One of the top reasons we travel is to eat! Yes, you heard that right! Food is an expression of the culture of the place. When you eat a dish at its place of origin in its original form, it is usually delicious and worth travelling all the way there! While Austria may not be a foodie’s destination, there are some really good gems there if you find the right places. Here are some of the best dishes we had during our trip.
Apple strudel (Apfelstrudel)
We had never heard of this dish before we visited Austria. After a long walk through Salzburg town, we walked into a bakery that looked very inviting. And we picked the item that looked the most delicious – the apple strudel.
The first bite (as is usually the case with new dishes) was tentative – it had a crispy outside, the inside was warm and mushy with the sweetness of apple and spice of cinnamon. Within moments it melted in the mouth! We’ve had many trips and countless dishes after that but that apple strudel is still one of the highlights! A must-eat if you are visiting Salzburg. And we recommend trying it at a local family-run place instead of the big bakery chains.
One of the most famous dishes in Austria and counted among the “national dishes”, the schnitzel is actually quite a simple meal. It is basically a thin slice of meat (usually chicken or veal) that is pounded, breaded and fried. It is usually served with a side of salad with a vinaigrette dressing, potatoes and a slice of lemon.
Luckily the ones we had were good, but there is always a risk of the meat being too dry. So, look for a good place and head there for an authentic experience.
Pizza in Austria? If your trip doesn’t include Italy and you happen to be near the Italian border (Innsbruck, Tirol and even up to Salzburg), then you can find plenty of authentic Italian pizza places. On our first night at Salzburg, we found a small restaurant in the neighbourhood where we stayed and were mind-blown.
Cafes in Vienna
Vienna has a strong cafe culture and you can find plenty of them while walking around the city. We specifically wanted to visit Cafe Sperl as we had read about it during our pre-trip research. It was beautiful inside with warm lighting and we managed to get the cozy seats near the window. Sitting there in that cafe from 1880, we felt like we were transported back in time. We ordered Wiener schnitzel, Viennese cold coffee, a “tall brauner” (double mocha) and a cheesecake while we soaked in the atmosphere.
Check out our complete itinerary for Austria here. If you enjoy reading our blog, do leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Your comments keep us going!
In our experience of travelling, Austria was one of the easiest to plan transits between cities. Everything was online and even while we were there, it was easy to find our way thanks to the readily available maps. We entered Austria from Prague by train and started our trip at Salzburg.
Travelling in Austria – Buses
Austria has a really good network of buses. For our travel from Salzburg to St. Gilgen and beyond, we took the local Postbus service. For long distance travel, you can check Flixbus (https://global.flixbus.com/) and GetbyBus (https://getbybus.com/en/) who are aggregators. Do check out the ratings and reviews of the operator to make sure you pick the right bus for your travel. They can charge you for heavy luggage, so keep change handy. But we would recommend the trains which are very efficient and fast.
Travelling in Austria – Train
You can get details of the Austrian train service OBB on their website here (https://www.oebb.at/en/). The trains are clean, fast and efficient. Booking tickets is easy and we had a very smooth experience. We booked on OBB for our trip from Bad Ishcl to Hallstatt, Salzburg to Vienna and Vienna to Budapest.
Make sure you keep enough buffer between transfers in your journey so that you don’t miss out on a bus/train. It is always better to reach a place early than deal with the frustration of missing a connection.
We always recommend making your bookings atleast a week or two in advance to ensure that you get a seat (preferably, a reserved seat). Also, advance bookings can get you some good deals! Keep your eye out for these.
Where to Stay
If you have checked out our Croatian blog, you would have come across our Golden Rule – to have our stay close to the main attractions while having access to the transit systems. The access part is kept at higher priority as it is convenient when you’re moving in/out with your luggage. We found it very convenient everywhere in Austria as the cities have been designed with great connectivity.
Salzburg: We stayed at Hotel Turnerwirt which was less than 3km from the city centre. There was a bus stop very close to the hotel and was at walking distance from the Salzburg Gnigl station.
Salzkammergut: We made our base at St. Gilgen as it gave us a nice central location to plan our day trips. There are many lovely homestays in St. Gilgen and we stayed at one called Eislbauerhof which had a really nice view of the lake and the entire valley.
Vienna: There are a lot of places to pick from in Vienna. We stayed at an Airbnb with the only criteria that it was very close to a metro station (mainly because we were staying just for one night). Had we planned for a longer stay, we would have picked something close enough to the palaces and museums.
The capital of Austria, Vienna is also considered a hotspot for art and culture in the whole of Europe. With beautiful palaces, museums where you could spend days exploring, operas, musical shows and old coffee shops, Vienna has a lot to offer everyone who visits.
Vienna was the last stop in our Austria trip. It was a short stay – just one day. We arrived at the Vienna train station from Salzburg and left most of our luggage in a locker there – we had to be back the next day for our train to Budapest, so it didn’t make sense to carry all our luggage around the city.
We picked up a 24-hour travel pass and took the metro to Schwedenplatz, which was the starting point of the Ring tram. We picked up some sandwiches, sat on a bench and made our plan for the day. We had a couple of must-do items on our list which we had to fit into our route and the rest depended on our mood and energy levels. As we got to the end of our sandwiches, we had decided to skip the Ring tram and instead do a walking tour. We took the metro to Stephansplatz where we started our walk. Our first stop was the St. Stephan’s Cathedral – a beautiful and imposing Gothic style building with huge pillars inside.
We continued our walk behind the cathedral to Mozarthaus (yes, he had one here as well in addition to the ones in Salzburg and St. Gilgen. We kept walking past the Trinity Column and St. Peter’s church.
The Trinity Column or Plague Column is a very interesting sculpture – made over a period of more than 10 years by various sculptors and indicating the transition to the Baroque era.
A narrow street then took us to Michaelerplatz and the famous Hofburg Palace. Built in the 13th century, this palace served as the imperial residence of the Habsburg dynasty. As we walked in, we could see many horse carriages with tourists going around the square. We skipped the Spanish riding school and went to the Imperial Treasury. The place was unlike anything we’d ever seen – dresses of knights, archdukes and kings, gold embroidery, crowns with rubies and diamonds, crown and jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, staffs embedded with jewels and even a cradle which was gifted to Napoleon II.
We then walked to the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) and found out that there was a performance that evening of Swan Lake. We had read on a blog that they usually gave out really cheap standing tickets right before every show – you just had to be at the right place at the right time. We asked around and found the counter – we were told to come back at 7 and we could get tickets.
Our next stop was the Natural History Museum – one of the best in the world!
There are close to 40 halls with exhibits spread across the two floors of the museum. Each one was dedicated to a different aspect of the earth – gems, meteorites, mammals, dinosaurs, mammoths and plenty more. It reminded us of the movie “Night at the Museum” where these artifacts came to life every night (that was the American Museum of Natural History). While we spent over an hour in the museum, it still felt like too little. This is definitely one for next time.
We were hungry by now and looked for the famous traditional Viennese cafe – Cafe Sperl. It was beautiful inside with warm lighting and we managed to get the cozy seats near the window. Sitting there in that cafe from 1880, we felt like we were transported back in time. We ordered Wiener schnitzel, Viennese cold coffee, a “tall brauner” (double mocha) and a cheesecake while we soaked in the atmosphere.
Stomachs full and minds refreshed, we walked to the Naschmarkt – the most popular market in town. You can find all kinds of cuisine here – Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and of course, Austrian. We even found Indian spice shops there!
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It was almost 7pm and we had to rush back to the Opera to get our tickets. Thanks to the earlier visit, we knew exactly where to go and we managed to get 2 tickets for 6 euros (the normal tickets cost well over 150 euros per person!).
As we climbed up to the third floor, we could sense the history of this place. Built in the 1860’s the opera can seat over 1700 people. The marble staircases and portraits on the walls reminded us of Harry Potter.
We also felt out of place looking at the richly dressed people entering the premium seating area – we had worn the best set of clothes we were carrying and we were nowhere close to fitting in. We entered the standing area – we could see the entire hall shaped like a bowl with the stage on one side. The orchestra was seated at the lowest level just below the stage – there were all kinds of instruments – violins, cello, harps, you name it, it was there! The curtains slowly opened and the chattering audience instantly went silent. There were more than 50 performers and they all moved so gracefully in one fluid motion that they felt like one unit. The music transported us back to childhood when we had heard the Swan Lake track in Disney movies. The ballet dancers balanced perfectly on their toes and as they twirled round and round, we had goosebumps. I even noticed some happy tears from Nam and a few others around – it really was moving!
The show paused for the interval and we decided to head back to our room. It had been a really long day starting at St. Gilgen and we had been walking all day. While our minds wanted to stay till the end of the show, our bodies needed the rest as we were only halfway into our trip. We took the tram to Schwedenplatz and the metro to Stephansplatz. For dinner, we picked up some hot dogs (the “wurst” kind). We had to take two more metro rides to get close to the Airbnb we had booked. The host had a ton of rules (he seemed a bit crazy about cleanliness) and the apartment was quite basic. Most Airbnbs we’d stayed at so far had been good without much hassle and this was our first weird experience. Thankfully we were dead tired and crashed as soon as we hit the bed.
We woke up at our farmhouse in St. Gilgen admiring the view of the lake and mountains.
We had an early start to finalize our plan for the day (yes, we do leave some things flexible till the end). It felt like a plan with a lot of dependencies but we decided to go ahead with it anyway.
After a quick breakfast, we got on the 9:10am bus to Bad Ischl. Bad Ischl is a beautiful town with a long legacy of royalty. It is more famous for being the place where Emperor Franz Joseph used to live and the place where he signed the declaration of war on Serbia (which set in motion the events leading to World War I).
We walked to the train station and bought 2 sets of tickets – one from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt and the other from Obertraun to Bad Ischl. Our train to Hallstatt arrived at 10:20am – it went along the river and then the banks of Hallstattersee. We reached the tiny station at Hallstatt right on time for the 11am ferry which would take us across the lake and to the town.
The lake had a lot of swans and ducks floating around and it was a beautiful sight. We were given a heads-up by a local earlier in the day that Hallstatt would be full to the brim with Chinese tourists – apparently they were so obsessed with Hallstatt that they made a copy of the town in China! He was right! As we approached the town, we saw the iconic postcard view of the village from the ferry.
We wandered around the town for a while – there were steps leading up to small pathways between the houses. After a few hundred steps, we realised that we were not headed anywhere in particular and decided to find the path to the salt mines (before the other tourists could get there).
It was tough to pull away from just standing and admiring the beauty of the town – cute houses with blooming flowers and small balconies. The houses on the lake had garages in the water for boats to park in. But we kept moving and were right on time for the 11:30am funicular which would take us up to the salt mines.
The view from up top was beautiful – we could see Hallstatt, the lake and Obertraun (another small town) on the other side.
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We hiked up the path to the entrance of the mines. On the way, we saw a few signboards – the green fields we could see around us were actually graveyards from more than 3000 years ago – over 1500 graves of the salt mining community. We also saw a pre-historic meat factory where over 150 pigs could be cured at once!
We were given a coat and pants to wear before entering the mines.
Our guide, Lukas, led the way and off we went into the narrow tunnel. The hole grew narrow and colder – we could see the salt crystals sparkling all around us. There we were – dressed somewhat like miners and several metres below ground level inside those ancient mines. The mine was divided into many horizontals with slides connecting them.
Along the way, we saw videos explaining how sea salt ended up inside the Alps in Hallstatt – an effect of continental shifts and receding seas. Around 7000 years ago, people noticed animals drinking water from the mountain and tasted the salt – and they loved the flavour! They started digging towards the salt deposits – initially with animal horns and over the years, improving to iron and bronze when the respective Ages came in. In the modern era, liquid methods are used to extract salt instead of breaking into the sides of mountains.
The salt in the hills has also helped preserve fabrics, tools and wood from this time. We saw a wooden staircase from the Bronze Age – one of the oldest well-preserved wooden structures from that period.
We were nearing the end of the tour and went down the longest slide yet – we reached a speed of 25 kmph (and got a photo as well!). We exited the mine in a small train (the kind you see in adventure movies). As we exited, we collected our souvenirs – a free box of salt! The overall tour took about 2 hours.
Now, we had to rush – we took the 2:15pm funicular down to the town. As per our calculation, we would have just missed the bus to Dachstein. Luckily, that particular day, the bus was at 2:24pm and we walked in just as the driver was preparing to leave. The drive to Dachstein Seilbahn took about 10 mins. We bought our tickets for the cable car and the ice cave (Eishohle). The 2:45pm cable car took us to the top. We then hiked up the hill – it was a beautiful forested area – thick woods with just this narrow path curving through.
We could see snow at the next level of the cable car – sadly we didn’t have time to go there. The 15-min walk brought us to the entrance of the cave – there were about 10 people waiting to enter as part of the next batch.
The temperature plunged the moment we entered the cave – from sweating after the steep hike in the sun to shivering! As we walked into the cave, it felt like a scene from a movie – a dark cave with a bunch of people going deeper into it. The temperature kept dropping and got to around 0 degrees celsius. We saw the grave of a bear which was found by the early explorers who had discovered the ice cave in 1910. The next level was full of ice! We were awestruck – it looked like water had been flowing through here and somebody just snapped their fingers and turned it to ice – the currents were literally etched on the ice and it was smooth and shiny.
It was amazing how the ice remained even though it was so hot outside. Our guide told us that there was a tunnel effect which kept it so cold inside.
The cave was made of limestone – and here, unplanned, we crossed out a bucket-list item. Stalagmites and Stalactites! Ever since we had read about them at school, we both wanted to see them in real life – and here we were – in a frozen cave hidden among the forests in a remote part of Austria. Some of these were covered with ice shards and looked like the dangerous traps in video games which would fall down when someone is passing below. On other levels, we saw imposing ice structures over 30m tall and waterfalls that had frozen over! We then climbed up to the upper chambers where we could hear the sound of water gushing. This was the point where water would enter the mountain and freeze as it reached the lower levels. During the rainy season, the force of the water would melt some of the ice but freeze again to form additional layers – as the layers were compressed due to the pressure, it was difficult to melt. In fact, the deepest layers of ice could be up to hundreds of years old! It was really an amazing sight! We reached the exit door and our guide asked us to stay back. He had hardly unlocked it when the door went flying out due to the pressure difference!
We took the cable car back down and were right on time for the 5:20pm bus back to Hallstatt. We walked through the town, took some more pics and got on the 6:15pm ferry. The train from the Hallstatt station was at 6:32pm. We reached Bad Ischl at 7pm. Thanks to the long days, we could still explore the town in sunlight. We walked around the town and saw the river, the Kaiservilla and some of the famous hot baths.
The streets were beautiful and quite cute! We saw a burger stand (Borni Burger) where we ate some burgers and walked back to the bus station. We took the 8:24pm bus to St. Gilgen – this was the last bus in that direction which had a stop at St. Gilgen! It was almost empty – just three people including the two of us.
We generally plan things well during our trips but this one has to be the most precise we’ve ever been. And there was a lot of luck involved too. We managed to visit Hallstatt, the salt mines and the ice caves in Dachstein (and even found time to hike around a bit!). Everything fell in place so well that we managed to travel on the exact buses and trains that we had planned. It is also testament to the amazing accuracy of the Austrian transportation networks. Would we have loved to spend more time at each of the places we went? Yes, of course! But with the time we had, I believe we were able to make the most of it.
Once back at St. Gilgen, we sat out on our balcony and watched the sunset. The moon was also rising in the clear sky full of stars – it was one of the most beautiful moonrises we’d ever seen – the moon climbing up behind the mountains with its reflection in the lake. We left our curtains open and slept watching the moon and stars.
The next morning, we woke up early, said goodbye to the beautiful lake town of St. Gilgen and headed onto our next destination – Vienna. We took a bus to Salzburg and then the train to Vienna. The train was unusually late – the 8:08 train was coming in at 8:28 – something that would be considered very normal in India. This gave us time to pick up a quick breakfast of sandwiches and croissants from the nearby Spar. We boarded our Railjet train to Vienna Hauptbahnhof and off we went! Check out our entire Austria itinerary here.
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There are few places in the world which can rival the pristine beauty of Switzerland – Salzkammergut is one of them! Salzkammergut translates to “salt domain” and lies to the east of Salzburg all the way to the Dachstein mountains. The region is also called the Lake District as it is home to over 30 lakes nestled in between scenic hills and mountains. The geography of the region also makes it an ideal place for resorts and skiing during winters. It is also home to the iconic Hallstatt – which I’m sure a lot of you would have seen somewhere on the internet! So let’s get right into our journey!
You would need atleast 3-4 days to properly explore the region and some of the must-visit sites. To make it easier, you will need to pick a good base location. Some people prefer to stay in Salzburg and make day-trips. The upside is the connectivity from Salzburg. The downside is that you will need to make multiple trips up and down and since Salzburg is on one corner, the journeys are usually long. Another option that people choose is to stay at multiple places as you move along. We decided to go for the third option – pick an alternate base location. And we chose St. Gilgen.
As we looked at options for a good place to stay, St. Gilgen caught our eye. It was located about 30km east of Salzburg, was right on the banks of the Wolfgang lake and was also on the bus route from Salzburg to Bad Ischl which could provide us the connection to Hallstatt. Also, the town of St. Wolfang and the Schafberg peak were a boat ride away. We booked our stay at an organic farmhouse overlooking the lake – it was beautiful! Surrounded by meadows, the place looked right out of a story-book.
We had a really nice view from up there – we could see a church and the town down below, other farmhouses, mountains densely covered with trees, the giant lake and snow-capped peaks in the distance. We spent the first evening just admiring the view from there.
The sun set after 9pm – so we had plenty of time!
St. Wolfgang and Schafberg
We had a nice and simple breakfast in the cozy dining area of the farmhouse – different kinds of cheese, ham, bacon, breads, jams and fruits (most of them from the farmhouse itself). The place reminded us of the place we stayed at in the village of Rastovaca in Croatia. We walked down towards the town and the lake – there were many ducks wading about in the water. Mozart had a house here as well!
Our plan for the day was to cross the lake and get to the peak of Schaberg. Right now, the peak was covered in clouds and we couldn’t even see it! We hoped and prayed that the sun would get stronger and clear them out. At the ticket counter near the lake, we bought a combo ticket which would give us access to the ferry and the cog-wheel train. We took the 11am ferry and got down at the Schafbergbahn stop.
We decided to take the 12:50pm train to the top (giving more time to the sun to do his job) and walked along the lake to a place called Reid Falkenstein. It was a beautiful path – perfect for cycling. I hoped we could someday have enough luxury of time that we could just spend a day or two exploring the places around this lake.
We walked back to the train station for the climb up the mountain. It was an amusing sight! The cog-wheel train had its engine at the back (the engine was literally pushing up the rest of the compartments!). It began its steep climb and it got steeper as we went up (it is the steepest in the country).
We spotted the hiker’s trail – that’s what you would take if you decided to hike all the way to the top – it was equally steep and we were glad that we were on the train instead! It took about 35 mins to get to the top. We reserved our seats on the 2:45pm train back before going on to explore the peak.
Crossing our fingers earlier in the day (and delaying our climb to the top till noon) seemed to have done the trick – we got a very clear view from the top. And what a view it was! We could spot our farmhouse in St. Gilgen (it was a tiny speck in the distance). We climbed up further to the tallest point and more lakes came into view – Mondsee, Attersee and Fuchsl.
We could also spot another lake and the snowy peaks of Dachstein in the distance. It was easily one of the best views we had ever seen!
There was a nice little shop tactfully placed right there – we picked up a hot bowl of goulash (soup) and an ice-cream (no prizes for guessing who ordered what) and sat on a bench enjoying the view.
Once we were back to lake-level, we walked to St. Wolfgang town and explored it till the last ferry back at 5pm. We picked up a pulled pork semmel (a kind of burger) at a shop there – one of the best burgers we’ve had!
We’d found a nice place for dinner at St. Gilgen (Wirt am gries) where we had schnitzel, chicken with asparagus and rice and some really good chardonnay wine. It was a beautiful place with outdoor seating – the weather was nice with clear skies the entire day and Schafberg peak glinted in the distance.
A beautiful town in the west of Austria, Salzburg is the perfect example of where nature meets culture. Sitting on the banks of the Salzach river, Salzburg is home to the legendary Mozart and has everything from beautiful gardens to palaces to an amazing medieval fortress and of course some amazing food. Salzburg literally means “Salt Fortress” referring to the huge salt mines around the area.
Arriving at Salzburg
We spent an entire day exploring the town during our Austria trip (check out our complete itinerary here). We arrived at Salzburg by train from Prague – we had to change into another train at Linz before reaching Salzburg. From the train station, we took a bus to our hotel. It is easy to navigate your way around in Austria – there are maps everywhere and with some amount of prior research, you can easily use public transport without having to sacrifice anything in your itinerary.
Bus 130 dropped us near our hotel, Hotel Turnerwirt. The place looked straight out of a story book.
We pulled up our luggage along the creaky wooden stairs to the 3rd floor and settled in. We looked for a good eatery nearby and found a Pizzeria. Salzburg to the west of the country and you can find some good Italian food here. We ordered a wood fired pizza with ham, cheese, tomato and mushrooms. The ambience was really nice with “antique knick-knack” stuff around. The pizza was amazing and we ended up loving the crust even more than the toppings – it was so fresh and crunchy!
We walked back enjoying the clear night time sky and hurried to make it to the hotel before they closed their front doors.
We woke up early and checked out of the hotel. We took the same bus 130 back to the railway station and kept our luggage in the lockers there. You can find such lockers all over Europe – they are super convenient, cheap and mostly automated. Shoulders light and hands free, we picked up a couple of sandwiches and walked to a nearby garden. We sat there at the park bench and munched on the ham and cheese sandwiches while observing the life of the locals – there were some folks in formals rushing to work, an old man walking his dog in the park, a couple of kids cycling.
We always make it a point to take such time out so that our trips don’t become a series of checkpoint races.
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Let the walking tour begin
Our next stop was the Mirabell Palace and gardens – beautifully manicured gardens with flowers of all kinds. It is the kind of place where a photographer can go crazy – as if on cue, we saw a video shoot happening there.
We also took our share of pics, posed with the dwarves and walked on.
We stopped at a small bakery on Linzerstrasse where we had one of the best foods of the entire trip! Apple strudel (or Apfelstrudel) – a pastry filled with apple, it was crunchy, sweet and melt-in-the-mouth! Food that makes you want to go back again and again!
With happy tummies, we continued our walk on the stone path along the Salzach river. These walkways were beautiful and perfect for an evening stroll. They also offered amazing views of the fortress.
Along with these walkways, there were cycle paths. There were cycles everywhere – we even saw a modified cycle which had a baby pram tagged along with it! We crossed the river at the Mozart bridge and landed at Mozartplatz. We walked past the museums (we’d heard they weren’t great and decided to reserve our museum visits for Vienna) toward the Salzburger Dom cathedral – a huge cathedral with intricate paintings and sculptures which were symmetrical all the way around. We were right on time to hear the giant church bell ringing and echoing everywhere. We also visited the crypt below the cathedral – it was eerie down there with all the coffins!
Our next stop was the top of the fortress we’d been seeing right from the time we reached Salzburg – the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Built in 1077, the fortress has stood the test of time and is a majestic landmark overlooking the entire town. You can choose to take the funicular to the top of the hill or walk up – we chose the funicular as it was something we’d never seen before and wanted to experience the ride! We opted for the audio guided tour of the fortress and were given earpieces which looked like hand-held phones. The views from the top were spectacular! We got a panoramic view of the town, the river snaking its view through it and the hills on the other side with snowy peaks.
Inside the fortress we got to see the story of the town of Salzburg and how it evolved over the ages. There were also pictures showing how the fortress itself changed over the years. It was really pleasant walking through the cool corridors of the fortress. We saw the giant horn – the Salzburg bull which when blown could be heard for many kilometres. In recent years, the fortress was used to house prisoners of war during the World Wars before it was turned into a museum/tourist attraction.
After the tour, we took the funicular back down and proceeded to St. Peter’s Abbey. It had a cemetery with the graves beautifully decorated with flowers.
We also explored the catacombs whose steep stairs cut into the mountain. We walked up into a small hall where a girl was playing a piano. We stopped for a quick bathroom break and then walked to the old market.
The market area also housed Mozart’s birthplace.
We picked up a couple of fish burgers from Nordsee and ate it sitting by the bank of the Salzach. We topped it up with cherry ice-cream. Our day in Salzburg was coming to a close.
We picked up our luggage from the train station and took bus 150 to Sankt Gilgen which was going to be our base in the Salzkammergut region.
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Looking for a country in Europe where you want to experience the beauty of nature? Austria may not be the first name that comes to mind. We are pretty sure it is among the most beautiful places we’ve visited (if not the most beautiful one). Nature is at its full glory with beautiful lakes, rolling green hills and mountains blooming with flowers in the summer and turning into the most amazing ski resorts in winter. It is one of those places where you want to keep going back and is home to some amazing food, culture and sights.
Austria (or Österreich in German meaning the “eastern realm”) is a dream choice for itinerary makers – it shares its borders with Slovenia and Italy in the south, Hungary and Slovakia in the east, Czechia and Germany in the north and Switzerland (and Liechtenstein) in the west – giving travellers many options to plan short trips to the neighbouring countries.
Best time to visit
June to August is the peak tourist season as is the case in most European countries. If you want to avoid the crowds, plan your trip in April-May, early June or September – the prices will be lower and you will also get good weather. Having said that, Austria is great for all seasons especially because of its ski resorts which come into action in the winter. And of course, you don’t want to miss the Christmas festivities in Vienna while you’re there anyway.
Austria is extremely well connected by rail and bus. You can enter the country at any of the major cities and then use the rail and bus networks to explore the country. We didn’t have to look for cabs or private transport anywhere – just make sure you have the bus and train timetables handy so that you can plan your travel. The buses usually run on time and you don’t want to end up a minute or two late.
Indians can enter Austria with a valid Schengen Visa.
What is the ideal number of days to spend in Austria?
This is an important question to answer as you don’t want to miss out the best places the country has to offer. As always, it also depends on your budget (both in terms of number of days and money) and we have a strict limit on our number of days – so optimization is key. We would recommend that you spend atleast 5 days in Austria to cover Salzburg, Vienna and the Salzkammergut. Here’s our itinerary along with some of the options to help you decide!
Day 1: Arrive at Salzburg by train from Prague (with a changeover at Linz). Walk around the town, explore some of the local food.
Day 2: Explore the town – Mirabell Palace, Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mozart’s birthplace and the Cathedral. Everything is within walking distance so you don’t need to worry about transportation. Here is the blog detailing how you can plan your day in Salzburg. Take the bus to St. Gilgen in the evening. Night in St. Gilgen.
Day 3: Take a boat across the Wolfgang Lake to Schafberg and take the cog railway (Austria’s steepest) up to the peak with the spectacular panoramic view of the Salzkammergut – one of the best things you’ll ever see! Explore the town of St. Wolfgang. Boat back to St. Gilgen.
Day 5: Morning bus to Salzburg and train to Vienna. Explore the city, visit the palaces and museums and attend the Opera. Here is our Vienna guide. Night in Vienna.
Day 6: Train to Budapest.
Here are some suggested changes based on the type of person you are / group you are travelling with:
Culture and History Buffs: Vienna is the perfect place for this. You should definitely budget 2-3 days in Vienna to explore the museums (especially the Natural History one) and palaces in more detail. There are also a lot of iconic spots around the city and some really good cafes which you shouldn’t miss!
Time is not a Constraint for me: Add Innsbruck to your list of places – it is a short train ride away from Salzburg. You can also spend more time exploring the Salzkammergut.
So this was our itinerary. Check out our other blogs on how to make the most of your Austria trip here. We absolutely loved Austria – especially the smaller towns! If you want to enjoy nature and culture, pick Austria and you will not be disappointed!
We start with how to get to Croatia from the neighbouring countries. The easiest and expensive option is by flight – through Zagreb or Split or Dubrovnik and use flights for the rest of the journey. You can use any booking website to look at available options. In this blog we will cover how to use trains and buses and make the most of them to get around Croatia.
From Budapest, Hungary: Our itinerary of Eastern Europe led us from Budapest to Zagreb. We had the option of taking a bus which would take about 5 hours (excluding the time for immigration at the border) or the train which was a similar duration but was more comfortable. We chose the train for two reasons: first, to enjoy the countryside and second, the train would stop at the border and we would have to switch to a Croatian train for the rest of the journey to Zagreb – this was something we wanted to experience.
The train from Budapest
For booking all your train tickets anywhere in Europe, we would always advise you to go to the official website of the railways as they will always give you the best and cheapest options. In this case, head to www.mavcsoport.hu (the Hungarian railways website). To guide you through how to book tickets here, check out this detailed account by The Man in Seat 61 – the go to place if you want guidance on train travel anywhere in Europe. Do note that you will not get an e-ticket for this train. You need to keep the code you will get by email and collect the tickets at automated machines at the train station in Hungary. We recommend booking the tickets in advance so that you don’t have to figure out travel options at the last minute. You also get cheaper tickets on advance booking. Budapest has multiple railway stations – you can catch the train to Zagreb at Budapest Keleti (Keleti Palyaudvar) railway station.
From Austria or Italy: The best option would be to travel to Zagreb via bus. The journey would take you through beautiful Slovenia and if you are lucky, you would get a long enough break to explore the beautiful lake town of Bled.
Now that you’ve reached Croatia, buses and ferries are your lifeline to get around.
Travelling in Croatia – Buses
Croatia has a good network of buses which are convenient to get from one place to another. Two very good websites for booking buses are Flixbus and GetbyBus. These guys are basically aggregators which will show you options from various companies. Do check out the ratings and reviews of the operator to make sure you pick the right bus for your travel. They can charge you for heavy luggage, so keep change handy.
Pro Tip – Split to Dubrovnik
You can choose to take a bus from Split to Dubrovnik and back. However, the road route crosses a tiny patch of Bosnia and Herzegovina. What does this mean? You are exiting Croatia and need to re-enter to continue the journey which means two rounds of immigration checks. This also means that if there is a hold-up for a single person in the bus, the entire bus needs to wait. The travel time from Split to Dubrovnik is 4.5 hours excluding the wait at the checkpoints. We wanted to avoid this bit and planned it in a way that we used boats both ways. Check out our complete itinerary here.
Travelling in Croatia – Ferries/Catamarans
We took catamarans from Split to Hvar and onwards to Dubrovnik. There are two major operators – Jadrolinija and Kapetan Luka. We used both for different legs of our journey and would recommend both equally. Both connect the mainland to all major islands along the coast and you can plan all the legs of your journey accordingly.
Make sure you keep enough buffer between transfers in your journey so that you don’t miss out on a bus/boat. It is always better to reach a place early than deal with the frustration of missing a connection.
We always recommend making your bookings atleast a week or two in advance to ensure that you get a seat (preferably, a reserved seat). Also, advance bookings can get you some good deals! Keep your eye out for these.
Where to Stay
The sweet spot for us while booking a place to stay is to have it close to the main attractions with access to the transit systems. The access part is kept at higher priority as it is convenient when you’re moving in/out with your luggage. In Europe, it becomes much easier than most other places as the cities have been designed with great connectivity.
Zagreb: We picked an Airbnb at a walkable distance from the bus station (which is also close to the railway station). We had an early morning flight out of Zagreb and chose to stay near the origin point of the bus.
Plitviče National Park: The park itself does not have any options for stay but there are a couple of villages right outside the main gates. We picked Rastovača which is a 10-15 min walk along the highway from “Entrance 1” of the park. The buses from Zagreb stop at Entrance 1. Make sure you reach when there is still daylight as the highway goes through a dense forest and you don’t want to be stranded here in the dark! Rastovača is a beautiful village with some nice cottages where you can find rooms on Airbnb. We stayed at a lovely little cottage called House Spehar (where we had some amazing breakfast the next day!). You can also choose to stay in some of the hotels near Entrance 2 – we didn’t go for these as most of the crowd enters the park from here and the best way to explore it would be start at Entrance 1 in the opposite direction of the crowd. For more on how to make the most of your day at Plitviče, click here.
Split: When in Split, try to stay as close to the Old Town as possible. Split has an active nightlife which is concentrated in this area. As the public transportation dies down quite early, having your room close to the Old Town is a major plus. On one of our stays, we couldn’t find a place close enough and we had to walk back almost 4 kms (couldn’t even find cabs!).
Hvar: The island of Hvar is quite big – however, the preferred places to stay are near the port for ease of movement. With some effort, you can find some beautiful Airbnb’s with amazing views. Be wary of the stairs as there are many in the area! Hvar also has some amazing seafood places, but more on that here.
Croatia is a delight for seafood lovers! We had some of the best seafood we’ve ever tasted and is the main reason why we wouldn’t think twice before coming back here again.
Dolac Market: We love visiting the local green markets as it is the best place to get a flavour of the local taste. You can sample the fresh fruits, veggies and meats at this market – we got some tasty apricots to eat while we walked around the city.
You can also find a lot of restaurants along the Ulica Ivana Tkalčića.
Villa Spiza: Excellent food with simple and fresh ingredients! It takes some time to find the place as it is not the biggest one in the city. Make sure you go early, or you might not get a table before they run out of food! The menu of the day had pork chops and lamb pasta. Delicious food which keeps you coming back for more!
Pazar market: Local green market near the Old Town. Go early in the morning to see people selling fresh produce and meat. You can pick up some fruits and berries to munch on throughout the day.
Fife restaurant: Towards the end of the Riva Promenade, this place serves really good local dishes at compelling prices.
Marinero bistro: Without doubt, the best food we had in Croatia. Delicious tuna fillet, fried calamari with tartar and house wine made for a wonderful dinner!
Dalmatino: We didn’t get time to go here but heard some good things about this place. Next time!
Mlinar bakery: This was our go-to place across Croatia – ideal for a quick bite, stocking up on supplies or even a small meal. It is pocket friendly and tasty and is ideal for the backpacking tourist.
The first image that pops up when you hear the word “Dalmatian” would be the black and white spotted dogs made famous by the Disney movie. The origin of this breed is from a region of the same name in Croatia. The historical Dalmatia region is along the Adriatic coast and covers most of the southern half of the country. The major cities in this region are Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik. There are many beautiful islands off the coast, some of the best ones being Hvar, Brač and Korčula.
We started our holiday from Zagreb where we spent half a day (enough to see all major attractions). We then spent an amazing day at Plitvice National Park. A 4-hour bus journey from Plitvice took us along the coastal cities of Zadar and Sibenik to Split. We were picked up by our Airbnb host from the bus stand who had come along with his two cute kids. Nino – our host – was super-friendly and a really nice guy. He gave us a mini tour of the city and told us how to get around. As we entered the residential neighborhood, we noticed gardens behind every house with vines wrapped around the garages. And on these were grapes!
Coming from Indian city life, it is indeed a wonder to see grapes growing freely in every house! We left our luggage in the room and walked back to the old city.
As we entered the old town area, the vibe itself changed. The tiny streets transported us to another age as we walked around looking for a place to eat. We always read up about the best places to eat so that we experience the best foods in the limited number of days we spend. We arrived at our destination, Villa Spiza – a small restaurant in a tiny lane. For a place so tiny, there was a lot of crowd waiting to get a table. As we waited (40 mins in total), we saw the owner come out and strike off some items from the menu. We learnt that their menu changes every day based on what they get fresh from the market. Luckily, the dishes we had our eyes on were still on the menu when we got our table. And it was totally worth the wait! Delicious pork chops and minced lamb pasta and amazing wine to go with it! All food pics are available on the Food page. After dinner, we walked around, got an ice-cream and saw some hostelers partying out on the lanes – looked like this one was going all night long.
Our second day at Split was mostly spent exploring Diocletian’s Palace and the walled city.
We first headed to the farmer’s market where we picked up some fresh fruits for the day. The Palace itself has a lot of interesting elements – sphinxes from Egypt, a temple dedicated to Jupiter and actors dressed up as Romans putting on a show for the visitors.
We also spotted some of the shoot locations of Game of Thrones there. If you get tired walking, there are plenty of little restaurants and takeaways. We ended our day by taking a bus back to Zagreb.
Pro Tip: To get a panoramic view of Split old town and the port, head up to Park Marjan. We started our day here walking all the way up to the observation deck. The early morning light gave us a beautiful view of the city. From here, you can climb down the steps and get to the Riva Promenade.
We had planned to visit Hvar, Dubrovnik and come back to Split – so we decided to leave our luggage at the Split port instead of lugging it around all the way. Look out for lockers near the bus stand where you can leave your luggage for a daily rate. We took the 9:45 am Jadrolinija catamaran from the dock. Wondering how to book tickets for these? Check out our guide to local travel in Croatia.
The boat was good and the ride was smooth – it cut through all the waves and almost glided through to reach Hvar in just under an hour. We walked up some steps near the port to our Airbnb where we left our bags and went to explore the town.
Walking along the coast-line itself is a soothing experience. The water is so clear that you feel the boats are floating in air!
We continued to explore the old town area and a series of stairs led us up to the Fortica. The climb up is quite tiring but the end result is worth it – you get a view of the entire town with the coral tiles roofs, blue skies and the blue sea merging into it, rugged terrain along the coast and cactus plants with beautiful flowers all around!
We walked into a restaurant for lunch where we had some amazing fried calamari. We headed back to our room as the sun was beating down on us. We met our host, Zora who suggested some off-beat places on the island. There was a beach which was a good 30 mins walk along the coast on the southern part of the island which she recommended. We passed through a neighbourhood of premium apartments and some remote roads along the coast to reach the beach. The beach was full of white pebbles and the water was perfect for a swim.
We took care not to step on the sea urchins! After spending a couple of hours here, we took a shortcut by climbing over a hill to cut across.
For dinner, we headed to the Marinero bistro which is just off the old town centre. The food we had here was possibly the best we had on the trip to Croatia. Grilled tuna fillet, calamari with tartar and house wine – the memory of the taste makes us want to go back there! Food pics here!
We spent some time at the beach spotting stars and constellations (the sky was so clear!). As we walked back to our room, we saw many people dressed up getting on boats to go to Carpe Diem – one of the craziest party places around. We had to catch a boat the next morning and decided to skip it – best to leave it for later!
We took the Kapetan Luka catamaran from Hvar to Dubrovnik at 8:45 am. This time we sat on the upper deck where we enjoyed views of the coast and the islands of Korčula and Mljet. As we got closer to Dubrovnik, we saw not one, but many cruise ships off the coast. Oh no! Cruise ships could mean only one thing – crazy crowds!
As you exit the port at Dubrovnik and cross the road, you will see a visitor information centre and a counter from where you can buy bus tickets. We got our tickets and boarded bus 1-A to the Old City (Stari Grad). The walled city welcomed us in a manner that we expected – full of tourists. There were multiple Game of Thrones tours going on along the walls and inside as tourists tried to recreate the scenes. We explored the city for the better part of the day – the inner walls, the cathedral, the port (of wildfire), drawbridge and lots of steps (including the Shame, Shame ones).
The restaurants are all tourist traps with super expensive menus and even the exchange rate here was the worst we had seen in Croatia. After lunch, we took Bus number 3 back to the port where our boat to Split was waiting.
As mentioned in our top post, if you are crunched for time, you would do well to skip this journey to Dubrovnik as the crowds will put you off. If time is not a constraint, stay for 2 days and start exploring the walled city early in the morning before the cruise crowd hits.