Vienna is surrounded by beauty, culture, and history. Close to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, it affords travelers plenty of great getaways with minimum hassle and expense. It's also in close reach of idyllic countryside villages, vineyards with wine-tasting opportunities, and breathtaking mountain landscapes. These are the best day trips from Vienna, Austria that can also be extended to an overnight or weekend stay, so you can make the most of each destination.
The Wachau Valley
The Wachau Valley is a remarkable network of green forests, storybook castles, medieval abbeys, pristine riverbanks, idyllic vineyards, and cute little towns. The area is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular getaways from Vienna.
Located about an hour from the city center by car or bus, the Valley offers plenty of things to see and do. It's coveted by history buffs, wine lovers, foodies, and anyone in search of a bucolic and quaint Austria.
Spanning some 25 miles between the pretty towns of of Krems and Melk, the Wachau Valley (also referred to as the Danube Valley for the river that runs through it) is rich with both history and natural beauty.
What to Do There: Make sure to visit the stunning Melk Abbey, situated at the top of a hill and offering gorgeous views over the river below and the entire Valley. The Benedictine Abbey, which dates to 1089, is perched on a site that has been used by various royal and religious figures for over 1,000 years. Its fine marble elements, arresting domed entrance, and picturesque gardens make it a real draw card in the Valley. There's also a museum dating to the Austrian Imperial period, offering visitors a good overview of the site and displaying numerous opulent artifacts.
Wine tasting in the Wachau valley is also a great options, as is a long walk along the Danube between Melk and Krems, and exploring the area's many interesting historic sites. Take a look at this page on the UNESCO World Heritage Trail in the Valley.
Take the train for an hour due east, and you'll find yourself in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia and one of the prettiest and most well-preserved cities in Europe.
Bratislava's cobbled pedestrian streets lined with cafes and restaurants, grand old national theatre, and whimsical statues make for an ideal day trip. Even many travelers on tight budgets will find the fare reasonable, and when it's nice out, walking around and visiting the city's main monuments is an inexpensive way to spend the day.
What to Do There: With its distinctive, brightly colored facades and warm red rooftops, the city is cheerful and full of interesting sites, even on a foggy or rainy day. Make sure to visit the 16th-century Bratislava castle, a storybook-worthy monument that dominates a high hill overlooking the old city.
If you have a bit more time and wouldn't mind spending a lot of time on the water, a day-long cruise by boat from Vienna to Bratislava is entirely possible, too. However, these cruises generally only operate between April to September.
The Local Vineyards of Vienna
One of the most idyllic and easy ways to get out of the city for a spell is to head for the local vineyards of Vienna. These winemaking areas are remarkably close to the urban hustle and bustle but make you feel like you've gotten far, far away from it all.
Vienna counts an astounding 700 hectares of actively cultivated vines within its greater city limits, and 80% of these produce distinctive Austrian white wines, including the world-famous Gruner Vetliner and Wiener Gemischter Satz, a local speciality.
In the spring and fall, locals flock to the vineyards to catch a bit of bucolic country charm, taste and judge the seasonal bounty, and nibble on typical Austrian specialties at local heurige (country wine estates where food is also generally served).
What to Do There: This is probably one of the most Austrian things you can do on a trip to Wien: spend a lazy afternoon at a heurige or two. Taste the latest whites and tuck into a plate of cheese, charcuterie, special salads and homemade cakes.
For more information on the best wine-tastings and heurige in close reach of the city, including information on how to get there by train and/or bus, visit this page.
More than 900 years old, the Klosterneuburg Monastery is one of the Vienna area's loveliest and most historically important centers of religious activity. It houses numerous prized works of religious art, including the "Verdun Altar," crowns, and other ceremonial items.
Blending high Gothic and Baroque architecture, the Monastery features distinctive green domes and towers that can be spotted from afar as you approach the hilly area on which it stands. It's also surrounded by centuries-old vineyards: a typical feature of the Austrian countryside.
Founded in 1114 by Margrave Leopold III, the site has served as a residence of many Imperial dynasties, including the Habsburgs. Since it's served as an unusual combination of monastery and royal residence, it lends much insight into the religious and Imperial history of Austria.
What to Do There: Make sure to see the Verdun Altar, a remarkably well-preserved piece of medieval art. Also see the onsite wine cellars and the former private rooms of Emperor Charles VI, which serve as the starting point for most guided tours. For more information on getting there, what to do and see at the monastery, see this page.
Kreuzenstein Castle and Fortress
Crowning a grand hill that was prized by settlers as far back as the prehistoric period, this castle and fortress is one of the most arresting sites around Vienna. Although the original 12th-century medieval structure was destroyed during the 17th century, the reconstructed 19th-century site and its adjoining museum make for a fun and informative visit.
Kreuzenstein served as a center of strategic defense against enemies for many centuries, and was acquired by the powerful Habsburg family (later to rule much of Europe with their Empire) during the Middle Ages. Today, it serves as a museum of medieval history, art and culture.
What to Do There: There's an armory, chapel, Knight's Hall, kitchen and keep to explore. For more information on visiting the site, including details on guided tours and admission fees, see this page.
True, Prague is a bit of a stretch for a day trip in the strict sense—at least if you want to really take advantage of the city. But if you leave Vienna early in the morning and opt for an overnight stay in the Czech capital, a 24-hour hop between the two remarkable cities is feasible.
It takes around four hours to get to Prague from the Austrian capital, by train, car, or tourist bus. For this reason, make sure to set out early so you have enough time to explore all the highlights of the former center of Bohemia.
What to Do There: Old Prague is a marvel and another UNESCO World Heritage site. With its breathtaking and remarkably preserved Old Town Square, Royal Palace, Jewish Quarter and distinctive synagogue, Prague Castle, Kafka Museum, and numerous other attractions, this is one of Eastern Europe's most fascinating cities.
In addition to taking some time to taste specialities such as local Czech beers, goulash, dumplings and pastries, we recommend hitting off-the-beaten-path attractions such as the Cubist Museum, one of the city's most interesting gems. Also make sure to stroll across the centuries-old Charles Bridge.
A must for classical music fans, the quiet village of Heiligenstadt lies just outside of Viennese city limits. Its claim to fame is that Ludwig von Beethoven visited the town many times, composing part of his Second Symphony in a small apartment here in 1802. Arriving for the first time at the tender age of 17 as a student of Mozart's, the young Ludwig would return to Vienna to study under Haydn and stayed until his death in 1827.
What to Do There: Make sure to visit the composer's former residence at 6 Proubusgasse. It's been transformed into a 14-room museum that's only been open since November 2017. Toward the end of his life when Beethoven was losing his hearing, he wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament here, an unsent missive to his brothers that reveals much about the composer's suffering.
The permanent collection tells the story of that famous letter and displays numerous personal artefacts of Beethoven's, musical equipment and other objects of interest.
Also, Beethoven, who eventually moved to Vienna, is buried in the city's biggest cemetery at Zentralfriedhof. There are many other sites around the Austrian capital that can be visited as part of an informal "Beethoven tour"—the new museum being one of them. For information on visiting the Beethoven Museum, visit this page.
This iconic city served as the setting for the beloved movie "The Sound of Music." Salzburg is roughly two and a half hours away from Vienna by train. If you're looking for a slice of the idyllic Austrian atmosphere you've so often heard about, a trip to this city near the German border is well worth a try. Offering views of the Eastern Alps, Salzburg is surrounded by picturesque mountains.
What to Do There: Famous denizens include Mozart, and classical music fans can visit his birthplace at the popular museum that stands here.
Make sure to spend a few hours roaming around the Baroque Altstadt (Old Town), which has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Noteworthy sights and attractions there include the Mirabell Palace and its sumptuous formal gardens (reportedly a favorite playground of the Von Trapp kids), Salzburg Cathedral, and the Residentzplatz, an immense square in the city centre that's dominated by the Residenzbrunnen, a stunning fountain crafted in marble.
Otherwise, a stop at Hohensalzburg Castle is another good option, as is a walk along the gorgeous banks of the Salzach river. You can even take a sightseeing cruise on the river to rest your feet for a stretch.
Carnuntum, an Old Roman Archaeological Site
Austria was a vibrant and important part of ancient Rome's nexus of power and influence within Europe. Located just east of Vienna via a short (and inexpensive) local train, the Archaeological Park at Carnantum features some impressive Roman ruins, reconstructed buildings and an engaging permanent exhibition that brings the 1st Century BC town back to life.
For anyone interested in history and archaeology, this makes an ideal and easy day trip. There are plenty of activities designed for kids, too, so a family outing is certainly possible here.
What to Do There: During its heyday, Carnantum was home to some 50,000 people. Come see the reconstructed buildings at the park. These include elaborate Roman baths, or Thermae, stately houses of wealthy citizens, and even part of an arena that once served as a gladiator school. The latter was only discovered in 2011.
For more Information on the park, tickets and getting there from Vienna, see this page at the official website.
The Woods of Vienna
The Vienna Woods—part of the lower foothills of the Alps—are immense, full of easy walking trails, heurige for wine tasting and casual meals, and the Kahlenberg, a small mountain popular for its panoramic views.
What to Do There: On a clear day, the Kahlenberg viewpoint affords visitors incredible vantages over the entire city and its surroundings. Home to a centuries-old monastery and the Baroque St Joseph's Church, the mountain also features a large tower, the Stefaniewarte, that was built in the late 19th century in honor of the Crown Princess Stefanie of Belgium. From here, you can enjoy the panoramic terrace before accessing the many walking paths that wind through the Vienna Woods. If you start early enough, you can even walk the whole way back to the city (about 4.5 hours in total). For lovers of the outdoors, spending some time on these trails is highly recommended—UNESCO even named the Woods a Biosphere Reserve, owing to their outstanding natural beauty and diversity. Some 2,000 plant species and 150 bird species, including endangered ones, inhabit the sprawling forest.
For information in English on the Woods, walking trails and getting there from the city center by tram or bus, see this page.