Explore beautiful landscapes and one-of-a-kind settings in the fascinating cities of Vienna and Salzburg.
From a traditional yodeling class and private tour of Sigmund Freud's living quarters to a mask-carving workshop and look inside a defunct nuclear power plant, this carefully curated week is designed to offer Atlas Obscura explorers a unique glimpse into the inner workings of Austria's intellectual and cultural traditions.
Your host on this trip is a native Austrian who has lived in Vienna and grew up in the Salzburg countryside. You'll first be introduced to Vienna, once capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then Salzburg, a charming baroque city nestled near the Alps. This adventure focuses on less accessible, off-the-beaten path destinations; we strongly recommend staying a few additional days before or after if you're interested in seeing more traditional spots in Vienna (St. Stephen's Cathedral, Schönbrunn Palace, Wiener Staatsoper) and Salzburg (Mirabell Palace, Hohensalzburg Castle, Getreidegasse).
This trip is limited to a small group of 15 explorers.
- The remote and unexpected: Explore Austria's tendency to sympathize with the past as we wander through unusual places brimming with nostalgia, from an early theme park and former nuclear power plant to a remote spa town from the Belle Époque.
- Art and the psyche: From the Narrenturm, continental Europe's oldest psychiatric hospital, to the Gugging House of Artists, dedicated to outsider art, we'll explore thought and expression through multiple lenses.
- Fascinating local traditions: Participate in an private yodeling workshop and meet a Krampus mask creator. Try on traditional Austrian Tracht, and enjoy authentic cuisine in city and countryside restaurants.
Your Tour Organizer & Host
Nadja Buseck is a scholar of history with a focus on art, and has traveled extensively both professionally and personally. Nadja grew up surrounded by Salzburg's tourism industry and studied art in various forms at universities in Vienna and internationally. Today, she is somewhat nomadic, splitting her time between the inspiration of Berlin and the calm of the Austrian Alps. She hopes to share her passion and curiosity for travel and discovery. Together, you'll delve into the many lively, diverse, and special experiences that Austria has to offer.
A $500 deposit is required to secure your spot as we have a very limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill quickly. This deposit is nonrefundable three days after registration. The trip will cost $3,450—the $500 deposit plus $2,950 final payment—and will cover fixed costs including accommodations, daily breakfast, and all the activities listed below.
Please email us at [email protected] or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.
Welcome & Wander in Vienna
- Arrive in Vienna by 5 p.m. today, and settle in at your leisure. You'll be welcomed by Nadja in our central hotel. If you arrive earlier in the day or week, set out on some of your own capital city explorations—the Globe Museum and Museum of Contraception and Abortion are two of Atlas Obscura's favorites, but there are endless places to discover.
- This evening, our group will gather together and head to a vineyard just outside the city limits. Awaiting us a short train ride away is Heuriger Kierlinger, a family-run wine grower's tavern. Since 1787, the Kierlinger family has been running their winery in Nussdorf and delighting visitors with their cozy atmosphere and local food.
- This is the perfect setting to begin getting to know the other travelers in our group over dinner and drinks—it is said that Beethoven was known to drop by this idyllic area to savor the evening over a glass or two of wine.
- Afterwards, we'll return to our hotel in Vienna to rest up before an exciting next day.
Nonpareil Art & Bygone Nuclear Ambitions
- Today, we'll be discovering some hidden gems just outside Vienna. After breakfast at the hotel, we'll depart by private minibus and kick off the day with a visit to the majestic church at Steinhof: Kirche am Steinhof, also known as the Church of St. Leopold. Perched up on a hill in Vienna's Penzing district, this Roman Catholic church was built from 1904 to 1907 according to designs by Otto Wagner, and is a crucial example of the Viennese Art Nouveau style. It also happens to form a part of the Psychiatric Hospital of the City of Vienna, something that the architect had to take into consideration. Wagner worked together with doctors and nurses to accommodate appropriate special requirements. We'll learn more about the church and hospital on a private walking tour.
- Next we'll drive along the Danube until reaching the beautiful town of Klosterneuburg, best known for its Augustinian monastery. Here, on the edge of the grounds of a former psychiatric hospital, sits a colorful house dedicated to outsider art known as the Gugging House of Artists. Gugging's history connects back to the early 1950s, when a young psychiatrist named Leo Navratil began to conduct drawing tests for diagnostic purposes among his patients. Today, the Gugging artists are no longer known as patients, but rather as artists. We'll receive a private introduction to this compelling place and enjoy a relaxed lunch.
- After lunch, we'll keep following the Danube until we come upon the behemoth that is Zwentendorf. Costing upwards of one billion euros to complete, Zwentendorf was Austria's very first and only nuclear power station—and it has never been active. In the 1970s, it looked as though Austria would shift its power production over to nuclear, but after massive public outcry, the plan screeched to a halt. This afternoon, we'll have the unique opportunity to take in a two-hour tour with one of this unusual site's experts.
- After returning to our home base in Vienna, take the evening to relax, wander, and take dinner on your own.
Explorations of the Mind and the Dark
- Today, we're delving into the human psyche—and the institutionalized treatment it once received in Vienna. We'll begin the day with a special, before-hours private tour of the former private quarters and office of Dr. Sigmund Freud, Austria's founding father of psychoanalysis. Here, at what is now a museum, Freud conjured some of his most famous writings.
- From here, we continue our mental explorations with a visit to the The Narrenturm, one of the first psychiatric asylums ever built. The Narrenturm, which means “Fools’ Tower,” is no longer home to Viennese considered mentally imbalanced, but instead the Anatomical-Pathological Museum. While the circular building (known by locals as “the poundcake”) houses only a small percent of the museum’s total collection, it contains some fascinating pieces. You'll see syphilitic skulls that resemble Swiss cheese, jars of disfigured fetuses, and graphic wax displays of untreated STDs.
- For a quick but scrumptious lunch, we'll drop by a traditional Kaffeehaus. As a gastronomic meeting point, the Viennese coffee house is an Austrian institution and remains a crucial part of daily life—so much so that it was added to the UNESCO "Intangible Cultural Heritage" list in 2011.
- Afterwards, we'll experience something that will definitely stir your mind's inner sanctum. "Dialogue in the Dark" is an exhibition where you don't see anything at all, but rather experience everything while engulfed in darkness. In groups, visitors are led by blind or visually impaired people through completely lightless rooms. As you proceed, you will actively participate in everyday situations that transform into something more in the absence of light. This will be a chance to delve into a different world.
- Take our final precious hours in Vienna on your own to duck back into a kaffeehaus, shops, or museum, before we pick up our bags and jump on an early evening train for the beautiful ride to Salzburg.
- We'll have an evening arrival in Salzburg, the lights of the city shimmering along the Salzach River. We'll check in and settle into our hotel in the town center, then enjoy a laid-back, local dinner. Feel free to turn i or wander more around the city.
Hidden History of Salzburg
- Wake at your leisure and take breakfast in the hotel. For the rest of the morning, feel free to go out and explore Salzburg's city center, or perhaps the majestic Hohensalzburg Castle which watches over the city from above.
- We'll meet back together for lunch at St. Peter Stiftskeller, said to be Central Europe's oldest restaurant. It has offered over 1,200 years of Austrian hospitality.
- After lunch, we'll wander over to Erzabtei Sankt Peter, or St. Peter's Archabbey. Home to the oldest library in Austria, its manuscripts and prints are manifest to the religious and cultural activity of its monks, particularly during the Middle Ages and during the era of the Salzburg Benedictine University. We'll get access to the hidden cell library, a historical room closed to the public, which was created under the supervision of Placidus Mayrhauser in the early 1700s.
- Next, we'll visit St. Sebastian’s Cemetery, site of the famous tomb of Paracelsus, the Renaissance physician, alchemist, and astrologer. Built in 1502, St. Sebastian's holds the remains of several significant Austrians, including Mozart’s wife and father, as well as the Archbishop Wolf Dietrich.
- Ending our day in the present, we'll spend the evening at Blaue Gans, an art and design hotel with tip-top cuisine. Before dinner, we'll sink into their contemporary art collection, which features Austrian artists such as Arnulf Rainer and Brigitte Kowanz.
- After dinner, we'll make our way back to our hotel for a good night's sleep. Though if you still have energy, we'll happily recommend a good local brewery.
Yodel Picnic & Krampus Mask Carving
- Today we delve into curious local customs, kicking the day off with a peek into Austria's traditional fashion culture at Gwandhaus. This beautiful baroque property serves not only as a company seat for a well-known brand, but also as a fascinating destination by itself. Here, Gössl has set up its large main shop, where you can try on dirndls and lederhosen. Visitors can also take a look behind the scenes in the tailor studios.
- Afterwards, we can each grab local delicacies in the lovingly designed Greisslerei for our unique yodel picnic. We'll take our provisions out by the mountains to breathe in the fresh air and meet Tom, our yodeling instructor. With the majestic Alps as our backdrop and a talented guide, we'll learn how to employ our lungs to communicate across mountaintops.
- Over a two-hour workshop, Tom will teach us the Juchizer, the alpine scream, and yodel singing, which will include information on special breathing techniques, yodeling history, and yodel variations. The course will also feature Tom's accordion. At the end, each participant will receive his or her own diploma and instructions on how to continue your yodeling practice. This fun, regional highlight will make for an unforgettable memory!
- Next up is something slightly more uncanny and bizarre. A mask carver will be awaiting us with a particular type of devil mask. The Krampus is a frightful figure in the tradition of St. Nikolaus and a key fixture in the Austrian cultural canon. The monster is said to go from house to house or run in groups through certain city or village districts; while St. Nikolaus rewards good children, Krampus punishes the naughty. Demonic figures of the Alpine region date back to pre-Christian times, and we'll learn more about their history from the mask creator as he introduces his knowledge and skills and shows us samples.
- After a full and active day, this evening is yours to enjoy at your leisure. Nadja can recommend delicious restaurant options.
Into the Alpine Countryside
- Today is all about the countryside; we'll be heading out of town to investigate the dreamy former spa town of Bad Gastein, nestled in the Austrian Alps. Nowadays, the town is home to alternative communities, with traditional locals living alongside artists. Situated in a high mountain valley, Bad Gastein is known for its dramatic waterfall and a variety of Belle Époque hotel buildings (the Austrian emperor and his family once summered here). The local Heilstollen (literally "healing tunnel") and thermal waters brought the town its early glory. Today, many of the historical buildings are empty and run-down, which adds a rare patina to the town.
- This is a relaxed and easy-going day, giving us an opportunity to gain multiple perspectives of the town. We'll start with a guided stroll from a villager, delving into the town's picturesque backdrop and unbelievable history. We'll also get special insight at the memorable town museum, which has its own turbulent backstory.
- Lunch will be held at the peaceful Waldhaus Rudolfshöhe, with Austrian Gemütlichkeit and Berlin soul. Run by Berliners, this restaurant is located at 1,200 meters (nearly 4,000 feet) above sea level. This lonely, hidden getaway opens out onto what almost appears to be a painted landscape.
- The afternoon will be reserved for your personal explorations: Wander along local trails, inhale the nature and stunning views, and reward yourself with a "Strudel" at one of the town's cafés. If you still seek cultural stimuli, visit a local art gallery, or see international contemporary art as part of a festival at the power house, right at the waterfall—which you can even fly over while hanging on a rope, for the adrenaline fans among you.
- We'll have dinner on the way back to Salzburg in the lake town of Goldegg. Der Seehof—a special place, equal parts innovative and traditional—is home to a top restaurant and hotel, not to mention its extensive collection of art and literature. With its location right on a lake, you can take a refreshing evening plunge after dinner before we head back to the nightlife of Salzburg.
- We'll celebrate the end of our time together in style, at two opulent castles. We'll be exploring this morning by bicycle, though we can arrange alternate transport for anyone who would prefer not to bike.
- Our first stop on our final day is Schloss Hellbrunn, which has been celebrating a lust for life since it entered the world in 1615. This decadent architectural affair was conceived of by one of Salzburg's former Prince-Archbishops and built as a pleasure palace; rather than a practical residence, this outsized early Baroque villa was constructed as a venue for celebrations, summer festivities, and recuperation. You'll feel the spirit of the place as you stroll through its parks, sprinkled with trick fountains.
- The next stop is Wasserschloss Anif, also known as Water Palace Anif, which appears to be straight out of a fairytale. Located on the edge of an artificial lake in the town of Anif, the pastel-hued castle dates back several centuries, and more recently, served as a filming location for The Sound of Music. These days, it is privately owned and not open to the public, but the good news is that it looks most romantic from the outside.
- We'll gather for a final meal together at the 400-year-old Schlosswirt Anif, a quaint restaurant-hotel whose entire interior is decorated in the Biedermeier style. Over excellent traditional Austrian cuisine, we'll raise our glasses to the week of adventure we've shared.
- The tour will end back at your hotel in Salzburg, where we can arrange extra nights, if you wish, or help you organize transport to the airport or your next destination.
- Until the next adventure!
YOUR ATLAS OBSCURA EXPEDITION TO AUSTRIA INCLUDES
- All lodging in double-accommodation rooms. (Single supplement for a private room is available for $540. Otherwise we'll work to place singles together.)
- Breakfast on all mornings of the tour, one dinner, and one lunch (first and last day).
- An experienced tour guide, art historian, and Austrian native, able to offer unique insights into the country and its history as well as an Atlas Obscura representative.
- Private transport during the Vienna portion of the trip, in a comfortable, air-conditioned minibus.
- Admission to all proposed activities and events, including museums and workshops.
- Full briefing information for each explorer, including country information, final itinerary, logistical and contact information, recommended reading list, and packing list.
- A great group of intrepid fellow Atlas Obscura explorers, excited to experience all that Austria has to offer.
TRAVELERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR
- Transportation and flights to and from Austria. The trip starts in Vienna and ends in Salzburg; your best option will be to fly into Vienna and out of Salzburg, or the nearby Munich Airport.
- Airport transfers.
- Personal travel insurance.
- Baggage charges.
- Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings. You are responsible for five lunches and five dinners during the trip.
- If applicable, applying for an EU visa.
You should be comfortable walking between 3 to 6 miles a day, as we will be spending plenty of time on our feet, both on city sidewalks and on country roads. Our last day will also include a relaxed bike ride; however, if you are not comfortable on a bicycle, we can make alternate arrangements.
You will be charged a $500 deposit to hold your place. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final payment of $2,950 will be due by April 23, 2018. Note that you also have the option of paying for the trip in two installments, the first due by March 19, 2018. All reservations will be final after these dates, and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the trip's Terms & Conditions.
Please email us at [email protected] or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.