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 have 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.
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 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 as I am. 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.
Villach, Austria resources: Villach, Austria - On the trail of Wolfgang Puck
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.
Salzburg, Austria Travel Resources: Salzburg Travel Profile
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 (Only 40 rooms are open to the public).
Brno, Czech Republic
Brno is an interesting city, the Czech Republic's second largest and birthplace of Gregor Mendel and Milan Kundera. I especially enjoyed the trudge up to Špilberk Castle and the museum inside, especially the documentation on torture (really--I'm not the type that pulls the wings off flies with immeasurable glee--it's interesting to see how far we've come!--[or not]). If you like the torture deal, you might also want to visit the Catacombs at the Capuchin Monastery.
Brno Travel Resources: Brno - Moravia's Capital
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 Vlatva River--or hang out in a jazz club or on the famous Charles Bridge, or diddle around at the Sex Machines Museum.
Prague Travel Resources
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. See our Interactive Germany Map for more. This could make the itinerary a pretty easy loop, ending up back at Venice. From Venice, you can easily get to Ferrara, or even Bologna.
The Itinerary Toolbox: Country Maps
- Austria Map and Train Routes
- Germany Interactive Map
- Italy Cities Map
- Italy Rail Map
- Venice to Sicily Suggested Itinerary
More Suggested Itineraries
See the full list: Suggested Travel Itineraries in Europe