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Salzburg, Hallstatt, Hohenwerfen Castle, Gossausee, plus more!
Looking for an epic Austria road trip itinerary? Look no further!
I collected info on some of the best things to do in Austria and combined them into an epic 7 day road trip itinerary! I’ve included some of the best landmarks in Austria and formed a tidy little driving route.
You should have enough time to fit it all in, and I’ll give you a few optional experiences so that you can customize your own Epic 7 day Austria itinerary!
a little about Austria
Austria is one of Europe’s most underrated countries, often overlooked in favor of Germany. The countries are quite similar. They share a language (German) and culture but also a centuries-long shared history. While Germany is still my favorite country in the world, I find Austria an absolute delight! It seems to have all the best of Germany with less crowds and a slower pace. WIN!
Austria’s natural beauty can be seen in the towering mountain peaks of the Austrian Alps and surrounding forests. It processes Alpine lakes in colors that dazzle the eye! Austria has imposing castles and wonderful historic towns like Salzburg and Vienna, and it’s one of the safest countries in the world. If that weren’t enough, Austria is easy on the pocket book too!
Overview: 7 day Austria Itinerary
Ridiculously atmospheric historic cities, dreamy castles, palaces, adventure, caves, UNESCO World Heritage sites, bucket list worthy locations, cobbled streets, alpine lakes, mountains, and so much more! All = your dream trip!
I avoid larger cities in favor of small villages. The largest city we’ll visit on this trip is Salzburg, population 152,367 (2017)
Our starting point and ending point will be Salzburg.
This tidy little driving route has plenty of wow factor, and not a lot of driving.
Total Drive time for the entire trip: around 4.5 hours! Wunderbar! The longest drive day is just a couple of hours!
(Salzburg-Hohenwerfen Castle-Gosausee-Hallstatt-back to Salzburg via the scenic Salzkammergut Drive)
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, for more information see my terms and conditions page.
With a few alterations this trip can be done with public transportation! It’s affordable and efficient, but you’re at the mercy of transit schedules. You can explore your options on the Rome2Rio website or app. (New to Public Transportation? I have an article for Beginners.)
Because of the remote locations on this itinerary, a road trip is the best way to do this trip. With your own car you can get around faster.
- 1-Do yourself a big favor and add the GPS onto your car rental so you can use Google Maps or other Navigation, or bring one along. We have this GPS unit from Garmin.
- 2- You may need an International Driving Permit to drive in Europe. Get one at your local AAA office.
- 3-Rental Car: Search on Booking.com or Expedia to find the best rates and then book with the company directly for peace of mind.
Day 1: Hohenwerfen Castle plus optional experience
stay: 1 of 3 nights: Hallstatt/Bad Goisern/Gosausee
IF you flew in and this is your first day in the EU, you may want to hit the ATM and get some Euros before you leave the airport. It’s the fastest, easiest, often least expensive and best ways for travelers to obtain foreign currency. Be sure to use your debit card and not your credit card, cash advance fees are normally astronomical. Don’t forget to refuse the Dynamic Currency Conversion (you want the transaction in Euros, not your home currency. They will charge you to convert it.)
pick up your rental car
and head out of town! Depending on your arrival time (hopefully first thing in the morning) you should be able to put in a full day.
Drive to: Hohenwerfen castle (Drive time: 45 minutes)
Hohenwerfen Castle Austria
The first stop on our itinerary is the nearly 1,000 year old Hohenwerfen Castle which sits high above the valley below, surrounded by mountains. This delightful castle has a daily falconry show and when we were there the current castle exhibit was all about witches…perfect! Take the steep path up or ride the somewhat pricey funicular. Want to guess which we chose? I’m all about saving my legs any and every way possible on these long trips! The guided tour lasts about an hour.
get more information: Visit Hohenwerfen, everything you need to know!
Where to eat: There is a cafe in the courtyard of the castle. This is where I tried the Salzburger brat for the first time, and I’m kind of hooked!
Next stop, if you have enough time you may want to fit in another attraction. There are many attractions just a short drive off of your route, just a half hours drive or so. (You’re near the German border, so a few of these are actually in southern Germany)
- Eagles Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) is a mountaintop retreat built as a 50th birthday present for Adolf Hitler. Today the building has been converted into a restaurant that offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
- Gollinger Waterfall (Gollinger Wasserfall) drops over 75 meters (246 feet) in two stages. Short hike to the waterfall and Visitors can access the waterfall via a short hike and enjoy various trails through the Bluntautal Valley.
- Salzburg Open Air Museum (Salzburg Freilichtmuseum) Around 50 hectares with around 100 original historic buildings that exhibit life from the 16th to the 20th century, including farmhouses, barns, mills, and chapels.
- Rossfeld Panorama Strasse (Roßfeldpanoramastraße) , is a scenic toll road, the highest panoramic road in Germany.
- Konigssee and Obersee (this one will make for a LONG day, however if you can fit it in, it’s an amazing experience!) Take a scenic boat tour through the Bavarian Alps on fjord like Konigsee lake. Disembark and make your way to Obersee, an idyllic emerald-green alpine lake with stunning views! From Obersee you can take a trail to Röthbachfall waterfall, Germany’s highest waterfall!
- Parish Church of St. Sebastian is a picture-perfect little church with the mountains in the background, and the little brook and bridge in the foreground. It looks just like a painting! fun fact: You may not know it by looking at the pictures, but I was so surprised that the church is actually located in town with a road running through it!
- Berchtesgaden National Park boasts 174 named mountains, including the Watzmann, the tallest peak in the park. It’s a veritable hiking paradise. If you decide to add this one be sure to check the ALM ErlebnisBUS shuttle schedule for the last bus of the day.
- “Werfen’s “Eisriesenwelt” [world of ice giants] the world’s biggest ice cave.
Drive to: your hotel. (Drive time: 1 hour or so) Total Drive time for the day: 1 hour 45 minutes
Where should you stay (1st 3 nights)?
(although nice, these exceed the $200 per night that I budgeted for)
These options are located in the pedestrian center of Hallstatt and have panoramic lake views:
Seehotel Grüner Baum
This too cute for words little lake Chalet is over 300-years-old and has hosted famous people like Empress Sisi and Agatha Christie. Prices starting at $369 per night, guest rating: 8.8
book it now on booking.com!
Overnight in one of those ridiculously cute alpine cottages, located just off of the market square. This immaculate little place has a distinctly Austrian feel! Prices starting at: $256 per night, Guest rating: 8.8
book it now on booking.com!
Heritage Hotel Hallstatt
Consisting of 3 buildings, one of which is more than 400-years-old. Prices starting at $321 per night. Guest rating: 8.5
book it now on booking.com!
nestled against a mountain backdrop on the far northern shores of Lake Hallstatt, just where the lake and the river join. It is a truly lovely spot. The interior has gorgeous rustic wood detail. Our room had a large picture window overlooking the stream below. Both breakfast and dinner were excellent. Distance from Hallstatt: 8 km, Prices starting at $238 per night, guest rating: 9.4
book it now on booking.com!
Stay right on the lake at Gasthof Gosausee! They offer rooms with balconies overlooking the lake!
book it here on Booking.com!
day 2: Lake Gosausee
stay: 2 of 3 nights: Hallstatt/Bad Goisern/Gosausee
drive to: Gosausee (drive time: 15-minute drive, unless you decided to overnight here)
Alpine Lake Gosausee
Gosausee is a crystal-clear emerald green lake that reflects the surrounding majestic mountain range. There’s a picturesque trail that circles the lake or head up the cable car for views of the lake from above. Gosausee is a popular tourist destination too, however nowhere as crowded as the city center of Hallstatt!
Get more details: How to plan the perfect trip to Gosausee, the prettiest place on earth!
where to eat
Even if you are staying in Hallstatt, consider having dinner on Gosausee Lake. Gasthof Gosausee. Gasthof Gosausee is located just past the Gosausee Parking Lot. It sits right on the lake and has outdoor umbrella tables with amazing views, or sit indoors in their cozy dining room.
Day 3: Hallstatt
stay: 3 of 3 nights: Hallstatt/Bad Goisern/Gosausee
Today we’ll spend the day exploring my bucket list destination (which I finally got to see in person last year!) The charming small town of Hallstatt sits prettily on the shores of beautiful Lake Hallstatt, surrounded by majestic mountains and lush forests. Hallstatt and the surrounding area are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Traditional Alpine architecture and colorful houses built into the mountainside, each one adorned with flower boxes and views of the swan studded lake! Choose from things like the bone chapel that contains hundreds of human bones and skulls, Roman ruins, getting out on the lake OR above the little town for a unique perspective. 700-year-old salt mine (that includes an underground train ride!)
Get more details: There are many great options for filling your day in Hallstatt, read about them now!
salt mine and panoramic views
After you explore the town head on up ABOVE the town! Take the funicular up for views of the town and to visit the ancient salt mine. (cost of the funicular included in the salt mine ticket)
where to eat
Anywhere along the lake with a view! The food may or may not be great, but the views are guaranteed to be! While you’re up above the town consider having a meal at the Rudolphsturm Cafe. They serve affordable food with million dollar views.
about the crowds
Day trip crowds descend on Hallstatt but that’s ok, I have some crowd beating tips for you. You’ll do well to get out of the tourist core during midday and late afternoon. Come back for sunset views and romantically lit evenings! If you’ve decided to stay in Hallstatt all the better, you’ll get early mornings sans crowds too! You may just feel like you have the place to yourself!
Day 4: Dachstein Cave and Salzkammergut Scenic Drive
stay: 1 of 4 nights: Salzburg
Drive to: Dachstein Cave (Drive time: 25 minutes)
Dachstein Giant Ice Cave
Dachstein Giant Ice Cave (Dachstein Krippenstein) is located on Dachstein Mountain. Explore subterranean glaciers with stalactites and enjoy the light & sound shows. Mammoth Cave (Mammut Cave) is one of the largest karst caves in the world. At the top you’ll have a splendid view of the imposing Dachstein Glacier.
On tap, a panorama gondola, viewing platform at the highest point with views that will STUN YOU, an ice palace, and Austria’s highest suspension bridge!
If you need further prompting check out this video! Amazing!
Drive to Salzburg (drive time: 1.5 hours)
but this is a particularly scenic area of Austria so consider taking your time for stops along the route!
(Hwy 145 N to north of Bad Ischl and then take the 158 to Salzburg)
This scenic drive takes visitors through this UNESCO region with stunning alpine and subalpine lakes, deep valleys, rolling hills, and rugged mountain ranges rising up to almost 3000m.
Skip through this video that has footage of the Salzkammergut drive. If it’s not your style just let the navigation take you back to Salzburg via the shortest route.
Drop off the car
unless they are closed, in which case you’ll have to drop it off the next morning.
where to stay in Salzburg
There are some great options in the city center that are within walking distance of the main attractions. However, MY favorite stay in Salzburg is Bloberger Hof. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and trade it for scenic meadows with highland cattle and a mountain backdrop. Bloberger Hof is located on the bus route directly into the city center, and the hospitality and food are excellent! If you still have the car, they also offer FREE private parking. I wrote a full article on wonderful Bloberger Hof, or book it now!
Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron
Splurge Alert! This palace was build in 1736, It’s surrounded by 17 acres of manicured grounds and mountains and sits on an idyllic little lake. Located 1.2 miles from the city center. Scenes from the Sound of Music were filed here, opulent dining areas and a library fit for a King! guest rating 8.8
book it here on booking.com! (the best place to search for accommodations!)
city center options
Rather Stay in town? Here are some of the stand out options:
- Altstadt Hotel Stadtkrug, a 700-year-old building located in historic old town, guest rating 8.4
- IMLAUER HOTEL PITTER, opened in 1864, panoramic views of the city, including the castle! guest rating 8.7
- Hotel Wolf, the building dates from 1429, this place is CUTE! guest rating 9.0
- Hotel Stein (adults only) the building dates back to medieval times, beautifully renovated with eye popping color! sits on the Salzach River, panoramic rooftop terrace with views of the town, including the castle! guest rating 8.6
- Hotel am Mirabellplatz, boutique hotel located in a 17th-century building (former residence of Archbishop Paris Lodron) looks out over Mirabell Palace, guest rating 8.6
- Hotel Sacher Salzburg, another luxury option, this 1866 hotel is luxuriously decorated and has a beautiful quintessentially Austrian dining room with rich wood waxed to a high shine, on the banks of the Salzach River with views of the castle, guest rating 9.6
Follow the link for an interactive map of the main attractions on Salzburg:
Day 5: Salzburg
stay: 2 of 4 nights: Salzburg
PURCHASE SALZBURG CARD
The next day the first thing you’ll want to do is purchase a Salzburg Card. You should be able to purchase one from your hotel. If you plan to visit the majority of the attractions in this article, purchasing this card is a good idea because it will save you money. We figured it saved us about 30 euros per person over the 3 days.
With the Salzburg Card: Free entry to many attractions, ride area buses for free, a free round trip boat ride and more! Discounts on the hop-on-hop-off bus tours and more!
Head to Salzburg Old Town City Centre
We jumped on the bus, easy and free of charge with our Salzburg cards!
Charming Salzburg Old Town, (Altstadt) a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the very best-preserved European cities. The unique architecture is a fanciful mixture of Gothic and Baroque architecture, which gives the town a decidedly ornate appearance. You will simply fall in love with it! To further add to its charm Salzburg is surrounded by mountains which provide a stunning backdrop.
The next 3 days we’ll spend in this wonderful town. This is an overview of the best things to see and do, feel free to mix this itinerary up anyway that works for you.
more information: I go into greater detail on this fabulous city in my 3-Day Salzburg itinerary
Day 1 Salzburg highlights include:
Total walking about 1.5 miles
- Mozart’s birthplace: Mozart was born here in 1756.
- Getreidegasse is the very crowded main drag in old Salzburg, which looks much like it did in Mozart’s day.
- The Mozart Family Residence (after they moved from the birthplace)
- Mirabelle Palace, Mirabelle Gardens and Dwarf Park.
- Boat Ride: Go ahead and take that free boat ride on the Salzach River that’s included with your Salzburg Card! (You may want to either consider hitting this first thing in the morning or booking in advance. We tried to get on a boat whenever we got freed up and they were booked out for the rest of the day.)
Evening entertainment options
- Salzburg Marionette Theater
- Mozart dinner concert at Mirabell Palace
- Mozart dinner concert at Hohensalzburg Fortress
- Mozart dinner concert at Stiftskeller St. Peter restaurant (my personal favorite pick!)
Mozart Dinner Concert. This unique experience is a MUST elegant baroque setting, three courses of food, Mozart era recipes, three 20-minute courses of music. It was the BEST EXPERIENCE! Located in Stiftskeller St. Peter restaurant. The Mozart family frequented this restaurant, and Charlemagne ate here in 803, making it perhaps the oldest restaurant in Europe.
Day 6: Salzburg
stay: 3 of 4 nights: Salzburg
Day 2 Salzburg Highlights include:
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart statue
- Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom) where Mozart was baptized and served as organist for two years
- St. Peter’s church and Catacombs: Medieval hermit monks lived here.
- DomQuartier Salzburg: Tour the state rooms of the Residenz the former palace complex of the Salzburg sovereigns.
Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg)
Take the funicular (skip the line with the Salzburg card!) up to the 1,000 year old Hohensalzburg Castle, also known as the Hohensalzburg Fortress, a medieval fortress perched high on Festungsberg Mountain overlooking charming Salzburg. It offers panoramic vistas of Salzburg’s fanciful rooftops and surrounding mountains.
The expansive castle grounds, a eight-acre fortress complex, has about 50ish buildings and is a is a nice place to grab an ice cream and wader. Consider attending one of the world class Mozart Dinner Concerts at the Fortress. While you’re up on the hill consider the Monchsberg Walk, a paved wooded walking path along the narrow ridgeline. Stunning views of Salzburg. You can ride the elevator down, or head back to the FUNICULAR.
Evening entertainment options
Choose from one of the evening activities listed under Salzburg Day 1
Day 7: Salzburg
stay: 4 of 4 nights: Salzburg
We’ll slow it down on the last day, which will give you some time to rest, add something that strikes your fancy, or revisit one of your favorites!
Schloss Hellbrunn Palace and Gardens
Drive to Schloss Hellbrunn, also known as Hellbrunn Palace, a baroque palace located on the outskirts of Salzburg. Built in the 1600’s, what makes Hellbrunn so special are the dozens of playful trick fountains located in the gardens. The water features that were designed to entertain guests. The palace interior is stunningly decorated and worth seeing for its intricate frescoes and ornate furnishings.
There are a few options for getting to Hellbrunn:
- You could move this to the first Salzburg day and keep the car until after you have visited.
- Take a taxi (10 minutes, around $20)
- Take the boat (this one is not covered on the Salzburg card): The boat takes you as far as the Palace, where you will disembark and take a four-minute ride on the London Double Decker which will take you the rest of the way to the palace.
- Use the hop-on-hop off bus (yellow line)
- Walk or cycle from the city center (or consider the boat there and walk back): There’s a 400 -year-old tree lined path called Hellbrunner Allee! In the evening the riverbanks are a world of floodlit spires.
Evening entertainment options
Choose from one of the evening activities listed under Salzburg Day 1.
Salzburg alternative experiences
There are tons of things to do in the surrounding area. Here are a few of my favorites:
- take a Sound of Music tour from Salzburg
- take a tour of Eagles Nest from Salzburg
- Salzburg 2.5-Hour Walking Tour: Mozart, Old Town & More, from a local guide
- Full-Day Bavarian Mountains Tour (includes Berchtesgaden, Eagles Nest, and Konigssee)
- Bavarian Salt Mine Tour and Berchtesgaden
- Sound of Music & Salt Mines Tour
- Salzburg: Ghost Tour
- Stiegl Brewery Tour with Beer Tasting, this one’s for beer lovers!
If you’re like me, then the best part of the trip is usually the food! When in Rome, try the local cuisine!
- Eiernockerl (their version of spaetzle with cheese and fried onions)
- Speckknodel (dumplings with ham and bacon mixed in, served with broth)
- Mozart cake (layers of chocolaty goodness!)
- Salzburger Nockerl, (souffle resembling mountain peaks with a snowy dusting of sugar)
- German food: There’s a lot of cross over between Austrian and German food, you know the basics…wurst, schnitzel… Learn all about the best German food since you’ll have the opportunity to try a lot of it in Austria!
cost and trip planning resources
Cost: Road trip 7 day Austria itinerary
How much can you expect to spend on this 7 day Austria road trip?
Based on double occupancy
|$1,400 (7 nights)|
|tours and admission||$250 (per person, plus any optional experiences. Price only includes ONE dinner concert)|
|estimated total for two people||$2,300= (plus the cost of food/drinks)|
(prices are an approximation)
when is the best time to go?
Spring and Fall are ideal times to visit Austria. However, mountain regions may already or still be dealing with snow.
Winters are cold. Expect to deal with winter weather road conditions, particularly because most of this Austria itinerary is located in the mountainous Alps region. Some mountain passes may be closed.
Summer is prime time to visit for summer activities like swimming and boating but it will be crowded.
Crowd beating travel tip:
The common sense rule of thumb for avoiding the worst crowds at popular tourist attractions are:
- Visit early morning or late in the day (i.e., the first or last tour of the day)
- Weekdays are often less crowded than weekends.
- Travel in the shoulder or off season
Plan your 7 day Austria Itinerary
Want to create your own unique Austria Road trip? Plan the perfect road trip in just 6 simple steps! Get the best Europe travel Guide: You only really need one book! The absolute best books on traveling Europe!
Want to take that trip you’ve always dreamed of but not sure how to pay for it? Here are some easy budget friendly ways to pay for your Austrian road trip.
Nervous about not speaking German? No problem! I have a guide to overcoming the travel language barrier so you can relax and enjoy your travels!
Protect yourself with trip insurance
Road trips in Austria cost money. Protect your investment with “cancel for any reason” trip insurance. Shop for one at Travel Insurance.com! but don’t delay, most CFAR policies need to be purchased within 14-21 days of your initial trip payment, depending on the policy.