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Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

Looking to get away from the busy capital for a weekend or even a day trip? Here are five places you can visit in a few hours (or less) from Vienna.

Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna
The Viennese Alps are a great day trip from the Austrian capital (Photo by Daniela Turcanu on Unsplash)

Austria is known for its beauty: both natural and architectural. Vienna is a perfect example of the mix between beautiful parks, lakes and rivers and the imperial buildings that are simply jaw-dropping.

But there is much to be seen around the Habsburg capital, and especially for those who live in Vienna, an escapade for a weekend or just a few hours can be the perfect small vacation. And an opportunity to get to know more about Austria and its quaint little towns.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

These are five places just a short ride south of Vienna that you should definitely visit.

A boat seen sailing near Neusiedl am See. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

A boat seen sailing near Neusiedl am See. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

Lake Neusiedl

Take advantage of the warm weather and sunny days to visit Neusiedler See, or lake Neusiedl, also known as the Sea of the Viennese.

The lake is huge at 315 square meters of surface area, and it reaches the border with Hungary. The Austrian side is particularly packed in the summer months, as Vienna residents flock to the See to enjoy swimming and water sports.

READ ALSO: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

The region is also a protected wildlife habitat and offers attractive sightseeing opportunities just about an hour’s drive from Vienna. It is also surrounded by quaint villages and towns, like Rust, Austria’s smallest statutory city, and the picturesque ​​Podersdorf am See.

Skywalk viewing terrace Hohe Wand Nature Park (photo: ©Wiener Alpen/Franz Zwickl)

Schneeberg and Hohe Wand

Mountains can also be found outside of Tyrol and Salzburg, and Schneeberg (literally snow mountain in German) is the perfect example.

At over 2,000 meters, it is the highest mountain in Lower Austria and just under two hours drive from Vienna. The Schneebergbahn can drive those who do not want to climb most of the way up the mountain, where there are several huts with local food and drinks.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Six off-the-beaten-track towns to visit

On the way to Schneeberg, there is also the Hohe Wand, a municipality with four quaint villages and countless hiking trails.

The Nature Park has beautiful viewing points and some surprising attractions, including a petting zoo for kids (and grown-ups), a hike with llamas and alpacas and even paragliding for those who want an even more unique view.

The Laxenburg castles in Austria (Photo by Daniela Turcanu on Unsplash)

Laxenburg Castle Park

Just a 45-minute ride with public transport can take you to Laxenburg, a market town in the district of Mödling, where the Habsburg imperial family enjoyed their summers – and now you can too. The region is known for its castles and castle-side lakes. All very instagrammable, but most of all: very enjoyable, especially on warm sunny days.

The breathtaking view in Semmering, Lower Austria (©Niederösterreich-Werbung/ Michael Liebert)


Together with Schneeberg, Semmering is one of the most famous mountains around Vienna and a destination all year long. It is easily accessible in under an hour-and-a-half with public transport or a car.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to not be ‘bumped’ from an overcrowded Austrian train

There is no shortage of entertainment options, including hikes, tours, viewing points, and cute places to eat and drink. The short walk to the 20-Schilling Blick, where you can see the train tracks (and the train, of course), is a great day trip.

Feeling like something further?

Austria is well connected by an extensive train network. You can easily go to different destinations, even if just for the day. A train ride from Vienna to Salzburg, for example, takes less than three hours – from downtown to downtown.

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

Several trains go back and forth Vienna-Salzburg on weekends, and tickets can start at € 30 (one way). Night trains can also take you even further. Here you can see ten destinations by direct night train from Vienna.

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Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria’s biggest open air festival

Austria has the largest free open-air festival in Europe, and the Donauinselfest is taking place this weekend. Here is what you need to know.

Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria's biggest open air festival

The Austrian Donauinselfest is known as the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and it happens yearly on Vienna’s Danube island. The festival attracts around three million visitors over its three days of events and is starting on Friday in the Austrian capital.

The festival has been taking place yearly since 1983 on the 21.1-kilometre river island. This year, it has 14 different areas and 11 stages, according to the official website. Visitors can expect more than 600 hours of program.

READ ALSO: The best festivals and events to enjoy in Austria this summer

Here is what you need to know to enjoy the programme fully.

When and where is the festival?

The festival has an extensive range of events starting on Friday, June 24th, and lasting until Sunday, June 26th. It takes place on the island between the new Danube and the Danube rivers, known as the Donauinsel.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

It is easily accessible via the U1 (Donauinsel station) and U6 (Handelskai station) metro and there are no parking spaces available near the festival site.

Admission to the event is free.

The festival is back after the pandemic

After two years of reduced capacity and many Covid-19 restrictions, the Donauinselfest is back to (almost) normal. There is no limit to the number of visitors, no requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery from the disease, and no mask mandate.

However, the authorities have asked that people take “personal responsibility” as coronavirus infection numbers have been rising.

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

The organisers have requested people to get tested before visiting the vast festival, reported.

People gather on the shores of the Danube river, in Vienna during a hot sunny day and Danube Day on June 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

“We ask everyone who would like to visit the Donauinselfest this year to take a PCR or rapid test in advance and thus protect themselves and others. People with symptoms are not allowed to enter the festival grounds.”, said organiser Matthias Friedrich.

Though masks are not mandatory, they are recommended on-site if it is too full of people and no social distancing is possible. Besides, there is a masks requirement to all Donauinselfest workers in indoor areas.

Watch out for what you cannot bring

There is an extensive list of things that are not allowed on the festival site. For example, visitors are not allowed to take large bags and backpacks (“A3 format”, according to the website). However, a gym bag is not considered a backpack.

Animals, including dogs, are prohibited – except for guide dogs and service dogs.

You are also not allowed to bring umbrellas, alcoholic beverages, cans, glass bottles, or drones. The list of prohibited items includes “propaganda material”, spray bottles, whistles, large or bulky objects, bicycles and skateboards, stools and chairs, food and more.

Check out the complete list here.

Danube festival

Vienna’s “Danube-island” Festival will return this weekend. (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

READ ALSO: Forecast: Austria set for high temperatures and storms throughout weekend and beyond

You can – and should – bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as temperatures are expected to be around the 30Cs over the next few days.

What kind of music is there?

The festival has several stages and a broad programme selection. The bands are usually more regional, with a significant presence of Austrian, German, and Italian bands.

You can find all sorts of music, from pop to rock, rap, and techno. There are even tribute bands like Break Free, which will play Queen’s best signs on the rock stage.

The program includes other activities as well, such as poetry slam, art stages, sport areas, and even events for families and children.

You can check the official program here.