Semmering Railway

Semmering Railway
Photo by Els Slots.

The Semmering Railway was the first mountain railway that crossed a high-mountain area.

The 41km long railway was constructed in the mid-19th century and features 14 tunnels (among them the 1,431 m vertex tunnel), 16 viaducts (several two-story) and over 100 curved stone bridges as well as 11 small iron bridges. It opened up new areas to live in and to use for recreation, which can still be seen in its 'summer architecture' in the Alpine resorts.

Community Perspective: trains southward from Vienna still take the Semmering pass route, so you can ‘experience’ the engineering sitting on a train. It’s also worthwhile to make a stop at the resort town of Semmering (as did Els). Clyde recommends hiking the Bahnwanderweg.

Map of Semmering Railway

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Community Reviews

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Czechia - 31-Oct-21 -

Semmering Railway by Matejicek

This was a weird visit of WHS... I traveled by train from Vienna to Ljubljana via Villach and returned a week later by the same way in October 2021. However, I took it as the counted site, because I was aware of it, and I could see several OUV-related buildings and structures through the window on sunny autumn Sundays. I noticed that several railway stations and other smaller buildings are under scaffolding being reconstructed. Though I liked the viaducts, tunnels, and all the marvelous landscape around (PHOTO), I was slightly disappointed. I expected something a bit more spectacular. I am not railway enthusiast, thus I am not planning to return and explore it more in detail. However, son of my friends is, and I would not say NO if he asks my for accompanying him. Nevertheless, I would suggest him to go to Rhaetian Railway WHS first...


Ilya Burlak

USA - 18-Sep-19 -

Semmering Railway by Ilya Burlak

In a burst of fairly unusual spontaneity, I traversed the length of the WH-inscribed portion of Semmering Railway twice in both directions on consecutive days in December of 2016. I was spending a week and a half in Vienna and one day, being somewhat tired of the city, I got myself a ticket on a slow train to Mürzzuschlag and back.

It is hard to appreciate the magnificence of a railway from inside a railcar. You get to see beautiful landscapes outside the window; you only get glimpses of the tunnel entrances and the viaducts where they bookend the curves. That does very little to help you appreciate the ingenuity of human enterprise in building a transportation route across mountain terrain. Having read Clyde's review, I recognize that taking a car along the railway is the only proper way to "see" it.

The railway museum in Mürzzuschlag is open on very limited schedule in the winter, so I did not linger in town. Instead, on the return leg, I got off the train at Semmering proper for a walk around the village. It was beautifully covered in snow and surprisingly nearly deserted, although I eventually worked my way to the resorts area which was marginally livelier. There is not really anything of significant note in Semmering, although I came upon a viewpoint or two that allowed me to take middling pictures of far-away viaducts with high focal length. Semmering station is the main highlight itself, with a WH plaque among the ensemble that includes a fountain and a historic railway car.

Next day, I decided to go to Graz (which was not originally part of the plan), so I jumped on a fast train to go there and back. The fast train actually slows down on the mountain stretches (but does not make local stops except for Semmering). The modern comforts of an intercity train make proper appreciation of this feat of engineering even less likely.

Read more from Ilya Burlak here.


Malta - 08-Aug-17 -

Semmering Railway by Clyde

I visited this WHS in July 2017. I completed all Austrian WHS with this trainspotting visit so as such it will always have a special place in my memory.

The Semmering Railway was built between 1848 and 1854 under the supervision of Carl Ritter von Ghega. It is the world's first high mountain railway and is part of the Sudbahn which stretches from Vienna to Trieste. It reaches from Gloggnitz to Murzzuschlag over a distance of 41.8km, crossing the Semmering (984m).

The numerous gorges, rift valleys, rock faces and mountain ridges had to be made accessible for rail traffic by 15 tunnels, 16 viaducts and 100 bridges. By car (and some pleasant hiking trails), I saw the Haupt tunnel, the Kartner Kagel tunnel, the Weberkagel tunnel, the Polleres tunnel and viaduct, the Krausel tunnel and viaduct, the Semmering railway station, the Breitenstein viaducts and the Kalte rinne (790m) along the Semmering Hochstrasse and Bahnwanderweg.

The highlight of my visit was hiking along the Bahnwanderweg (around 1 hour hike on the Spiestal-Breitenstein trail) and trainspotting at the scenic 20 Schilling panoramic viewpoint of Breitenstein. I parked my car next to the Kunst + Technik Skulpturen Park and there is a small trail which starts right behind the small football pitch there. I was surprised to find out that trains (both passenger and cargo trains) pass through the single rail Breitenstein viaduct from both directions so they are timed to pass at different intervals to allow safe passage through the rather busy railway.

There are information boards in English and German at most viewpoints and at every significant railway infrastructure. I also visited the Semmering Railway Information Point and Museum which is open daily from 9am till 3pm. There is a UNESCO WHS inscription plaque at the railway station just in front of the only fountain.

All in all, this WHS is rather similar to the Rhaetian Railways WHS and quite an interesting WHS. To really appreciate the railway infrastructure though, I would recommend going on some pleasant hiking trails instead of spending a lot of money on a train ticket. You won't be able to see much of the railway infrastructure if you're on the train but rather passing on it or through it perhaps without even knowing!

Jakob Frenzel

Germany - 17-Nov-14 -

Semmering Railway by Jakob Frenzel

March 2010 - We had a Coupon to go by train between any two cities in germany and Austria, at any time, using whatever train, so we decided to visit Vienna. Going back, we decided to make a stopover in Munich.

Instead of going straight via Salzburg, we took the tracks via Semmering. The tracks were covered in snow and the landscape had a very special flair. Unfortunately we were not sitting in a steam engined Train. But the experience was nice. We passed the whs quickly but got the essence of it.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 25-Dec-12 -

Semmering Railway by Els Slots

I had my first run on the Semmering Railway on board the regular train between Vienna and Graz. It’s warm, it has free wifi and it delivers a WHS visit without any effort. Although the railway was a major work of engineering in its day, today it’s not a spectacular ride anymore. The fast train winds easily around the many curves. The mountain pass at 895m even isn’t that high. The only difference between both sides of the mountain during my visit was that snow covered the fields on the south side, whereas the Vienna side had been completely green.

The next morning I took one of the few trains from Graz that actually stop at Semmering. Unfortunately, most of the “attractions” along the railway are closed during winter. Such as the small museums, and also the hiking path that follows the complete route. Walk all the way to Gloggnitz or Mürzzuschlag must be a good excursion in the summer months. As there wasn’t much snow on the ground, I decided to walk a little anyway along this path. It gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at one of the tunnel entrances – nothing too exciting.

However, I had decided to get out at Semmering because of the fine piece of cultural history that is part of the nomination file. Although the core zone of this WHS only covers the railway line and associated constructions, its importance also lies in the cultural landscape shaped by early tourism that was made possible by the railway. Semmering still has many villas and hotels from this period – some in Jugendstil, others in a more vernacular Alpine style.

It’s a fine walk along these via the Hochstrasse and Südbahnstrasse, two long and winding roads in the upper town. Here you encounter two huge old hotels: one (the Südbahn) has already been left to decay, the other (the Panhans) has 400 rooms and houses a hotel training school. According to a news item I found on the internet, it filed for bankruptcy too earlier this year. Many of the villas are hidden behind trees and seem to be still privately inhabited. One of the prettiest buildings in Semmering I found was the small parochial church. It dates from 1894/1895 and was designed in a wonderful turn-of-the-century style.

I had lunch in one of the restaurants near the ski slopes – this still is an active ski resort, and they even hosted a women’s world cup match the day after my visit.

Ian Cade

UK - 31-Jan-12 -

Semmering Railway by Ian Cade

It is not that often that traveling between one World Heritage site and another will mean you visit a third. However if you catch a train between Vienna and Graz, the Semmering railway does exactly that.

I left Vienna in glorious winter sunshine, but about an hour out the clouds started to look a little more ominous. When I entered the WHS section at Glognitz, there were the first few flakes of snow. As the train pulled onwards the snow became thicker, the scenery more remarkable, the bends more regular, the drop at the side of the track even larger and the feats of engineering more impressive.

We stopped briefly at Semmering station where I was able to get off for a jog along the platform to take a picture and have a quick chat with the conductor. He didn't view me with as much amusement as I thought he would, so perhaps there are a fair few people who appreciate that they are travelling over a World Heritage Site and like to take pictures of it, or maybe he was just humouring me. Either way it was nice to be able to get off and see how deep the snow had become, before shuffling back to my cabin to warm up and enjoy watching the snow gradually abating by the time we got down to the end of the WHS at Mürzzuschlag.

The bright clear skies had returned by the time we rolled into Graz, leaving a rather magical memory of my trip along the Semmeringbahn. The snow made it so unlike the rest of the trip that it was almost as if I had dreamt it.

Whilst it may not be the most spectacular mountain railway in the world, it was the first to cross the Alps and the fact that it is still in use today is a massive testament to its outstanding universal value.

[Site 5: Experience 6]

If you want to travel on a similar trip as me it is well worth booking your seat in advance. By doing this I managed to get my trip in first class! for half the price of the standard class fare I would have paid if I had just turned up on the day. The fact I was able to get a free breakfast in the lounge at the station in Vienna and had a whole first class cabin to myself just made the whole trip so much better.

John booth

New Zealand - 25-Sep-11 -

Semmering Railway by john booth

Besides the feats of engineering and of nature that make this railway spectacular, I enjoyed visiting the exhibits arranged at stations along the route. There were the photographic exhibitions at Glognitz and Murzzuschlag. At Payerbach-Reichenau there was an original steam locomotive and other memorabilia. At Semmering there was an indoor exhibition of the construction process and a model, and outdoor exhibits as well as a memorial to Carl Ritter von Ghega.

Klaus Freisinger

Austria - 01-May-05 -

The Semmering Railway is one of the masterpieces of 19th century architecture and engineering, but you have to be very interested in technology and related fields (I'm not) to appreciate these aspects of the railway (the viaducts are impressive though). Instead, do a nice daytrip from Vienna (or Graz) and enjoy the beautiful landscape in the area. Every train from Vienna to points south (Graz, Villach, all cities in Italy, Croatia, Slovenia) takes the Semmering pass route (at least until the construction of the railway tunnel, which is still in its planning stages), but you have to use the local trains with the destination "Mürzzuschlag" to be able to get off at the small town of Semmering at the top of the pass. There are numerous hiking trails (and skiing areas) there, as well as many hotels and pensions, many from the late 19th century, when the area was a favorite countryside retreat for wealthy Viennese.

Site Info

Full Name
Semmering Railway
Unesco ID
2 4
Human activity - Transport and Trade

Site History

1998 Inscribed

1996 Deferred

Bureau - want comparative study by TICCIH and better info re protection


The site has 1 locations

Semmering Railway


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A. Mehmet Haksever A.thum AYB Alberto Peterle Alberto Rodriguez Gutierrez Alessandro Votta Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Alexander Parsons Aljaz Ana Lozano Andrea & Uwe Zimmermann Andreas Thum Andrew Wembridge Anna Olshäll Anna Wludarska Antonio J. Argo Assif Atila Ege Bartroem Bazikoln Bill Maurmann Bin Boj Boroka Szamosi Brigitte Huber Butterflybird CHJLondon Carlos Sotelo Carstenhansen Cezar Grozavu Chen Taotao Christer Sundberg Christian Wagner Claire Bradshaw Cluckily Clyde Colossus Corinne Vail Cristina Erba DMORMAR Dachangjin3 Dagmara Dan Pettigrew Daniel C-Hazard David Berlanda Devenyi Dibro Diggy Dimitar Krastev Dimitrios Polychronopoulos Dkabanov Don Irwin Donald M Parrish Jr Donia Donnico Dwight Zehuan Xiao Echtealoe Elida Elisabeth Fransisca Situmorang Els Slots Enrique Clemente Erik G Errol Neo Eva Kisgyorgy Fabi-ddorf Fabian Teusch Fan Yibo Farinelli Feldhase Femke Roos Filip Murlak Frederik Dawson G.L. Ingraham George Evangelou George Gdanski Gernot Gi Graeme Tung Haining Guan Handballrama Harald T. Hubert Hurrvinek Iain Jackson Ian Cade Ilya Burlak Ivan Rucek Jagnes Jakob Frenzel Jakubmarin James Bowyer Jan-Willem Jana and Matt Jani Hyppanen Janina Lehmann Janis Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jaroslav Klement Jduffhue Jeanaimart Jeanne OGrady Jesse S 2010 Jezza Jkayer JobStopar Joel on the Road John booth Jonas Hagung Jonas Kremer Jonas Martinsson Jose Antonio Collar Josef Mikus Judith Tanner Juropa Kambokanonen KarenBMoore Kbtwhs Kjlauer Klaus Freisinger Knut KoenigMarke Krafal_74 Kurt Lauer Lichia Lidiane Londonium Lorenzo Mejino Ludvan Luis Filipe Gaspar Lukasz N. Luki501 MHasuly MMM Marcel staron Martin Funkhauser Martina Rúčková Marton Kemeny Matejicek Małgosia Łupicka Michael Mett Michael Novins Michal Marciniak Michiel Dekker Mikko Milan Jirasek MoPython Mohboh Monika and Rini Nan Nihal Ege Patphilly Patrik Patrik_globe Paul Schofield Peter Lööv Petteri Philipp Leu Philipp Peterer Piotr Wasil Potsdamer Purrfect Q Randi Thomsen Reiseblitz Remigiusz Reza Robin Frank Roger Ourset Rogerding Roman Bruehwiler Roman Koeln Roman Raab Rudegirl SHIHE HUANG Sabrina Liebehentschel Sazanami Schnitzel Sergio Arjona Shandos Cleaver Sncjob Solivagant Sophie Stanislaw Warwas Stijn Super-Sophie Svein Elias Szucs Tamas Tamara Ratz Tango Tarquinio_Superbo Tcchang0825 Tevity Thanneermalai L Therabidcow Theresa Goh Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt Tino A Offner Tom Livesey Tsunami Uros Bonsek VLabhard Vanessa Buechler Veronica Violeta Voyager WILLIAM RICH Walter Walter H. Wang Qin Werner Huber Wojciech Fedoruk Wolfgang Hlousa WolfgangHl Xiong Wei YaroMir Yevhen Ivanovych Zoë Sheng Zsuzsanna Forray