Austria Travel Guide - where to go, what to do, what to eat and drink

Austria

Austria Travel Guide

There are many ways to experience Austria: skiing and hiking in the alps, touring wine regions, seeing operas, dancing at balls, visiting palaces and abbeys, and eating lots of cake. And, you absolutely should do all of those things. However, what makes Austria so special and dear to our hearts is the Austrian approach to life.

Austrians cherish Gemütlichkeit, which means comfort and coziness. You’ll find that Austrians experience life more slowly and comfortably. In the mountains, there are cozy mountain huts (Hütte, Schutzhaus) that are open for food and drink as well as overnight stays. In the wine regions, there are Heurigen (wine taverns) that offer comfortable spaces for drinking and welcome people of all ages. Throughout Austria, there are Thermen that invite you to relax and rejuvenate in healing waters. And, in restaurants and cafés, you’ll never be rushed or pressured to leave. So, what we’re trying to say is that Austria has mastered an elevated style of slow living, which is especially enviable if you’re coming from a workaholic culture. Even in the capital city, Vienna (Wien in German), life is unhurried and relaxed. 

Wachau Valley, Austria Travel Guide

Getting Around Austria

By Public Transit. Austria has an excellent public transportation system, which you should absolutely take advantage of. Here are your options:

  • The ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) is the #1 train transit system in Austria. Download the ÖBB Scotty App on your phone or use this website fahrplan.oebb.at to book train travel. 
  • WESTbahn is a train transit system that connects Vienna with western Austria. It’s a cheaper alternative to ÖBB. Destinations include St. Pölten, Amstetten, Linz, Wels, Attnang-Puchheim and Salzburg. Price example: Vienna – Salzburg (2 hours 24 minutes) costs from 18 EUR one-way.
  • Wiener Linien (subway, trams, and buses) and the ÖBB (S-Bahn = trains) provide a very extensive public transportation system in Vienna.

By Car. If you’re driving, you’ll need to purchase a toll sticker: Vignette. That sticker allows you to drive on the autobahn or highways. As of 2017, you can purchase a 10-day vignette (9 EUR), a 2-month vignette (26 EUR), or a 1-year vignette (87 EUR). If you’re renting a car in Austria, they’ll provide the vignette. But, if you rent a car in another country and are driving to Austria, make sure to purchase one as soon as you cross the border. The best place to buy these toll stickers is at gas stations. Once you purchase the vignette, affix it immediately to your dashboard.

By Bus. One really easy and cheap way to travel throughout Austria is via a Flixbus. You can also take a Flixbus to neighboring countries. These comfortable buses are punctual, clean, and provide wifi. It might take a bit longer than a train, but it will save you a lot of money.

Vienna, Austria Travel Guide

Austria Travel Basics

Official Name: Republik Österreich (Republic of Austria)

Capital:  Wien (Vienna)

Government: Federal Republic

Regions:  Austria is composed of 9 states:

(1) Vienna (Wien), (2) Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), (3) Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), (4) Styria (Steiermark), (5) Tyrol (Tirol), (6) Carinthia (Kärnten), (7) Salzburg, (8) Vorarlberg, and (9) Burgenland

Population: 8.7 Million

Language: German. In specific regions, Croatian, Slovenian und Hungarian are recognized.

Currency: Euro

Tipping Etiquette: 5-10%, Cash Only.

Water Quality: Excellent

Something Interesting: The bodies of the Hapsburg Emperors are buried in three different burial sites in Vienna. Their intestines are stored in urns in St. Stephan’s Cathedral, their bodies are buried in the Kapuzinerkirche (Capuchin Church), and their hearts are buried in Augustinerkirche (Church of the Augustinians).

Austria Travel Guide - Hohe Tauern National Park

Where to Go in Austria

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Destinations
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Top Experiences
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Nur net hudln.

Don’t Rush. Take Your Time.

 

 

 

 

Austrian Saying

(Photograph: Burg Liechtenstein in Maria Enzersdorf)

What to Experience in Austria

Our favorite things to see and do
Drinking Sturm at Buschenschank Pulker, Rührsdorf, Wacchau | Moon & Honey Travel
Drinking Sturm at Buschenschank Pulker, Rührsdorf, Wachau

Drinking Wine at a Heurigen

Heurigen (also spelled Heuriger) is a wine tavern in Eastern Austria. More specifically, it’s where a local winemaker serves his/her new wine under a special license during the growing season. The name is a reference to the year’s young wine, which can be purchased by the glass or in bottles. In the fall, when grapes are being harvested, fresh grape juice (Traubensaft) as well as fermented grape juice (Sturm) are also served.

Heurigen are usually rustic and charming, offer indoor and outdoor seating, and are frequented by Austrians of all ages. In the traditional Heurigen, only cold snacks are offered (e.g. belegtes Brot, sliced bread with toppings). Especially around Vienna, it’s common to see a buffet, with cold meats, hard and soft cheeses, different spreads, olives and pickles, and various salads. In the more “modern” Heurigen, a small selection of warm foods (e.g. Spinatstrudel) are offered.

Depending on what region you’re in, you might also see Buschenschänke, which are very similar to Heurigen, but even more rustic. They’re only allowed to serve cold foods and their opening times are far more limited. The name “Buschenschank” refers to a “Buschen,” which is a bundle of twigs that are found at the entrance of the establishment.  If the bundle is visible, it means that the Buschenschank is open and you are welcome to come in. You’ll see lots of these in the Wachau in Lower Austria.

Typically, Heurigen are only open for a limited period of time. You can find these wine establishments in Austria’s wine regions in the states of Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Burgenland.

The history of the Heurigen goes back to 1784 when Emperor Joseph II issued an ordinance that allowed everybody to sell homemade food, wine, and juice without having to apply for a permit.

Austria Travel Guide - top experiences - hiking hut to hut in the Austrian Alps
Hohe Tauern National Park

Hiking Hut to Hut in the Austrian Alps

The Austrian Alps are a playground for hikers and mountaineers. One of the best experiences you can have in Austria is hiking from one mountain hut (Hütte) to another. Huts offer meals, beds, and refreshments. So as you relish the alpine beauty of your surroundings, you can also indulge in delicious Austrian cuisine. For those that love food as much as the outdoors, we can’t recommend hiking in Austria enough.

If you love multi-day treks, there are an abundance of long-distance hut-to-hut trails throughout Austria. We hiked the Schladminger Tauern High Trail in Styria and overnighted in 4 huts along the way. Learn more about this epic hut to hut hike: Schladminger Tauern High Trail.

Austria Travel Guide - Experience an Austrian Therme (Thermal Day Spa)
Therma Laa, Lower Austria

Relaxing at a Therme, Austrian Spa

A Therme is a thermal spa complex that houses thermal pools, various saunas, and resting and silent rooms. They typically offer massage, spa, and wellness treatments. If your budget allows, we recommend spending the whole day (and night) at a Therme, so that you can fully relax. It’s not comfortable to continuously check the time to ensure that you’re not exceeding a certain timeframe. Austrian Spas offer rooms as well, so definitely consider spending the night, if you can. 

Thermen typically house at least one cafeteria and café, so there’s no need to bring a lunch. They are for all age groups, but the sauna section is designated for adults only. Bathing suits aren’t permitted in the sauna, so be prepared to take it off and rock your birthday suit. Depending on the Therme, the saunas are either separated by gender or integrated.

  • Prices: Prices vary based on how long you decide to stay. Usually, Thermen offer  2 hours, 3 hours, half-day and full-day rates. Full-day rates range between 26 and 40 Euro. Note: you can choose to opt only for the thermal pools, or purchase the thermal pools and access to the saunas.
  • When to visit: You can visit a Therme at any time of the year, but the best time to go is in Winter, especially after spending the day skiing.
  • What to Bring: Something to read, towels, bathrobe, soap, and sandals.

Our Favorite Thermen

  • Tauern Spa is an alpine Therme in Kaprun. The view of the mountains is breathtaking. Also, the spa is very close to the ski destinations: Kaprun Kitzsteinhorn (Glacier) and Zell am See.
  • Therme Linsberg Asia is an adult-only (16+) Therme in Lower Austria.
  • St. Martins Therme & Lodge is an Austrian-Safari themed Therme in Burgenland.
Sulzenalmen, Filzmoos - Austria Travel Guide - Top Experiences
Sulzenalmen, Filzmoos

Alm culture in the Austrian Alps

Alms are high alpine pastures where livestock graze freely in the summer months. During the hiking season, alm mountain huts (Almhütten) welcome guests with their hearty and regional specialties and make for excellent lunch breaks. As you nibble on heart-warming Kaiserschmarrn in an alm hut, you’ll likely hear distance cowbells and cheerful Austrian music.

The State of Salzburg has the highest density of alpine pastures of all the Austrian states. In Summer, 550 alm huts welcome hikers with their fresh and local specialties. There are countless alms to hike to, but you’ll find a few of our favorite in our Salzburg Hiking Trails guide.

Danube River, Wachau, Austria | Moon & Honey Travel
View of the Danube from Dürnstein

Danube’s Wachau River Valley

The Wachau is a romantic river valley region in Lower Austria between the towns of Melk and Krems. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can explore both sides of the Danube river, by bike or by car. There are villages, castle ruins, Heurigen (wine taverns) and Buschenschänke (wine taverns), monasteries and vineyards on both sides. The Wachau is a wine-growing region and an apricot-growing region. In the summer and fall, you’ll see homemade apricot products (jam, nectar, schnaps) being sold on the sides of the road. In Autumn, you’ll also see winemakers and families harvesting their grapes.

Notable landmarks in the Wachau include the Melk Abbey, Schönbühel Castle, Aggstein, and the Dürnstein Castle Ruins, where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned in 1193.

When we visit the Wachau, we head to the coziest Heurigen, or Buschenschank. Prost!

Where to Eat in the Wachau

  • In Loibnerhof’s summer garden in Dürnstein (Address: Unterloiben 7, 3601 Dürnstein)
  • Hotel & Restaurant Kirchenwirt in Weissenkirchen (Address: Kremser Str. 17, 3610 Weißenkirchen in der Wachau)
  • In Heuriger Pulker’s vineyard garden in Rührsdorf (Address: Rührsdorfer Kellergasse, 3602 Rührsdorf)
Justizpalast, Vienna, Austria Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel
Justizpalast, Vienna

Vienna, Capital of Austria

With impressive and varied architecture and immaculate streets, Vienna is easily one of the most gorgeous cities in the world. Prior to WWI, Austria was a sizeable empire that encompassed much of what is today Eastern Europe. The grandeur of the former Austro-Hungarian empire can be felt throughout Central and Eastern Europe, but nowhere more keenly than in Austria’s capital.

You’ll be wowed by the city’s many palaces, museums, concert halls, opera houses, and coffee houses.

To learn more about how to best explore Vienna, read next: Vienna Travel Guide.

Kaiserschmarrn, Austria | Moon & Honey Travel

What to Eat & Drink in Austria

Austrian Etiquette

Prost (Cheers) – In Austrian culture, it’s really important to make purposeful eye contact when you toast.  Say “Prost” or “Zum Wohl.” You should tap glasses with everyone within reach. There’s only one exception to the rule. When you drink Sturm, an early wine, you should say “Mahlzeit” not “Prost.”

 

Mahlzeit (Bon appetite) – You say Mahlzeit right before anyone at your table begins to eat. It means “enjoy your meal.”

 

Table Manners – Austrians eat with a fork in their left hand and a knife in their right hand. Both hands are visible throughout the meal. Unlike American etiquette, they don’t cut their food, and place one hand on their lap, before proceeding to eat what they’ve just cut. Also, Austrians don’t use their hands to eat foods like pizza and hamburgers. They will always use a fork and knife.

 

Austrian Cuisine

Tiroler Gröstl – cooked potatoes combined with beef or pork and onions are roasted in a pan. A fried egg is served on top. This hearty meal is really popular in the hiking and skiing regions, but you’ll find it also in Vienna.

 

Käsespätzle – spätzle is a soft egg noodle. In Tyrol, spätzle is sautéed with a variety of pungent mountain cheeses and garnished with fried onions and chive.

 

Kaspressknödelsuppe – cheese dumpling soup. One or two large  flat-pressed dumplings, made with bread, eggs and cheese, are served in a clear broth soup.

 

Wiener Schnitzel – Thin, breaded and pan fried cutlets of veal. Squeeze a slice of lemon on this quintessential Viennese dish before digging in. If you’re not into veal (we’re not), you can usually order Schnitzel vom Schwein (pork), Schnitzel von der Pute (turkey), or Schnitzel vom Huhn (chicken). Schnitzel is typically served with a side of potato or mixed salad.

 

Tafelspitz – Boiled Beef. This Viennese specialty was actually Emperor Franz Jospeh’s favorite dish. The tender beef is served in a pot of broth with bone marrow. The dish is accompanied by sides of fried potato rosti, vegetables (spinach, string beans), horseradish and apple sauces. We recommend trying this dish at Plachutta.

 

Austrian Desserts

KaiserschmarrnShredded Pancakes. It’s often made with raisins. If you don’t want the raisins say, “Bitte ohne Rosinen.” This is eaten as both a meal and a dessert. We say eat it for dessert. Traditionally, it’s served with a side of plum sauce.

 

MarillenknödelApricot dumpling covered in powdered sugar, best sampled in the Wachau region of Lower Austria

 

Austrian Wine

If you want to order a glass of wine, you should say “ein Achtel” (an eighth of a liter), which is the common serving size.

 

Weisswein gespritzt – It’s very common to drink white wine with mineral water, especially earlier in the day.  If you like sweeter drinks, order a Kaiserspritzer, which is white wine, mineral water, and Holunderblütersirup (elderflower syrup).

 

Sturm – this is an early, sweet wine that is only served in early Fall. Unlike all other alcoholic beverages, you don’t say Prost (Cheers) before drinking. Instead, you say Mahlzeit. If you make the mistake of saying Prost, there’s an unwritten rule that says you’re obliged to pay for this round of drinks.

 

Grüner Veltliner – dry white wine.

 

Gelber Muskateller – white wine with a distinct perfume smell.

Genussmeile, Lower Austria, Austria | Moon & Honey Travel

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