Following on from our wonderful time in Slovenia, Vruchi and I had planned to continue on from Lake Bled and spend the remainder of the time from Christmas until New Years in Austria. We decided to split our time between Salzburg and Vienna.
We’ve decided to structure this article into the following 4 sections:
Lets get this party started:
Getting from Lake Bled to Salzburg
We decided to devote a specific section to this because when we were trying to book tickets online between Lake Bled and Salzburg, we found there was a lack of clear information. What is not clear on both the Austrian or Slovenian rail websites is:
Countryside - Recommended road trip stops Salzburg to Vienna
Salzburg <o> Fuschl <o> Bad ischl <o> Hallstat <o> Leoben <o> Vienna - approx 4 hours 30 mins (Direct Salzburg to Vienna should take you 3 hours on the motorway)
Much like Slovenia, we did not want to confine ourselves to simply the major cities in Austria. As a way to explore the beautiful countryside that Austria has to offer, Vruchi and I decided to hire a car from Salzburg and drop it off in Vienna. This would give us time to go off-beat and explore the various towns on the way.
For those traveling in winter in Europe, one thing to keep in mind when hiring a car is to make extra sure that your car has snow tires. We got stuck in snow one morning, trying to drive up a steep driveway, and it was definitely not fun. We had to dig out snow for almost an hour before we were on our way. Pro tip: A bag of salt helps melt the slippery ice/snow and creates that friction to get the momentum to drive off.
We drove down from Salzburg to Bad Ischl via Fuschl and then down to Hallstatt. Fuschl is home to Red Bull's headquarters. Pretty impressive architecture. There's also a stunning lake near by if you are keen for a short walk.
Hallstatt is an amazing town. With picturesque snow covered mountains, atop stunning deep blue waters, you can definitely understand why this is usually a must-see destination in the Austrian countryside. However, for those wanting an amazing view of Hallstatt without the crowd of tourists, we recommend driving ahead another kilometer past Hallstatt and getting an amazing unobstructed view.
From Hallstatt, we drove down towards Leoben, before driving up to Vienna.
After arriving at Vienna, the following day we decided to venture out and head towards a small town called Linz. We decided to spend the day in Linz. Linz is not as big a city as Salzburg or Vienna, however, it definitely has its charm. From quaint little cafes and restaurants, to small family-owned bookshops, this town definitely has an authentic Austrian feel to it.
360 deg view of Vienna:
Kahlenberg hill is definitely a fair drive to the top, through steep and windy roads however the view from the top is quite spectacular. Once you reach the top, there are a few lookout points where you can get a near 360 degree view of all of gorgeous Vienna.
Food & Attractions
Hotel Sacher (Salzburg & Vienna): Be sure to try both the dessert section, serving the world famous Sachertorte, and also the dining room. Most definitely worth an afternoon visit.
Afro Cafe (Salzburg): As the name probably suggests, Afro Cafe is a funky African themed cafe, located near Hohensalzburg Castle. Be sure to get there a bit early, or book ahead, as this place is quite popular and does get packed fairly quickly.
Die Cabreras (Salzburg): Die Cabreras is a small Mexican restaurant situated just walking distance from the old town. What is unique about this restaurant is that it is decorated like someones house, with an open kitchen, some lounge chairs and dining tables. It is as if you were invited over for dinner. Try the Bomba Salsa spicy sauce. Finger licking delicious (and hot!). We even bought a bottle home.
Christmas Markets (Salzburg) : Salzburg is famous for its Christmas Markets with its origins dating to the late 15th century. Held in the heart of the city, you will find a delectable selection of foods, Christmas ornaments and all kinds of bric-a-brac.
Schönbrunn Palace (Vienna): One of the most iconic landmarks in Vienna and the most popular tourist destinations. In the 18th century, this was the home of the Habsburg emperors during the summers. Today, aside from tours of the palace, it is also used for various classical concerts. For the best view of Schönbrunn, be sure to check out the Gloriette in the gardens atop the hill right behind the palace. It is a bit of trek but well worth it.
Belvedere museum (Vienna): Located in the south eastern part of the city, the Belvedere grounds are some of the most picturesque and beautiful you will see throughout the city. There are actually two palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere) in these grounds, built in the early 18th century by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt. The museums showcase a wide collection of Austrian art.
One thing that Vienna is known for during New Years is the Waltz (or actually any time of the year). At the heart of the town square, they have live classical music concerts where everyone in the audience takes part in a large waltz. Aside from this, there are a number of different spots to see the New Years fireworks. We chose to view the fireworks at City Hall square. This was a nice, family-friendly atmosphere with live music and various stalls and Christmas markets. However it was absolutely freezing!!!! Being used to Sydney fireworks and the crowd that ensues, we decided to go "early" for our spot. We were freezing our toes from 10:pm to midnight. Call us biased if you will, but for those that grew up with Sydney fireworks, nothing truly compares. Hindsight, we would have skipped the fireworks (not worth it) and headed to a party or a pub instead.
And there you have it. :)
All in all Austria was a beautiful country with some stunning natural scenery in the countryside and a rich and vibrant culture in the cities.
Danke and tschuss!
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