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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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Heatwave: Nine of the coolest places in Austria

As summer temperatures reach Austria, bringing temperatures well above the 30C, there are a few places you can go to help you cool down.

Heatwave: Nine of the coolest places in Austria

Europe’s heatwaves are no laughing matter, and temperatures even in alpine Austria can get close to 40C on many occasions during the summer. If you want to find places to cool down and avoid the heat, there are many beautiful locations to visit all over Austria.

From aquariums to caves and stunning lakes, here are some of the spots that will not be too sweltering even in the hot summer months.

Vienna aquarium haus des meeres

Vienna’s aquarium, the Haus des Meeres, is a great place to visit. (Photo: Daniel Zupanc/Presse)

In Vienna, visit the Haus des Meeres

Vienna has many places you can visit literally to cool off, as the city has a comprehensive plan to face heat waves. There are fog showers around the city, which spray a fine mist into the air to cool down passers-by; water features in its parks and drinking water fountains all over the city.

However, if you want more of an attraction for your summer months, a good call would be the Viennese aquarium, also known as Haus des Meeres.

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

Unless you spend some time in the “tropical” section, most of the building is climatized, and you get to see cool animals and beautiful aquariums. The Haus also has a rooftop bar with lovely views of Vienna.

Vienna woods

The beautiful Vienna Woods. ((c) Niederösterreich Werbung/Andreas Hofer)

In Lower Austria, venture into the Wienerwald

The Vienna Woods, which encompass the west and southwest of the city’s capital, are the forest where many great minds used to go for walks to get inspired – Mozart, Beethoven and Kafka are all closely linked to the Wienerwald.

READ ALSO: ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ in Austria: Five peaceful forest walks near Vienna

The region is beautiful throughout the year, and the greenery helps the area stay cooler than the cities over summer.

It’s a perfect setting for walks, picnics, and mountain biking, and several summer events take place over the hot months.

In Upper Austria, go to the Nationalpark Kalkalpen

Austria’s second-largest national park is within the Northern Limestone Alps mountain range, and it’s most famous for having the largest forested area in Central Europe. You can escape the summer heat under the cover of the trees, reach high panorama-view towers, climb peaks and enjoy horseback riding trails.

READ ALSO: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

The forest is a truly special thing. It’s the first World Natural Heritage forest in Austria and is home to some of the oldest trees in Europe.

The Kalkalpen is also where several rare animals can be found in Austria, including bears, the lynx and the golden eagle.

Styria has beautiful bike tours with fantastic views (© Steiermark Tourismus | Tom Lamm)

In Styria, visit the wine roads south of the state

Styria is home to what is known as Austria’s Tuscany region. The Weinstrassen are a beautiful and idyllic setting of roads full of twists and turns around vineyards.

Though the best time of the year to visit is arguably around September, to enjoy the fruits of the grape harvest, it is also a lovely (and a few degrees cooler than in city centres!) place to visit over the summer months.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about cycling in Austria

The wine roads are also a great region to cycle through, with lovely towns perfect for overnight stays, such as Ehrenhausen or Berghausen.

A woman enjoys basking in the sun on the swimming pier in the Buchau, in Achensee, Tyrol (© Achensee Tourismus)

In Tyrol, go swimming at the Achensee

Achensee is the largest lake in the Western state of Tyrol – also known as the “Tyrolean Sea” or even “Fjord of the Alps”.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

The lake has crystal clear waters – and the quality is near drinking water, with sight up to ten meters below the surface. It’s a perfect place to cool off, especially since, being an alpine lake, water temperatures tend to be refreshing and rarely over 20C.

Achensee’s shores have sandy beaches, and visitors enjoy plenty of summer activities, including windsurfing and sailing. It is said that even Austria’s emperors liked to go there to escape the city’s heat and cool off during the hottest months.

In Salzburg, explore the Dachstein Caves

There is no more effective way to cool off than literally entering an ice cave.

Salzkammergut, the lake region in Salzburg, has many beautiful places to visit over summer and lovely swimming spots to enjoy (Attersee is a must if you are in the area).

READ ALSO: Salt of the Alps: ancient Austrian mine holds Bronze Age secrets

However, those looking to really escape blistering temperatures and the blazing sun will be entirely at home at the Dachstein Caves, a world of ice and underground halls.

There are two main caves: Dachstein Eishöhle, the icy and illuminated one, and Mammuthölle, one of the deepest and longest caves in the world.

Bregenz austria lake constance

The beautiful Lake Constance in Austria ((c) Christiane Setz)

In Vorarlberg, go skinny dipping at Bodensee

If the heat is just too much, it might be time to strip down to your birthday suit and go for a swim in the lake.

Austria is very nonchalant about nudity, but be sure to keep your bathing suit on unless you are in the designated FKK (Freikörperkultur) areas. Nudity sections or not, the vast Bodensee lake (also known as Lake Constance) has beautiful shores with turquoise waters for you to cool off and enjoy the view.

READ ALSO: The 10 biggest culture shocks experienced by foreigners in Austria

What view, you may ask? The lake borders Germany and Switzerland, the Rhine river flows to it, and Alpine mountains surround it. Heat or no heat, it’s a fantastic place to be.

The Neusiedler See (Neusiedler Lake) in Burgenland. Von Flame99, CC BY-SA 3.0, Creative Commons, Wikicommons

In Burgenland, go for a swim at Austria’s ocean, the Neusiedler See

We know we risk being repetitive, but Austria is not known for its mountains and lakes for nothing, and Neusiedler See is undoubtedly one of the most famous ones.

The lake is one of the largest in Europe, and it straddles the Austrian-Hungarian border, covering 315 square kilometres.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

It is not even two meters deep at maximum depth, so it does warm up considerably during summer. The constant and strong winds help cool off, though, and the region is well known for its water sports and surfing possibilities.

There are lovely little towns surrounding the lake, and a visit to Rust, where you can see many stork nests on top of the houses, is a must.

In Carinthia, enjoy a resort vibe in Faaker See and Ossiacher See

If all that is missing for you is to feel like you are in a beach resort, then Carinthia has the perfect solution.

Two lakes, Faaker See and Ossiacher See, offer beautiful views, nice swimming spots, and plenty of activities close to Villach, one of the state’s largest cities. 

Do you know any great spots to cool off during Austrian heat? Let us know in the comment section below or send us an email at [email protected]

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