Admittedly, this journey doesn’t quite start from Vienna, but almost. The Via Sacra leads you from Brunn am Gebirge, a town a stone’s throw from the Austrian capital, to Mariazell, a pilgrimage city in Styria. The path leads past countless shrines, chapels, and churches, as well as castles, palaces, and even a cave with an underground lake. You visit the magnificent Heiligenkreuz and Lilienfeld monasteries where you can even spend a night of your pilgrimage. The route finishes at the spectacular Mariazell Basilica. Lying in a picturesque valley and framed by forested mountains, this is a fitting location to end your wonderful adventure.
Located south-west of Vienna, Brunn am Gebirge can still be reached with the S2 or S3 S-Bahn line. The 169 Postbus follows the exact route of the Via Sacra, making it easy to personalise your hike. You can catch the bus from Südtiroler Platz and travel all the way to Mariazell. This means you can shorten the route or walk individual stages as day trips.
The historic route would once have run through the landscape where today the 11, 18, and 20 main roads are found. As hiking here would be less fun, the Via Sacra instead takes you through picturesque hilly countryside, along side roads, forest tracks, and paths. Although there is not much climbing, you do have to cover long distances. If you choose to walk the route in five stages then two of the days are around 30 kilometres (18.6 miles). With an early start and plenty of breaks, the distance won’t be a problem.
In the evening, inns, guesthouses, and the occasional hotel ensure that you are re-energised the next day. It is best to book all overnight stays in advance as the options are often limited in the small villages. If you would like to sleep in the monasteries of Heiligenkreuz and Lilienfeld, you should book as early as possible.
As a special conclusion to your trip, you can take the Mariazellerbahn back to St. Pölten. It chugs along beautiful old bridges and tunnels through the mountains. You can find more information here: mariazellerbahn.at.
Brunn am Gebirge was once the 24th district of Vienna, but is now an independent market town again. And because it is so close to the Austrian capital, it is conveniently connected to the S-Bahn network. So you can come here very relaxed with the S2 or S3 line. At the train station you start your journey on the main road to Maria Enzersdorf. Via a few side streets you will soon find yourself at the foot of the Kalenderberg, where you can visit Liechtenstein Castle, which with its walls, towers and battlements could have sprung from a chivalric novel.But now it is time for you to escape the foothills of the big city. To do this, you first meander through a few residential areas. It is actually quite green up to the Mödlingbach. The sea grotto is located here. In the former mine, you can take a boat on an underground lake. Then you follow the water a bit to the west and then walk along the foot of the Phoenix Mountain. It continues parallel to the stream through a narrow valley to Gaaden, where there are three inns where you can stop for lunch.The landscape is slowly exchanging houses for trees and roads for field and forest paths. After you have crossed Gaaden, you climb a hill and always stay in or near the forest until you arrive in Heiligenkreuz. This place is a worthy first stage destination on the Via Sacra. To get to the center, you tread the Way of the Cross, which is something very special with its baroque chapels. This puts you in the right mood to visit the real highlight of the day: the Heiligenkreuz Abbey.The monastery has only a few places in the monastery guest wing that you have to register for in advance (stift-heiligenkreuz.org/gaeste-willkommen/als-gast-im-kloster). If nothing is available here, there are several inns to choose from in the surrounding villages. The most practical for pilgrims on the Via Sacra is in Mayerling, three kilometers away, directly on the next stage.
On the second stage, the Via Sacra lives up to its name, as it leads past many impressive churches. First, a monastery is on the program, which is housed in a castle. You leave Heiligenkreuz to the west and keep left at Allander Höhe to get to Mayerling, where you can make a detour to the castle of the same name. It is known for a dramatic story: Crown Prince Rudolf, the son of Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth, died here. Today the former hunting lodge is a monastery.Outside the village you cross a river and hike in the valley between hills to Maria Raisenmarkt. From there it's partly steep uphill to Holzschlag. Then you descend on dirt roads into the next depression, where you get to Hafnerberg on small roads and short pieces on the country road. Here you can take a break and visit the imposing pilgrimage church of the place. If you're hungry, there are two inns here that will provide you with goodies.Now it goes over a small hump and then you stay in the valley of the Triesting. Here you come through Altenmarkt and Thenneberg, both of which have a church that is worth seeing. There is an inn in each of the villages. In the picturesque valley you hike on to Untertriesting, where you stay for a short section on the Kaumbergbach, until you cross it and climb a little uphill on the other side. If you want to save yourself these meters of altitude, you can simply continue along the road to Kaumberg. There are inns in the village where you can get a strengthening dinner and a bed for the night.Alternatively, in Hafnerberg, which is about halfway down the road, you can turn onto Vienna's Mariazellerweg and visit the basilica in Klein-Mariazell. That makes the tour with twice as many vertical meters and five kilometers more, however, a bit more demanding.
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The third stage of the Via Sacra has it all. From Kaumberg to Lilienfeld it is more than 30 kilometers and the 1,000 meters of altitude of the day demand a lot of stamina. So it's best to start early in the morning, then you can take your time and take enough breaks. It's good that chapels, churches and a castle along the way keep the motivation going. And of course you want to arrive at the impressive Lilienfeld Abbey in the evening.After the boots are laced, the first highlight of the day is almost in sight: it goes up to the ruins of the Araburg, which sits enthroned on a hill in the southwest of the village. On her tower you can enjoy a wide all-round view. And the beautiful view is retained because you continue hiking on a high path. This is quite comfortable and you hardly lose any altitude until you descend through the forest down into the Gölsental.Down in the valley you come first to Hainfeld, where a detour to the parish church is worthwhile. Then you go over a small hill and stay in the valley for the time being. Parallel to the Gölsen you go straight to the west. You pass Rohrbach and then walk directly along the water to St. Veit. You shouldn't miss the local church, which is also called the Gölsental Cathedral. You can also take a break in town and recharge your energy supply in one of the inns.Now a beautiful section of the path through the mountains is waiting for you. You follow him through forests and over fields, moving away from the main traffic routes and enjoying the hiking to the full. Alternatively, you can also choose the historical and flatter variant through the valleys. To do this, you first stay at the Gölsen and then change to the bank of the Traisen, which takes you south to the stage destination Lilienfeld. And what a goal that is! Lilienfeld Abbey is the oldest medieval monastery in Austria. And the best thing is: You can even stay in the monastery for the night - just like countless pilgrims before you. Of course, there are also other accommodation options in the area.
Today you increase slowly but steadily. With a little up and down you will gain height throughout the day. Your destination is Annaberg, the first of the so-called Holy Mountains on the way to Mariazell. Not only a pilgrimage church awaits you here, but also a wonderful view of the Mariazellerland.The hike begins on fairly flat paths in the valley of the Traisen. You comfortably follow its bank past Schrambach. Then the walls on both sides get steeper and steeper and the valley narrower. Between the river and the train tracks you get to Freiland, where the Unrechttraisen and the Türnitz Traisen flow together. On a well-developed path, which is also often used by cyclists, you follow the latter upstream. It takes you over bridges and through tunnels to Türnitz, where the valley widens again a little. In Lehenrotte as well as in Türnitz you can make a detour to a church worth seeing.Then the valley becomes narrower and more wooded again. It goes gently uphill. Right on the country road you will find the baroque Siebenbrünn chapel, where pilgrims on their way to Mariazell have been taking a break since the 18th century. You too should take a break, because it is not far to the last steep climb of the day. This takes you up to the pilgrimage church on the Annaberg, which rewards you with a great view of the Ötscher.Tomorrow is your last day on the Via Sacra. Today you can already dream of your destination Mariazell. The right rooms for this are offered by several inns on Annaberg.
Enjoy your last stage on the Via Sacra with varied ups and downs through mountainous terrain. The descent from Annaberg begins past the cemetery. Enjoy the view again before you go. The first part of the way leads you over a special way of the cross, the stations of which are decorated with monotypes. For this technique, paint is painted on a sheet of glass and then printed on paper. So the pictures are rather blurred and not clear. This leaves a lot of scope for your own interpretations.The first part of the way is quite entertaining and you will soon have reached the Lassingtal. From here you hike on wooded slopes to the Joachim chapel, which is located on the second holy mountain on the way to Mariazell. You get to Wienerbruck via fields. Behind it the next ascent to the third holy mountain, the Josefsberg, follows.Then you hike first steep and then more leisurely down to Mitterbach, where the border between Lower Austria and Styria runs - a sure sign that it is not far to Mariazell. A short ascent takes you from here to the fourth Holy Mountain, which is adorned by the Sebastianikapelle. From now on, the beautiful Sebastianiweg accompanies you with wayside shrines for the last few kilometers to Mariazell, where you reach your destination with the magnificent basilica.In order to have enough time for your visit, you might want to stay one more night in Mariazell. There is a large selection of accommodations for this. You can easily get to Vienna from here on the 169 buses, which travel exactly the route you hiked. So you can review your trip again. You can find your connection here: fahrplan.oebb.at. Or you can take the Mariazellerbahn to St. Pölten and enjoy the new landscapes that pass your window. You can see the timetable at mariazellerbahn.at/fahrplan-mzb.