There are many interesting places where you can potentially stop on the way from Prague to Vienna. The selection includes historical cities, castles, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, natural wonders, or wine regions. Which one to choose depends not only on your tastes, but also on how much time you have, and your means of transport. While many of these places are conveniently accessible by train or bus, having a car will of course expand your options.
The easiest place to stop on the way from Prague to Vienna is Brno, Czech Republic’s second biggest city. If you are taking a bus or train, you will most likely be passing through Brno anyway. Although some proud citizens of Prague joke that Brno is just an “inhabited curve before Vienna”, it is in fact a fairly large city (population almost 400,000), and despite the popular Czech movie Boredom in Brno (2003), there is always something going on.
Brno has large historical centre, with a castle and characteristic cathedral built on a hill (it is featured on the 10 CZK coin). It even has its own astronomical clock, so it may feel like a smaller version of Prague, just without the crowds of tourists. The numerous pubs scattered around the centre are also generelly less overpriced than those in Prague Old Town.
If you like modern architecture, there is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the northern part of Brno city centre – Villa Tugendhat, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Not least, Brno is internationally known as the location of Czech Moto GP (the circuit is just off the D1 motorway, km 182 – the last exit before Brno).
You can also visit the Moravian Karst (Moravský kras), located just north of Brno and easy to reach by public transport. Although the karst begins immediately at the outskirts of Brno, the best part is further north near Blansko, where you can take guided tours through several caves, a cruise on the underground Punkva river, or visit the 139m deep Macocha Abyss (it means stepmother in Czech). The main season runs from April to September, but some of the caves also offer winter tours, and the Macocha is accessible free of charge all year round.
Blansko is directly on the main rail line from Prague to Brno. While the fastest direct trains from Prague to Vienna generally don’t stop here, domestic trains from Prague to Brno do. Travel time from Prague to Blansko is 2:45. From Blansko to Vienna it is just over 2 hours, with a change in Brno.
South Moravia Wine Region
South Moravia has the warmest climate in the Czech Republic and the country’s most important wine region is located just north of Austrian border between Brno and Vienna. Main centres include Mikulov (castle, monastery, the Palava natural protected area), Lednice and Valtice (the Ledice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). All these places offer plenty of wine tasting experiences, and are also popular for walking and cycling.
The best way to access this area is via Břeclav, only 5-15km away. Even the fastest trains generally stop in Břeclav, because it is a busy railway junction and the last station before the border on the way from Brno to either Vienna and Bratislava. Local trains and buses from Břeclav to Lednice, Valtice, and Mikulov are frequent and cheap. If you are driving, Mikulov is actually the border town on the main road from Brno to Vienna.
Although the route via Brno is the fastest and most common, it is also possible to travel from Prague to Vienna via South Bohemia, which is a region to the south of Prague and north of Linz. Top tourist attractions include Český Krumlov, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a also popular day trip from Prague, České Budějovice, which is the capital city of South Bohemia with neat historical centre and characteristic square-shaped main square, or Hluboká Castle, 10km north of České Budějovice.
Prague to South Bohemia
There are numerous transport options, depending on which places you want to visit. The easiest is to take an express train or bus from Prague to České Budějovice (travel time 2 hours to 2:15). Trains depart from Prague main train station, most buses from Na Knížecí bus station (only a few buses from central bus station Florenc).
If you want to skip České Budějovice and visit Český Krumlov only, most of the buses from Na Knížecí go directly there.
There are also frequent regional connections both between České Budějovice and Hluboká (take a bus – the train station in Hluboká is very far from the castle), and between České Budějovice and Český Krumlov (take a bus – the trains are extremely slow, although they pass through some very nice scenery).
South Bohemia to Vienna
From České Budějovice to Vienna you can take a train either via Linz or via České Velenice (the Linz route is longer distance-wise, but has faster trains and therefore both options take about 3.5 hours). If you are visiting Český Krumlov, there are direct buses to Linz, from which you can continue by train or bus to Vienna.
If you are taking this route, you can also find a number of interesting places to stop between Linz and Vienna.
The last option may come at a surprise. On a map, Bratislava doesn’t look like being “between Prague and Vienna”, but it has good connections to both cities. Prague to Bratislava takes four hours by train or bus (same as Prague to Vienna); Bratislava to Vienna about one hour. When driving, the route via Bratislava is only 70km longer than Brno to Vienna directly, and not much slower time-wise, because it is entirely on motorways.
Bratislava is less than half size compared to Prague and Vienna, and its historical centre and number of tourist attractions is also considerably smaller (only the river is bigger), but is still has interesting things to see and do. Because you can easily walk around the entire city centre in just a few hours, Bratislava may be a good stopover candidate. For instance, you can have lunch on top of the “UFO bridge” with amazing views of Bratislava Castle and the entire city. There are also plenty of nice places to stay overnight.