When it comes to historic European cities, few places can compete with the grandeur of Vienna. But as the crown jewel of Austria, it’s usually the first (and only) destination people travel to while visiting the country. However, there are so many worthwhile cities, landscapes, and historical landmarks in the area that deserve to be explored.
If you have a free day in Vienna, then consider taking a day trip to one of the following sites and attractions. Whether you’re visiting the lush Alpine forest or a century-old palace, Vienna is a great base for exploring the many beautiful regions Europe is known for.
What is the Best Day Trip from Vienna?
For a short day trip from Vienna (under one hour away), travel to the wine-growing Wachau Valley, the 12th-century Klosterneuburg Abbey, or the scenic Lainzer Wildlife Park. You can also explore two millennia of history with a visit to the Roman ruins of Carnuntum Archaeological Park.
And because of Vienna’s location near the Austrian border, it’s also possible to visit other countries on a day trip. Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Brno (the Czech Republic) can all be easily reached by public transportation in just a few hours.
Leave the bustle of city life for the charming village of Hallstatt. Located just three hours from Vienna, Hallstatt sits on the shores of Lake Hallsätter with a jaw-dropping backdrop of the Salzkammergut Mountains. Add to that a village of 16th-century cottages and winding cobblestone alleys and you’ll see why it’s considered the most picturesque place in Austria! In fact, it’s probably the most photographed destination in the whole country.
After wandering around the old town, you can visit one of the natural attractions in the area. Hallstatt is also home to the world’s oldest salt mine, which dates back more than 7,000 years. Of course, you’ll also be right on the lake, which offers plenty of swimming, boating, and sunbathing opportunities in the summer.
When most people picture the Austrian countryside, it probably looks something like the Wachau Valley. Dissected by the Danube River, the Wachau Valley is a lush stretch of green hills, medieval castles, and charming villages. There are many stops along the 25-mile valley (which stretches from Melk to Krems). Architectural highlights include Melk Abbey, Schallaburg Castle, Göttweig Abbey, and Steiner Tor.
The Wachau Valley is also Austria’s premier wine-growing region, especially for Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. The terraced vineyards benefit from the perfect mix of moist air and cool temperatures, which is why Wachau wine is widely known despite only making up 3% of Austria’s wine production.
Carnuntum Archaeological Park
Dating back more than 2,000 years, the ancient city of Carnuntum was one of the most important Roman settlements of its time. It was used as a Roman fortress for nearly 300 years and even grew to house a population of more than 50,000 people.
The archeological park preserves this once-bustling civilian city. You can see the ruins of a forum, an amphitheater, and public bathhouses. Several buildings (primarily houses) were also reconstructed using traditional techniques to shed light on what life was like during its height. You can also visit the Museum Carnutinum to see excavated finds and to learn more about the history of this ancient village. Best of all, it’s only 35-minutes from the center of Vienna.
In one hour, you can cross the border of Austria to be in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Dominated by the 9th-century Bratislava Castle, this walkable city has a charming old town with cobbled pedestrian streets, historic churches, and colorful cafes and pubs.
Bratislava is also home to an impressive number of museums and art galleries. Visit the Guggenheim-inspired Nedbalka Gallery, the scientific SNM-Natural History Museum, or the wine lover’s Small Carpathian Museum. And for Slovak history, visit the City Museum of Bratislava, which also has a tower that you can climb for unbeatable views over the city’s central square.
Vienna is just 65 miles from the Hungarian border, which means it’s possible to explore another country on your day trip. If it’s your first time in Hungary, I highly recommend visiting the capital city of Budapest (2.5 hours from Vienna). This remarkable destination is famous for its architecture, thermal baths, and lively nightlife.
And while Budapest is worth at least one or two nights, there are a few attractions to tick off if you only have a few hours. Architecture lovers won’t want to miss St. Stephen’s Basilica, Fisherman’s Bastion, or the Hungarian Parliament Building. Also, make sure to venture across the Danube to the Buda side, where you’ll find the iconic Buda Castle overlooking the river. But if you’re just here for the culture, there are plenty of cafes, markets, and shops to explore in the old town.
The Czech Republic’s second-largest city lies 85 miles north of Vienna and is easily accessible by public transportation. With a large student population, Brno is a fun, vibrant, and bustling city known for its gourmet restaurants and trendy cafes.
Like many other European cities, Brno has a picturesque old town with beautiful public squares and colorful architecture. But it’s also famous for its modernist buildings, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Villa Tugendhat, which was considered one of the earliest prototypes of modern architecture. Other notable buildings include the functionalist Stianssi Villa, the art nouveau Jurkovič House, and the Brussel’s-style International Hotel.
With unbeatable views over the Danube, Klosterneuburg Abbey is a 12th-century Augustinian monastery just 25 minutes north of Vienna. This sprawling complex was one of Austria’s most important religious and cultural centers, as it was the residence of the Babenberg and Habsburg dynasties.
The abbey chapel is most famous for the Verduner Altar. Constructed in 1181 by Nicholas of Verdun, the altar features 45 gilded copper plates – an artistic masterpiece of its time. You’ll also find the oldest vineyard in Austria on property grounds. In addition to producing wines, they also make fruit juices, spirits, and jams (which you can purchase in their gift shop).
Lainzer Wildlife Park
Located in the beautiful Vienna Woods, Lainzer Wildlife Park offers an escape just 40 minutes east of the city. The grounds were originally used as a private hunting reserve for Ferdinand I during the 1500s before being turned into a public park during the early 1900s. Not only will you find deer, elk, and wild boar, but also 4,900 acres of century-old elk and birch forests.
For the best views over the surroundings, climb up the Hubertsuswarte tower. Standing over 1,600 feet tall, you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of the park (and Vienna) from the top. There are numerous hiking trails, kid’s playground parks, and even several restaurants and cafes on-site as well.
As you can see, Austria is a diverse country full of historic cities and sweeping natural landscapes. And while Vienna is a bucket-list destination, it’s also worth setting aside some time to visit one of the many other fascinating sights in the area. It’s also a great jumping-off point for visiting neighboring countries, which also offer their own unique and worthwhile destinations.