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  • Writer's pictureBecca Jackson

5 days in southern Austria

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Southern Austria is one of the most stunning parts of the world. Unlike Southern Europe the summers are not as hot meaning that even in peak season, July & August, it is still green and lush. The backdrop to every picture-perfect town and village is pine forest and majestic mountain peaks.


The Austrian people, while slightly reserved, are welcoming and friendly and generally speak very good English, making travel easy. Crime is low and travelling is very safe.


Austrian Alps in the sun
Austrian Alps in the sun

Transport & Accommodation


We travelled around in our VW camper van and found driving in Austria easy. We always familiarise ourselves with the driving rules in a particular country before setting off and find the RAC website gives you a good overview.


We used the app Park4Night to scope out all of our campsites and park ups. You can download the free version to search for stops and services and even save them in favourites to be able to access them again later. Along with adding reviews and new stops. We pay €9.99 a year (or you can pay €1.99 a month) which removes adverts and allows you to use the application offline, which can be useful when your off grid and struggling for signal.


Costs & budget for Austria


Overall, I would say the cost of travelling Austria is cheaper than the UK, but slightly more than other countries in Western Europe such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany. We had a £100 a day budget and were able to stay within this, averaging at £93.81 a day even though we ate out one meal a day most days and enjoyed a beer/wine or two 😉 Our accommodation costs were relatively low as we stayed in a mix of free camps and campsites. We also didn’t pay any entrance/tourist attraction fees other than the theatre in Salzburg.


Our Austria budget in a pie chart
Our Austria budget in a pie chart

Where to visit in Austria


Hallstatt


Hallstatt is a picturesque village that sits on the Western shore of Lake Hallstatt See, in the Austrian Alps. Alpine houses, winding pedestrianised streets dotted with cafes and restaurants, a beautiful lake you can hire pedalos or hop on a rowing boat cruise to enjoy, surrounded by towering mountains make this beautiful village a tourist hot spot. So beautiful in fact that China decided to build their own Hallstatt! In 2012 they unveiled a ‘life-size’ replica in the Southern Province of Guangdong. There was a noticeable increase in the number of Chinese tourists here compared to the other parts of Europe we travelled to on this trip as they come to see the ‘real deal’!


We stopped here for the night, parking up in a free carpark 4km from the village centre, further along the lake’s shore. A popular park up; we were joined by about 10 other vans, a car with a roof tent and 6 actual tents pitched up on the grass; but there was plenty of room and everyone was respectful. There was a small café serving drinks, cakes & beers open until early evening and free toilets that were well maintained.


We cycled from the park up to the village. There isn’t a cycle path and so you have to cycle on the windy mountain roads, which can be a bit hairy (although I’m a bit of a nervous wuss when it comes to cycling!) but the cars are well aware of cyclists and there are many road signs reminding drivers to take a wide berth when passing. Basically, cycling is absolutely not uncommon here and we saw many others doing the same. Oddly, although you are cycling along the lake side it was definitely more uphill on the way there than the way back!!


The village itself is cute, very beautiful and lovely to have a wander around and enjoy a beer overlooking the lake. However, as to be expected, it is expensive. We may have opted not to eat here but we timed our visit badly and were starving! Having picked a restaurant overlooking the lake we were pleasantly surprised at how nice the food was. Albeit pricey, we enjoyed a pork schnitzel served with herby boiled potatoes and cranberry sauce (€19.90) and a beef goulash (€23). To put that in perspective elsewhere in Austria I would expect to pay between €9 - €14 for each of these dishes. I suppose you are also paying for what was, without a doubt, a stunning view!


We didn’t visit but Hallstatt has the oldest salt mine in the world, dating back 7000 years. You can take a funicular from the village up to the mine and skywalk. Information on tours and prices can be found on their website – https://www.salzwelten.at


Hallstatt village across the lake
Hallstatt village across the lake
Hotels & restaurants in pedestrian square in Hallstatt
Hotels & restaurants in pedestrian square in Hallstatt

Salzburg


The drive from Hallstatt to Salzburg was absolutely stunning. We always avoid tolls to keep costs down, but also, although sometimes longer journey times (there usually isn’t much difference distance wise) the roads and scenery are generally more interesting. However, be prepared for some winding roads with steep inclines and declines. Toll roads are mostly straight, boring motorways.


We opted for a campsite here. Camping Schloss Aigen, 5.5km outside the city it was in a beautiful location (not surprising, everywhere here is!!), had a popular onsite restaurant and although a little old fashioned, functional, clean toilets and showers. It was a very fair price for peak season, €28.20 a night for 2 adults with electricity.


We cycled into the city along the river, an enjoyable easy ride along well marked cycle paths. The city is lovely, beautiful and clean. We spent most of our time wandering around the old town, ‘Alstadt’ which was the birthplace of the famous composer Mozart. Not our scene but if you are interested you can visit the Mozart Museum, take part in a themed city walk visiting the most important sites in his lifetime and legacy, or just fill your boots with many Mozart themed souvenirs!


Salzburg is also home to The Sound of Music, and you can follow in the footsteps of the Von Trapp family on The Original Sound of Music Tour! A bit much for us, we opted to go to the Marionette Theatre to watch a puppet performance of The Sound of Music. Not huge Sound of Music fans, or Puppet fans for that matter, but we thought it would be something different and apt considering where we were. It was really good, we thoroughly enjoyed it and we would definitely recommend it. The theatre itself is a beautiful building with a small bar you can enjoy a reasonably priced drink at the interval. The performance was brilliant, the film is about 3 hours long, but they successfully cut the show down to 1 hour 45 mins without feeling like anything major was lost. The puppets are so wonderfully made, and the skill of the puppeteers is incredible, they make the movements of the puppets so lifelike, and you are completely drawn into the characters. At the end, the curtain above the stage raises for you to be able to see the masters at work, which is very impressive.


Ticket prices varied depending on your choice of seats, we went for the cheapest at €30 each but you could have paid €35 or €40 (I think in low season prices range from €25 - €35). Having now seen the theatre I really wouldn’t pay higher if you can avoid it, it is only small and all seats have a good view of the stage.


We booked online at marionetten.at if The Sound of Music isn’t your thing but you like the idea of a puppet show they do other performances, details of which can be found on the website. The Sound of Music performance is in English (other shows are not so check when booking) and was advertised as having subtitles in various other languages. In reality, the subtitles were more like infrequent scene descriptions, as opposed to a translation of the script, so if you didn’t speak any English I’m not sure how good it would have been. Something to consider when looking at other shows that may not be in English.


Whilst we were in Salzburg we spent a very enjoyable morning at the local swimming pool. I spotted it when we were cycling along the river, situated just outside the main city centre. I hear all the English folk reading this cry ‘why on earth would you want to go to a public swimming baths?’ knowing what ours are like at home, but trust me this is not the same. It was €5 pp at the time of our visit for a day pass. There was an indoor pool that was purely for swimming lengths and two outdoor pools, one for length swimming and the other for lounging around in and for children to play. The pools were delightfully cold, incredibly clean and were surrounded by concrete sunbathing seats and huge grassy verges. There was a café if you fancied purchasing a drink but also a free, very cold water fountain. The changing rooms, lockers, toilets and showers were included in the price and were beautifully clean. For someone who loves swimming this was a dream for me, but Dave also enjoyed a short dip followed by relaxing in the sun.



Another popular activity in Salzburg is visiting the castle, Fortress Hohensalzburg, which sits up high on the hillside, offering great views of the city below. You can either walk or get the funicular up/down and whilst we didn’t visit, I understand there are various museums to explore whilst you are up there, including a Marionetten Museum.


Dining out here was reasonably expensive but look out for menu/deal of the day type offers. We saw Schnitzel for €9.90. We ate in an Italian restaurant called Da Pippo, the food was tasty but on the pricey side, pizzas and pastas were around €14-€16. The service was fine but quite brusque, it certainly felt like they wanted you in and out! The next day we grabbed lunch from a chain fish restaurant/take out called Nordsee and sat on the riverbank. Two battered fish baguettes and a portion of potato wedges, much more affordable at €16. These were washed down by a couple of cold beers from the SPAR next door.


We loved our time in Salzburg and would defiantly recommend a visit here.


Salzurg old town from across the Salzach river
Salzurg old town from across the Salzach river

Innsbruck


Innsbruck was our next stop. Having no central campsites, we opted for a carpark park-up next to Tyrolo, the Regional Heritage Museum, a 20 minute walk from the old town. It wasn’t a cheap park up and would have cost around €18 to stay from mid-afternoon until the next morning but we had seen on some of the Park 4 Night reviews that people had managed to get their parking ticket validated by the restaurant in the museum, resulting in a free stay, so we did the same. We paid €8 for two drinks and then when paying the bill politely asked the waiter about validation to which he didn’t hesitate and said he could do that for us. When we left the following morning no payment was required! Win!!


As usual we spent our time in the old town here, wandering around taking in the beautiful architecture and as always sampling the food and drinks on offer. We have two really good finds to report and a third very nice restaurant, quite obvious so not sure it counts as a find!


The first is Speckeria, a lovely delicatessen that served meat platters. At €15 pp they sound expensive, but we shared a platter for one and it was huge! It featured at least 6 different cured meats and was served with a few wedges of cheese, some pickled garnish and a big bread basket and pretzel.


The second was Anton Gotsch, a wine shop that also served wine by the glass. It wasn’t much to look at and I’m not sure we would have noticed it had we not spotted a couple of people milling around outside it holding wine glasses. At €3-€4 a glass the wine is a bargain! We sampled the local white, rose and red wine and can recommend them all! There are no tables and chairs as such but the owner gave us a couple of cushions and we sat on the wide concrete window ledges outside. Although it was a Wednesday night, there happened to be live music on in the square, which made the wine drinking even more enjoyable. From what we could gather the wine shop and restaurant opposite, FloJos, had paid for the entertainment. The restaurant was heaving with tables being filled as quicky as they emptied and whilst we didn’t eat there as didn’t fancy local cuisine that night, the food looked lovely. Add to that groups of people enjoying the delights Anton Gotsch had to offer and children chalk drawing on the pavements, there was a real buzz about the square that night and we had a great time.


We chose to eat in a Thai restaurant called Restaurant Thai Li that night – very traditional I know! It was delicious and again perhaps a little more than you would pay at home, or certainly where we live in Cheshire, but probably not more than London prices. it was really tasty and we would recommend.


Colourful houses overlooking the river in Innsbruck
Colourful houses overlooking the river in Innsbruck

Hall in Tirol


The next night we stayed in a neighbouring town called Hall in Tirol at a campsite called Schwimmbad-camping hall. At €28 including electricity it was very good value, small pitches but clean facilities and also gave you access to the public swimming pool next door. The swimming pool had the potential to be great, it was an Olympic 50m pool but was absolutely heaving when we were there, full of children as it was school holidays and even though there were two swimming lanes these were not respected and it was near impossible to swim lengths, without having someone attempting handstands or choosing to stand in the middle of the lane and chat & that was just the adults! However, if you came out of season or you don’t mind the crowds and just want to have a dip to cool down and then return to the grass verges to relax in the sun it’s a nice spot. There was also a water slide and diving boards that children and adults alike were enjoying.


Hall in Tirol is only 9.5km from Innsbruck so you could still explore the city from here or the town of Hall in Tirol itself is quaint, and whilst a little sleepy, still worth a stroll. We had a walk around the pedestrianised centre and enjoyed an ice cream.


Mountains overlooking the town of Hall in Tirol
Mountains overlooking the town of Hall in Tirol

We thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Southern Austria and would return in a heartbeat. If it isn’t already, put Austria on your list, you will not regret it.

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