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19 Best Places to Visit in Austria & Things to Do

19 Best Places to Visit in Austria & Things to Do

Austria has stunning landscapes, medieval towns, and world-class ski resorts. There are many places to visit in Austria that can provide an equal measure of outdoor adventure and timeless culture for your next vacation. Plus, Vienna regularly ranks at the top of the list of cities to visit in Europe.

Some of the most popular spots in this beautiful country include the Alps, Salzburg, Vienna, and Innsbruck. But we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg here! Many more stunning cities and charming villages are ready to welcome you in with open arms.

This small country is an excellent choice for the whole family and can easily cater to different travel tastes. You’ll find it to your liking whether you want to visit the city or the countryside!

History enthusiasts will be happy exploring the many sites dotted throughout Austria. Similarly, outdoor enthusiasts will rejoice with activities like mountain biking and world-class hiking trails on the cards. Anyone can make the most of the numerous cultural attractions to add to the to-do list.

Best Places to Visit in Austria

1. Vienna

Vienna, Austria from above
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Austria’s stunning capital city, Vienna, oozes grandeur and elegance at every opportunity. Sitting on the banks of the Danube River, Vienna features beautiful Baroque architecture, splendid palaces, and ornate churches. It’s up there with the most beautiful cities in the world and a top destination in Europe.

The city’s world-famous landmarks include Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg Imperial Palace, Belvedere Palace, the Vienna State Opera House, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Vienna is also home to many museums, including the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Along with its historical significance to global culture and history, Vienna is a modern city with a dynamic cultural scene. Being the country’s largest city, you’ll quickly find plenty of spots to eat, drink, party, and shop till you drop.

And if you’re looking for some winter excitement, some of the best ski resorts in Austria are nearby. Just a short trip from the city are Schneeberg and Semmering, which are ready to provide amazing winter escapes.

See Related: Best Cities in Europe to Visit

2. Wachau Valley

Rolling Greens in Wachau Valley

The Wachau Valley is a wine-growing region located in the federal state of Lower Austria. The valley frames the Danube, between the towns of Melk and Krems, and is well known for producing some of Austria’s finest red wines. It’s only about an hour from Vienna, but it feels worlds away from the city.

The landscape is characterized by rolling hills and picturesque vineyards, which produce some of the world’s most sought-after tipples. Visitors to the Wachau Valley can enjoy many different activities, such as hiking, biking, and, to no surprise, wine tasting. There are also historical sites to visit, including Melk Abbey and Dürnstein Castle.

The Wachau Valley has been inhabited since prehistoric times and was among the first areas in the country to be cultivated by the Romans. During the Middle Ages, it became home to monasteries, and agriculture dominated the economy.

The introduction of grapevines transformed the region, with many castles built to protect and profit from this new booming industry. The Wachau Valley is now an incredibly popular place to visit, with around half a million visitors annually from all over the world.

3. Graz

Graz Cityscape

Graz is a picturesque town located in the foothills of the Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s Austria’s second-largest city and is famous for its preserved historic architecture and a major cultural center boasting several museums and theaters.

Graz is worth visiting if you want a relaxing vacation in a charming European historic town. Some easygoing activities close by include admiring over 10,000 works of art at the Graz Art Museum or visiting the Schloss Eggenberg, a 16th-century Baroque palace complex and museum. Otherwise, take a leisurely walk through the old town packed with stunning medieval buildings and alleyways.

But as relaxing a spot as Graz might be, it’s known for being a lively city. There are still more energetic activities to keep you busy, like hiking along breathtaking cliffside walkways.

You could also go cycling through surrounding rolling hills and towering mountains. Book yourself into Motel One Graz in the historic city center, and once you’ve finished the highly-rated buffet breakfast, enjoy the accessibility this hotel provides for exploring the best there is of Graz!

Otherwise, Graz is a convenient and picturesque 2.5-hour train ride from Vienna, making it a perfect day trip away to cross off an awe-inspiring UNESCO site!

4. Salzburg

Skyline and Salzburg Cityscape

Salzburg is a charming medieval old city in the Austrian Alps. It’s most commonly known as the birthplace of Mozart and is one of our favorite destinations to visit in Europe. Some top places in Salzburg include the Hohensalzburg Castle, the Mirabell Gardens, and the Salzburg Cathedral.

The stunning Baroque architecture here is some of the most beautiful in Europe, with cobblestone streets that give the town an ancient feel. With Hoehenslazburg Castle taking center stage, the skyline, with its dramatic mountainous backdrop and domes and spires, is something you must see for yourself!

The city is family-friendly, with attractions like the Toy Museum and uniquely charming Sound of Music-themed tours! Book into the family rooms at Boutiquehotel Amadeus and find yourself a short walk from many of the top attractions of the Old Town. There’s also a lively cultural scene in Salzburg, with plenty of museums, theaters, and music venues to explore. Salzburg is also home to one of Europe’s oldest universities.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Salzburg with Kids

5. Bad Gastein

House with a Mountain Backdrop

Bad Gastein is a popular and picturesque spa town often considered to have come straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. The town is located in the Tauer mountains and is known for its fresh mountain air, thermal hot springs, and the roar of the Gasteiner waterfall.

While in Bad Gastein, be sure to soak in the local hot water springs, which provide abundant minerals for the most luxurious pampering. Bad Gastein also has easy access to all outdoor activities, such as hiking and biking in the summer months and skiing in winter.

Bad Gastein has some top-tier trail running opportunities for those who want something more challenging for their holiday. Local routes, like the 4.5-mile long Graukogel Loop or the grueling 12-mile Sportgastein to Stubnerkogel route, are waiting to test your mettle!

When visiting the city of Salzburg, you would be a winner if you looked towards Bad Gastein for a day trip. These two top spots are only about 1.5 hours away from each other on the train, making for a great opportunity to see more sides of Austria during your vacation.

6. Innsbruck

Colorful Houses Innsbruck, Austria
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Innsbruck is a charming city with a population of around 130,000. It sits in the heart of the country, surrounded by the Alps and the River Inn. 

The beautiful city center has magnificent architecture, including the Golden Roof, a roofed balcony with golden-colored tiles added to the city hall in the 15th Century as a royal viewing box. There is a lot of history to see here.

The Nordkette mountain range is a popular tourist destination in Europe. It’s located just outside Innsbruck and offers stunning views of the surrounding country. Look to the famous Nordkette Ski Resort as the closest ski resort, offering spectacular views, great off-piste skiing, top-tier après ski, and easy accessibility from Innsbruck.

Whatever time of year you visit, Innsbruck will charm you with its picturesque scenery and friendly atmosphere. This gorgeous country town is sure to capture your heart.

See Related: Best Hotels in Innsbruck, Austria: Places to Stay

7. Hallstatt

Village by the Sea and the Mountains

Hallstatt in Western Austria is one of the most charming towns in Europe. It’s a quaint alpine village perched on a picturesque lake beneath snow-capped mountains. It’s among the prettiest places I’ve seen, and being only a quick hour’s drive from popular spots like Salzburg, it seems almost criminal not to make time for this picture-perfect little town!

The village is actually much older than it appears and is hiding a ton of history. People have lived here and made a living from the salt mines below the town since prehistoric times. These days, the mines are a significant tourist attraction and have UNESCO World Heritage status.

But there’s plenty more to do in this fairy-tale-like village. The local cable car can take you over 1,000 feet high to admire the mountains, lake, and picturesque town from a brilliant vantage point! Or, treat yourself to bountiful culinary delights at lakeside cafes.

See Related: Most Beautiful Fairy Tale Towns Around the World

8. Semmering Railway

A Railway During The Winter Season

Around 20,000 workers built the Semmering Railway by hand between 1848 and 1854! The railway stretches across 41km, connecting city and countryside, and is one of Europe’s most incredible feats of civil engineering. In fact, it was the first mountain railway in the world, which is quite a claim to fame!

This UNESCO World Heritage Site still features many original 19th-century locomotives and carriages running the rails to this day. The Semmering Railway is a train-lovers dream with 14 tunnels, 16 viaducts, 11 iron bridges, and over 100 stone bridges.

Moreover, train-loving tourists will be delighted to hear that the line is still used for freight and passengers. Hop on board for a relaxing way to see the beautiful countryside of southern Austria.

As a bonus, it’s also one of Europe’s most popular mountain railways. You’ll certainly catch some spectacular views from it, so have your best camera on standby.

See Related: Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Austria

9. Gesäuse National Park

Lake and the Forest in Gesäuse National Park
bine.goeschl / Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

The Gesäuse National Park is a stunning natural area that spreads across 12,000 hectares of land. The park is home to wild rivers, looming mountain rock faces, and dense forests. It is an excellent place for excursions and a favorite for rafting at the Enns River or hiking at Bruckgraben Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in Austria.

The park is three hours from Vienna and over two from Salzburg, so you will be far from the busy city streets. If you love peace and quiet, add this to your list. The Hocktor mountain is the highest and most visited mountain in the park. Photographers will especially enjoy capturing the remarkable beauty that treats hikers who reach the top.

Moreover, nature lovers will also have a field day visiting the park, home to a uniquely beautiful ecosystem. Those who care for the park keep a respectful distance and let nature do what nature does without destructive intervention. Many endemic species of insects and arachnids crawl freely in the park alongside chamois goats, otters, deer, golden eagles, and various birdlife.

See Related: Best Hiking Shorts for Men and Women

10. Grossglockner Mountain Range

Mountains Range and teh Clouds in Grossglockner

The Grossglockner is Austria’s tallest mountain and a significantly popular tourist destination in the country. If you’re looking for the most beautiful and scenic hot spots, the Grossglockner is definitely up there with the best of them.

It’s part of a 36-mile-long mountain range, a stunning sight to behold, with snow-capped peaks and crystal-clear lakes. The Grossglockner Hochalpenstraße is an excellent choice for a scenic drive.

This winding road offers panoramic views of the mountains and the valley below. Stop at one of the many observation points for some fantastic photos.

There are plenty of other things to do at the Grossglockner. If you’re a nature lover, there are lots of hiking and biking trails to explore.

For the road trip of a lifetime, no place beats Austria’s Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Rent a car and cruise around these heavenly ribbons of road.

See Related: Essentials & Must Haves For Road Trips That Are Worth It

11. Klagenfurt and the Carinthia Region

Ocean and the Mountains in Klagenfurt

The Carinthia region is in the western part of Austria on the shores of Lake Wörthersee. It is home to beautiful lakes, mountain ranges, a beautiful city, and a few medieval towns.

The Carinthia region is best known for its mountainous landscape and stunning lakes. This makes it an excellent place for hikers and bikers, as the area overflows with memorable scenic trails. For the winter months, this region makes the perfect ski region for winter sports enthusiasts.

Klagenfurt is a historic town and the capital city of the Carinthia Province, located on the shores of Lake Wörthersee. It’s home to fascinating museums and historical landmarks.

There are plenty of options for a place to stay in Klagenfurt. Hotel Lindwurm is an excellent pick for families with activities like an indoor play area, cycling, and hiking. For those looking for a great winter escape, the nearest ski lift to Hotel Schlosshof is only 1,500 feet away!

12. Saalbach-Hinterglemm

Snow Covered Cabin in Saalbach-Hinterglemm

Saalbach-Hinterglemm is an undeniably beautiful resort town in Zell am See’s district. A lively hub throughout the year, this stunning spot spoils visitors with its natural beauty and charm.

In the summertime, hikers will love tackling up to 400 km of hiking trails close by. Bikers will also love whizzing through 400 km of well-sign-posted biking routes. Switch it up to winter, and snow-sports enthusiasts, both new and veteran, can enjoy tackling 270 km of top-tier ski slopes.

The town’s primary focus is directed towards tourism. Book yourself into Familienresort Ellmauhof – das echte, All Inclusive, and enjoy the town’s spectacular panoramic mountain views. For an extra selling point, Familienresort Ellmauhof also offers ski-to-door access for the ultimate skiing getaway.

Time your visit during the beginning of December to attend the ever-so-popular BERGFESTival. It’s a weekend event to celebrate the beginning of winter and the start of the ski season, filled with live music and plenty of skiing! 

13. Gosaukamm Mountain Range

Clear Lake and Boats in Lake Attersee, Salzkammergut

The Salzkammergut is a popular tourist destination on the eastern border. The region has stunning landscapes, medieval towns, and terrific ski resorts. What’s more, it’s very accessible from major tourist spots like Salzburg, just over an hour’s drive away.

Gosaukamm is the namesake mountain of the breathtaking range in the Austrian Alps. At 2,458 meters (8,064 ft) high, it is the highest peak in the range.

The mountain is a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and skiers. The summit can be reached by a number of routes, including an easy, if lengthy, hike from the village of Gosau. The mountain is also home to several Alpine accommodations offering a great base for tackling the slopes, like Gasthof Gosauschmied, only 1,640 feet from the nearest ski elevator.

The region is home to stunning lakes like the Traunsee, Grundlsee, and Wolfgangsee. And it’s a great winter sports destination, with places like Bad Aussee and Zwettl offering world-class skiing resorts.

14. Vorarlberg Mountains

Town with Lights Covered in Snow

The Vorarlberg Mountains offer an incredible view for any hiker. The region between Lake Constance and the mountains is ideal for long hikes. Värlberg offers tons of natural beauty, with Montafon’s Verwall being one of our favorites.

The Vorarlberg Mountains feature over 1,000 peaks! Nestled among these peaks are many brilliant ski resorts like St. Anton, often voted among the best in the area. You are also spoilt for choice with quaint mountain villages to explore. For example, make time for family-friendly Vandans or Bartholomäberg, with a local culture spanning over 4,000 years.

But you could also look to stay at the major cities in the region, either Bregenz in the north or Bludenz, for incredible hiking and biking trails. The Silvretta Group, also in Vorarlberg, offers an equally stunning landscape and is a popular destination for hikers and skiers. The highest peak in the Silvretta Group is Piz Buin at 3,312 meters.

See Related: Best Ski Destinations in the World

15. Krems

Hikers Walking Along a Trail

Visitors come to Krems at the eastern edge of the Wachau Valley mainly because of its postcard-friendly setting along the River Danube. But this spot also boasts renowned wines and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich in history and gorgeous country charm.

Many hiking trails and bike paths wind through the vineyards, forests, and meadows. The region of the country is popular for winter sports like skiing, swimming, fishing, and kayaking, and people come from around the world to explore. One unique combo experience would be taking a scenic kayak tour complete with multiple winery visits!

Or go for a more cultural experience and explore Krem’s history, like scoping out the Steiner Tor. It’s a fascinating remnant of the medieval walls that once encircled the entire city.

Or try out some locally grown apricots, a source of pride and joy for Krems. Their apricots are under EU protection because they’re just that good! Moreover, if visiting the country’s capital, make room in your itinerary for Krems, as it’s just over an hour away by train and makes for a great day trip from Vienna.

16. Hohe Tauern National Park

Mountain Range in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

The Hohe Tauern National Park is beautiful and diverse. As well as some undeniably stunning scenery, the park is home to a number of different animal and plant species. These include but are not limited to, the golden eagle and the chamois.

The park offers a range of spectacular landscapes, including the Krimml Falls and Pasterze Glacier. This iconic National Park is a great place for hikers and nature lovers to explore and enjoy the beauty of the Austrian Alps.

There are a number of great spots to stay near the Hohe Tauern National Park. One of the most popular is the Hotel Schloss Mittersil. This pet-friendly hotel features free parking, a wellness spa, a pool, and a bar.

17. Krimml Waterfalls

Flower field and the Krimml Waterfalls

The Krimml Waterfalls are in the Hohe Tauern National Park, one of my favorite places to visit in Austria. They are some of the tallest waterfalls in Europe at a whopping 380 meters in height across three cascades. 

A mere one second’s worth of water mass that falls from the falls would be enough to sustain 135,000 people in a day! That’s a lot of water falling at 450,000m³ per day. 

A man-made trail that stretches 4 kilometers provides varying observation points. These spots provide visitors with a beautiful and peaceful setting in which to enjoy nature. You can reach the lowest waterfall in as little as 10-15 minutes on foot from the parking lot.

Protected since 1984 as part of the High Tauern National Park, the Krimml Waterfalls have a timeless beauty. They actually make a brilliant day trip from city life in Salzburg. Take a train from Innsbruck to Zell am See and then transfer to the train to Krimml.

The trip takes about 2.5 hours. Just be aware that this is a top tourist spot, welcoming 400,000 visitors each year, so be prepared to share this beautiful view!

18. Lake Constance

Sceneries and the Lake Constance

Bodensee, also known as Lake Constance, is a large lake bordering Switzerland, Austria, and Germany in Central Europe. The serene lake is about 63 kilometers long and about 14 kilometers wide. It has a total surface area of 536 square kilometers and a maximum depth of 253 meters.

Most popular during the summer months, Lake Constance is a popular boating, swimming, windsurfing, and fishing destination. However, if you prefer to stay on land, biking is a popular sport to enjoy the area’s natural beauty, like numerous hiking and biking trails.

Moreover, several beautiful lakeside towns and villages in the area are worth visiting. Such towns include the more popular towns of Konstanz, Lindau, and Friedrichshafen.

See Related: Best Bike Rides in the World

19. Bad Ischl

Trees with Orange Leaves by the River in Bad Ischl

To round up our list of some of the best places to visit in Austria, we can’t forget about Bad Ischl in the Upper Austria region. Bad Ischl enjoys a world-famous reputation as a top-notch spa town. But it’s also got many beautiful lakes to enjoy, and it’s the gateway to the Hallstatt and Wolfgangsee areas.

Emperor Franz Joseph once made Bad Ischl his home. He spent many happy summers and birthdays visiting the area between the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Even today, it’s still a great vacation spot for all ages, providing both beauty and excitement.

Enjoy some of the best trail running around for an active summer getaway, followed by a refreshing dip in the lake. Or, when the snow sets, give cross-country skiing a go! You could also use the area’s reputation as a prime rejuvenation spot! Visit local health resorts like the Kurpark and Kurhaus for some pampering.

FAQs

What is the most visited place in Austria?

Schönbrunn Palace is the top destination. It’s an enormous palace complex that was once the imperial summer residence of the Habsburg monarchy. The palace has beautiful gardens, a zoo, and dozens of exploring rooms.

What are the 3 major cities in Austria?

Austria has three major metropolitan areas: Vienna, Graz, and Salzburg. Each of these cities has a rich history and plenty to offer visitors.

What is the prettiest place in Austria?

There are so many beautiful places worth visiting it’s challenging to whittle down the best options. Salzburg’s world-famous fortress town of Festung Hohensalzburg deserves to be on your radar! There’s also the incredible cityscape of Linz and the quaint Old Town of Hallstatt.

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