From Austria to Hungary: An Empire of Springtime Sights

Top “Must-See” Sights in Austria and Hungary this Spring

Austrian landscape
Austrian landscape

Spring is a great time to travel from Austria to Hungary – and it’s so easy to see it all by train with a Eurail Austria-Hungary Pass. This pass gives you unlimited train travel on the national rail networks of Austria and Hungary. There may be borders now, but the efficient rail system makes your travel boundless.

To quote the Von Trapps: These are a few of our favorite things. Art, architecture, castles and even caves. Here are some of the top sights in Austria.

Austria: From Museums to Caves to Cafés, What to See First!

The Albertina in Vienna

In the Innere Stadt (First District), the Albertina is home to one of the the largest print rooms in the world. Explore over 50,000 drawings and one-million old master prints, dating from the late Gothic period all the way to the present. Works span the greats that go by just one name: Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Warhol, Rauschenberg and Klimt.

Newly renovated in the original Louis XI decor, the 21 Habsburg State Rooms including the magnificent Hall of the Muses is now open to the public. Spread out over two floors, you can see how the 1% of the past used to live.

After admiring all of the works. Enjoy a coffee break at the DO&CO Albertina, a café located on the ground floor, which overlooks the relaxing Burggarten.

See more cultural classics with a Vienna Card

With the Vienna Card you’ll enjoy 72-hours of free public transport, plus discounts to museums, guided tours and much more. It’s a deal worth singing about – but we’ll leave that to the Vienna Boys Choir.

Ice Caves in Werfen Austria
Eisriesenwelt – Ice Caves in Werfen Austria

Werfen: World of Ice Giants

High above the village of Werfen, you’ll find the find the entrance to the Earth’s biggest labyrinth of ice caves, the Eisriesenwelt. Nearly 30 miles long, this wondrous world was discovered way back in 1879 and features formations and sculptures frozen in time.

Before you head into the caves for your 1¼ hour tour, lamps are handed out to visitors. The first stop is the Poselt Hall, with the magnificent Poselt Tower stalagmite (those are the ones on the bottom.) Marvel at the greatest area of ice growth, the Great Ice Embankment, a massive formation rising up over 75 feet. Stalactites (from the ceiling) in Hymir’s Castle created the so-called ice organ.  For an even more stunning effect, the ice formations are sometimes lighted.

The caves are open May to October and you will need to be dressed for the cold, even during summer months.

Salzburg: Café Tomaselli: Mozart’s Favorite

Let’s say you’re a composer with a bit of writers block. Where to go? If you’re Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it was Das Tomaselli. This café is nothing short of an institution in the baroque city of Salzburg.

Founded in 1705, the café is still the place in town to see and be seen, especially during the time of the Salzburg Festival. Local dignitaries, celebrities of stage and screen and tourists all convene at this coffeehouse of old world charm. Man (and woman) cannot live by coffee alone, so make sure to try the homemade cakes and strudels. But it won’t be a waiter or waitress who serves you a slice. Here, the sweets are presented by the “cake-maid.”

In the warmer months try and score a coveted seat on the terrace, one of the most sought-after relaxation spots in the city. Additional seating is also offered at the pretty Tomaselli-Kiosk on the Square starting in spring.

See More with a Salzburg Card

With a Salzburg Card, you’ll enjoy public transportation as well as travel on the Hohensalzburg Fortress funicular railway, which leads from the heart of Old Town up to the city’s most visible landmark. Your card also includes a free ride on the Untersberg cableway, plus over 20 cultural attractions. See everything from the Residenz to the World of Beer.

Graz: Arms, Arts & Armor

Imagine warriors clad in iron, rushing to defend their borders. Today’s armies rely on modern materials for protection, but 400 years ago, war uniforms were much different.

The Landeszeughaus, also known as the Styrian Armory in Graz, is the largest original armory in the world. It holds over 30,000 pieces of weaponry, tools and suits of armor for both battle and parades. Built in the mid-1600s, this war chest of weapons was enough to arm 5000 soldiers against the invading Ottoman Empire.

What makes the armory unique today is that all items are still organized and stored the way they were 400 years ago.  To truly appreciate the Zeughaus, take the guided tour, where you will learn about the regions’ history, discover how ammunition for the first gunpowder weapons was made, and marvel at heavy, full body armor which rendered fighters unable to move if they fell off their horses.

View of Budapest, Hungary
View of Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Sightseeing: Above, and Below the Surface

With a Budapest Sightseeing Card, you can see much more of this historical city. Budapest is vast and broken into two parts. Don’t get stuck walking up and down hills. With this card, enjoy travel on buses, trams, the metro, cogwheel railway, trolleys and the Millennium Underground Railway. Also included, a free walking sightseeing tour in English, and entrance into the Budapest History Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Ethnography.

Budapest is known for thermal spas, café culture, goulash and paprika. But below the capital of Hungary is a labyrinth of caves – over 200 both big and small. Only nine are strictly protected by the city, and three are open to the public.

Pálvölgyi Cave

While extracting stones, speleologists discovered this cave back with its long passages and stunning stalagmite formations in 1904. The search for new passages is continuous; and since 1980 the length has exceeded by over seven miles. In 2001, the connection with the neighboring Mátyáshegyi cave was discovered and as a result of this today this cave-system is the second longest in Hungary. There are guided tours every hour, and the temperature hovers in the 50s year round. Like most caves – bring a warm jacket!

Szemlőhegyi Cave - photo © Szemlő-hegyi-barlang
Szemlőhegyi Cave – photo © Szemlő-hegyi-barlang

Szemlőhegyi Cave

For a totally different take on a cave, Szemlőhegyi features steep and hill walls decorated with minerals that take on forms like cauliflower and grape bunches. Discovered in 1930, some refer to this cave as an underground flower garden thanks to its beautiful structures.  Nearly 1.5 miles in length, the cave is open to all – including the disabled – thanks to a recent renovation. There are organized tours every hour – and yes, it’s chilly!

The Castle Cave

Formed by the dissolution of natural springs after the cementation of rock, the Castle Cave is only a natural formation in parts. Residents of the Castle district continued to build out passages and cellars to use as storage and shelter. Today, it’s used simply as a tourist attraction.

Speaking of Castles: Egri Vár

Inside this mammoth palace, you’ll find an art gallery, including a display of wax figures based on characters from the book “Eclipse of the Crescent Moon” by Géza Gardonyi. There’s a weapon exhibition, a minting museum and plenty of historical artifacts. But it may be what lies below that’s most fascinating.

Take a tour of the Underground Passageways. Start at Heroes’ Hall, with a replica of the tomb of István Dobó. The passages themselves contain several examples of archaeological finds, as well as reenactments of events from the Turkish siege. The passages can only be visited by tour, which are available in English at an extra cost.

From the Lowest to the Highest: Minaret of Eger

The northernmost medieval minaret in Europe and the tallest in Hungary, the minaret is nearly 140 feet tall, and a symbol of the Turkish occupation. It is only 97 steps to the top, but be warned, the steps are slippery and the quarters are tight. Open for visitors from April to November.

Travel by Train From Austria to Hungary

Have our top sights in Austria and Hungary inspired you to take a trip? You can see it all traveling by train.

From Austria, trains travel regularly from Vienna to Budapest. The travel time is approximately 2h 46m by ÖBB Railjet high-speed trains. Reservations are required for Railjet trains and can be purchased on the Rail Europe website. If you’re traveling with a Eurail Austria-Hungary Pass the cost for the reservation is only $13. If you do not have a pass, ticket prices from Vienna to Budapest (including the reservation) start at $66.

These two countries may no longer be part of the Hapsburg Empire, but you can still rule over your vacation – travel from Austria to Hungary with a Eurail Austria-Hungary Pass from Rail Europe.

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