Skip to main content

Austria is a fantastic destination to travel through at the rhythmic pace of the railways. Trains are always synonymous with a more authentic, more romantic journey. This is true even for the most modern and comfortable trains, such as those operated by the ÖBB company. ÖBB stands for Österreichische Bundesbahnen, or Austrian Federal Railways.

This state-owned company runs almost the entire Austrian territory and is considered to be one of the most punctual in the world. Its quality is one of the reasons that lead us to propose this train trip through Austria. But there are more reasons. For example, the relatively small size of the country with about 83,000 km2, i.e. slightly smaller than Andalusia.

Austrian landscape from the train. Photo by Barbara Seyr.

And of course, another reason to take this trip is to enjoy the superlative scenery from the train window. Alpine mountain reliefs alternate with spectacular valleys through which the country’s great rivers flow. And at the head of all these rivers is the Danube, which waters the main Austrian cities, including elegant Vienna.

The start of the journey

Vienna, despite being in the eastern part of Austria, is probably the best place to start this trip. One of the reasons for this is that the Austrian capital is perfectly connected to other European countries via international routes, even if you arrive by train. The same applies to its airport.

Vienna Central Station. Photo by Philipp Horak.

As for what to visit in Vienna, the city’s elegance, history and dynamism alone could be the subject of a more extensive article. So we’ll save the palaces, concert halls, the Empress Sisi, the Prater park and its cafés for this occasion. Now we are only going to mention the Hauptbahnof or Central Station. Go to the ticket office and choose your destination. The whole country is at your fingertips. Don’t know where? Here are a few ideas.

Going up the Danube

The Viennese capital is watered by the Danube, but this river flows through many other places of interest in Austria before it reaches here.

Melk Monastery. Photo by Franz G. Szabo.

One of them is the Melk Monastery. This place is one of the greatest jewels of Austrian heritage. It is undoubtedly one of the great creations of 18th century European baroque. In fact, some of the most prestigious artists and craftsmen of the entire continent worked here. And between them they created an ensemble that reaches admirable heights of virtuosity.

And going up the Danube, we can also reach the city of Linz. This Upper Austrian city has become synonymous with modernity. A place that has made a firm commitment to the 21st century. That is why the main reasons to visit it are to discover what awaits us in the Museum of the Future, to delve into the exhibitions of the City of Digital Art or to be surprised by the innovation of the Ars Electronica Center.

The Ars Electronica Center on the banks of the Danube in Linz. Photo by Linz Tourism.

Of spas, mountain lakes and music

A train journey through Austria that certainly fits the romantic idea of travelling is the one that will take you to the Salzkammergut area. The views along the route are simply beautiful, and on top of that there are several stops to make. You can visit the thermal baths of Bad Ischl and its imperial villa, or you can visit the town of Gmunden, famous for its pottery, nestled in the mist that often envelops Lake Traunsee.

Lake Traunsee. Photo by Barbara Seyr.

A little further west lies Salzburg, the city where everything sounds like its most illustrious son: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Music fills this beautiful city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sounds of violins and oboes can be heard all year round and at any time, but this is multiplied during the Salzburg Festival, which will be 100 years old in 2020. If you don’t know Salzburg, this will be a great opportunity to discover this place full of visual and sonorous beauty.

View of Salzburg. Photo by Salzburg Tourism.

Austria and the Alps

The south of Austria is the most mountainous part. Here you’ll find some of its best-known winter resorts, which can also be reached by train, as cities such as Innsbruck are well connected by rail.

By the way, if you are travelling to Innsbruck from Vienna, here is an idea for both summer and winter. Go to Zell am See. an Alpine landscape of unforgettable beauty. Skiing enthusiasts will find their dream slopes here. And for those who like to hike in the mountains, don’t forget your boots and rucksack, because this precise lake and its surroundings will provide you with great trails to enjoy nature.

Panorama of Zell am See. Photo by Daniel Chytra.

And we would like to round off our railway proposals for the Austrian territory by recommending the discovery of another city in the south of the country. We are talking about Graz. It is undoubtedly a city of medieval enchantment. But among all this centuries-old labyrinth, in 2003 a surprising building was erected: the Kunsthaus. An art museum that is an architectural work in the High Tech style, whose organic forms are now perfectly integrated into the historical surroundings.

Kunsthaus de Graz. Photo de Harry Schiffer.

In short, Graz and its Kunsthaus is a perfect metaphor for what a train journey through Austria has to offer. A country that combines history, elegance and centuries-old know-how with modernity and intense cultural programmes. In addition to this, there is a splendid natural environment, which the Austrians themselves take great care to look after and conserve. One example: 100% of the electricity used by their trains comes from renewable energy sources.

What are you waiting for? Start preparing this getaway now.