Vienna - Off the beaten track
The spa town of Baden bei Wien washes the eastern edge of the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), and has been soothing furrowed brows since Roman times. Beethoven came here in search of a cure for his deafness, and returned many times despite his lack of improved hearing. The town really took off in the 19th century, embraced by Biedermeier types and the Habsburgs. Today it's still the place to promenade between the Kurpark's bandstand, benches and elaborate flowerbeds, to admire affluent 19th-century housing and to learn about the past in the museums devoted to Emperor Franz Josef, Beethoven and Baden itself. The hot springs also remain, enriched with sulphur, chlorine and sulphates, whether your poison is medicinal or frivolous. Baden is just a half-hour train trip away from Vienna's Südbahnhof station.
Some of the best day trips out of Vienna take in the small towns and villages that line the Danube. Such a town is peaceful Krems, which reclines along the river's northern banks, surrounded by the terraced vineyards that for centuries have been its mainstay. There's not a heap to do in Krems other than take a quiet wander by the cobbled streets, empty courtyards, baroque churches and atmospheric city walls. And of course wine-tasting is a very popular activity in this part of the world. You can get to Krems by train (60 minutes), boat (two hours) or bicycle. The boat trip from Krems to the monastery town of Melk is a regional highlight.
Birdwatchers flock to Neusiedler See, hoping to spot some of the 300 bird species that call the wetland area of reed beds home. The town of Rust, on the lake's eastern shore, is inundated with storks from March to August, and countless roofs are topped with the nests of the storybook birds. The town is also famous for its wine, and is dotted with atmospheric wine taverns. Nearby Mörbisch has a Hungarian accent, because of its proximity to the border. The atmosphere is relaxed in this pretty town of corn-dappled, whitewashed houses and flower-strewn balconies. Buses head to the two towns from the regional centre of Eisenstadt (30-minute trip), which is around an hour away from Vienna by train or bus.