Austria by Rail
Slow travel from Salzburg to Graz and Vienna
In an age of high speed travel a rail journey is an old-fashioned leisurely alternative that is also kind to the environment. Austria has some of the prettiest train routes and its trains are reliable, comfortable and an ideal way to meander through mountains, valleys and pretty chocolate box towns, hopping on and off to sample the scenery and the cuisine.
It is over 50 years since The Sound of Music hit the big screen, and people still associate the city with the ever popular movie, but there is more to Salzburg than the Von Trapps. The beautiful city is a fascinating mix of classical culture and historical idiosyncrasies.
Much of Salzburg’s appeal lies in its authenticity. Even modern shops have traditional iron hanging signs and people wear national costume of lederhosen for men and dirndl skirts and peasant blouses for women as their daily wear. Upmarket ski resorts are a short train ride away, and magical markets abound in November and December.
Music escapes from every doorway and a gentle introduction to the music of Salzburg’s most famous son – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - is a tea time concert by the Mozart Players in the city’s Kuenberg Hall. The programme is a kind of ‘Greatest Hits’ hosted by a costumed compere who provides facts about the composer’s life and works.
Nearby is the lovely St Peter Stiftskeller, a Benedictine abbey in the heart of the old town which has been the meeting place for princes and bishops, celebrities and merchants for over a millennium. A visit by Charlemagne in 803 is its claim to be Europe’s oldest hostelry. Austrian fine dining includes specialities such as consommés with dumplings, stuffed chicken served on grappa risotto, and chocolate soufflé served with sour cherries.
The palace of Hellbrun, painted in Imperial yellow, was the summer palace of the Archbishop Markus Sittikus 91612-1619) built purely for his amusement. It is dotted with trick fountains which soak the unsuspecting visitor and Italian style mazes. 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Hellbrun.
Austria’s Glyndebourne, The Salzburg Festival, takes place each year in July and August, attracting the cream of the world’s musicians and music lovers and famous for its glamorous audiences.
A landmark in the heart of the city, the medieval fortress towers over the rooftops and encompasses 900 years of architectural history. Ascend by funicular railway or by foot
TIP: Use a Salzburg ‘City card’ to get into tourist attractions, museums and palaces
ON THE TRAIN
The train ride from Salzburg to Graz is a picturesque ride through the Austrian mountains, old salt mines, unspoilt pasture land, pretty ski resorts and charming towns with old-fashioned railway stations. The OBB trains have big windows to view the passing scenery, and refreshments on board.
Austria’s second city, Graz, is the heart of the region of Styria, and was Austria’s first and only culinary capital in 2008. So it is no surprise that food is one of the main attractions.
Starting at the main square Hautplatz Graz a number of walks, including ‘Stop and Eat’ tours drop by at various restaurants and bars to sample local delicacies including Pumpkin seed oil, the regional delicacy: dark green with a nutty taste, it is used on salads and desserts.
The farmers’ market beside the opera house has fine local produce and Styria is known for its wines, notably weissburgunder and sauvignon blanc.A ‘Beer Walk’ takes in ales from Styria’s 40 breweries.
In August the centre of Graz turns into a giant open air restaurant for the ‘Long Table of Graz’, a dinner with matching wines and entertainment for 700 people.
The armoury (Landeszeughaus) contains the largest collection of antique armaments in the world, while just 10 minutes' stroll over the River Mur is the bright blue contemporary art gallery (Kunsthaus). No trip to Graz is complete without a walk up the stairs of the Schlossberg to the city's clock tower – with great views and an excellent restaurant.
ON THE TRAIN
The journey from Graz to Vienna is an impressive ride along the UNESCO World Heritage Semmering railway (between Mürzzuschlag and Wiener Neustadt), one of the world's first mountain railways. Sit on the right hand side for best views; this is a breath-taking journey.
Austria’s capital waltzes between tradition and modern life, from the 150 year old Ringstrasse to its Life Ball, one of the biggest AIDS charity events in the world.
Schönbrunn Palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Coffee houses epitomise Viennese culture and there are a number of historic ones around the city. Visit Viennese institution the Hawelka with its famous Buchteln yeast buns filled with jam.
The Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzan horses perform in the Winter Riding School in the Hofburg.
Vienna is synonymous with music, home to the Vienna Philharmonic and the world-famous Vienna Boys’ Choir. The Vienna State Opera houses some of the best operatic performances in the world
Ferry trip to Bratislava: Visit the Hungarian and Slovak capitals Budapest and Bratislava by high speed boat from Vienna.
Fact box:Railbookers offer tailor made holidays by rail to Europe and beyond. Their 5 night holiday, ‘Highlights of Austria’, visits Salzburg, Graz and Vienna, with scenic train journeys in between.
020 3780 2253.