Planning a trip to a pocket-sized country like Austria, does the right airport really matter? Actually, since natural and cultural attractions evenly spread across my home country why not save time, and money, by landing next to them? For a weekend trip this makes even more sense. To help you decide, here are the best airports in Austria and Slovakia and what to explore in their vicinity.
At less than 20 km from the Austrian border modern M. R. Štefánik airport in Slovakia’s capital is a low cost alternative to exploring Austria’s East. As a matter of fact, all good flight bookings sites such as Flight Hub list cheap flights to Bratislava airport. What’s more, you will drive to Vienna in just one hour. Other than that, Flixbus takes you directly to Vienna from as little as EUR 5.
Before heading for Vienna use the opportunity to spend a day visiting Bratislava’s lovely town center and castle. What’s more you will find exciting cultural parallels to Wien! If you love countryside glamour, hop across Austria’s Marchfeld castles on the way to Vienna. In a radius of little more than 40 km from the airport you will find three breathtakingly beautiful secret treasures: First and foremost, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s drop-dead beautiful Schloss Hof opens up a world of baroque lifestyle throughout the castle and manicured gardens. Second, charming Schloss Niederweiden, Eugene’s hunting and party estate, regularly hosts exhibitions. And third, sumptuous Eckartsau castle reflects the last days of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor Karl and his family. From there, you’ll land in less than an hour in Vienna’s center.
In Austria’s South Eastern region of Styria, Graz Airport connects with key hubs in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. You can choose from a good variety of carriers, from easyJet and eurowings to Austrian Airlines, KLM and Lufthansa. What to expect from Graz and surroundings? Definitely start by exploring the quaint medieval streets and Imperial Habsburg residences of Graz, alongside its legendary clock tower. Like Vienna and Salzburg, Graz’ town center is a UNESCO World Heritage site with its own laid-back character.
For nature lovers, hike and boat tours on lakes Altaussee, and the geo trail around Toplitzsee and Grundlsee are a must. By the way, this photo shows the mystic canal connecting Toplitzsee lake with tiny Kammersee lake. In the spring, the local daffodils festival hosts a spectacular folkloric parade bursting with the yellow flowers.
If you like wine, embark on one of Styria’s eight epic wine routes, for example to taste Styria’s unique Schilcher wine. In fact, the Styrian Schilcherland region nestles at the foot of Kor Alpe and border with Slovenia and the home of the famous Lipizzaner horses. From Graz airport, you can reach that region in as little as 15 minutes. In some Styrian wine areas you can also trace the viniculture back 2,000 years to the Romans.
Likewise, chocolate fans will indulge in iconic Austrian Zotter chocolate during a jaw-dropping manufactory tour before visiting nearby romantic Riegersburg castle.
With a strong connection to European flight hub Frankfurt in Germany, the Blue Danube airport of Linz is a good option to dive straight into Upper Austria’s highlights, including the Danube. To begin with, the regional capital of Linz merits a stroll through its baroque city center, hosting Austria’s largest church, splendid Mariendom. Make sure you get a bite of famous Linzer Torte, a deliciously nutty cake covered with a fine layer of strawberry jam. Just next to the center, take a ride up to Pöstling mountain using Europe’s steepest adhesion railway.
As for the wider surroundings of the airport, you will feel Upper Austria at its most mystical at majestic Traunstein mountain, at less than one hour’s drive. Located close to the market town of Gmunden, Traunstein is towering over Traunsee lake and its fairy-tale island castle Ort. Not just kids love the legends of knights and mermaids spinning around the castle’s Renaissance arcades. From Traunsee, picturesque hiking trails lead through the enchanting mountains and hills of Upper Austria to Lake Attersee. Much praised for its azure blue water, this former glacier lake makes for a splendid boat ride.
Clearly, Innsbruck is THE destination for skiers and high Alpine hikers. Apart from Vienna and Salzburg, Innsbruck hosts Austria’s third largest airport, serving a wide range of European destinations and carriers, from easyJet and Jet2 to British Airways and SAS. Because of its stunning location in the midst of a snow-covered mountain range, landing in Innsbruck is a spectacular experience of its own right.
Right in Innsbruck, explore the city center packed with gorgeously painted historic town houses and its landmark Goldenes Dachl. To taste Tirol’s delicacies, head for the local market hall displaying a mix of local farmers’ produce and international food stalls. Then take the funicular leading up from central Hungerburg district to the Karwendel mountains and Nordkette through the woods, with spectacular views of Innsbruck and the Alps. You can also visit the famous Alpine zoo on the way.
For some seriously fun skiing, the regions of Axamer Lizum at just 30 min from the airport, and the Stubai glacier are among the best local ski resorts. Equally, Sölden’s hip ski paradise hosts dozens of exciting slopes for all types of skiers and snow boarders. If you prefer culture and hiking the silver city of Schwaz, Achensee lake, Zillertal and Ötztal valley and the Krimml waterfalls are all within easy reach of Innsbruck airport.
For many travellers Flughafen Klagenfurt is Austria’s most clandestine airport. More specifically, it hides next to Southern Carinthia’s eponymous regional capital, at just 60 km from Italy. Using easyJet, eurowings, Lauda or Austrian Airlines you can fly in easily from many German airports. If you are lucky you will fly across gorgeous Wörthersee lake just before touching down.
Before you venture out into Carinthia’s praised lake district and Alpine resorts take at least half a day to explore Klagenfurt’s charming Renaissance style and its legendary landmark – the Lindwurm dragon. In the summer, enjoy the warm waters of Wörthersee and other nearby lakes such as Millstätter See and Ossiacher See. History buffs will visit stunning Hochosterwitz Castle, one of Europe’s top historic castles, at a mere 20 min drive from the airport.
What’s more, throughout the region you will find amazing Alpine hiking trails, especially in the lake district, and in the Nockberge Biosphere Park. In fact, nearby Turracher Höhe also delights skiers and snow boarders. For a breathtaking scenic drive, choose Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, one of the world’s first Alpine roads.
Although the Mozart city Salzburg is widely known, its airport isn’t. At barely 6 km or 15 min drive from the very city center flying into Salzburg is as easy as getting off a train. All major German airports, as well as London, Istanbul and Vienna offer connection flights with easyJet, Ryanair, Austrian Airlines, British Airways and Turkish Airlines.
To get a good feel of this quaint baroque city plan at least one day to explore its key attractions, from Getreidegasse and Mozart’s birth place to Mirabell castle, Salzburg Cathedral and its landmark Fortress Hohensalzburg.
On your way to Salzburg’s regional highlights, make sure Hellbrunn castle crosses your path. Mostly, the baroque countryside manor lures thousands of visitors each year with its fun historic water games in the gardens. Further on, Salzkammergut with its amazing mix of mountain ranges, pristine lakes and enchanting villages has been attracting Austrians from all over the country as well as tourists from all over the world. Imagine that the Chinese built a life-size replica of the lakeside village of Hallstatt in Southern China! Although these places are popular they merit a carefully planned visit.
If you love skiing and want a snow-safe resort, head for the glacier region of Kitzsteinhorn-Maiskogel-Kaprun at a 2-hours’ drive from the airport. Other than that, the resort Ski Amadé covering Flachauwinkel and Zauchensee at 90 min drive from the airport makes for another excellent and fairly snow-safe ski paradise.
Austria’s largest international airport Schwechat extends at 12 km east of Vienna, serving dozens of carriers from all around the world. For direct flights from across Europe and overseas, Schwechat is the obvious Austrian airport.
While there is no shortage of what to do in Vienna let’s focus on the key treasures in the airport’s surroundings. After all, you may have a stopover in Schwechat and would want to extend your horizons beyond Vienna. First, the most spectacular local attractions are likely the Marchfeld castles at around 40 km from Vienna airport. Since they are a little closer to Bratislava I have referenced them at the start. Second, why not explore Austria’s largest landscaped garden at Laxenburg and visit tiny Franzensburg castle, less than 30 min from the airport?
Third, consider heading south to Burgenland’s Lake Neusiedl (Neusiedler See), at roughly the same distance than the Marchfeld castles. Especially cycling and wine fans love the area. Alternatively, take a boat ride across the lake in the warmer months and enjoy historic village like Breitenbrunn and Rust.
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