Austria: Take the green line on a leisurely rail journey

We let the train take the strain through Austria


In an age of high-speed travel it is a real treat to take a leisurely rail journey through the gorgeous Austrian landscape. The train meanders through the mountains and postcard-pretty towns, which means hopping on and off as and when the fancy takes.

This is what you can expect to find along the way.


This year is the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music. But there is more to Salzburg than the Von Trapps. The town hasn't changed much over the years and even modern shops have traditional iron hanging signs and people wear national costume of lederhosen, dirndl skirts and peasant blouses.

Upmarket ski resorts are a short train ride away, and magical markets abound in November and December.

Getting there

Package: Railbookers offer tailor made holidays by rail to Europe and beyond. Its five-night holiday, Highlights of Austria visits Salzburg, Graz and Vienna, with train journeys in between. From £550 per person.

Hear: Mozart concert

Music escapes from doorways 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.

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, bishops, celebrities and merchants for over a millennium.

A visit by Charlemagne in 803 is its claim to be Europe's oldest hostelry.

The palace of Hellbrun, painted in Imperial yellow, was the summer palace of the Archbishop Markus Sittikus (1612-1619) built purely for his amusement. It is dotted with trick fountains which soak the unsuspecting visitor and Italian-style mazes.

Next year marks the 400th anniversary of Hellbrun with exhibitions planned.

A landmark in the heart of the city, the medieval fortress towers over the rooftops and encompasses more than 900 years of architectural history. Ascend by funicular railway or by foot for the best experience.

TIP: Use a Salzburg "City card" to get into tourist attractions, museums and palaces.


The train ride from Salzburg to Graz is a picturesque run through the Austrian mountains passing old salt mines, unspoilt pasture land, pretty ski resorts and charming towns with old-fashioned railway stations which are easy to view through huge windows.

Graz, Austria's second largest city, is in the heart 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, a regional delicacy: dark green with a nutty taste, it is used to brighten up 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) claims to contain 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.


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.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Emperor Franz Joseph and Vienna will be alive with events which celebrate the last century which has seen the city change from an opulent Imperial capital to a thriving contemporary city.

Don't miss Schönbrunn Palace which is now a Unesco World Heritage Site and visits to coffee houses that epitomise Viennese culture. There are a number of historic ones around the city.

Visit Viennese institution the Hawelka with its famous Buchteln yeast buns filled with jam and 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, and the Vienna State Opera houses some of the best operatic performances in the world.

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