15 Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Austria

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Mirabell Palace Gardens with Hohensalzburg Fortress in Background

Want to learn more about the history of Austria and its culture? These famous historical landmarks in Austria will make you want to pack your bags and visit this iconic country immediately!

Austria is a country rich in history. From landmarks that tell of ancient times to landmarks that speak of art and culture, landmarks in Austria abound!

Many landmarks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites and listed in Austria’s Denkmalliste. While others are lesser-known to non-Austrians, they remain at the forefront of Austrian pride and heritage.

Throughout the ages, landmarks in Austria have been a source of joy and celebration but have also been reasons for strife. Here are some of Austria’s famous landmarks that still stand firm after decades, even centuries.

Most Famous Landmarks in Austria

Column of Pest (Column of the Trinity)

Column of Pest in Vienna, Austria

The Column of Pest (Column of the Trinity) is a memorial column in Vienna, Austria. It was erected in 1673 as a monument to the plague that devastated the city from 1670 to 1671.

It stands at a critical junction on the Graben and is still a much-loved symbol of Vienna and Austria’s neighbor (and former partner) Hungary.

The history of this iconic landmark dates back to 1393, when the last Turkish siege following the second Siege of Vienna led to an enormous number of deaths. The city then suffered its worst-ever plague in 1670-1671, with over 38,000 people dying in December 1670 alone. It became known as the “Great Plague” and remains one of the darkest periods in Viennese history.

A 17th-century document records that many men, women, and children gathered in the Graben before the city gates, singing hymns and begging for God’s mercy. Their hopes were raised when they saw a funeral procession entering the gate. It is said that as the hearse passed, some of them even tried to touch the coffin, believing they would be saved if the corpse touched them.

However, in a moment of divine inspiration, one man realized that the funeral procession was coming from an infected house and warned his comrades to stay back.

Sadly, most did not heed his warning and caught the deadly disease themselves. A memorial column was erected on this spot in 1673.

It was meant to commemorate the plague’s victims and remind people of their duty to God. The architect placed a circular opening at the base to resemble an altar and remind people of their prayers for divine forgiveness.

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Schwarzenberg-Denkmal

Field Marshal Karl Philipp Borromäus zu Schwarzenberg was an Austrian army officer in the early 19th Century. Schwarzenberg-Denkmal in Vösendorf, Austria, memorializes the man who played a significant role in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig.

The monument is on an island off the shoreline near Vösendorf, part of Vienna’s 23rd district. It was erected as a token of gratitude for his hard-won victory.

Designed in 1831 by the architect Franz Joseph Hetzendorf von Hohenschild, it depicts a tall Schwarzenberg standing confidently on a granite pillar. The monument is covered with a thick layer of gold leaf, which was added at the request of Emperor Francis himself to add majesty to the statue.

Schwarzenberg-Denkmal is a popular tourist attraction in Vienna and has become a symbol of Austria’s long history. The monument commemorates the countless soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the country in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a de facto memorial for the Austrian Army in general.

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The Hofburg

The Hofburg
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Hofburg is the former home of the Habsburg family – one of Europe’s most prominent noble families. The family has been around for a long time, and their dynasty’s reach once spanned thrones across Europe.

Nowadays, the family is a shadow of its former self. It is in Vienna, and people can visit if they want to. It also functioned as the royal winter season house, as Schönbrunn Royal residence was the summer season house.

Since 1946 it has been the palace and office of the President of Austria. Since 1279 the Hofburg location has been the documented seat of Austrian governance.

The Hofburg has been increased over the centuries to include numerous houses with the Amalienburg and the Albertina, the royal chapel Hofkapelle or Burgkapelle, the imperial collection Hofbibliothek, the treasury Schatzkammer, and also the Burgtheater.

In front of the palace sits the Heldenplatz (Heroes Square), ordered under the regime of Emperor Franz Joseph I, as a component of what was supposed to end up being the Kaiserforum, yet was never completed.

Numerous designers have added to the Hofburg as it grew, most notably the Italian architect/engineers Filiberto Lucchese, Lodovico Burnacini, Martino, and Domenico Carlone.

The Baroque engineers Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, Johann Fischer von Erlach, and the designers of the Neue Burg constructed in beaux-arts style in the style of designs by Heinrich von Ferstel.

Most famous is undoubtedly the architect Meinhard von Pfankuch, brought in from Innsbruck, and his successor Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, who developed a neoclassical internal design for the building been preserved almost entirely between 1881 and 1913.

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Aggstein Castle

Castle Ruin on a Hill and Skyline

The ruins of Aggstein are a famous landmark castle on the Danube River in Wachau, Austria. The castle was constructed in the 11th Century due to Count Ulrich II. It is positioned on the Aggsteine rock, hence the title “Aggstein.”

The Aggstein Castle was established as an imperial castle and estate in 1193—the residence for Frederick I, Duke of Austria (1156-1198). The castle was vital due to its strategic significance as an observation post and crossing point over the Danube. It ended up being featured by the Babenbergs in their power struggles with the Bavarian dukes along the Danube border.

The castle has been presented to various nobles responsible for safeguarding or managing it: Ulrich II, Count of Wasserburg, Friedrich IV the Elder, and Friedrich V.

After the Dukes died out in 1242, it was left to Duke Leopold VI. The castle burned down in 1526 when a housewife cooking sausages started an accidental fire. The ruins still stand today and are landmarks that see thousands of tourists.

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Uhrturm

Uhrturm

Uhrturm, sitting at 473 meters (or 1,552 ft) above sea level, is on a tree-clad hillside and the site of a fortress in the center of Graz, Austria.

The hill is now a public park and a great vantage point for incredible city views. It is the home of numerous amusement locations, cafés, and dining establishments and is managed by Holding Graz, the city’s utility company. The hill has been carefully planted with trees and contains a small Uhrbach stream. It is commonly known among Austrians as “the wooded city.”

On completion, the city wall surrounding Graz was 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) long and 5-7 meters (16-23 ft) high, with 15 towers, 4 of which were to the south where the present-day Uhrturm stands.

Inside this area was the town’s largest square with a cathedral, a weapons bazaar, and a county seat. The Uhrturm was constructed in 1342, some decades after Graz had been founded. It is approximated that the tower might have been 24 m (80 ft) high with an observation platform on top.

Graz is a city with three sections divided by the Mur River: the old town of Graz, the new city of Graz, and Arnautpuhne. There are a variety of landmarks in each area, and most will be found in either old or new Graz.

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Mirabell Palace

Mirabell Palace Gardens with Hohensalzburg Fortress in Background
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Mirabellplatz, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

In 1606, prince-archbishop Wolf Dietrich erected Mirabell Palace for his mistress, Salome Alt, and their children. It now serves as the setting for some of the most romantic weddings imaginable.

Once named “Altenau” by the Prince-Archbishop, the palace was renamed “Mirabell” by his successor, Markus Sitticus von Hohenems. The name was derived from two Italian words: Mirabile, which means ‘admirable,’ and Bella, or ‘beautiful.’

During this time, the Mirabell Palace was situated on the outskirts of Salzburg’s city walls. It became enclosed within Salzburg’s city area when Prince-Archbishop Paris von Lodron constructed new city walls and fortifications.

With several remodeling efforts between 1721 and 1727, Prince-Archbishop Franz Anton von Harrach was responsible for turning the stately palace into a full-on baroque palace complex.

Today, the Mirabell Palace is home to the mayor’s offices, the city’s administration, and a popular space for grand weddings. The palace’s breathtaking Marble Hall, once a banquet hall for prince-archbishops, is touted by many as one of the world’s most beautiful wedding halls.

The Pegasus Fountain and the Angel Staircase are often used as backdrops for thousands of wedding photographs. In front of the Mirabell Palace is the equally famous Mirabell Gardens, made famous by “The Sound of Music,” where the Von Trapp children sang “Do-Re-Mi.”

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St. Anne’s Column

St. Anne’s Column stands in the city center of Innsbruck on Maria-Theresien-Straße, which is Innsbruck’s most famous street with plenty of excellent restaurants, shops, and hotels. It was offered its name when, in 1703, the last Bavarian troops were driven from the Tyrol on St. Anne’s Day, 26 July, as part of the Battle of the Spanish Sequence.

In 1704, in gratitude, the Landstände promised to build a monolith honoring the event. A contest was arranged to pick the best design. The appeal was won by the architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, who built a Baroque column with four figures: St. Anne on a pedestal at its base and three women representing Tyrolia above her.

Four statues of virtues complete the monument in triangular niches, flanking the column. Local sculptor Ignaz Kuranda crafted all. The memorial was completed in 1719 and erected on 26 July 1720 to commemorate the event of 1632 and the expulsion of Bavarian troops from Tyrol.

One woman from each province represents the Four Seasons – Oberinntal (Spring), Unterinntal (Summer), Pinzgau (Autumn), and Hochpustertal (Winter).

The monument is 25.5 meters tall and constructed of rubble masonry, limestone ashlar, brickwork, and plaster. The statues were finished in sandstone with the help of white paint. If you are looking to plan a trip to Innsbruck, check out these best hotels in Innsbruck, Austria.

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Mauthausen Memorial

The Mauthausen Memorial, also known as the Mauthausen concentration camp, was one of Nazi Germany’s first complexes and the last to be liberated.

Perched on a hill in Mauthausen, Upper Austria, Mauthausen played a significant role during the holocaust, serving as the main camp to a group of over 40 subcamps located all over southern Germany and Austria.

The town’s status as a quarrying center encouraged the Nazis to establish a concentration camp where prisoners were forced to carry massive stone blocks up 186 steps. It is also known as the Stairway to Death, which caused many casualties from the camp quarry.

Today, the concentration camp is a memorial where travelers can honor the lives of more than 100,000 prisoners who passed away or were executed or learn more about the Holocaust and its history.

It was only in 1970 that the memorial was turned into an educational museum. A visit is a grim look into Nazi history, where travelers can walk through a few of the camp’s remaining living quarters and the infamous gas chambers.

The camp’s previous Sick Quarters is now an exhibit where visitors can view artifacts, charts, and photos of prisoners and their guards curated by former Mauthausen prisoner Hans Marsalek.

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Altstadt Innsbruck

Colorful Houses Innsbruck, Austria
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Altstadt Innsbruck or Inner City is the old town of Innsbruck; it consists of three parts: Innere Stadt (lit. Inner City), Leopoldstadt, and Augustinergasse, as well as a series of small hamlets to the south.

The Goldenes Dachl is the central part of Innsbruck and includes Ambras Castle, Schloss Hof Residenzplatz, and Maria-Theresien-Platz with Zetthaus, as well as Hofgarten.

In front of the Hofburg is Leopold Square, which has occasionally been used as a stadium. The old town area has many shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars. Many spectacular landmarks exist in Innsbruck’s inner city, including the Old City Hall on Residenzplatz or Stallburggasse 16.

Also, the Goldenes Dachl on Ambras Castle, the Wasserspeicher (a water tower) on Hof Square, and Zum Schwarzen Kameel Stadtsteig 14. The inner city is connected to all four compass directions by streets. To the north are Maria Theresien Straße and the Arx Schnabelgut, and to the south are Schlossallee and Puntigam Square, which runs over into Westbahnstraße.

To the east are Swarzenberg-Passage and Barcaccia Bridge. To the west is Schwabentorbrücke (Swabian Gate Bridge). The Johanniterbrücke runs along with the Inn River from the west to the north.

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Triumphpforte

Triumphforte, Innsbruck, Austria
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Triumphpforte is among the best-known sights in the Austrian city of Innsbruck. It lies at the southerly end of the existing Maria-Theresien-Straße when the southern roadway out of the town.

The ecliptic is a noteworthy example of Renaissance architecture. The three-arched structure was initially built as part of the Spanischer Bau, or “Spanish Building.”

In 1583-88, the Hofgarten with the new square joined, and Emperor Maximilian’s people could stroll under it from one area to another without getting hit with rain or snow.

The Emperor’s eagle, placed on the column in 1588 by Hans Krumpper, has been changed a few times. It was most recently restored in 1985. These renovations aside, it is currently the oldest monumental sculpture in Innsbruck

The Triumphpforte is 25 meters (82 ft) high consisting of a triple archway resting on six Corinthian columns. The carving over the entrance depicts Emperor Maximilian I and his two daughters, Archduchesses Anna and Kunigunde.

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Burgruine Dürnstein

Dürnstein Castle German: Burgruine Dürnstein is the spoil of a Middle Agesrock castle in Austria. It is situated in Dürnstein, in the Lower Austrian Wachau region on the Danube River, at 312 meters (or 1,024 feet) above sea level.

The Knights Hospitaller built Dürnstein Castle between 1135 and 1237. It was named in memory of one of the monks who founded Klosterneuburg Abbey, Saint Sturmius. The castle has been enlarged multiple times over the centuries.

The siege of Dürnstein is an example of the operation of medieval siege technology. Leopold von Dürnstein commanded the castle until it fell to the Ottomans in 1489 during their campaign into Central Europe.

Founded over a thousand years ago in 1001 AD, Klosterneuburg Abbey is one of Austria’s oldest monasteries. It is situated on the left bank of the River Danube, directly opposite its more significant sister monastery – also known as Klosterneuburg – and was founded by Duke Ottokar III of Styria in 1340 AD.

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Semmeringbahn

Semmeringbahn in Austria, which starts at Gloggnitz and leads over the Semmering to Mürzzuschlag, was the first European mountain train constructed with a standard gauge track. The railway is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It is commonly described as the world’s first actual hill train, given the rigid surface and the substantial altitude that needed to be conquered throughout its construction. It is still convenient as a part of the Austrian Southern Railway, operated by the Austrian Federal Railways.

The Semmering railway was intended to connect Vienna with the Carinthian coast and Trieste. It was one of the most significant civil engineering tasks ever realized on the European continent.

It was constructed between 1848 and 1854 to open up trade connections to Trieste, which had just been recognized as a vital port in the wake of the Treaty of Campo Formio.

The Semmering railway job was one of Vienna’s first and most ambitious rail projects. It brought fame to engineers like Carl Ritter von Ghega, Major Josef Grafl, and Eduard van der Nüll, along with their workers who developed the first hill train in the world.

On its 155-kilometer route, the railway passes through 8 tunnels and over 2,000 bridges (including the Semmering Viaduct), producing a significant expanse of memorials.

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is a famous landmark castle in Austria and is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring medieval castles on earth. Built in a former dolomite quarry near Sankt Georgen, am Längsee, eastern of the community of Sankt Veit a der Glan in Carinthia, the fortress on top of a 172-meter (or 564 ft) high rock is one of the state’s landmarks and amongst its most visited historical sites.

It is one of the very first stone castles to be built in Carinthia, with a long history and a nearly unblemished structure that has survived for almost 800 years.

It was constructed between 1192 and 1240 as a Middle Agesquarry castle by Archbishop Hartwig II of Salzburg, who named it Hochosterwitz Castle (High Rock of Wiese). It was constructed in the Romanesque style and is located at an altitude of 625 meters (2,053 feet) above sea level.

It is unknown why work on it stopped in 1240 or how long it took to build under Hartwig’s watch; however, a lack of money is the most likely option. It is among Carinthia’s most prominent landmarks after the original castle was burned down by a fire in 1445.

In 1554, it returned to Salzburg, and also after that, it never suffered that level of devastation again. It was renovated in Baroque style between 1752 and 1757, when its current name, Hochosterwitz, was given to it.

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Katzenturm Feldkirch

Katzenturm Feldkirch is a tower in Austria constructed in 1634 at Feldkirch within the federal state of Vorarlberg. It was one of the very first landmarks built with due regard to the latest available safety technology.

The tower can be found on Castle Hill, also called Hofberg Hill, the same name it carries today. It is among the most famous landmarks in all of Austria.

This tower was the first landmark in Vorarlberg to be constructed as a safe-keeping building. The Katzenturm Feldkirch is one of the first landmarks that used an external staircase inside a stone framework.

The tower is also among Austria’s landmarks and is known by various nicknames: Tillis Glockl, Lyra, and Feldkirchner Oblatenhaus. It is commonly believed that the name Katzenturm came from the fact that the tower was utilized for storing wheat. This theory has yet to be proven by any conclusive evidence.

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Fortress Hohensalzburg

Interior Courtyard of Hohensalzburg Fortress
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Fortress Hohensalzburg is a large medieval fortress in Salzburg, Austria. It rests atop the Festungsberg at an elevation of 506 meters. It was put up at the behest of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg.

The fortress is 250 meters (or 820 feet) long and 150 meters (or 490 feet) wide. It has a surface area of 30,000 square meters (or 3.9 acres) and has 365 windows and 34 towers.

It is among the most famous landmarks in Austria and its most visited landmarks since it houses various museums like the Museum of Sound and the Salzburg City Museum, which chronicles the history of Salzburg from prehistoric times to the early modern age.

It houses a display of 15th-century weapons. Also, it houses a library with over 60,000 volumes, including one of the most comprehensive collections of European music dating from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

The fortress comprises Hohensalzburg Castle (originally the residence of the prince-archbishops) and the Salzburg Fortress, which Don Hugo established at the beginning of the 13th Century. The fortress was built to defend against hostile forces from Italy, specifically those from Milan.

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Thurn Pass

Man Walking on a Mountains Covered in Snow
“P1000804” by Ralf Peek is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Thurn Pass is a high mountain pass in the Austrian Alps. The road from Kranzberg to Ried leads over it between Muggenbrunn and Maria Alm. It is closed to visitors during the winter period, which lasts from 1 November until the end of April. In winter, there are only paths open along some of the slopes.

It is one of the few places in the High Tauern that doesn’t have glaciers or permanent snowfields. It got its name from a small village below it called Thurn, but because of mining operations, it was never rebuilt – probably because of its remote location.

The Thurn Pass was a former border crossing between Salzburg and Upper Bavaria (as part of the so-called “Pilgerweg” or Peddlers’ Way). It had been used for centuries by itinerant merchants, beggars, hermits, and pilgrims traveling to Rome and Santiago.

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Kyle Kroeger
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Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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