An Austrian trip is a blend of lakes, mountains, small towns and big cities rolled into one rainy and beautiful week. Our trip in late May was not too crowded or too cold. We had 4 days of rain but we weren’t sweating large crowds or sweating literally. Mountain weather is never perfect so just pack your raincoat, wellies, and embrace the frizzy hair.
3 NIGHTS IN SALZBURG
A 3 hour train ride from Munich puts you in an adorable Austrian town, the perfect size for a 3 day stay. Bonus: surprisingly very few tourists!
We stayed in mid-level hotel Hofwirt that I can’t recommend because of the street noice and lack of AC. If you’re going in the summer months, make sure to check for AC and adjacent busy thoroughfares.
My top recommendation Frauline Maria’s Bike Tour. This 5 hour tour on comfortable Dutch bikes is one of my favorite tours I’ve ever been on, hands down. As a Sound of Music super fan, I was astounded at the amount of ground we covered: Marias Abbey, the Von Trapp house, the “going on 16” gazebo, the Mirabell gardens, the fountain, the performance auditorium, and so much more. Our guide was so knowledgeable and fun, the group size was around 12 and the ride took us from one side of Salzburg to the other. We covered quaint city blocks and blared the Sound of Music Soundtrack on a portable speaker in our bike basket through the open fields and tree-lined streets. DO NOT miss this and do not take a cheesy bus tour. Even if you’re not a fan – this is the way to see Salzburg.
Go back and spend at least an hour at the Mirabell Gardens and Palace. The grounds are dreamy and not too big. Don’t forget coins for the bathroom;)
SKIP the Mozart Museum. It’s short and only 3 stories, but none of us enjoyed ourself as the information was disjointed and displays were lackluster.
Apple strudel baking class came highly recommended but we weren’t able to squeeze this in as it was booked solid and a 4 hour event.
Another favorite: the Sound of Music World Museum. How much Julie Andrews can one trip take, I know?! BUT, this is a look at the real Von Trapp family and is extremely interesting. It’s a 30-45 min stop and has to be paired with our favorite restaurant adjacent to the museum: Carpe Diem. This food was unlike any other dishes we’d ever seen. They have a Michelin star – go see why 🙂
If you buy a Salzburg card – it’s good for 24, 48, or 72 hours and includes public transport and over 32 free museum entrances. We wanted to see the nearby mountains in the small town of Untersburg and ride the cable car and that entrance fee was the same price as the Salzburg card – so it made sense for us. On the subject of the cable car – SKIP IT if there’s any cloud cover and in general. A 3 hour excursion to see absolutely nothing and eat bad food at the 1960’s ski lodge at the top. Nope.
From Salzburg we rented a car for the 3 hour drive to Hallstatt.
1 NIGHT IN HALLSTATT
Book your Hallstatt hotel early as this tiny town only has so much availability, especially for the coveted “lake view”. I highly recommend the Heritage Hallstatt as their prices, rooms, breakfast, and most importantly lake views were all great. This is the view from our room!! Each hour the view morphs as clouds move and the sun rises. We were up at 6am and I had to tear myself away from that balcony, coffee, and blanket.
Pay special attention to how and where to park as Hallstatt is a walkable town – your hotel will direct you on this but be mindful you can’t just pull into the parking lot. Hotel shuttles are available and fairly straightforward.
There is nothing but adorable streets, incredible views, picturesque house facades, and street-wandering. You won’t want to leave so make sure to at least spend one night here. 2 nights would be lovely if you have time and need some relaxation on your trip but one night will do it.
Remember to get out before 10 am and after 4pm when day tourists are back on their buses. This is not a foodie town but the views are your meal and dessert. Lots of people and visitor info will recommend the nearby salt mines and railway. SKIP THIS. What a cheesy and canned waste of 3 hours. Don’t do it :: insert eye roll ::
From Hallstatt – we drove 5 hours to Vienna. Not as picturesque as the previous leg but, for some, the autobahn is a fun experience.
3 NIGHTS IN VIENNA
Highly recommend the Hilton Vienna Plaza as it was kid-friendly and a great quiet location – close to good restaurants.
We kicked off Vienna with a bike tour to get aquatinted with the city via Get Your Guide. Of course, this always depends on your guide but we got to cover a lot of the city that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to see in 3 short days.
The Schonbrunn Palace is a must see as but be mindful that your ticket has an entry time window and needs to be purchased a day or two in advance if you want a specific hour/date. The grounds are enormous and unless you have hours of spare time, it might be worth just checking out from the balcony;) The guided audio tour through the palace is about 40 minutes and very informative and interesting for all ages.
The MuseumsQuartier is a great way to spend an afternoon and the lounge areas and cafes that are inside this square of interesting and varied museums is too cute. We visited the Leopold Museum and it was a gem – not too big and housed a variety of artists.
Be thoughtful about purchasing a Hop on Hop Off bus ticket. Yes, you have a 2 to 3 day ticket to ride almost anywhere in the city but can you spare the sometimes 45-60 minutes to get there? We couldn’t in some cases and it just wasn’t worth the money.
Vienna has an awesome nightlife scene on the river in the summers. It will feel like Miami or Mexico with sandy bars and tiki lounge decor along the Danube and it’s worth a sit down and a drink to watch people congregate to dangle their legs over the side of the river with a picnic and beer.
The Weinerprater is also another fun-filled kid activity. It’s a mini amusement park but without the entrance fee. You pay for each ride a la carte and you don’t have to commit to hours of your day. We did about 5 rides in the evening and had gorgeous views of the city and laughed our faces off!