Austria and Switzerland Itinerary : 7-10 Days in Central Europe
Austria and Switzerland are two of the most beautiful countries in Europe. So, if you plan a trip to Europe and want to focus on Central Europe, then I highly suggest visiting these two places and here is the perfect Austria and Switzerland itinerary.
Switzerland is the country with the most beautiful scenery, and Austria has the prettiest and most romantic cities and towns – so a Austria and Switzerland trip is the perfect combination of outdoor fun and romance.
So, in this 7-10 day Central Europe itinerary, you will find out about what to do in Austria and Switzerland. Also, you will find out how to get around and more important travel tips for these two countries.
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA TRIP
If you are a citizen of the European Union, you will not need a visa – not even for Switzerland, as it is part of the Schengen Area. This is also true for Americans in 2019. You can visit both countries, and though there might be border controls, you will not have to apply for a visa to visit.
How to Fly Into Switzerland/Austria
For this itinerary, if you fly, I suggest flying into Zurich and leaving from Vienna – or the other way around. Both cities have international airports that are well-connected to the city center. From there, you can either pick up a rental car or use public transportation.
Driving or Public Transportation?
How to Get Around
Both countries have a good public transportation system (I would go as far as to say Switzerland has the very best public transportation system in the whole wide world).
However, public transportation is not cheap in these countries and it limits your flexibility. But still, it is a great way to get around. It can also be less stressful, especially if you drive in town and in the city center. Then, public transportation becomes the hustle-free choice (in this case, pack light so that you don’t carry too much stuff around).
I drive in Switzerland and Austria, but I also use public transportation and like it both ways. I always drive my own car, but if you rent one, I recommend checking prices here.
If you drive (in your own car), you need toll stickers for Switzerland and Austria, which you can buy in gas stations near the border or in the country (they should be included with your rental car).
For Austria, you can buy a 10-day toll sticker for around $10 (shortest period possible) for Switzerland you would need to pay an annual sticker (about $40 – or you avoid motorways).
In Austria, there are a few private streets that charge extra. For this itinerary, however, you will not use them often.
While both countries are mountainous, they are easy to drive and a lot of fun. Just watch the speed limit, only park when you are allowed to do so, and keep in mind that the streets can be narrow.
Both countries are expensive – I mean like really expensive. However, Switzerland is way more expensive than Austria. But you can save a bit of money by bringing a reusable water bottle and refilling it with fresh water from the water fountains (they are numerous in both countries and also at all of the places I mention here).
Tips are not really expected in either country. You can, but there is no need.
In Austria, people speak a German dialect, while in Switzerland, there are four official languages. But the places on this itinerary only include German-speaking areas.
Since all of these places are very popular amongst tourists from all over the world, most people speak basic English and you should be fine even if you don’t speak German (learning a few worlds never hurts though).
If you fly into Zurich, then your trip starts with a beautiful city in the northern part of Switzerland.
I suggest staying in Zurich 1.5 – 2 days, so you can visit not only the main attractions in Zurich but also do a (half) day trip to the Rhine Falls.
While I list the best things to do in Zurich below, here is some info for your trip there:
Travel Tips Zurich
Zurich has amazing public transportation, so I recommend getting around by tram/bus. If you are driving, then you might have difficulties parking in the city center. So, even with a car, I would try to get around to as many places as possible on foot or by using public transportation.
One of the fun things to do in Zurich is rent a bike and explore this beautiful town on two wheels – for free!
Meat-lovers will love Switzerland (not so much if they see the prices for meat though). As someone who does not eat any animals, I am overjoyed with the many vegetarian and vegan restaurants the city offers.
Where to Stay in Zurich
I recommend staying close to the city center but since public transport is pretty good, you can also book a hotel a bit further away and you will still be mobile.
Zurich has some great luxury hotels which are amazing to get spoiled and enjoy life.
Luxury Hotels in Zurich
Mid-Range Hotels in Zurich
Budget Hotels in Zurich
Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich, this one is a good-rated hostel in Zurich.
I stayed only once in a hostel in Zurich and this was my choice – and it was good considering it is a hostel – central location and the rooms where oaky, too.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in Zurich
- Lake Zurich
- Rhine Falls & Stein am Rhine (day trip)
- Appenzell & Aescher (day trip)
From Zurich to Lucerne, it takes about an hour by car (or by train). Whichever means you opt for, it is easy and a nice ride/drive.
Travel Tips Lucerne
Lucerne is often called the prettiest Swiss city. If you ask me, then I would say that it is the city in Europe with the most stunning scenery. You are so close to the Alps and yet have a lively little city to discover – it should be on any Switzerland itinerary.
Book an official accommodation in Lucerne, so you will get a card that allows you to use public transportation in the city of Lucerne for free. Lucerne, like Zurich, is freaking expensive, and so is parking in the city center (if you find a hotel with free parking, you have hit the jackpot).
Public transportation in Lucerne is fast, reliable, and on time – but keep in mind that the guest card only allows you to use public transportation in the city center itself (and not to other destinations, like Mount Rigi, for instance).
Driving around is also a good option because there are some scenic streets (e.g. Axenstrasse), but parking in the town center will make your travel costs explode (free parking is available outside the city center).
Where to Stay in Lucerne
Lucerne is quite pricey -, especially in the town center. However, I recommend staying in the city center.
Luxury Hotels in Lucerne
Schweizerhof Lucerne: Lucerne has also some amazing luxury hotels – my favorite hotel, just near Lake Lucerne, is Schweizerhof Lucerne that is unique and special and which comes with great views (if you book a lake view). Click here to find the best rates for your stay
Mid-Range Hotels in Lucerne
Hotel des Alps: When I visited Lucerne the last time, I stayed at this lovely 3-star hotel – the location is absolutely fantastic and it was probably one of the best 3star hotels I stayed at.
So, personally, I think, there is no better 3-star hotel with a better location in Lucerne than this hotel. Click here to find the best rates for your stay at Hotel des Alpes.
Budget Hotels in Lucerne
Seminarhaus Bruchmatt: If you don’t want to stay in a hostel but prefer budget hotels check out Seminar Bruchmatt. The hotel offers the best value for the money. It only takes 10 minutes to get to Chapel Street, and a few more minutes to arrive at the train station. Click here to get the best rates for a stay at Seminarhaus Bruchmatt
Things to Do and Places to Visit in Lucerne:
- Chapel Bridge
- Lake Lucerne
Head to at least one mountain peak:
- Mount Rigi
- Mount Titlis
- Mount Pilatus
Find my detailed Lucerne travel guide here.
From Switzerland to Austria – or From Austria to Switzerland: 1 Day
From Lucerne, it is time to head to Austria. I understand if you feel the urge to stay longer in Switzerland. It is just sooo beautiful and you have just seen the tip of the iceberg. I never tire of it, even though I visit Switzerland each year and often stay four, five, or even six weeks there.
But since you have planned to visit Austria as well, you need to be strong and plan another, longer trip to Switzerland in the future.
Because it is time to visit the pretty cities in Austria.
You could go back to Zurich and then fly from Zurich to Vienna, then either get around by train or car there.
However, you would really miss out on the amazing scenery.
So, I would not fly, but either use public transportation or drive there (with a rental car, check prices for dropping off in a different country, etc).
There is also a bus from Zurich to Vienna. It is quite cheap, but you can also take a train from Lucerne to Hallstatt (my tip if you don’t drive yourself).
Whether you drive or take public transportation, it will take about 6-10 hours to get from Lucerne to Salzburg, so I would plan in one full day just for traveling.
If you drive, you can stop as many times as you like – and with all the amazing and breathtaking scenery, you will want to stop many times and just enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature.
So, if you stayed in Zurich for 2 days and spent 2 days in Lucerne, then this will be Day 5 in Central Europe.
Check out more Switzerland travel tips.
Hallstatt is Instafamous and has become one of the main tourist spots in Austria. Some people call it the most beautiful town in Europe, or even in the world. I don’t really agree, but it is stunning!
Travel Tips Hallstatt
You will arrive in Hallstatt in the late evening or late at night. Hallstatt does not have many hotels and this tiny village by the lake has become incredibly popular amongst visitors from all around the world, and especially from China.
The Chinese tourists normally come in big groups and just stay for a few hours, so if you want to experience Hallstatt without the crowds, then it makes sense to stay here overnight. This way, you can start your day before the tourists come.
Hallstatt is very small and you can walk to all the attractions I mention. One day should be enough for this little beauty.
Where to Stay in Hallstatt
Hallstatt has very few hotels, which are quickly booked out. If you plan to stay overnight, book early.
While I believe that ten hours in Hallstatt is definitely enough to see all the (special) places, I can understand if you would like to stay overnight because you have one big advantage and be in Hallstatt when the crowds are not there.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in Hallstatt:
- Lake Promenade
- Market Square
- Salzwelten Hallstatt
- Walk the Upper Stairs
- Go on the Lake
Here is a more detailed Hallstatt guide I have written for you – with more travel tips and info on Hallstatt.
From Hallstatt, you head to pretty Salzburg – a city I fell head over heels in love with and I am sure you will, too.
The drive (train ride) takes about 1.5 hours and is quite scenic. I stopped several times along the way, and if you drive, too, I suggest leaving Hallstatt when it is still light so that you can enjoy the landscape as well.
Most Americans might know Salzburg because of the movie The Sound of Music, which has made the city famous outside of Europe. However, I, as a European, had not even heard of the movie before my visit, nor had many other people in Austria.
Salzburg is such a charming city that it deserves at least 1.5 days of your time. If you are traveling to the city with your significant other, you will adore it. But even as a solo traveler (as I am), it was one of my favorite travel destinations in 2018.
It is super easy to see most of the attractions in one day – you can easily walk as they are located quite close to each other (if you are used to a bit of walking).
However, I loved public transportation there and sometimes used buses to get around (public transportation is quite cheap and reliable).
Salzburg Card: I did not get one because I traveled with a dog and cannot access many museums, etc., but I carefully read about the free admissions and such, and think that it is totally worth it if you want to visit at least two museums.
You can also use public transportation for free with the card.
You can click here to find out about the prices and buy one for your Salzburg trip.
Travel Tips Salzburg
Getting around Salzburg is quite easy – many attractions are located within walking distance in the city center.
If you need public transportation, it is cheap and very good.
You can buy a Salzburg Card, which is great for saving at the attractions in Salzburg.
Where to Stay in Salzburg:
In general, accommodations in Salzburg is pretty expensive, and so staying outside can help you saving money (and thanks to a great public transportation system of the city, it is also easy to get around). I stayed outside the city center but these are the best-rated hotels in Salzburg:
Luxury Hotels in Salzburg
Hotel Sacher in the Old Town – Click here to find out more and get the best price
Mid-Range Hotels in Salzburg
Arthotel Blaue Gans is in the Old Town – Find the best rates here
Budget Hotels in Salzburg
If you are looking for a more budget-friendly hotel then you have to check out accommodations near the town center.
Ibis Budget Salzburg Airport – it was good value for money. It did not take long to get to the town center and public transportation is cheap and good (though it takes more than ten minutes to the bus station.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in Salzburg:
- Museum der Moderne
- Hohensalzburg Fortress
- St. Erhard Kirche From Above
- Shopping Streets and Squares in the Old Town
- Mozart’s Family Home
- Mirabell Palace and Garden
Find my detailed Salzburg travel guide here.
So, from Salzburg, it is time to head to your final destination: Vienna. It takes about 2.5 – 3 hours by train or car.
Vienna is one of the most romantic cities in the world. With all of its impressive baroque buildings and castles, it would be one of the first picks for a romantic trip.
But again: even if you don’t visit Vienna with your loved one, you don’t have to feel bad – Vienna is a great destination for any kind of traveler.
Vienna is also the city of museums, Vienna is the city of the international organizations, Vienna is the city of gorgeous buildings, Vienna is the city of Mozart, and Vienna is the city of Sacher cake (not my favorite cake to be honest though).
Like in all of the places mentioned here, in the center, I recommend using public transportation rather than driving. All the places have a fantastic public transportation system and parking can be tricky.
Vienna is also a perfect city for nice strolls – you will not even need to use public transportation often. Many places are located next to each other.
The Vienna Pass gives you free access to more than 60 attractions around Vienna. You can skip the line entry to popular Vienna attractions and it includes the Vienna Hop On Hop Off sightseeing tours. Tickets are a bit more expensive than for the Vienna City Card – which gives you unlimited free public transport in downtown Vienna, and good discounts in Vienna’s major attractions. However, if you want to visit some of the palaces then the Vienna Pass might be more useful.
Where to Stay in Vienna
Luxury Hotels in Vienna
Hotel Sacher: This hotel near Hofburg (which is also on this itinerary) is rated the best in the city – its central location makes it a perfect hotel for your Vienna trip. Find out more about the rates for staying in this hotel here.
Mid-Range Hotels in Vienna
Mercure Vienna First: One good medium priced accommodation to stay in Vienna is Mercure Vienna First – it was the place, I stayed when I visited Vienna on my last trip. Find out more about that particular hotel by clicking here.
Budget Hotels in Vienna
To find out prices for accommodations in Vienna please click here.
I also have a full accommodation guide on Vienna and the best areas to stay. Just click here to find your perfect hotel in Vienna.
Travel Tips Vienna
Accommodations in Vienna are quite expensive, but I suggest staying in the city center (in the first district, as you can get to most main attractions in a heartbeat).
Also, public transportation is quite cheap and very good. The very few times you will need public transportation, you will be pleased to use it in Vienna.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in Vienna:
- Stephansdom Cathedral
- Hundertwasser Village
- St. Charles’s Church
- The Hofburg
- Schönbrunn Palace
- Schloss Belvedere
- Viennese Prater (2. District)
- Museum District
Here is my detailed Vienna guide – to find out more about each attraction and more important travel tips.
From Vienna it is time to end your 10 days in Switzerland and Austria – Vienna´s airport is easily reachable by a shuttle bus or car and after these 10 days, I am sure you will have as amazing memories as I have from the two countries.
Austria and Switzerland have both amazing places to mention – since I focus a lot on Switzerland, I could create a 2-month Switzerland itinerary and would still have to leave some gorgeous countries out. But for first-time visitors to Switzerland and Austria, these places are probably the best to visit.
And, as I do it…I always have a reason to come back to see more of these two beautiful countries but for the first ten days (or even one week) or you are good to go with this itinerary!