Choir songs emanate from a palace chapel. Mozart and Schubert’s pieces ring out through evocative opera houses. Houses reminisce of when Beethoven and Haydn composed their scores. Handcrafted for classical music lovers this ten-day tour explores the country that lives and breathes music. Even today it flows from bandstands, cafes and concert halls, a pre-eminent legacy discovered on this luxury overland journey from Vienna to Salzburg.
Day 1 : Vienna - An Elegant Hotel and Place in the Capital
Imperial and inimitable, Vienna is the kind of city you expect to see in a movie. The central streets effortlessly transport you to a bygone era, mixing Hapsburg elegance with early Jugendstil. Grand avenues are lined with palaces, but most of the interesting stuff is along the side streets, where everyday townhouses illustrate dedication to fine art and design. Touch down in Vienna and transfer to a hotel in the city’s old urban core. After a brief orientation, the day is at your leisure. There’s so much to soak up on the surrounding streets, so many architectural snippets to admire on the quiet lanes of the Hapsburg capital. The guide can point you towards one of Vienna’s classical cafes, where both music and facade comes from the late 19th century.
Day 2 : Vienna - Houses of the Grand Masters and Evening at the Opera
Music was forever shaped along Vienna’s streets. So many of the great masters composed here, influencing each other at a time when royalty revered operatic performance. Theater an der Wien is the iconic place to start the day’s tour, an extravagant setting that has housed the premier performance of so many legendary scores (dependent on your travel dates a tour of this theater could be replaced by an evening performance, rather than the scheduled opera at the State Opera House). Even without a note being played, you can sense the otherworldly atmosphere of Theater an der Wien, imagine how the sound would float through what is a relatively small room. Take a journey through Vienna to see the places where these celebrated compositions were created. Haydn’s Wohnhaus, Mozart’s Figarohaus, Johann Strauss’s Wohning, then Beethoven’s Pasqualati residence, to visit all four is a great way to compare the lives and times of these different figures. Only when explored side-by-side can you pick up on the nuance that ultimately inspired the music. After some downtime back at the hotel, and an early dinner you’re transferred to the State Opera House for an evening performance, where a selection of Austria’s most celebrated pieces are performed.
Day 3 : Vienna - Choir Song, Fine Art Galleries, and Viennese Cafes
Euphonic voices fill the void, the world famous Vienna Boy’s Choir singing at mass in the Imperial Palace Chapel. The voices mingle then separate, then find their harmony once more as the service continues. Such a performance is emblematic of this capital city; no other city has shown such dedication to elegance and the fine arts. From the chapel, you wander the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna’s extravagant fine arts museum, where the collection of Flemish and Spanish paintings suggest a royal obsession with buying art. The Hapsburgs brought classical composers to Vienna and hoarded a priceless collection of foreign art, most of it now on display in this museum. As with each day in Vienna, you’ll also stop to enjoy a pastry in one of the city’s cafes, operatic music mingling with local chatter and the espresso machine.
Day 4 : Eisenstadt to Lake Neusidle - The World of Joseph Haydn and the Vineyards of Burgenland
Haydn made his name in Eisenstadt, his music given space to breathe in the palace where he was court composer. Smaller and more intimate compared to Vienna’s sites, the Esterhazy Palace provides an insight into a time of princely dynasties and musical innovation. Haydn’s famous works were first played here, and you also visit his house and mausoleum, building a detailed picture of how chamber music evolved in the 18th century. Lake Nsusidle is nearby, a quiet place to spend the afternoon, especially with a hotel overlooking the water. You could travel straight there or stop at some of Burgenland’s wine cellars on route, the vineyards providing an excellent overview of Austria’s cultivars; rich reds and ice wines are among those you sample.
Day 5 : Baden to Krems - A Spa Town of Musical Legends
Baden has always attracted royalty. This famous spa town is where Europe’s emperors and rulers went to relax and it has retained a soothing style into the 21st century. Travel here in the morning and there’s plenty of time to rest your legs, bubbling waters rejuvenating the body for the journey to come. You must also visit Baden for its contribution to music. Stand in St. Stephan parish church and admire the grand organ. It was this church that inspired Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, and this organ that Mozart and Beethoven both used to play. Beethoven spent much of his life in Austria and you visit a tiny Baden house where the German wrote many of his masterpieces, Missa Solemnis among them. After lunch in Baden, you travel along the Danube to Melk, where the magnificent baroque abbey is packed with old manuscripts, then onwards to two nights in Austria’s oldest city.
Day 6 : Krems - Before the Music: Discovering Medieval Austria
A break from the music today, although the scores may still be ringing in your ears, especially if you were lucky enough to hear the St. Stephan church organ in action yesterday. There’s another Austrian history to explore now, one of medieval musing along the banks of the Danube. Ruined castles dot the mountains, terraced vineyards fill the foothills, and it’s always serene when you take a cruise along the water. Sample the wines at Spitz, visit two historic villages, and hear the tale of Richard the Lionheart. This is a slow and relaxed day after some relatively active exploring. Take your time and indulge your senses in the Wachau Valley.
Day 7 : Linz - Wagner’s Operas Along the Danube and Anton Bruckner’s City
Long before The Lord of the Rings there was another sequence of stories, the Ring of the Nibelung. It goes down as one of the world’s greatest works of art; Wagner’s 15 hours of operatic drama inspired by the Nibelung land you explore this morning. With the score on the vehicles stereo you can see the inspiration the German composer found. Today’s destination is Linz, the city that Anton Bruckner put on the map. Discover St. Florian Abbey, where Bruckner played day after day as he finalized his compositions. Explore more of his life in Bruckner House, and join the dots with visits to the Alter Dom and St. Martin’s Church. Linz has evolved into Austria’s contemporary art hub and the guide can take you to some of the galleries should you wish.
Day 8 : Salzkammergut to Salzburg - Mozart, Strauss and So Many Other Classical Music Memories
The mountains rise and the valleys extend, the road to Salzburg twisting high through the Alps. There’s a soothing panorama from every corner and it seems almost inevitable that this would be the land of Mozart. His mother was born in Bad Ischl, a spa town on today’s route. While she may only be of passing interest, a visit to the spa theater shows the intimacy of music venue that Johann Strauss liked to enjoy. His waltzes are part of the picture here Brahms, Kalman, and Bruckner also took inspiration in Bad Ischl while Fran Lehar spent most of his musical career in the vicinity. Stop for lunch at Wolfgang Lake on route and continue into Salzburg, where the setting is just as enchanting as The Sound of Music.
Day 9 : Salzburg - A Sound of Music Tour and an Evening Concert
It isn’t quite classical music, but The Sound of Music always provides a lens from which to explore Salzburg, a quaint little city in the mountains. Mountain vistas extend. Palaces and small townhouses suggest dedication to detail. Gardens take you back to the movie and it’s easy to hear those songs ringing through your mind. The Sound of Music is essentially an overview of Salzburg, incorporating the local side to life and various glamorous icons, not to mention the stunning landscapes. Also on the route today, you visit Mozart’s birthplace and get a sense of where the musician spent his formative years, where he developed as the child prodigy; you can easily picture him playing the grand piano on the third floor townhouse. After an early dinner, you spend the evening with his music, a room in Salzburg’s fortress transformed into a modern operatic venue. Mozart’s scores naturally dominate the nightly performance but some of Austria’s other greats usually inhabit the program. It’s a setting to bring the tour full circle, orchestral tones to follow the in-depth exploration of Austria’s finest musicians. No other country has produced such talent or left behind such a legacy.
Day 10 : Salzburg to Munich - Departure
From Salzburg it’s a relatively long and winding journey back to Vienna. It is less than two hours to Munich, another option for your outbound flight. Dependent on the flight time, you may be able to stop at King Ludwig II’s famous castles on route, including the one that inspired Disney for Sleeping Beauty.