One Week in Vienna and Eastern Austria

With just one week, Vienna and Eastern Austria will give travelers a glimpse into the best of the country’s non-Alpine side, including Vienna’s Habsburg palaces and the castles and abbeys of the picturesque Wachau valley. Peer into Eastern Austria’s Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque cathedrals. Sample your way through Vienna’s open-air Naschmarkt for Austrian-made treats. To round out your week, roam through the lovely Vienna Woods.

Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
One of Vienna’s most notable structures is its stunning Rathaus, or City Hall. Designed by Friedrich von Schmidt between 1872 and 1883, the imposing Gothic structure is the seat of both the mayor and city council, and is also the backdrop for one of the most popular Christmas markets in the city.
Esterhazyplatz 1, 7000 Eisenstadt, Austria
Of all the grand palaces in Austria, Esterházy is one you definitely don’t want to miss. It’s second, perhaps, to Schönbrunn. The 13th-century palace was acquired by the Hungarian family in 1622 and remains in their care. Magnificent rooms like the Empiresaal (dining hall) and the acoustically perfect Haydnsaal, a concert hall named for the composer who worked for the family for 40 years, are simply stunning. If the family’s wealth and importance wasn’t clear, one needs simply to visit the palace chapel where they’ll see the relics of St. Constantine.
Abt-Berthold-Dietmayr-Straße 1, 3390 Melk, Austria
Towering high above the banks of the Danube in the Wachau Valley, the bright yellow Melk Abbey is one of Austria‘s most beautiful Baroque buildings. It’s been rebuilt several times since its 11th-century origins, with its present form dating to the early 18th century. Inside, the library is one of the most impressive features with roughly 100,000 volumes and a ceiling fresco by Paul Troger. There’s a beautiful church and several important paintings to be found, but the real treasure is the two Melk Crucifixes, one said to contain a piece of Christ’s cross.
Dompl. 1, 3100 St. Pölten, Austria
The Dom zu St. Pölten, also known as Dom Mariä Himmelfahrt, dates back to the 13th century. Though the exterior might appear somewhat plain, the beautiful Baroque interior makes this cathedral in the capital of Lower Austria worth checking out. Photo: Flickr / Douglas Sprott
1130 Vienna, Austria
Schönbrunn was the summer residence of the Habsburgs and one of Europe’s most stunning Baroque palaces. The family acquired the land in the 16th century and later built a palace, but it was completely rebuilt under Maria Theresa between 1744 and 1749. Emperor Franz Joseph was born and later ruled from here with his wife, the beloved Sissi. (Never mind that she was actually Bavarian.) Beautiful stucco work, frescoes, and lacquered panels adorn the interior in rooms like the Round Chinese Cabinet and Vieux-Lacque Room. In the Blue Chinese Salon, the last emperor, Karl I, signed his abdication in 1918, effectively ending more than 600 years of Habsburg rule.
Greinburg 1, 4360 Grein, Austria
In a country with so many castles, Schloss Greinburg doesn’t rank as one of the most awe-inspiring. It is, however, particularly notable for two things. Greinburg is considered Austria’s oldest residential castle (origins dating back to 1488) and it has been owned by the House of Sachsen-Coburg & Gotha, arguably the most influential European royal family, since 1823. The castle was even briefly owned by Queen Victoria of England. Highlights of a guided tour include the rich stucco ceiling, grand chandeliers and ruby red walls of the Dining Room, and splendid courtyard, and numerous portraits showcasing their royal connections throughout the castle. Views from the castle overlook the small town of Grein and the Danube.
Simmeringer Hauptstraße 234, 1110 Wien, Austria
Cemeteries don’t often end up on a traveler’s “must-see” list - unless they are going to Vienna. The massive Zentralfriedhof, or Central Cemetery, isn’t actually centralized. In fact, it lies far to the south of the city. With over 300,000 internments and around 495 acres, it’s one of the world’s largest cemeteries and the final resting place for a who’s who of Austrian cultural icons. Most notable are the final resting places of Vienna’s greatest musicians, including Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Strauss I & II, and even Falco. Architect Adolf Loos, sculpter Fritz Wotruba, and a crypt of Austrian presidents also make for a fascinating look at the country’s more well-known residents. The grounds also hosts the Art Nouveau Dr. Karl Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), a Russian Orthodox Chapel, and burial grounds for Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faiths. The cemetery is easily reached by S-Bahn and bus. Buses also travel between the sections, as do horse-drawn carriages.
Nussberg, 1190 Wien, Austria
Austrian wines are made all the better by a visit to the many vineyards and wine taverns (Heuriger) on the outskirts of Vienna. Wieninger vineyard is located north of the city on the Nussberg. A light meal and wine outdoors among the vineyards is a great way to cap off an evening in Vienna. Trams run from the city center to Nussdorf. To explore more heuriger, the little Vienna Heurigen Express train runs from Nussdorf to Kahlenberg and Grinzing.
Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Wien, Austria
Up until the end of World War I in 1918, the Hofburg was the center of the Habsburg dynasty and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The massive complex includes the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (National Library), Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury), and, the most recent addition, the Neue Burg, completed in 1913. A visit should include the Imperial Apartments, each lavishly decorated in Baroque and Rococo styles, and the Sisi Museum, covering the life of Austria’s beloved (and actually Bavarian) Empress. It is also the official seat of the president of Austria.
Am Hof 112, 4830 Hallstatt, Austria
Nestled between the Dachstein mountains and the Hallstätter See, Hallstatt looks as picturesque as any village could possibly be. The Hallstatt-Dachstein Salzkammergut area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List based on the its natural landscape and prehistoric salt mining. Getting there takes a little time, around 2.5 hours from both Vienna and Salzburg and typically involves a change of transportation.
The Kamptal, or Kamp Valley, is one of eight wine regions in Lower Austria, which with around 27,000 hectares of vineyards grows more wine grapes than any other province. The town of Langenlois produces the most wine here, with an assortment heuriger wine taverns and wine specialty shops as well as internationally known producers. There’s even a wine resort and spa called the LOISIUM, which has proven to be a popular getaway for wine lovers.
1060 Vienna, Austria
Street-food markets are all the rage the world over, and in Vienna you have the chance to visit one that’s been around for many centuries. Built literally over the channeled Vienna River, just beyond the Ringstrasse, the Naschmarkt is devoted to what its name happens to sound like in English: noshing. Whether you order a spicy wurst, browse the fish and cheese stalls, or purchase local products like pumpkin-seed oil and apple vinegar, the Naschmarkt is one of the city’s most enjoyable simple pleasures. In recent years, some gastronomic and ethnic food stalls have expanded into full restaurants. For decades, 400 dealers have set up their Saturday flea market next door, where shoppers hunt for bargains among books, record albums and CDs, and antiques.
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