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  • Andy Honey

Uncovering the Hidden Charms of Eastern Austria: A Traveller's Guide to Off-the-Beaten-Track Adventures

a rooftop view across a village in eastern austria

Embarking on a journey through Eastern Austria is like stepping into a world where history, culture, and natural beauty converge in a mesmerising mix of experiences.

As you travel this captivating region, you'll uncover a wealth of hidden gems, charming towns, and timeless castles, each offering a glimpse into Austria's rich heritage and storied past.

So, buckle up and get ready for an adventure that will take you off the beaten track and into the heart of Eastern Austria.

Güssing Castle: A Medieval Marvel

Our journey begins at Güssing Castle, a majestic fortress perched atop a hill overlooking the quaint town of Güssing. As you approach the castle gates, you'll be greeted by towering stone walls and a sense of history that permeates the air. Step inside and immerse yourself in centuries of tales and legends as you explore the castle's labyrinthine corridors, ancient courtyards, and well-preserved chambers.

From the top of the castle's battlements, the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside are simply breathtaking, offering a glimpse into the beauty and tranquility of rural Eastern Austria. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a photography aficionado, or simply seeking a moment of serenity, Güssing Castle promises an experience that will stay with you long after you've departed its hallowed halls.

2 restaurants, 2 bars/lounges and a snack bar/deli are available at this smoke-free hotel. Free WiFi in public areas and a free manager's reception are also provided. Additionally, a coffee shop/cafe, self parking and coffee/tea in a common area are on-site.

  • 3 Star Hotel

  • Parking on site (HUF 1,000 per night)

  • From £50 per night

a countryside view in semmering, east austria

Semmering: Nature's Masterpiece

Venturing deeper into Eastern Austria, we find ourselves in the Semmering area, where nature takes centre stage in a combination of mountains, forests, and alpine meadows. Amidst this picturesque landscape lies the village of Reichenau an der Rax, a hidden gem nestled at the foot of the majestic Rax mountain range.

As you wander through Reichenau's charming streets, you'll be struck by the balanced blend of traditional Alpine architecture and natural beauty that surrounds you. From the quaint village square to the tranquil hiking trails that wind their way through the mountains, Reichenau offers a sanctuary for those seeking solace in the embrace of nature.

A restaurant, a sauna and a library are available at this smoke-free pension. Free buffet breakfast, free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Additionally, a garden, barbecues and a picnic area are on-site.

  • 3 Star

  • Parking Included

  • Free Breakfast & Sauna

  • From £90 per Night


Hartberg: Where Time Stands Still

Travelling further eastward, we arrive in Hartberg, a timeless town steeped in history and charm. As you meander through its cobblestone streets and pastel-coloured buildings, you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time to a bygone era of romance and intrigue.

Hartberg's old town is a treasure trove of architectural delights, with its medieval churches, Renaissance palaces, and Baroque fountains bearing witness to centuries of cultural heritage.

Take a leisurely stroll along the town's ancient fortifications, explore its hidden alleyways and secret gardens, and savour the sights and sounds of a place where time seems to stand still.

A restaurant, a bar/lounge and a snack bar/deli are available at this smoke-free hotel. Free buffet breakfast, free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Additionally, a 24-hour front desk, a corner/local shop and a vending machine are on-site.

  • 3 Star

  • Parking Included

  • Breakfast Included

  • From £82 per Night


Eisenstadt: A Cultural Oasis

No journey through Eastern Austria would be complete without a visit to Eisenstadt, a vibrant city brimming with cultural riches and historical significance. At the heart of Eisenstadt lies the magnificent Esterházy Palace, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture that once served as the residence of the powerful Esterházy family.

Explore Esterházy Palace, once a residence of great magnates and now a striking landmark at the heart of Burgenland’s capital Eisenstadt. Admire the beautiful Baroque palace and see the Esterházy dynasty’s unique private collection at the museum.

Wander through the magnificent rooms on the bel étage at Esterházy Palace. Marvel at art-historical treasures from the collection including the Esterházy family silver, the world’s largest ensemble of Neoclassical silverware to survive as a set. Gain a fascinating glimpse into the history of the palace as a building.

Take a tour of the first floor to unravel the tale of a remarkable personality, Melinda Esterházy. Get to know the princess, not only as a ballerina but also as a person whose life was full of highs and lows. Learn about her ambitious career and turbulent personal life.

On the ground floor, discover the story of Joseph Haydn as director of music and composer in the service of the Esterházy princes. See multimedia stations, project installations and exhibits that trace this brilliant composer’s work from his beginnings in Eisenstadt and Eszterház through to his late music.

Then, encounter the long history of the Esterházy’s “bacchanalian” side in the over 300-year-old palace cellars. Visit the Wine Museum to go through the history of winemaking under the Esterházy princes. See over 700 rare objects relating to wine and viticulture, from historic barrels to Burgenland’s oldest Baumpresse (a type of basket press).

This smoke-free hotel features a full-service spa, a restaurant and 2 bars/lounges. WiFi in public areas is free. Other amenities include a fitness centre, a rooftop terrace and self parking.

  • 4 Star

  • Parking on site (EUR 23 per day)

  • Full Service Spa

  • Prices from £108 per Night

Basilica of Mariazell

Mariazell: A Pilgrimage to Peace

For a truly fantastic experience, venture to Mariazell, a sacred pilgrimage site nestled in the heart of the Austrian Alps. Here, amidst the soaring peaks and lush forests, lies the Basilica of Mariazell, a sanctuary of faith and devotion that has drawn pilgrims from far and wide for centuries.

As you approach the basilica, you'll be struck by its majestic beauty, with its towering spires, intricate carvings, and shimmering golden dome. Step inside and soak in the atmosphere of reverence and prayer that permeates the air, as pilgrims from around the world come to pay homage to the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary.

Along with a restaurant, this smoke-free hotel has a bar/lounge and tour/ticket assistance. Free buffet breakfast, free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Other amenities include a garden and a front desk safe.

  • 4 Star

  • Parking Included

  • Breakfast Included

  • From £130 per Night


Graz: The Jewel of Eastern Austria

Our journey culminates in Graz, the vibrant capital of Styria and a cultural oasis in the heart of Eastern Austria. With its stunning architecture, lively arts scene, and culinary delights, Graz offers a feast for the senses that will leave you enchanted and inspired.

Wander through the city's UNESCO-listed old town, where medieval alleys and Renaissance palaces blend seamlessly with modern cafes and boutiques. Explore the vibrant Kunsthaus Graz, a futuristic art museum that stands in striking contrast to the city's historic surroundings.

Indulge in the flavours of Styrian cuisine at a local tavern or market, where you can sample delicacies such as pumpkin seed oil, Styrian ham, and world-renowned wines.

Along with a fitness centre, this smoke-free hotel has a bar/lounge and a snack bar/deli. WiFi in public areas is free. Other amenities include a conference centre, a business centre and dry cleaning. Housekeeping is available on request.

  • 4 Star

  • Offsite parking available (EUR 22 per day); discounts available

  • Prices from £130 per Night

Get to know Graz inside out with a Licensed Local Guide. Explore the historic centre, which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and discover its most important monuments. Immerse yourself in local history and legends!

Choose the 2-hour option to discover the best selected highlights of Graz. On this walking tour you will explore the beautiful churches, palaces and monuments of the Old Town, such as the Church of Trinity and Palais Khuenburg. Feel the lively atmosphere of the old Market Square and admire Rathaus while learning about the political, social and economic life of Graz. You will see the famous Oper Graz, which is the second largest opera house in Austria, the 17th century Mausoleum of Kaiser Ferdinands II, and the 15th century Cathedral. The guide will help you find a secret double staircase in the Burg, which you can climb up to enjoy an optical illusion and views. The tour will end at the elegant Sporgasse street

clock tower graz austria

Choose the 3-hour option to enter the Graz Cathedral, the crown jewel of churches in Graz. This is your chance to discover the cathedral's amazing royal-imperial architecture, inconspicuous from the outside but with many treasures hidden inside. Admire its rare Gothic fresco paintings and other artworks. On this extended tour you will also head uphill to the iconic Clock Tower, one of the most important symbols of Graz. For an additional fee, your Licensed Guide can take you to the top of the tower for unparalleled views of the city.

4-hours version will give you an unique opportunity of exploring the fascinating collections of the Landeszeughaus. Avoid long queues easily with skip-the-line ticket. Discover the exhibitions on four floors and approximately 2,000 square meters of space to see 32,000 exhibits dating back from the 15th to 18th centuries. It's a really fascinating experience, not only for history lovers!

old buildings graz austria

Join 6-hours version to visit the Schlossberg branch of the Graz Museum and learn the history of the Graz even more thoroughly. This fascinating place has a very wide and varied collection of exhibits, so discover the fascinating secrets of the city! Walk around the Schlossberg and have an additional visit at the Burggarten as well. Wander through the idyllic parks and explore the garden’s main highlight - the beautiful Orangery.


Best Time of Year to Travel

Spring (March to May):

- Weather: Spring brings milder temperatures and blooming landscapes to Eastern Austria. Days are longer, and the countryside bursts into colour as flowers bloom.

- Activities: Spring is an excellent time for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploring historic towns without the crowds.

- Events: Some spring events in Eastern Austria include Easter markets, wine festivals, and outdoor concerts.

Summer (June to August):

- Weather: Summer brings warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine to Eastern Austria. It's the peak tourist season, with long days and pleasant evenings.

- Activities: Summer is perfect for outdoor adventures, including hiking in the Alps, swimming in lakes, and enjoying outdoor festivals and events.

- Events: Look out for music festivals, wine tastings, and cultural events happening throughout the region during the summer months.

Autumn (September to November):

- Weather: Autumn brings cooler temperatures and colourful foliage to Eastern Austria. The landscape transforms into a mix of reds, oranges, and yellows.

- Activities: Autumn is ideal for scenic drives, wine tasting tours, and exploring historic castles and villages. It's also harvest season, so you can sample delicious seasonal produce.

- Events: Don't miss wine festivals, harvest celebrations, and traditional autumn markets showcasing local crafts and cuisine.

Winter (December to February):

- Weather: Winter in Eastern Austria is cold and snowy, especially in the Alpine regions. It's a magical time to visit if you enjoy winter sports and festive atmospheres.

- Activities: Winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating in the Alps. You can also experience traditional Christmas markets, cozy taverns, and festive events.

- Events: Christmas markets, Advent concerts, and New Year's Eve celebrations are highlights of the winter season in Eastern Austria.

a cloudy blue sky atop ice capped mountains

Before You Go:

Research and Plan: Eastern Austria is a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered, so take some time to research and plan your itinerary. From charming towns to breathtaking landscapes, there's something for everyone in this enchanting region.

Explore the rich history and cultural heritage of Eastern Austria by delving into the stories behind its castles, towns, and landmarks. Check out online travel guides, browse through photos, and read up on local customs and traditions to get a feel for what to expect.

Pack Accordingly: Packing for your trip to Eastern Austria is an adventure in itself! Make sure to pack clothing suitable for the season and activities you have planned. From exploring medieval castles to hiking in the Alps, you'll want to be prepared for whatever adventures come your way.

Don't forget to pack essentials like comfortable walking shoes, layers for changing weather conditions, and a waterproof jacket in case of rain. And don't worry about overpacking – there's always room in your suitcase for souvenirs from your travels!

Learn Basic German Phrases: While many Austrians speak English, knowing a few basic German phrases can go a long way in making connections and experiencing the local culture. Plus, it's a fun way to immerse yourself in the language and impress the locals!

Practice simple greetings like "Guten Tag" (Good day), "Bitte" (Please), and "Danke" (Thank you), as well as common phrases like "Wo ist...?" (Where is...?) and "Wie viel kostet das?" (How much does that cost?). You'll be surprised how far a friendly "Prost!" (Cheers!) or "Guten Appetit!" (Enjoy your meal!) can take you.


Book in Advance: Whether you're dreaming of a cozy guesthouse in the countryside or a chic boutique hotel in the city, booking your accommodation in advance is key to securing the perfect place to stay during your visit to Eastern Austria.

Consider the type of experience you want to have – from charming bed and breakfasts to luxury resorts – and book early to get the best deals and availability. Keep an eye out for unique accommodations like vineyard stays, castle hotels, or eco-friendly lodges for a truly memorable stay.

Explore Alternatives: While hotels offer comfort and convenience, don't be afraid to venture off the beaten path and explore alternative accommodations in Eastern Austria. From charming guesthouses run by local families to rustic mountain huts and cozy vacation rentals, there's no shortage of unique places to rest your head.

Embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and connect with the community by staying in accommodations that offer a more authentic experience. Plus, you'll often find hidden gems and insider tips from your hosts that you won't find in any guidebook!


Venture Off the Beaten Path: One of the best parts of traveling to Eastern Austria is the chance to explore lesser-known destinations that are off the tourist radar. While cities like Vienna and Graz are undoubtedly worth a visit, don't overlook the charm and beauty of smaller towns and rural areas.

Take a detour from the main tourist routes and discover hidden gems like medieval castles perched atop rolling hills, picturesque villages nestled in lush valleys, and scenic trails winding through pristine forests. You never know what hidden treasures you'll stumble upon when you wander off the beaten path!

Join Guided Tours: Get the most out of your visit to Eastern Austria by joining guided tours led by knowledgeable locals who can share their insights and expertise. Whether you're interested in history, culture, or outdoor adventures, there's a guided tour for every interest and budget.

From walking tours of historic city centres to wine tastings in scenic vineyards, guided tours offer a unique opportunity to learn from passionate locals who are eager to share their love for their homeland. Plus, you'll gain insider tips and recommendations for hidden gems that you might not discover on your own.

Respect Local Customs: As you explore Eastern Austria, take time to familiarise yourself with local customs and etiquette to show respect for the culture and traditions of the region. From greetings and manners to dining etiquette and social norms, understanding the local customs will enhance your travel experience and help you connect with the locals.

Remember to greet people with a friendly "Guten Tag" (Good day) or "Servus" (Hello), and always address them by their titles (Herr or Frau) as a sign of respect. When dining out, it's customary to wait for everyone to be served before beginning your meal and to say "Guten Appetit" (Enjoy your meal) before you start eating. And don't forget to say "Danke" (Thank you) to express your gratitude – it's always appreciated!


Sample Local Cuisine: No visit to Eastern Austria would be complete without indulging in the delicious flavours of Austrian cuisine. From hearty classics to mouthwatering desserts, Austrian food is sure to tantalise your taste buds and leave you craving more.

Start your culinary adventure with iconic dishes like Wiener Schnitzel (breaded and fried veal or pork cutlet), Tafelspitz (boiled beef with horseradish sauce), and Kaiserschmarrn (fluffy shredded pancake with fruit compote).

Be sure to pair your meals with regional wines, such as Grüner Veltliner or Blaufränkisch, and save room for dessert – you won't want to miss out on Austrian delights like Sachertorte (chocolate cake with apricot jam) and Apfelstrudel (apple strudel)!

Explore Local Markets: For a taste of the freshest local produce and artisanal delicacies, be sure to visit the bustling markets scattered throughout Eastern Austria. From farmers' markets brimming with seasonal fruits and vegetables to food markets showcasing homemade cheeses, cured meats, and baked goods, you'll find a treasure trove of culinary delights waiting to be discovered.

Wander through the stalls, chat with the friendly vendors, and sample your way through the market as you soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of Austrian gastronomy. Whether you're stocking up on picnic supplies for a day of exploring or picking up souvenirs to bring home, the markets of Eastern Austria are a feast for the senses that you won't want to miss!

a lake view with lush trees and mountains

Getting to Eastern Austria

Getting to Eastern Austria is relatively straightforward, with several transportation options available depending on your starting point and preferences.

By Air:

If you're travelling from a long distance or internationally, flying into one of Austria's major airports is likely your best option. The nearest airports to Eastern Austria are Vienna International Airport (VIE) and Graz Airport (GRZ). These airports offer domestic and international flights, making them convenient gateways to the region.

From Vienna International Airport, you can easily access Eastern Austria via train, bus, or car rental. The airport has excellent transportation links to Vienna's city centre, where you can connect to regional trains or buses heading eastward.

Graz Airport provides direct access to Styria and Eastern Austria, with shuttle services, taxis, and rental car options available for onward travel.

By Train:

Austria's extensive railway network offers efficient and comfortable travel to Eastern Austria. The Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) operates regular train services connecting major cities like Vienna, Graz, and Linz to towns and villages in Eastern Austria.

From Vienna, you can catch trains heading towards destinations like Graz, Eisenstadt, and Hartberg. The journey typically takes a few hours, depending on your final destination.

By Bus:

Bus services also provide a convenient way to travel to Eastern Austria, particularly if you're exploring smaller towns and rural areas. FlixBus and other regional bus companies operate routes connecting major cities like Vienna, Graz, and Linz to destinations in Eastern Austria.

For example, if you're travelling from Budapest to Austria, FlixBus offers direct bus services to Vienna and other Austrian cities, where you can then transfer to regional buses or trains heading eastward.

By Car:

Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore Eastern Austria at your own pace and venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and scenic routes. Major highways like the A2 and A4 connect Vienna and Graz to Eastern Austria, providing easy access to towns, castles, and natural attractions in the region.

Keep in mind that Austria has driving regulations, including tolls on certain highways and parking restrictions in city centres. Make sure to familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and plan your route accordingly.

Final Thoughts

As you journey through Eastern Austria, you'll discover a land of enchantment and wonder, where every corner reveals a new treasure waiting to be uncovered.

From ancient castles to picturesque towns, from rugged mountains to tranquil valleys, Eastern Austria captivates the imagination and beckons the adventurous spirit.

So pack your bags, set out on the road less travelled, and prepare to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in this magical corner of the world.

Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links including Amazon products where I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


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