Europe: The Ultimate Austria & Southern Germany Roadtrip for Vegan Travelers
The Ultimate Austria & Southern Germany Roadtrip for Vegan Travelers
As Europeans, we may have done city trips, summer holidays in a destination, or went on a camping trip. But did you actually ever travel the continent like you do it with South East Asia or South America, or even the US? Covid-19 took us all back to the places we were born in, and it may have given us a chance to go deeper into what lies right in front of us. For that reason, I decided to take on Europe, to really travel all the different countries and not just pass through. The result? Roadtrip itineraries that will make your wanderlust-heart skip a beat, all the way from Germany to Austria, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and who knows how much further!
The routes I provide are guidelines, I also marked spots I didn`t visit myself but wrote down. Especially lookout for some unusual places if you like creepy and history related things! I personally did all of it in my self converted van, called Dior. If you wanna follow our journey or learn more about the van, check out my Instagram. I mention the places I stayed overnight in the locations, but on purpose did not name the exact spot as many are in nature and as wild camping is a bit of a grey zone, I do not want to encourage illegal behaviour. I made an exception for cities though, so you will always find tips for parking with the possibility to stay overnight there!
The first part takes us to southern Germany and Austria, with the possibility to fly in via Munich, out via Graz or Vienna and to pick up a rental car if you do not have one of your own. The complete journey can also be done with staying in an accommodation; I will mention some special ones that are vegan friendly and are well worth a visit. The route is for approx. 2 weeks, but depending on how long you stay at one place you can do it in 7, 10, 14, or even 28 days.
The whole itinerary will cover the following stops:
Zell am See
You can find all highlights, places, activities, restaurants, hotels, and overnight parking on the following map:
Officially, wild camping is prohibited in both Germany and Austria. There are several options though and a law exists that makes overnight parking possible. It has the purpose to regain the ability to drive, but like always it means not showing any camping behavior. This includes no tables and chairs outside, no fire or cooking outside. It’s really just parking and sleeping in your car. I listed all the option you have for wild camping in this post but please be aware that just camping is illegal everywhere.
Roads, Rules and Tolls
While the highways in Germany are free and with no tempo limit, in Austria you need to buy a toll ticket that you stick on your window. They are available for different periods of time and cost between 10 and 30 Euros. You can either buy it online or at any gas station, but keep in mind if you want the E-Ticket, you have to do it a month in advance! Austria is pretty strict regarding road rules, so make sure to follow them to avoid high fines. Like everywhere in central Europe, cars are driven on the right side of the road and the tempo limit is 130 km/h.
Language and Culture
In both Germany and Austria, the national language is German. The accents differ and in some parts of Austria, especially Tyrol and Styr there are people who speak Lavin, which is close to Latin, and Slovenian close to the border.
People are friendly and helpful, but it’s a central European country which means that people can feel kinda cold or reserved at the beginning towards strangers. Nearly everyone understands at least basic English, it may be a bit more difficult in more rural areas but in cities, many restaurants even have an English menu.
Both countries are very safe, for everyone. Of course, always follow the basic rules and don’t walk alone in tiny alleys or go into parts of big cities that are known to be a bit difficult. There are cases of pickpocketing in crowded areas, but not as bad as more south, the same goes for car thefts. They exist and most get exported to eastern European countries, but again, if you follow the rules, you are as safe as you can be.
Bavarias capital is one of my favourite cities on this planet. The issue is, I can’t even really describe why exactly, but it’s one of those places that just give you that very special feeling. There will be a complete Munich guide a bit later on, you will find it linked here. Nonetheless, I want to give you a quick overview about the start-point of this epic road trip that has so much more to offer than beer and the Oktoberfest.
You can fly into Munich and get your rental here if you don’t have your own vehicle. Make sure to plan at least two days to explore the city, there is so much to see, and while doing that you don’t want to rush.
What to do
There are countless of activities to do and places to see which I will explain more in detail in the Munich guide, but let me show you my top 3:
This is one of the most important places you will ever visit, and everyone should at least once stepped a foot into a concentration camp to get a feeling for what it really does to you. KZ Dachau was one of the biggest concentration camps during WWII and you can visit multiple buildings that are still intact or restored. They also got a great museum exhibition you absolutely have to go through - it’s a tough one for sure but absolutely necessary. It’s on all of us to make sure history never ever repeats itself again.
Daily open from 9 am – 5 pm
Twice a year, there is a big festival called Tollwood which offers countless food stalls, live music, concerts, markets and entertainment of all kinds. The winter version takes place at the Theresienwiese, same location as the Oktoberfest, the summer one at the Olympiapark. Both of them stretch over quite a period, so definitely check if they are on during your visit and make sure to pop by! It’s a lot of fun and you get the chance to try out all the bavarian specialties in one place.
Viktualienmarkt & Marienplatz
Two spots you can’t miss even if you just stroll through town. Marienplatz is a big plaza in front of the town hall, with an absolutely gorgeous medieval front and during December, a beautiful Christmas market.
Just a five minute walk, basically around the corner, there is the Viktualienmarkt which is a permanent market that has been around for years and where you can buy all kinds of things, but mainly fresh local products.
Where to eat
If you ever missed a really good Döner or Kebap, it doesn’t really get better than Erbils. They got all the Turkish delicacies in vegan and I dare to say, they not only do the city’s best Döner, probably all of Germany’s. There are two locations, one at Breisacherstr. 13 and the other at the Katzenhaus.
Open daily 10.30 am - 8.30 pm
If you fancy a nice dinner, this hidden gem offers a fully vegan menu in a cute, very decorated restaurant close to the city center. If you plan to go with a bigger group, make sure to call them beforehand for a reservation. It may not be the most crazy cuisine, but what they offer is definitely worth a visit and the owners are incredibly helpful if you got any questions.
Monday & Tuesday 6pm-12am
Thursday-Saturday 12pm-2pm, 6pm-12am.
Do you love tea? Fancy a fresh and healthy lunch? Tushitas Teehaus has everything you`re looking for! A beautifully decorated, modern Teahouse with a never-ending variety of teas, that you can also buy and take home, but also a daily all-vegan lunch bowl will leave everyone satisfied. They are often quite busy, so visiting in the afternoon or a bit earlier will make the experience even better. Definitely, one of my favorite places to just sit, work and spend your day.
Monday- Saturday 12pm - 6.30 pm
If you`re looking for cheap parking that allows motorhomes, vans, and where you can stay overnight, I got a hot tip for you.
Right behind the Subway station Studentenstadt, there is a huge, safe parking where you can park for 1.50Euros for 24h. I stayed there for several nights and would do it again, as it’s the cheapest and most convenient way to visit Munich.
Germany’s most famous castle was actually the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle and lies in the south of Bavaria. The area is very popular among tourists, so there are tons of paid parking spots including some that allow overnight parking in the area. You can either see the castle from down below, walk up and around, go on a hike on one of the surrounding mountains or buy a ticket for a tour. Currently, entry is restricted due to Covid-19, so make sure to check beforehand! There also are combi tickets with other castles in the area if you`re into that. But on a budget even just walking around, hiking up to the bridge and see it from the valley is already absolutely worth it and free if you park smartly!
Where to eat
We all know mountain huts and their usual offer of meat and dairy-heavy plates, Käsespätzle and sausages. To my surprise, just a short drive from Schloss Neuschwanstein, you will find a fully vegetarian mountain hut called the Hündeleskopfhütte, that even offers vegan Käsespätzle and every dish you could wish for in a plant-based version. The area is perfect for hiking and the hut overlooks the area. It can be reached through a path that goes up the hill and through a forest. The owner is an incredibly kind woman who loves to have a chat - make sure to say hi from me if you go! And make sure to try those Spätzle, they are the best vegan ones I ever had. Just saying.
Wednesday & Thursday 11am-9pm
They call it the Bavarian Caribbean and that promise does not disappoint. Eibsee is an alpine lake on the foot of the Zugspitze (Germany’s highest mountain), with crystal clear water and reflections that makes it all look like a fairytale. If you want to visit, try and get one of the parking spots along the road and don’t drive up, as they are for free with no height limit.
What to do
There is a really nice round path around the lake, along some bridges and through the forest. If you want to see it from above, you can either hike up or take the cable car on the Zugspitze and admire the alps all the way to Austria.
The first bigger town after the German border is Innsbruck. Perfectly located for all kinds of adventure sports, it is also a popular university town and many German-speaking students come here to study. With its cute pastel coloured houses and little cafes, it’s a great stopover on the way to the mountains, or even as base if you`re looking into winter sport or even canoeing in the area. Parking can be a bit tricky, so be aware that you may need to stay outside of town if you`re in a camper or van.
What to do
The well-known crystal manufacturer Swarovski hosts a huge exhibition with countless of beautifully decorated rooms and a huge garden that is the perfect background for some stunning photos. If you got the time and money, make sure to pay a visit!
19 Euros per person
Daily from 10am-7pm
A short drive from Innsbruck, you will enter the Zillertal, one of Austria’s absolute highlights. Its a valley filled with picturesque villages and mountains wherever you look, even the drive-through is absolutely worth it! Its exactly how you imagine Austria, grassy greens and cows, wooden houses decorated with beautiful flowers. In winter, it’s perfect for skiing or any kind of snow sport and actually reaches the Italian border.
What to do
There are countless hikes for any level, mountain tops to climb, and lakes to discover. One of them leads to a bridge that gained popularity through Instagram:
Olperer Hütte / Kebema Bridge
You start down at the lake, where you can find several free parking areas. To get there, you have to use a toll road that is pretty steep. I would say every car can do it as I did it with my 40-years-old-50-horsepower-3.2-t-van, but it’s on you to judge. It was slow, but absolutely no problem otherwise. The path to the Kebema Bridge starts on the side of the parking area and is well marked; you will also meet many others taking the same route. It’s not a difficult hike, but also not a walk in the park if you`re not super fit. So make sure to wear good shoes and got enough water with you. Once you reached the hut, it’s five minutes to the bridge that lies directly over a little river facing the lake which leads to an incredible view.
A cute picturesque town, in the middle of the valley with loads of wooden houses and little cafes. Perfect for an afternoon visit and a walk!
Where to eat
Right in the middle of the Zillertal, there is a tiny village called Stumm with a very extraordinary restaurant. Run by Peter Frankhauser, it offers a fully vegetarian kitchen with a perm culture garden (that you can even visit) and an experimental menu that cannot be described with anything else than pure art. Every little detail is thought-through, tells a story and not only in appearance but also in taste, every ingredient is perfectly paired with each other. I can only recommend going, make sure to place a reservation beforehand and enjoy a meal you definitely will never forget - completely locally, ethically and naturally sourced.
Sunday & Monday closed
Tuesday-Saturday 5.30 pm-9pm
Obere März 36
Zell am See / Kaprun
Zell am See is a popular destination for many tourists in the German-speaking area, offering glaciers and a picturesque lake. Just ten minutes away, there is the little village of Kaprun which in winter, is a skiing destination and invites you to explore alpine lakes on beautiful hikes during summer. If you dreamed about Austria - this is exactly how it looks like.
What to do
If you wanted to see a glacier, this is the right place to go. There is a complete experience around this one, with a cable car taking you high up, an information center and there even is a bridge connecting two mountain tops. There is an alpine coaster and countless hiking routes you can take, so make sure to spend enough time here if that’s your tune.
Renting a boat in Zell am See
You can rent a little boat on the lake and discover the area from the water, and there rarely is anything better than floating through a mountain panorama.
Where to eat
In the middle of Kaprun, a young woman runs a little cafe/restaurant that couldn’t be more inclusive. She’s not only a wonderful person (make sure to say hi if you go!), but also has loads of vegan options on the menu - the weekly one is even fully vegan! It’s rare to find places like this in rural touristic areas, where there isn’t just one option but actually a whole variety. The place itself is beautifully decorated and during Covid-19, they even used see-through face masks which makes it easier for people with hearing impairment to read lips. The view over the village is absolutely stunning, and it’s perfect for dinner or lunch. If you are looking for a room, they are also renting them out just a short walk from the town center.
Berchtesgaden lies basically in between Germany and Austria, so why not stop if you’re on the route anyway! It’s a huge tourist magnet, with a gigantic parking, a gorgeous lake, a mountain area and several smaller lakes to explore. Make sure to get there early or on a weekday. Best if the weather isn’t crystal clear, as it can get really crowded.
If you never heard about this place, you are missing out on big times. Salzburg has been my absolute favorite city in all of Austria, with its stunning old town, the architecture, friendly people and an overall very relaxed but clean vibe.
What to do
The best thing is to just stroll through the city and discover cute little shops, outdoor cafes and the beautiful buildings scattered all over town. If you are on your way anyway, there is something stunning a bit outside of town:
A short drive away you find a unique experience, an ice cave in the middle of the mountains with a labyrinth-like experience. Definitely a must-see!
Entry 29 Euros
Open daily from 8.30am - 3.30pm
Where to stay / eat
One of the most breathtaking hostels/hotels/restaurants I have ever visited is the Keep Residence in Salzburg. They are placed in an old, traditional building that has been restored to keep everything as original as possible, only using natural and second-hand materials to decorate the rooms; they did a hell of a good job! You won’t find dorms like this very often: they even have a shower built-in and if you prefer your own room, of course, there is also something for you. Until 3pm they offer a huge buffet, all vegan and organic, again trying to be as sustainable, environmentally friendly and zero waste as possible. It’s open for the public, and if you visit Salzburg this is an absolute must, you won’t be disappointed no matter if you come for breakfast or lunch. Even the restaurant itself is incredibly pretty, with loads of mirrors, a very earthy vibe and young stuff that definitely knows what they are talking about. The whole brunch is on a pay-what-you-like base, so no matter your budget, you are very welcome here. The leftover meals get offered on To Good To Go, so nothing goes to waste. By far one of the most thought-through concepts I have ever come across and I cannot wait to go back.
Hallstatt got a huge hype; it is usually very popular among Asian tourists and adored so much that they built their own version! The village itself is built close to the mountain, which is what makes it so famous and has everything a fairy tale town can wish for: A lakeside, a very cute architecture and loads of tiny local shops, surrounded by mountains.
What to do
Exploring town is definitely number one, but there are a few other cool things to do.
If you’re into creepy places, you have to check out this Charnel House! It’s open for the public and easy to find on the main footpath into town. There are over 1200 skulls buried here, in a beautiful location and artfully arranged. This was done in the 17th century as they needed to make space for the recently deceased. They were properly cleaned and sun-bleached, until the families were able to arrange them next to their own kin. The skulls are painted to remember the death, some also got name and date of death written on them. The tradition stopped in the 1960s, except one woman who died in 1983 and her last wish was to be buried here.
Open daily from 10am to 6pm
Chapel of St. Michael
Be aware that in normal times it’s very overrun, there is a parking system but if you want to save money and camp overnight, there are several spots close to the lake with parking available where you can park your van and take a 40 min walk into town. It's not a spectacular path, but it will get you in for free and you can stay as long as you want. There also is a bus service from that parking, so check before you set off!
An often-overlooked city in between Salzburg and Vienna, but worth a visit or at least a stopover! Like most Austrian towns, Linz has this very beautiful typical architecture that will make you wanna stroll for hours.
What to do
Another charnel house, but also very extraordinary. There are over 6000 skulls buried and arranged here, belonging to early Christians who wished to be buried here. These days it’s dedicated to the Austrian composer Anton Bruckner who was sent to the monastery as a child and who is also buried here.
Where to eat
Did you ever enter a restaurant and just felt like this is a place for absolutely everyone? Front Food is one of those. They are fully vegan with a huge menu of different burgers, even a Kebab and cupcakes to choose from. It all tastes absolutely delicious, the desserts are very rich and the kebab is to die for, make sure to come with an empty stomach. Its definitely not the place if you fancy something healthy and light, but we all need some fast food from time to time so what’s better than the vegan version of it? They are also very inclusive, are hosting several get-togethers every month and are active in the LGBTQ scene.
Closed on Sundays
Monday to Saturday 11.30 am to 7 pm
Where should I start? Vienna, Austria's capital, filled with history and all kinds of people. Where modern hipsters meet the old Austrian heritage in a way like nowhere else, a place you could spend weeks in and never get bored of. I don’t want to show you the places everyone already knows about, but some things a bit off the beaten track and of course - tons of vegan gems!
Where to eat
Where should I even start! Swing Kitchen is like the vegan, sustainable version of McD with several branches in Vienna, Graz, Berne and Berlin. They got the most amazing vegan burgers, sweet potato fries (definitely upgrade and take those over the normal ones!) and my favorite - the nuggets. The cups are made out of corn, are recyclable and they are starting to introduce refilling stations where you can get at as many drinks as you like in a mug. All restaurants have the same, modern but kinda 70s design and most of them even have an outside seating area where you can enjoy your meal on a sunny day. One of my all-time favorites and I have to visit whenever I’m close by, so don’t miss out and as they are scattered all over town, you will definitely stumble upon one at some point.
All locations are open daily from 11am to 10 pm
Did you ever wish you could eat a vegan burger from space? This is exactly how the food at Space Burger looks like: every dish has a crazy color and tastes absolutely delicious! They got burgers, hotdogs, donuts and not to forget shakes from heaven. The restaurant itself is held in the same concept, with neon lights and a clean structure. It’s a whole different approach from all the green, natural vegan places and exactly the right thing if you want to stimulate that inner child. Or if you miss festivals. Or actually: always.
Daily 11.30am to 9pm
Hoher Markt 8
So many breakfast bowls already come with loads of sweetener in it, only come in standard options or taste like nothing. At Kenny's, you can find all of your favorite breakfast options, but also vegan frozen yogurt! They got three locations in Vienna, and no matter if you pop by for breakfast, lunch or dessert - you won’t be disappointed.
Daily 9am to 9pm
Other places that are worth checking out:
Closed on Sundays
Monday - Friday 12pm to 9 pm
Closed on Monday
Tuesday to Friday 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30pm to10pm
Saturday / Sunday 12pm to 10pm
Closed on Sundays
Monday to Friday 8.30am to 7pm
Saturday 8.30am to 6pm
Where to stay
A five-minute walk from the Westbahnhof lies this beautiful gem of a hotel. It is based on an incredible thought-through sustainable concept and shows in a hard-to-beat way what it means to combine environmental consciousness and style. The rooms are decorated with the most amazing furniture I have ever seen: a cable car and skis just to begin with. The outdoor seating area is very green, with many options to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee. Every vegan knows the struggle of breakfast buffets and trying to find out what’s actually plant-based - here all items are clearly labeled and there is a vegan version of basically everything. On top of that, it's all organically sourced and in bio quality! If you’re looking for a place to stay in Vienna, this is it.
Prices start at 128 Euros per night
What to do
In a city like Vienna, there is always something to do and loads of stuff to explore by just strolling through the streets. I listed you my favourites down below:
This very impressive church is easy to find, as it’s basically in the center of the touristic area. You can either go in, get a tour through the cathedral, and the catacombs or look at it from outside, which is just as beautiful.
Monday - Saturday 6am to 10pm
Sunday 7am to 10pm
Do you like country fairs? The prater is exactly that, just in huge and happening 365 days a year! It is usually pretty crowded and can be expensive, but it’s worth a visit especially during the evening to see it and feel the craziness of this pretty unique place.
Open daily from 11am to 12am
Vienna’s most famous castle is well worth a visit. Of course, there is a hefty entry fee, but it’s already an experience to look at if you haven’t been. Its huge gardens and the famous Sissy stories attract thousands of tourists every year and count as an absolute must for every Vienna visitor.
Daily 9.30am to 5pm
Schönbrunner Schlosstrasse 47
Vienna’s opera is one impressive building and if you get the chance to see it in action, I highly recommend. You can get tours or go and see an opera.
Another impressive castle with a gorgeous garden that is worth a visit, if you love castles and history! It was built between 1714 and 1723, so it is a rather new one.
Prinz Eugen Strasse 27
The famous Austrian psychologist lived and worked in Vienna. You can visit his flat and workspace at the Sigmund Freud Museum in the center of town. It has been under construction for a few months and has just reopened a few weeks ago!
Daily 10am to 6pm
Wednesday 10am to 9pm
I would highly recommend visiting the city during the weekend as all the parking spots in central Vienna are free then! Make sure to read the signs in the area your in, but you can usually find one for two free days in the middle of town. If you’re coming on a weekday, there are a few options a bit out of town but well connected with the subway/bus.
This little city offers beautiful, elegant architecture, a hill to climb, a rollercoaster ride inside of a mountain ( yep, seriously ) and the cutest little bars at the riverside. Its a rather young city, with the first buildings popping up in the 12th century and had its glory days in the 18th century.
Where to eat
Swing Kitchen also has a branch in Graz, directly in the center and it’s where they are currently testing the new refill system. As I mentioned before, you definitely have to try their nuggets and changing special wraps/burgers. So much better than the classic fast-food places!
Daily 11am to 10pm
I hope now you feel equipped for your Austria roadtrip, and if you got any question, please leave a comment!
Wanna go further? Next stop, Slovenia!