Rick Steves Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol


By Rick Steves

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Marvel at elegant architecture, explore stunning Alpine countryside, and get to know a unique culture: with Rick Steves on your side, Austria's top cities can be yours! Inside Rick Steves Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol you'll find:
  • Comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Vienna, Salzburg and Tirol
  • Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
  • Top sights and hidden gems, from Mozart's house, the Vienna State Opera, and stunning Hapsburg palaces to the eerie Bone Chapel and the oldest salt mine in the world
  • How to connect with culture: Sip a beer brewed onsite by monks, nibble a Sacher torte in a corner café, or catch a concert at a historic classical music venue
  • Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
  • The best places to eat, sleep, and relax with a glass of wine
  • Self-guided walking tours of lively neighborhoods and incredible museums
  • Detailed maps and directions, including a fold-out map for exploring on the go
  • Useful resources including a packing list, a German phrase book, a historical overview, and recommended reading
  • Over 500 bible-thin pages include everything worth seeing without weighing you down
  • Complete, up-to-date information on Vienna, the Danube Valley, Bratislava, Slovakia, Salzburg and Berchtesgaden, Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut, Innsbruck, Bavaria and Western Tirol, the Italian Dolomites, and more
Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol.

Have a week or less to explore? Check out Rick Steves Pocket Vienna or Rick Steves Pocket Munich & Salzburg!



Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol at a Glance

Map: Map Legend

About This Book


Travel Smart

Trip Costs

Sightseeing Priorities

When to Go

Know Before You Go

Traveling As a Temporary Local

Austria offers alpine scenery, world-class museums, cobbled quaintness, and Wiener schnitzel. Unlike Germany, its industrious neighbor to the northwest, Austria is content to bask in its good living and opulent past as the former head of one of Europe’s grandest empires. Austrians are relaxed, gregarious people who love the outdoors as much as a good cup of coffee in a café.

This book focuses on Vienna and all of its cultural offerings, as well as the Danube Valley, Salzburg, Hallstatt (the gem of the Salzkammergut Lake District), and the mountainous Tirol region. Because some sights just across the border are so scenic and interesting, this book also ducks into Germany (Berchtesgaden and Bavarian sights) and Slovakia (Bratislava).

I’ll give you all the information and opinions necessary to wring the maximum value out of your limited time and money. If you plan three weeks or less in Austria and have a normal appetite for information, this book is all you need. If you’re a travel-info fiend, this book sorts through all the superlatives and provides a handy rack upon which to hang your supplemental information.

Experiencing Europe’s culture, people, and natural wonders economically and hassle-free has been my goal for three decades of traveling, tour guiding, and travel writing. With this new edition, I pass on to you the lessons I’ve learned.

The destinations covered in this book are balanced to include a comfortable mix of cities and villages, mountaintop hikes and medieval castles, sleepy river cruises and sky-high gondola rides. While you’ll find the predictable biggies (such as Mozart’s house and the Vienna Opera), I’ve also mixed in a healthy dose of Back Door intimacy (thrilling mountain luges, a beer with monks, and a lakeside town reachable by boat). I’ve been selective, including only the most exciting sights. For example, there are dozens of quaint villages in Austria’s Salzkammergut Lake District. I take you to only the most charming: Hallstatt.

Use this legend to help you navigate the maps in this book.

The best is, of course, only my opinion. But after spending a third of my adult life exploring and researching Europe, I’ve developed a sixth sense for what travelers enjoy. The places featured in this book will make anyone want to slap-dance and yodel.


Rick Steves Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol is a personal tour guide in your pocket. Each recommended destination is a mini-vacation on its own, filled with exciting sights, strollable neighborhoods, affordable places to stay, and memorable places to eat.

The first half of this book focuses on Vienna and contains the following chapters:

Austria offers an introduction to this delightful country.

Orientation to Vienna includes specifics on public transportation, helpful hints, local tour options, easy-to-read maps, and tourist information. The “Planning Your Time” section suggests a schedule for how best to use your limited time.

Sights in Vienna describes the top attractions and includes their cost and hours.

The Self-Guided Walks and Tours lead you through interesting neighborhoods and must-see sights. In Vienna, these include a city walk, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Hofburg Imperial Apartments and Treasury, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum. A breezy tram tour takes you around Vienna’s Ringstrasse.

Sleeping in Vienna describes my favorite hotels, from good-value deals to cushy splurges.

Eating in Vienna serves up a range of options, from inexpensive cafés to fancy restaurants, clustered by neighborhood.

Entertainment in Vienna is your guide to evening fun, including classical concerts, opera, and things to do after dark.

Vienna Connections has information on Vienna’s airport and how to get to nearby destinations by train, car, and boat.

The Danube Valley, just west of Vienna, covers tiny Melk, with its hulking riverside monastery, and the concentration-camp memorial in Mauthausen. Just east of Vienna is Bratislava, the Slovakian capital.

The Salzburg section covers this touristy but charming town, as well as nearby Berchtesgaden (home to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest) and beautiful lakeside Hallstatt.

The Tirol section describes my favorite stops in this mountainous region: Innsbruck and its little sister just downriver, Hall. The section also covers the top sights in Western Tirol and southern Bavaria, including the famous castles of “Mad” King Ludwig.

The Vienna: Past and Present chapter introduces you to some of the key people and events in this city’s complicated past, making your sightseeing more meaningful.

Practicalities is a traveler’s tool kit, with my best travel tips and advice about money, sightseeing, sleeping, eating, staying connected, and transportation (trains, car rentals, driving, and flights). There’s also a list of recommended books and films.

The appendix has nuts-and-bolts information, including useful phone numbers and websites, a festival list, a climate chart, a handy packing checklist, and German survival phrases.

Browse through this book, choose your favorite destinations, and link them up. Then have a wunderbar trip! Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar. As you visit places I know and love, I’m happy that you’ll be meeting some of my favorite Austrians.


This section will help you get started on planning your trip—with advice on trip costs, when to go, and what you should know before you take off.


Your trip to Austria is like a complex play—it’s easier to follow and really appreciate on a second viewing. While no one does the same trip twice to gain that advantage, reading this book in its entirety before your trip accomplishes much the same thing.

Design an itinerary that enables you to visit sights at the best possible times. Note festivals, holidays, specifics on sights, and days when sights are closed (all covered in this book). To get between destinations smoothly, read the tips in Practicalities on taking trains and buses, or renting a car and driving. A smart trip is a puzzle—a fun, doable, and worthwhile challenge.

When you’re plotting your itinerary, strive for a mix of intense and relaxed stretches. To maximize rootedness, minimize one-night stands. It’s worth taking a long drive after dinner (or a train ride with a dinner picnic) to get settled in a town for two nights. Every trip—and every traveler—needs slack time (laundry, picnics, people-watching, and so on). Pace yourself. Assume you will return.

Reread this book as you travel, and visit local tourist information offices (abbreviated as TI in this book). Upon arrival in a new town, lay the groundwork for a smooth departure; get the schedule for the train, bus, or boat that you’ll take when you depart. Drivers can figure out the best route to their next destination.

Update your plans as you travel. You can carry a small mobile device (phone, tablet, laptop) to find out tourist information, learn the latest on sights (special events, tour schedules, etc.), book tickets and tours, make reservations, reconfirm hotels, research transportation connections, and keep in touch with loved ones. If you don’t want to bring a pricey device, you can use guest computers at hotels and make phone calls from landlines.

Enjoy the friendliness of the Austrian people. Connect with the culture. Set up your own quest for the best Baroque building, Sacher-Torte, wine garden, or whatever. Slow down and be open to unexpected experiences. Ask questions—most locals are eager to point you in their idea of the right direction. Keep a notepad in your pocket for noting directions, organizing your thoughts, and confirming prices. Wear your money belt, learn the currency, and figure out how to estimate prices in dollars. Those who expect to travel smart, do.


Five components make up your trip costs: airfare, surface transportation, room and board, sightseeing and entertainment, and shopping and miscellany.

Airfare: A basic round-trip flight from the US to Vienna can cost, on average, about $1,000-2,000 total, depending on where you fly from and when (cheaper in winter). Consider saving time and money by flying into one city and out of another; for instance, into Vienna and out of Munich). Overall, Kayak.com is the best place to start searching for flights on a combination of mainstream and budget carriers.

Surface Transportation: For a two-week whirlwind trip of this book’s destinations by public transportation, allow $300 per person. If you’ll be renting a car, allow $200 per week not including tolls, tolls, gas, and supplemental insurance. If you’ll be keeping the car for three weeks or more, look into leasing, which can save you money on insurance and taxes for trips of this length. Car rentals and leases are cheapest if arranged from the US. Train passes normally must be purchased outside of Europe but aren’t necessarily your best option—you may save money by simply buying tickets as you go. Don’t hesitate to consider flying, as budget airlines can be cheaper than taking the train (check www.skyscanner.com for intra-European flights). For more on public transportation and car rental, see “Transportation” in Practicalities.

Room and Board: You can manage comfortably in Austria on $120 a day per person for room and board (less in small towns, more in big cities such as Vienna and Salzburg). This allows $10 for lunch, $25 for dinner, $5 for beer and Eis (ice cream), and $80 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a $160 double room that includes breakfast). Students and tightwads can enjoy Austria for as little as $60 a day ($30 per hostel bed, $30 for meals and snacks).

Sightseeing and Entertainment: In big cities, figure about $15 per major sight (Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum-$20, Mozart’s Residence in Salzburg-$14), $6 for minor ones, and $25-50 for bus tours and splurge experiences (such as concert tickets and alpine lifts). An overall average of $30 a day works for most people. Don’t skimp here. After all, this category is the driving force behind your trip—you came to sightsee, enjoy, and experience Austria.

Shopping and Miscellany: Figure $5 per stamped postcard, coffee, beer, and ice-cream cone. Shopping can vary in cost from nearly nothing to a small fortune. Good budget travelers find that this category has little to do with assembling a trip full of lifelong and wonderful memories.


So much to see, so little time. How to choose? Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, these are my recommended priorities:

3 days:  Vienna
5 days, add:  Salzburg
7 days, add:  Hallstatt
10 days, add:  Danube Valley, Tirol, and Bavaria
14 days, add:  Innsbruck, Hall, and day-trip to Bratislava
16 days, add:  More time in Vienna

For a suggested itinerary, see the sidebar above. If you don’t have time to see it all, prioritize according to your interests. The “Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol a Glance” sidebar can help you decide where to go.


The “tourist season” runs roughly from May through September. Summer has its advantages: best weather, snow-free alpine trails, very long days (light until after 21:00), and the busiest schedule of tourist fun.

Travel during “shoulder season” (late April-June and Sept-early Oct) is easier and a bit less expensive. Shoulder-season travelers get minimal crowds, decent weather, the full range of sights and tourist fun spots, and the ability to grab a room almost whenever and wherever they like—often at a flexible price. Also, in fall, fun harvest and wine festivals enliven many towns and villages, while forests and vineyards display beautiful colors.

Winter travelers find concert seasons in full swing, with absolutely no tourist crowds, but some accommodations and sights are either closed or run on a limited schedule. Confirm your sightseeing plans locally, especially when traveling off-season. The weather can be cold and dreary, and nightfall draws the shades on sightseeing well before dinnertime. But dustings of snow turn Austrian towns and landscapes into a wonderland, and December offers the chance to wander through traditional Christmas markets.

You may find the climate chart in the appendix helpful.


Your trip is more likely to go smoothly if you plan ahead. Check this list of things to arrange while you’re still at home.

You need a passport—but no visa or shots—to travel in Austria. You may be denied entry into certain European countries if your passport is due to expire within three months of your ticketed date of return. Get it renewed if you’ll be cutting it close. It can take up to six weeks to get or renew a passport (for more on passports, see www.travel.state.gov). Pack a photocopy of your passport in your luggage in case the original is lost or stolen.

Book rooms well in advance if you’ll be traveling during peak season (May-Sept) or any major holidays (see here).

Call your debit- and credit-card companies to let them know the countries you’ll be visiting, to ask about fees, request your PIN code (it will be mailed to you), and more. See here for details.

Do your homework if you want to buy travel insurance. Compare the cost of the insurance to the likelihood of your using it and your potential loss if something goes wrong. Also, check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowners, or renters) covers you and your possessions overseas. For more tips, see www.ricksteves.com/insurance.

Consider buying a rail pass after researching your options (see here and www.ricksteves.com/rail for all the specifics).

If you’re planning on renting a car in Austria, bring your driver’s license and an International Driving Permit (see here).

I don’t reserve ahead for events, but if you do, note that in Vienna and Salzburg (especially during its festival), major musical events can be sold out for weeks—though there are plenty of live music options available without advance booking. Planning ahead of time will guarantee you a seat to see the Lipizzaner Stallions (see here), Vienna Boys’ Choir (here), and performances at the Opera (here); though again, I prefer cheap, on-the-spot experiences (such as same-day standing-room tickets for the Opera).

To get tickets to Neuschwanstein Castle (in Bavaria) during peak season, go online, email, or phone ahead to avoid the long lines (see here for tips).

If you plan to hire a local guide, reserve ahead by email. Popular guides can get booked up.

If you’re bringing a mobile device, download any apps you might want to use on the road, such as translators, maps, and transit schedules. Check out Rick Steves Audio Europe, featuring audio tours of major sights, hours of travel interviews on Austria, and more (see sidebar above).

Check the Rick Steves guidebook updates page for any recent changes to this book (www.ricksteves.com/update).

Because airline carry-on restrictions are always changing, visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website (www.tsa.gov) for an up-to-date list of what you can bring on the plane and for the latest security measures (including screening of electronic devices, which you may be asked to power up).


  • "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
  • "Steves is an absolute master at unlocking the hidden gems of the world's greatest cities, towns, and monuments."—USA Today
  • “Every country-specific travel guidebook from the Rick Steves publishing empire can be counted upon for clear organization, specificity and timeliness."—Society of American Travel Writers
  • "Pick the best accommodations and restaurants from Rick Steves…and a traveler searching for good values will seldom go wrong or be blindsided."—NBC News
  • "His guidebooks are approachable, silly, and even subtly provocative in their insistence that Americans show respect for the people and places they are visiting and not the other way around."—The New Yorker
  • "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
  • "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
  • "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
  • “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
  • "His books offer the equivalent of a bus tour without the bus, with boiled-down itineraries and step-by-step instructions on where to go and how to get there, but adding a dash of humor and an element of choice that his travelers find empowering."—The New York Times
  • "His penchant for creating meaningful experiences for travelers to Europe is as passionate as his inclination for making ethical choices his guiding light."—Forbes
  • "[Rick Steves'] neighborhood walks are always fun and informative. His museum guides, complete with commentary about historic sculpture and storied artworks are wonderful and add another dimension to sometimes stodgy, hard-to-comprehend museums."—NBC News

On Sale
Jun 20, 2023
Page Count
616 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

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