Spiel for breakfast or drinks.

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BREXIT

British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

The post-Brexit requirement for drivers from the UK to obtain a 'green card' from their insurance company before visiting Europe is set to be dropped after the European Commission agreed to waive the requirement.

British drivers will no longer need an insurance 'green card' to visit Europe, EU rules
Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP

The announcement from the Commission on Thursday was part of a package of measures designed to diffuse tension over the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but will apply throughout the EU.

The new rule will come into effect 20 days after the ruling is published in the EU’s official journal, which is expected to be in the next few days.

This means that British visitors taking their cars when going on holidays or family visits to France, Germany, Spain etc will no longer be required to obtain extra paperwork from their car insurance companies ahead of their journey.

Readers of a certain age will remember the ‘green cards’ – issued by the insurance company before a trip abroad. The internationally recognised card shows local law enforcement that the car is fully insured.

This requirement returned after the end of the Brexit transition period, although in practice not all insurance companies were issuing the cards and some told customers that they were not necessary.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) described the decision as excellent news for drivers.

Its director general, Huw Evans, told British newspaper The Guardian that the Commission had taken a “pragmatic approach on the matter”.

“UK drivers will no longer need to apply for a green card through their insurer which will help reduce bureaucracy for drivers and road hauliers travelling between the UK and EU,” he said.

“It will be especially welcomed by motorists in Northern Ireland driving across the border.”

Bilateral deals on driving licences mean that most EU countries continue to allow British tourists and visitors to drive on UK licences (although British residents in some countries have to swap their licence for a local one) and an International Driver’s Permit is not necessary.

There are, however, still plenty of extra requirements in place for Brits coming into EU countries, from changes to passports rules for both humans and pets to a ban on ham sandwiches – check out the complete list of new rules HERE.

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