An Itinerary for Exploring Central Europe

Venice, Vienna, Prague, and Nuremberg

Central Europe Itinerary Map
James Martin

It's hard to define "Central Europe" these days, but this suggested itinerary takes you not only to some of Europe's hottest destinations but goes through some stunning scenery in four countries: Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany.

This itinerary takes you through the western countries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, plus northern Italy and Bavaria. Distances are short and each of the destinations on the itinerary has train stations, so this is an excellent rail itinerary.

You can start on either end of the itinerary, but we'll start off with Venice.

Venice, Italy

What better place to start our tour but one of the foundations of the European Grand Tour, Venice. Besides trade, Venice also shares some history with Austria. Napoleon, campaigning against Austria in Italy in 1797, got rid of the last doge. As a result, the treaty of Campo Formio ceded Venice and the Veneto to Austria. Venice remained under Austrian rule until Austria was defeated in the Seven Weeks' War in 1866.

Villach, Austria

Villach is a small village where Wolfgang Puck started his cooking career. It's pleasant enough for a one night stay, and the food is certainly first-rate, but an overnight stay should be considered optional unless you're adverse to long days on the train. The train from Venice stops here, where you can either transfer to a connecting train to Salzburg or wait for the Vienna train.

The scenery on most of the Villach to Venice route is stunning.

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg is Austria's fourth largest city, the birthplace of Mozart, and home to the famous Salzburg Festival. Hike up to the Salzburg Fortress while whistling something from The Sound of Music.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna sits at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe, Have dinner along the lively Spittleberg Street, hang out in a few of the city's famous coffee shops, catch a movie and a quick bite in front of the Rathaus (city hall) in the summer, or catch a musical performance. Spend some time in one of the 1440 rooms that make up the Schloss Schönbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Habsburgs.

Brno, Czech Republic

Brno is an interesting city, the Czech Republic's second largest and birthplace of Gregor Mendel and Milan Kundera. You can hike up to Špilberk Castle and the museum inside, especially the documentation on torture. If you like the torture deal, you might also want to visit the Catacombs at the Capuchin Monastery.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is everyone's favorite destination in Eastern Europe, and why not? It's a treasure trove of fabulous architecture. See it all from the water by taking a boat ride on the Vltava River--or hang out in a jazz club or on the famous Charles Bridge.

Nurnberg, or Nuremberg Germany

If you don't have time, you can skip this end of the trip, but you'd be missing some fabulous scenery on the train ride from Prague to Nuremberg. And Nuremberg is a very interesting little city in itself.

Rail Passes for the Suggested Itinerary

You could go with a Eurail Global Pass. You could also buy the European East Pass, which covers 5 rail days in Austria and the Czech Republic and purchase point-to-point tickets for the Venice and Nuremberg legs.

Extending the Itinerary

From Nuremberg, you could easily take the train down to Munich, or even to Neuschwanstein. This could make the itinerary a pretty easy loop, ending up back in Venice. From Venice, you can get to Ferrara or even Bologna.