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The six most spectacular train trips in Austria

With its mountain peaks and crystal-clear lakes, Austria has more than its fair share of stunning scenery to fall in love with. And travelling by train can give you the chance to take the views in properly without any distractions. Here are Austria's most scenic train routes.

train passing mountains in austria
Sit back and enjoy the ride. Photo by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr.

Semmering rail line in winter

You’ll get epic views whether you travel in summer or winter, but the snow adds to the romanticism. Photo by Miroslav Volek on flickr.

Semmering Railway
Built between 1848 and 1854, the 41-kilometre-long Semmerling line was made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1998 and it’s easy to see why: it runs through some jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery between the mountain towns of Semmering and Gloggnitz. It was a huge technical achievement for its time, not least because of the hefty gradient of the line. It was also the first European mountain railway to have a standard gauge track.

You’ll see glorious mountains, obviously, plus huge viaducts – 16 of them, if you’re counting – and 15 tunnels, including one whopping 1,430-metre-long one, and over 100 bridges, as well as plenty of lush forests and deep valleys.

Mariazeller Bahn

Clear skies are made for scenic train rides. Photo by flightlog on Flickr

Mariazell Railway
Remember we mentioned gauges above? Well, the Mariazell Railway is a narrow-gauge route – built like that because it was a difficult terrain for trains to cross. Running from St Pölten in Lower Austria to Mariazell in Styria, at 84km-long, it’s Austria’s longest narrow-gauge line.

The mountain section (Bergstrecke) of the line is the most picturesque. Get on at Laubenbachmühle where this starts and enjoy the train’s climb to its peak of 892m above sea level in Gösing where you’ll have gorgeous panoramic views and a glimpse of the 1,893-metre-high Ötscher mountain. Stay on board to see viaducts, reservoirs and deep gorges, in particular glimpses of the wild Erlauf gorge.

Want to really make the most of those views? Book a panorama carriage, which gives you super-comfy seats and unobstructed views of the scenery unfolding as the train trundles along.

Perfect peaks and lush valleys await. Photo by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr

Arlberg Railway

The Arlberg raiway is one of Europe’s highest – it climbs to 1,310 metres above sea level at its highest point. It goes up at a fair tilt, too and is one of the steepest passenger lines out there.

Connecting Innsbruck and Bludenz (on the Swiss border), it’s the only east-west mountain line in Austria. Visual delights include the Tyrolean Trisanna Bridge near the hilltop castle Wiesberg, snow-peaked mountains, the 6.6-mile-long Arlberg tunnel, and verdant valleys and forests at the Arlsberg pass  – go at sunset/sunrise and look to your right for the best views.

Schafberg Railway

There are – unsurprisingly – a lot of steep railways in Austria and this one is no exception. This is the steepest steam cog-railway in the country and has been running between St Wolfgang in Salzkammergut up to the 1,783-metre Schafberg mountain since 1893.  

It’s a gorgeous journey up the mountain with the views getting better and better the higher you go. At the top, you’ll have (weather-permitting) clear views over Salzkammergut’s glittering lakes, as well as the soaring peaks of neighbouring mountain ranges, such as the Höllengebirge.

Tauern Railway
If you’re heading to Venice by train, then this is the most scenic route to take and it’s worth the trip in its own right, too. You’ll pass stunning valleys and gorges as the line winds its way up the High Tauern mountain range of the Central Eastern Alps.

The best views are on the right-hand side of the train when you’re heading in this direction, so try to get a window seat if you can.

Are you even in Austria if your train doesn’t pass a field of cows? Photo by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr.

Zillertal Railway
There’s always something rather romantic about travelling by steam train and the traditional Zillertal locomotive with its wooden carriages is no exception. It putters gently by the side of the Ziller river along the 32-kilometre stretch between the towns of Jenbach and Mayrhofen, giving you ample opportunity to take in the views as you pass picture-perfect villages and gorgeous valleys surrounded by mountains. 

If you’ve got your heart set on the romanticism of steam trains, make sure you check which train you’re getting as the steam-powered engine doesn’t run as frequently as the faster diesel one. If you haven’t pre-booked, get there early to make sure you get a seat as it can get very busy.

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For members


IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria

The festive season is coming and one of the main attractions in Austria is its beautiful Christmas markets. Typical decoration, food and drinks ensure tourists and locals alike look forward to them. Here's a guide to the main ones.

IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria

Christmas markets are undoubtedly one of the best attractions during the festive period. In Austria, they are centuries-old traditions that draw locals, immigrants and tourists yearly.

There are many markets throughout the country – some state-funded, but many privately organised. Adding to that, all the smaller (but super nice and worth the visit) punsch and glühwein stands that you can stumble upon, and it’s clear that Austrians are great at celebrating the season.

Here is a guide with three of the main markets in each state. Remember: many are closed or have special hours on December 24th and 25th and January 1st.

Christmas market in Vienna / Karlsplatz (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Harald Eisenberger)

Christmas Markets in Vienna

The Austrian capital is home to some of its most famous and beautiful Christmas markets. Here are some you need to know:

  • Viennese Dream Christmas Market 

Where: On the square in front of the City Hall

When: 19 November – 26 December 2022

  • Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace

Where: Parade Court, in front of Schönbrunn Palace

When: 19 November 2022 – 4 January 2023 

  • Christmas Village Belvedere Palace

Where: Belvedere Palace, Prinz Eugen-Straße

When: 18 November – 23 December 2022

You can check the complete list of Christmas Markets in Vienna HERE.

Christmas time in Villach (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Michael Stabentheiner)

Christmas Markets in Lower Austria

Lower Austria has some spectacular places to visit (with impressive views) and many weekend or day events for Christmas enthusiasts. Here are three you need to know:

  • Kittenberger’s Advent magic in the garden

Where: Laabergstr. 15

When: 02 November 2022 – 08 January 2023

  • Badener Advent

Where: Hauptplatz Baden

When: November 18th – December 24th

  • Christmas-decorated Grimmenstein Castle

Where: Burg Grimmenstein

When: 12 November – 18 December

You can check the complete list of Christmas Markets in Lower Austria HERE.

Christmas illuminated town hall and Christmas tree on the Hauptplatz in Graz (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Harald Eisenberger)

Christmas Markets in Styria

In the capital Graz, the markets are all within walking distance and look stunning.

  • Advent Market in Front of City Hall

Where: In front of the City Hall, Hauptplatz

When: 18 November – 24 December 2022

  • Christmas Market on Glockenspielplatz

Where: Glockenspielplatz Square

When: 18 November – 24 December 2022

  • WonderLEND on Mariahilferplatz

Where: Mariahilferplatz

When: 18 November – 23 December 2022

You can check the complete list of Christmas Markets in Graz HERE.

Christmas market in Salzburg (Tourismus Salzburg GmbH, Photographer: Günter Breitegger)

Christmas markets in Salzburg

Salzburg may be the land of Christmas for many, with its beautiful sceneries and famous spots – not to mention it is the home of what may be the most famous Chrismas carol (“Silent Night” or, as it is known in Austria: “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”). Here are some of the best places to be:

  • Salzburg’s Christmas Market in the City Centre

Where: On Cathedral and Residenz Square, in Salzburg’s historic city centre.

When: 17 November 2022 – 1 January 2023

  • Advent Market in the Hohensalzburg Fortress Courtyard

Where: Fortress Hohensalzburg

When: 25 November – 18 December 2022 

  • Advent Magic in Hellbrunn

Where: In Hellbrunn Courtyard

When: 17 November – 24 December 2022

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Salzburg HERE.

Christmas market in Innsbruck’s old town (Innsbruck Tourismus, Photographer: Christof Lackner)

Christmas markets in Tirol

Tirol is also a magical location for a snowy Christmas and Innsbruck, in particular, sets a beautiful backdrop for all the nativity decorations. Here are some places to visit:

  • Old Town Christmas Market

Where: In front of the Golden Roof, in Innsbruck’s historic city centre

When: 15 November – 23 December 2022 

  • The Family Christmas Market at Marktplatz

Where: Marktplatz

When: 15 November – 23 December 2022 

  • Christmas Market Maria-Theresien Straße

Where: Maria Theresien Straße

When: 25 November 2022 – 6 January 2023 

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Salzburg HERE.

Pyramidenkogel observation tower (Wörthersee Tourismus GmbH, Photographer: Gert Steinthaler)

Christmas markets in Carinthia

Carinthia has spectacular Christmas markets by the mountains and cosy places by town squares too. Here are some you shouldn’t miss.

  • A Christmas Market Above the Clouds

Where: Pyramidenkogel tower

When: 25 November – 18 December

  • Christmas Market on Neuer Platz

Where: Neuer Platz in Klagenfurt

When: 19 November – 24 December 2022

  • Christmas Market in Villach – the City of Lights

Where: Rathausplatz in Villach

When: 18 November – 24 December 2022

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Carinthia HERE

Christmas market Linz (Linz Tourismus, Photographer: Alex Sigalov)

Christmas markets in Upper Austria

Austria’s Upper Austria gets fully illuminated during Christmas time, and visitors can enjoy all the local food and beverages in many locations. Here are three of the best.

  • Christmas Market on the Main Square

Where: Main Square of Linz

When: 19 November – 24 December 2022

  • Christmas in Steyr

Where: Steyr Old Town

When: 18 November – 23 December 2022

  • Christmas Market in the Volksgarten

Where: Volksgarten (near the main station)

When: 19 November – 24 December 2022

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Burgenland HERE.

Christmas market in Bregenz (visitbregenz, Photographer: Christiane Setz)

Christmas Markets in Vorarlberg

Austria’s most western state has beautiful traditional markets with typical food and beverages. You can also find local handcraft and produce.

  • Bregenz Christmas

Where: Kornmarktplatz
When: 15 November – 23 December

  • Felkirche Christmas Market

Where: Old Town

When: 25 November – 24 December

  • Bludenz Christmas Market

Where: Mühlgasse 

When: 24 November – 24 December

You can check more about Christmas Markets in Vorarlberg HERE.

Did we miss your favourite Christmas Market? Let us know which one you recommend in the comments below or by emailing us at [email protected].