Are you looking for tips on how to plan an amazing road trip in Austria? Then this post is for you! Here you will find what you are looking for.
Having ventured on multiple road trips in Austria over the years, I’ve gathered a trove of personal recommendations. From hidden gems to iconic Austrian landmarks, my tips encompass the best things to do, ensuring a memorable Austrian road trip adventure.
This best road trip itinerary for Austria is perfect for anyone who wants to spend about 3-14 days in Austria. So, let´s start with some general tips for your Austrian road trip.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR AN AUSTRIA ROAD TRIP
Is an Austria Road Trip Worth It? Absolutely. Here’s Why:
- Diverse Landscapes: One of the standout features of Austria is the sheer diversity of its landscapes. Within a short drive, one can transition from the cobblestone streets of historic towns to the majestic peaks of the Alps. Road tripping allows you to truly soak in the changing vistas, from rolling vineyards and serene lakes to dense forests and mountain meadows.
- Flexibility and Freedom: A road trip gives you the flexibility to craft your itinerary. Unlike fixed tour schedules, you can decide to spend more time in a picturesque village, take a spontaneous detour to a lesser-known attraction, or find a quiet spot in nature to relax.
- Well-maintained Roads and Infrastructure: Austria’s road network is impeccable, ensuring a smooth driving experience. The clear signages, well-maintained highways, and scenic routes like the Grossglockner High Alpine Road make driving in Austria both enjoyable and safe.
A road trip through Austria is not just a means to travel; it’s an adventure that engages all your senses, offering an immersive experience of this beautiful country’s landscapes, culture, history, and gastronomy. It is probably the best way to discover the beauty of the country.
GENERAL TIPS FOR DRIVING IN AUSTRIA
- Adjust to the speed limits: As I drove through the picturesque landscapes of Austria, I quickly realized that speed limits were strictly enforced. Though I am not a speeder, I hate them, but what can we do? So, always respect the maximum speed limit.
- Stay on the right: In Austria, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. As a visitor, it is essential to familiarize myself with this rule and stay in the right lane unless passing another vehicle.
- Embrace the roundabouts: Roundabouts are a common feature on Austrian roads!! They can be a bit daunting, but it is still better than traffic lights that will make your journey longer. Remember to yield to vehicles already in the roundabout and indicate your exit to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.
- Watch out for cyclists: Austria is known for its cycling culture, and you´ll probably encounter many cyclists on the roads. It is crucial to give them ample space and be patient when overtaking, ensuring their safety and mine.
TOLLS IN AUSTRIA
When we talk about paying for driving Austria´s road, then you will (at least this is my recommendation) have to pay for a vignette sticker (which you stick to your window shield, or get electronically) and extra tolls for a few other roads.
A Vignette in Austria is a toll sticker required for vehicles on motorways and expressways. For your road trip you will need one of these two options:
10-Day Vignette Sticker: Valid for 10 consecutive days, this Vignette is suitable for short-term travelers or brief road trips in Austria. It can be purchased at border crossings, gas stations, and authorized outlets. PRICE: Around 10 Euros.
2-Months Vignette Sticker: Providing validity for two months, this option is ideal for visitors staying longer or planning extended road travels. Like the 10-day version, it’s available at border points, various gas stations, and other approved locations. PRICE: Around 30 Euros.
You can also buy your vignette online and explore Austria with your digital vignette.
Despite the toll sticker, unfortunately, there are more private roads and tunnels that will charge you an extra toll. Since I do not know your exact route, it is difficult to predict your exact amount for the tolls. I suggest calculating about 100 Euros in total for all tolls and the vignette sticker.
This includes the 40 €uro toll for the famous Grossglockner High Alpine Mountain Road.
PETROL STATIONS IN AUSTRIA
Austria has an extensive network of petrol stations. Most petrol stations are open 24/7, allowing you to refuel at any time of the day or night.
The majority of petrol stations in Austria accept credit cards, making payment convenient and efficient.
The petrol prices in Austria are generally reasonable (for Western European standards), and you can find a variety of fuel options, including unleaded petrol and diesel. Whether you’re embarking on a long road trip or simply need to top up, petrol stations in Austria offer reliable service and convenience for all your fueling needs.
BEST TIME FOR A ROAD TRIP IN AUSTRIA
The best time for an Austria road trip largely depends on personal preferences. Each season offers unique experiences and sceneries. Just ensure you’re prepared for the respective challenges each season might present on the roads. Here are my thoughts on each season for exploring Austria by car.
- Pros: Blooming landscapes and mild weather/ Fewer tourists –> quieter roads and attractions. / Alpine meadows at lower altitudes start to flourish.
- Cons: Some mountain passes and attractions might remain closed due to lingering snow. / Unpredictable weather with occasional rain showers.
Summer (June – August)
- Pros: Warm temperatures, ideal for outdoor activities. / All mountain roads, including the famous Grossglockner High Alpine Road, are open. / Lush landscapes and alpine meadows are at their prime.
- Cons: Peak tourist season –> crowded attractions and traffic jams. / Sometimes it can get uncomfortably hot, especially in cities.
Autumn (September – November)
- Pros: Fall foliage paints the country in stunning hues of red, orange, and gold. / Fewer tourists than in the summer.
- Cons: Weather can be unpredictable with chillier days towards late autumn. / Some mountainous areas might start getting early snowfall, leading to road closures.
Winter (December – February)
- Pros: A wonderland for winter sports enthusiasts; perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. / Magical Christmas markets, especially in cities like Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck.
- Cons: Snow and ice can make driving tricky and hazardous, especially in alpine regions. Many mountain passes and scenic routes are closed due to snow.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN ROAD-TRIPPING AUSTRIA
Pack your bags, get in the car, and hit the road! With no need for a fixed base, you can stay on the move and find amazing places to rest each night. You will find suggestions for where to stay during your road trip after each stop.
When renting a car in Austria, consider the following tips to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience:
- Documentation: Ensure you have a valid driving license. If your license isn’t in English or German, you might want to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to accompany your original license.
- Driving Age: The minimum age to rent a car in Austria is usually 18, but most car rental companies impose a minimum age of 21 or even 25, especially for larger vehicles.
- Rental Insurance: Check the insurance options offered by the rental company. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and theft protection are common but might come with high deductibles. Check if your travel or credit card insurance offers any coverage for rental cars.
- Winter Equipment: Between November 1 and April 15, all vehicles must be equipped with winter tires in Austria. If you’re traveling during this period, ensure your rental car is equipped accordingly. Chains are also required in certain mountain areas.
- Vignette (Toll Sticker): If you’re using Austria’s motorways and expressways, you’ll need a vignette. Some rental cars come with one already but always double-check. If your travel takes you into neighboring countries, you might need additional vignettes or toll payments.
- Fuel Policy: Understand the fuel policy. Some companies provide a full tank and expect it to be returned full, while others might charge you for a full tank upfront and allow you to return it empty.
- GPS & Navigation: If you’re unfamiliar with the region, consider renting a GPS system or ensure your phone has local maps downloaded for offline use.
- Inspect the Vehicle: Before leaving the rental lot, inspect the car for any existing damage and make sure it’s documented on the rental agreement to avoid any disputes later.
- Parking: In cities like Vienna, parking can be a challenge. Familiarize yourself with the local parking signs and regulations. Blue zones indicate short-term parking areas where you’ll need a parking ticket.
- Local Driving Laws: Austrian roads are well-maintained, but understanding local traffic regulations is crucial. For instance, in Austria, you drive on the right side of the road, and you must always give way to buses and trams. Also, it’s mandatory to have headlights on during the day when driving outside city limits.
- Drop-off Location: If you’re planning to drop off your car in a different location from where you picked it up, make sure to check if there are any additional fees.
- Emergency Number: The general emergency number in Austria is 112. It’s good to have this handy in case of any emergency.
- Language: While many Austrians speak English, especially in the service industry, it might be helpful to know a few basic German phrases or have a translation app to facilitate communication.
Lastly, always book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to ensure availability and better rates.
I normally drive in my car/van when I road trip countries like Switzerland or Austria. However, when I went to Albania last year, I rented my car via DiscoverCars and it was a smooth and easy booking process.
BUDGET FOR YOUR AUSTRIA ROAD TRIP
How much an Austrian road trip will cost depends of course mostly on how long you will road trip, if you have to rent a car, what type of car you have, and how much you will drive.
I am not talking about accommodation, food, and activities but here are some costs/prices.
RENTING A CAR COSTS: If you have to rent a car in Austria, you should budget between xxxxx a day (for smaller and medium-sized cars). Plus, I highly suggest having full insurance and not only the basic one that comes with a rental car.
PETROL/DIESEL: Petrol/gas and diesel prices vary in Switzerland – you can expect to pay about 1,90€ on average for 1 liter of Diesel, and 1,80 € for 1 liter of gas/petrol. With these high gas/diesel prices, it might make sense to rent a smaller car if possible.
TOLL/VIGNETTE: You might have to pay a vignette and tolls for Austria. If you have a rental car, the vignette might already be included, tolls normally still have to be paid. I assume you will have to pay between 10-120 €.
PARKING: Parking is not cheap in Austria. You might find free parking at some tourist spots (especially and mostly for cable car stations outside the town/city center) or along the shores of the lakes etc. but you can expect to pay around 1-2 € an hour for outdoor parking.
AUSTRIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
These are some of my all-time favorite places in Austria – some of the best places in Austria. However, considering everyone’s unique preferences and the unknown duration of your road trip, please tailor the itinerary accordingly.
VIENNA – A JEWEL IN EUROPE
- Paid parking is available in many parts of the city but often for a short amount of time. If you want to stay longer than a few hours, I recommend prior research or leave the car at your hotel and then use the great public transport in Vienna
Vienna, Austria’s capital, stands out as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. A harmonious blend of stunning architecture and a rich tapestry of history, Vienna is a living testament to epochs gone by while still pulsating with modern vibrancy. No Austria road trip would be complete without staying in Vienna for at least 1 day.
Main Sights to See and Do:
- Schönbrunn Palace: Once the imperial summer residence, this Baroque palace is renowned for its beautifully landscaped gardens and opulent rooms.
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom): An iconic Gothic masterpiece that dominates the Vienna skyline.
- Belvedere Palace: Houses one of Austria’s most valuable art collections, including Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”.
- Hofburg Imperial Palace: The former principal imperial palace; today it serves as the residence of the President of Austria.
- Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper): One of the leading opera houses in the world; catch a performance or take a guided tour.
- MuseumsQuartier: A lively area with a mix of art museums, courtyard cafes, and boutiques.
- Prater Park: Home to the famous Giant Ferris Wheel and numerous other attractions.
While these landmarks capture Vienna’s essence, the true charm of the city lies in wandering its cobbled streets, sipping coffee in historic cafes, and immersing oneself in its enduring elegance. Oh, Vienna – it is not only a top spot in Austria to visit, but one of the most beautiful places in Europe.
ABBEY ADMONT – A MAGNIFICENT LIBRARY AND MORE
- Free parking in front of the abbey available.
Abbey Admont, tucked away in the scenic landscapes of Styria, is a magnificent embodiment of baroque art and architecture. When you visit, you’ll be drawn to the Admont Library, hailed as the world’s largest monastic library and often dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
As you marvel at the intricate ceiling frescoes, exquisitely carved wooden sculptures, and an invaluable collection of manuscripts, you’ll find yourself immersed in an intellectual and visual spectacle. Bathed in natural light, the gold and white interiors craft a divine atmosphere that’s sure to captivate.
But the allure doesn’t end with the library. You can also delve into the Abbey’s extensive museum complex, boasting modern art, natural history, and cherished artifacts. Wander through the tranquil church, a seamless fusion of Gothic and Baroque designs, and take a moment to relax in the verdant monastery gardens.
A trip to Abbey Admont promises a rich amalgamation of art, history, and spirituality, marking it as an essential stop on any Austrian journey.
SALZBURG – AUSTRIA´S PRETTIEST CITY
- Paid parking is available in many parts of the city but often for a short amount of time. If you want to stay longer than a few hours, I recommend prior research (or leave the car at your hotel and then use the great public transport in Salzburg).
Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is a European city that seems to have been lifted straight from a fairy tale. With its breathtaking Alpine backdrop, Baroque spires, and the meandering Salzach River, Salzburg is undeniably one of the continent’s most picturesque cities.
Main Sights to See and Do:
- Hohensalzburg Fortress: Dominating the city’s skyline, this fortress offers panoramic views and a glimpse into medieval life.
- Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozart Geburtshaus): Visit the house where the legendary composer was born and learn about his early life.
- Mirabell Palace and Gardens: A stunning Baroque palace with meticulously manicured gardens, often linked with “The Sound of Music.”
- Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom): A 17th-century Baroque cathedral with a majestic interior.
- Hellbrunn Palace: Famous for its trick fountains, this Renaissance palace is a delight for both kids and adults.
- Getreidegasse: Salzburg’s historic shopping street, lined with medieval and Baroque buildings and wrought-iron guild signs.
- St. Peter’s Abbey: One of the oldest monasteries in the German-speaking world, with a beautiful cemetery and catacombs.
- The Sound of Music Tour: Follow in the footsteps of the Von Trapp family and visit iconic locations from the film.
Salzburg is more than just its landmarks; it’s an ode to music, art, and nature. A leisurely stroll through its streets can serenade you with tales of yesteryears and melodies that continue to inspire the world.
HALLSTATT: EUROPE’S PICTURESQUE LAKESIDE GEM
- Paid parking is available before you arrive in Hallstatt; you cannot drive your car all the way to the town center. Leave your car at the car park and then walk to the town center.
- If you have a hotel in the heart of Hallstatt including parking, you still have to park your car a bit outside the center.
The UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut boasts a stunning fusion of natural beauty and cultural significance. Its pristine landscapes, historical salt mines, and the idyllic village of Hallstatt epitomize Central Europe’s timeless allure.
Nestled between the Dachstein Alps and the serene Hallstätter See, Hallstatt is more than just a town; it’s a visual symphony of nature and human heritage. Often dubbed the “Pearl of Austria”, this is a haven of beauty, culture, and history, making it one of the most captivating cities in Europe.
Main Sights to See and Do:
- Hallstatt Salt Mines (Salzwelten): Venture into the world’s oldest known salt mines and discover the town’s ancient salt mining history.
- Hallstatt Skywalk “World Heritage View”: A viewing platform that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the town, lake, and surrounding mountains.
- Market Square: The heart of Hallstatt, lined with colorful historic buildings and the iconic Evangelical Parish church.
- Bone House (Beinhaus): A small chapel in the St. Michael’s Church cemetery that houses over 600 painted skulls, a unique local custom.
- Hallstätter See: The pristine lake offers opportunities for boat rides, allowing visitors to soak in the town’s beauty from the water.
- Hallstatt Museum: Chronicles the 7,000-year history of the region, from prehistoric times to the present.
Hallstatt isn’t just about the sights; it’s about the aura. A visit here is like stepping into a postcard, where every alley, every lakeside view, and every mountaintop whispers tales of a time gone by, enveloped in unparalleled beauty.
GROSSGLOCKNER HIGH ALPINE ROAD
- A lot of free parking spots along the mountain pass.
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road stands as Austria’s loftiest paved mountain pass road. Linking Bruck in the Salzburg region to Heiligenblut in Carinthia, it passes through the Fuscher Törl at 2,428 m and the Hochtor Pass at 2,504 m. This road derives its name from the Grossglockner, the tallest peak in Austria.
The road, established in 1935, has seen numerous changes, becoming wider, safer, and more user-friendly. The road seamlessly integrates with its surroundings, providing a distinctive mountain experience, and offers 48 kilometers of driving.
Driving this road comes with a cost – a toll of 40€ for a car.
INNSBRUCK: THE ALPINE JEWEL OF AUSTRIA
- Paid parking is available but as in many cities, it can be tricky to find parking spots. you can leave your car at the hotel and get around by public transportation –> but it is a small city where you can mostly walk to most sights.
Nestled amidst the soaring peaks of the Tyrolean Alps, Innsbruck is a great place to visit. This vibrant city is renowned for its rich history, iconic architecture, and as a hub for winter sports, but also makes a wonderful spot to spend a day strolling its charming narrow streets.
Main Sights to See and Do:
- Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl): Located in the city center, this landmark is adorned with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles and offers a glimpse into Emperor Maximilian I’s reign.
- Nordkette Mountains: Accessible by the Nordkette Cable Car, this is a must-visit for panoramic city views and numerous hiking trails.
- Imperial Palace (Hofburg): A grand testimony to the Habsburg dynasty’s influence, it showcases opulent state apartments and historical exhibitions.
- Innsbruck Cathedral (Dom zu St. Jakob): An 18th-century Baroque masterpiece with impressive frescoes and a notable organ.
- Old Town (Altstadt): Wander through the historic heart of the city center, with its medieval houses, vibrant cafes, and bustling squares.
From its awe-inspiring landscapes to the cultural vibrancy of its city center, Innsbruck offers a captivating mix of experiences for every traveler.
DRACHENSEE & SEEBENSEE: STUNNING MOUNTAIN LAKES
- Paid parking in front of the cable car station
The Drachensee and the Seebensee – nestled amidst the Austrian Alps, or to be more precise in the Tyrolean Alps, embarking on a hike to these lakes was like stepping into a dream. The Drachensee, with its name translating to “Dragon Lake,” is a crystal-clear, glacial lake sitting at an altitude of about 1,910 meters. Its deep blue waters, reflecting the surrounding peaks, make it seem as if dragons might indeed lurk in its depths.
Not far from Drachensee is the Seebensee, an equally enchanting alpine lake perched at around 1,657 meters above sea level. The panoramic views of the surrounding Zugspitze and Mieminger mountain range from this spot are simply breathtaking.
The hike to these lakes, while offering some challenges, is generally considered easy to intermediate, making it perfect for a day out in the Alps.
For anyone seeking the true essence of the Alps, this journey offers it all: pristine waters, majestic mountains, and a serene atmosphere. It was a day of pure alpine magic, reaffirming my belief that Austria holds some of the most gorgeous places on Earth.
Though it is not in close distance to other main attractions in Austria (except Innsbruck), I cannot recommend this place and this hike enough. The beauty and tranquility of Drachensee and Seebensee are experiences that will stay with you long after you’ve left. It is actually as pretty as the Swiss lakes!
LÜNERSEE – THE PEARL OF THE ALPS
1 – 2 DAYS
- FREE PARKING IN FRONT OF THE CABLE CAR STATION
Nestled high in the Alps, a jewel tucked away in the Vorarlberg region, at an elevation of about 1,970 meters, the Lünersee is a shimmering expanse of turquoise that’s framed by majestic peaks. The lake’s pristine waters reflect the soaring mountains, creating a scene that’s almost surreal in its beauty.
Once you get up there by cable car, it is time to set off on a hike around the lake. The trail is a delightful blend of easy to intermediate terrains, making it ideal for a day’s excursion in the Alps. As you walk around the lake, you will be treated to different perspectives of the lake and its surroundings, each more breathtaking than the last.
The trail also offers several spots to pause and soak in the panorama or even enjoy a lakeside picnic.
The Lünersee, being one of the largest natural mountain lakes in the Eastern Alps, serves as both a serene escape and an adventure hub. Beyond the main trail, there are numerous hiking routes leading to higher vantage points and alpine huts.
The tranquility, combined with the awe-inspiring scenery, made my day at the Lünersee an unforgettable Alpine experience. If you ever journey to Austria’s alpine regions, do not miss this gem; it’s nature at its finest.
Getting there might be time-consuming – hidden in the remote Brandnertal Valley – yet, it is an experience driving this mountain road. If you are into nature, I highly suggest staying 1-2 days in the gorgeous Brandnertal Valley near the Swiss border.
FINAL THOUGHTS OF AN ROAD TRIP IN AUSTRIA
Embarking on a road trip in Austria is a mesmerizing experience that unveils the nation’s splendid landscapes and rich cultural tapestry. The flexibility of journeying through Austria’s scenic routes, whether in your own vehicle or a rental car, provides an unmatched sense of freedom.
Each turn introduces you to postcard-worthy vistas, from majestic Alpine peaks to serene lakeside towns.
An Austria road trip allows you to immerse yourself in both the country’s historic charm and natural beauty at your own pace. Moreover, the convenience of driving, ensures that you can tailor your adventure to your desires, exploring hidden gems and iconic landmarks alike.