Self-Drive Austria

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

Exeter International White Glove Self-Drive Program Includes:

  • A pre-programmed GPS system for you to use while in Europe.
  • Every day will be set up for you and you can’t get lost!
  • 24-hours local help line available to you as you travel and manned exclusively by Exeter local staff.
  • Our expert advice in finding the perfect car for your trip. Your car will be waiting for you to pick up locally and will show you exactly where to return it when you are finished.
  • The freedom to deviate and explore on your own and then jump back into your planned itinerary at any time.

For custom luxury travel, tours and self drive programs to Croatia and Slovenia, please contact one of our travel experts.

Download a PDF itinerary here.

Day 1
Arrival | Vienna Mozarthaus - Vienna, Austria

Arrival into Vienna, where your private driver will welcome you for your transfer to your deluxe hotel in the center of the city.

Vienna is a city whose history stretches back over 2,000 years. Originally a Celtic Settlement, it became part of the Roman Empire in 15 BC. The Romans were forced to leave the region during the fourth century as northern tribes regained their foothold in Eastern Europe. By 1155, the Babenbergs declared Vienna a “civitas” indicating that it was developing into a well-ordered community. From this time forward Vienna grew under the influence of the Byzantium Empire, the Orient, Martin Luther, the threat of the Turks, Emperor Franz Joseph, Maria Theresa, Richard the Lion Heart, Karl Marx, and a host of other fascinating events and people, creating one of the world’s great cultural centers.

Enjoy this afternoon at your leisure. Your hotel is just across the street from the vibrant MusuemsQuarter – home to museums and cafes – the perfect way to spend your first afternoon.

Exeter Services: Arrival Transfer

Hotel: San Souci

Day 2
Vienna | Vienna St. Stephens Roof View, Vienna Austria

This morning your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby. Vienna is a wonderful city to see on foot, as most major sights are located very close together. During your walk this morning with your guide, you will see the soaring St. Stephens Cathedral with its unusual colored ceramic tile roof. Your guide will take you through the interior of the cathedral and, if you have the energy, you can climb to the top of the steeple for a spectacular view over central Vienna!

Before visiting the Hofburg Palace, you’ll have a quick visit of the Hapsburg Imperial Crypt in the Capuchin Church. You’ll have a quick introduction to the entire Hapsburg ruling family before continuing.

Afterwards, you can continue your walking tour of the Hofburg Palace complex. Today you will also visit the Hofburg Treasury. These chambers house a vast and opulent collection of Hapsburg treasures, from 10th Century regalia and relics of the Holy Roman Empire to the private living quarters of Empress Elizabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph from the 18th and 19th Centuries. This is one of the greatest Imperial collections of Europe.

Also in the Hofburg complex you will find one of Vienna’s architectural masterpieces – the Austrian National Library. This is the largest baroque library in Europe and is an independent wing of the Hofburg Palace. You may stop inside for as long (or as short) a visit as you like, but we highly recommend that you pay a visit to the State Hall, featuring stunning frescoes and more than 200,000 volumes, including one of the largest collections of Martin Luther’s writings.

Exeter Services: Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Sans Souci

Day 3
Vienna | Vienna St. Stephens Roof View, Vienna Austria

Today, meet your guide and board the local tram to head to the Belvedere Palace and Gardens. This palace, built as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, is situated on a gently sloping hill. The two main palaces (upper and lower) are linked by formal French gardens and both now house wonderful art collections. Upper Belvedere holds a wonderful collection of 19th- and 20th-century art, while the lower palace houses a fine collection of art and sculpture from Vienna’s Golden Age (approximately 1683 to 1780).

This is one of the most amazing collections of Klimt in the world and you will have ample time to explore the exhibition.

Afterward, head to the Military History Museum, where a highlight is the car that Franz Ferdinand was using when he was assassinated, beginning WWI and the fall of the Hapsburg monarchy. It documents the history of the Austrian military and features weapons, tanks, airplanes, and more.

Before returning to your hotel, as you are traveling by tram, your guide will point out some of the most notable sites of this imperial area of Vienna.

Exeter Services: Guide (6 Hours)

Hotel: Sans Souci

Day 4
Vienna | Vienna Schonbrunn Palace - Vienna, Austria

This morning metro on your own to the famous Schönbrunn Palace, the summer home of the Hapsburgs. All touring today is via metro and on foot. Today you will have tickets for the Imperial Route to see the most gorgeous of the staterooms using the palace’s audio guide.

The design of Schönbrunn is bound largely with the personality of Maria Theresa, one of the Hapsburg’s greatest Empresses. Originally designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer Von Erlach, Maria Theresa gave Nikolaus Pacassi the contract to expand the summer palace. The palace stands today as a combination of Austrian Rococo and Classic Baroque symmetry.

Afterwards, your food insider will meet you at a prearranged spot on the grounds of Schönbrunn.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

Today you will have a tour using public transport (and walking) of her favorite local markets and unique Vienna food producers. These aren’t big productions, but local family-run businesses. This might include a special bread maker, luxurious chocolates, local wines, cheese and more. During the walk, you will not only taste samples of the food, you will learn more about Austrian everyday life and food culture.

Exeter Services: Food Insider (3-4 Hours)

Hotel: Sans Souci

Day 5
Vienna to Dürnstein | Vienna to Dürnstein

This morning, after rush hour, pick up your rental car from the city center and head out to the Wachau Valley, approximately an hour from Vienna.

If you’re interested, it’s possible to stop along the way for a visit to the Benedictine Abbey of Melk. Located above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube, the abbey was originally founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave one of his castles to the Benedictine monks. A school was founded in the 12th Century, and the monastic library soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection. This exceptionally well- preserved Benedictine abbey was the inspiration for Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose, which later was made into a movie of the same name. You will not want to miss the extraordinary library with its 2,000 volumes from the 9th to 15th Centuries alone! The monastery is open daily beginning at 9AM. Guided tours in English are available at 10: 55 AM and should be booked in advance if you’ re interested. Y ou can also visit on your own.

If medieval history is of interest, you might like to drive to the ruins of Castle Aggstein, dating from the 12th century.

Exeter Services: No Services

Hotel: Schloss Dürnstein

Day 6
Dürnstein & the Wachau Valley | Dürnstein & the Wachau Valley Wachau Valley, Austria

This morning, your special wine expert will meet you to explore the UNESCO-protected Wachau Valley.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

Your guide is the grandson of one of the area’s original vintners and he knows every little winery and vintner along the way. Your excursion today will take you literally up into the hills bordering the Danube as you drive through vineyards and small villages. Your guide will explain a bit about how the region was developed, the type of wines that are the specialty of the region and how different terrain makes different wines, even of the same varietal.

Your trip would not be complete without tastings at two local wineries. You’ll have ample time for lunch in the countryside, payable locally, before heading back to your hotel.

Exeter Services: Vehicle & Wine Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Schloss Dürnstein

Day 7
Dürnstein to Gosau | Dürnstein to Gosau

Today you’ll head out of the Wachau Valley with your rental car and begin your journey to the small town of Gosau, located in the Dachstein region of Salzburg.

We recommend planning your day to arrive in Hallstatt, approximately three hours away, for a late lunch. By this time most of the tour busses will have departed and you can enjoy this beautiful little slice of Austria without the tourist crowds.

This area is of stunning natural beauty and Hallstatt is a village nestled upon the shores of a lake. It was actually only accessible by foot and by boat all the way to 1890. Today it looks like a little dream village and is known worldwide. Part of the charm of visiting here is simply walking through the village. It’s car free and most residents decorate their windows with gorgeous flower displays. Don’t miss the funicular ride to the Dachstein Skywalk for fantastic views over the landscape. On a clear day you’ll see all the way to Slovenia and the Czech Republic!

For those who like, it’s also possible to visit the Hallstatt Salt Mine. It dates from the 15th century, making it on the oldest in the world. In fact, it only stopped operation in 1960! Today it allows guests to see the history of mining and learn about the lives of miners. To enter, you can slide down a long wooden chute before having a multimedia experience in the mine, including a train ride, a boat ride and more.

If the weather cooperates, it’s also possible to go out a boat, payable locally, on gorgeous Lake Hallstatt.

Note that parking here is just outside the center and is payable locally via Euro or Visa/MasterCard. The town itself is 100% pedestrian. We will send complete parking instructions.

Exeter Services: No Services

Hotel: Landhaus Koller

Day 8
Dachstein Region | Dachstein Region

Today is at your leisure to explore the region with your rental car. Your hosts can help you with some close local ideas. If you want to be active, numerous hiking opportunities are available within a short drive and your hosts can provide you with local hiking maps.

Otherwise, for more of an enchanting village day, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore some of the local villages of the Salzkammergut.

Bad Ischl worth some time to explore. This imperial town was frequented by the Hapsburgs. Today you can stroll the ancient streets of the village and, if you’re interested, stop into the Imperial Villa for a visit to this Hapsburg family summer residence.

Or, indulge in a lazy day at your country inn. You will find an outdoor pool, a sauna and steam bath.

Exeter Services: None

Hotel: Landhaus Koller

Day 9
Hallstatt to Salzburg | Hallstatt to Salzburg

Today you’ll bid your hosts farewell and continue on your drive to Salzburg. The duration will be approximately two hours.

St. Wolfgang is worth a stop to take a ride on the Wolfgangsee lake. There are departures throughout the day and ticket costs are payable locally. If you’re so included, there is also a nostalgic railroad here that is the steepest cogwheel railway in Austria and it takes you up the Schafberg mountain (featured in the Sound of Music)

St. Gilgen is another tiny town along Wolfgangsee lake. Here you can take a cable car (weather permitting) up the mountain for stunning panoramic views and nice hiking. This is called Zwölferhorn (12erhorn). The same boats from St. Wolfgang also operate here, so if you’re taking the boat you could actually skip this stop.

Finally, if you’re interested, stop by Mondsee to see its colorful market square and stop at the cloister church used as the wedding church in The Sound of Music.

When you arrive in Salzburg, head to your historic boutique hotel right in the heart of the Old Town.

Exeter Services: None

Hotel: Goldener Hirsch

Day 10
Salzburg | Salzburg Salzburg, Austria

This morning your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby for an overview walking tour of historic Salzburg.

The Hohensalzburg fortress, strategically located on a hill overlooking the old town, is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Originally built in the 11th century as a simple bailey with wooden walls, the structure was gradually expanded and strengthened in the following centuries. Because the fortress actually never came under a military siege and was surrendered without a fight to Napoleon’s army, this is one of the best-preserved castles in Europe.

You will also see the Salzburg Cathedral, a 17th-century Baroque building which was the site of Mozart’s baptism. You can also see the Benedictine St. Peter’s abbey, the oldest monastery in Austria. The Romanesque abbey church, still in use today, was dedicated in the 12th century. Its interiors were refurbished in the Rococo style in the 18th century. The abbey also houses the oldest library in Austria including 800 ancient manuscripts and some 100,000 volumes, focusing on medieval church history, art history, and items relating to the local history of Salzburg,

Salzburg’s most famous son is of course Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and you will get a chance to visit his birthplace. His family lived here for 27 years and today you can see items from Mozart’s childhood.

All throughout your sightseeing today, you’ll also be noticing sites from The Sound of Music, including Mirabel Gardens (“Do-Re-Mi”), the abbey and the cemetery where the family hid from the Nazis.

Mirabell Palace Gardens is located on the bank of the Salzach River, which was supposedly built by a local archbishop for his Jewish mistress. The palace gardens house the Baroque Museum, featuring an extensive collection of artifacts from the 17th – 18th Century. This is also the site of Maria and the von Trapp children singing Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music.

Afterwards, meet your driver to do a bit more exploring. One possibility could be the Nonnberg Alley, which is considered to be the oldest nunnery in the world. This is where Maria was a postulate in The Sound of Music.

Then you can visit the Hellbrunn Palace Gardens where the pavilion from “16 Going on 17” is filmed. Afterwards, you can see the Mondsee wedding church and the Villa Trapp.

Hangar 7 is also an interesting stop in Salzburg and it’s located at the Salzburg Airport. You will find a rather unique collection of aircraft here, including a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, as well as a very interesting helicopter fleet.

Note: Most touring today is on foot. Please wear comfortable shoes.

Exeter Services: Vehicle & Driver (3 Hours); Guide (6 Hours)

Hotel: Goldener Hirsch

Day 11
Berchtesgaden | Berchtesgaden

Today your driver and guide will meet you in the hotel lobby this morning for an early start. In the Bavarian Alps, above the Obersalzberg stands the former mountain residence of Hitler. It offers magnificent views across the snowcapped peaks of the surrounding mountains.

Your first destination is the Dokumentation Obersalzberg, which provides information about Hitler’s mountain retreat and WWII. The Obersalzburg area was actually the cradle of the Nazi party and many important decisions among the ruling Nazi elite were made here.

From here you take a specially equipped bus to the Eagle’s Nest along the steep rock walls and deep gorges. There are gorgeous views along the ride. Afterwards, you take the original brass-lined elevator directly to the building of Eagle’s Nest, originally built as a teahouse for Hitler. The building is now a restaurant with panoramic mountain views.

Afterward, as time allows, spend a bit of time in the gorgeous town of Berchtesgaden. Its winding lanes and painted facades make it seem like a fairytale village.

Special note: Access to Eagle’s Nest is strictly bound by weather, as the special busses that run cannot do it once the first snowfall happens. If it happens that the weather is inclement, causing the closure of Eagle’s Nest, your guide will speak with you about alternative destinations.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Goldener Hirsch

Day 12
Zell am See | Zell am See

Today, use your rental car for a self-guided day trip to Zell am See, just over 90 minutes south of Salzburg. Zell am See is located on a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. In the wintertime, it is a hotspot for winter sports. Historically, Zell am See has been populated since the Roman times and later had a monastery established there. Numerous forms of architecture can be found there from Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque.

For your journey today, begin in the town of Kaprun, three-quarters of the way to Zell am See.  At Kaprun, you can take one of the three cable cars to the Kitzsteinhorn summit.  Gipfelwelt 3000, Salzburg’s highest panoramic platform, offers a breathtaking Alpine experience.  At 3,000 meters (9,850 feet), you have incredible views of the surrounding mountains.

Furthermore, in Kaprun, visit the High-Altitude Storage Lakes.  These water dams at an elevation of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) are an architectural marvel.  The artificially created, bright blue lakes look dramatic in this Alpine setting. 

Then continue to the picturesque town of Zell am See.  You can take a stroll on the lake promenade, a beautiful vantage point to look at the mountains you just scaled.  If time allows, you can even take one of the public boat tours of the lake.  In the late afternoon, return to Salzburg.

Exeter Services: None

Hotel: Goldener Hirsch

Day 13
Salzburg to Innsbruck - Seefeld | Salzburg to Innsbruck - Seefeld

CheckoutofyourhoteltodayanddrivetoInnsbruck. Thedrivestraightthroughisapproximatelytwohours. The perfect place to stop enroute is in the town of Wattens, where you can visit Swarowski Crystal World.

The Swarovski Crystal World is designed similar to a theme park and do many types of activities such as walk through the garden, see the roman ruins found on the property, see the 100th Swarovski anniversary wonder, the Giant, and much more.

Afterwards, head to your resort in the mountains outside of Innsbruck, the gorgeous Astoria Resort Seefeld. This gorgeously designed property features half-board (breakfast and dinner daily) along with a number of active events happening daily.

Exeter Services: None

Hotel: Astoria Resort

Day 14
Innsbruck – Seefeld | Innsbruck – Seefeld

This morning drive into the town of Innsbruck, where your guide will meet you and will take you on an overview walking city tour through the Old Town. Innsbruck has a long and eventful history and the charming Old Town is more than 800 years old. It’s a beautiful blend of the gothic and baroque and a nice mix of charm and sophistication.

Here you will see the Gothic Hofkirche, one of Europe’s finest court churches and the Hofburg Palace, built in the 15th century. Don’t miss a photo stop at the famous Golden Roof, gorgeously covered in shining golden tiles and dating from 1500.

Later, take a short drive with your guide for a visit to the Grassmayr Bell Factory. This is the oldest Austrian bell factory and it was established in 1599. This is a family-owned operation and many bells have been made that can be found all over Tyrol in fortress, castles, and churches.

This afternoon is at your leisure and we’ll share all of our favorite outdoor spots for you to explore.

Exeter Services: Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Astoria Resort

Day 15
Departure | Departure

Today self-drive to either Munich airport (two hours away) or Innsbruck airport to drop off your car and meet your departing flight.

Exeter Services: None

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