Many people who choose to visit Austria fly into some city in Austria and stay there for the duration of their trip, or they travel from city to city without stopping anywhere in between.
While Vienna, Innsbruck, and Salzburg are absolutely marvelous, any traveler who does not take time to visit some of the small towns in Austria will really be missing out on some of the very best parts of this beautiful country.
There are few places in the world that are more beautiful and memorable than an Austrian village. If you take the time and make the effort to explore some of the villages in Austria, you will see such incredible sights and they will stick with you forever.
If the idea of these beautiful places has piqued your interest, then read on. In this post, we’ll tell you all about the best towns in Austria. We’ll tell you how they differ from one another, what there is to do in each of them, and where you should stay, too.
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Table of Contents
14 Beautiful Small Towns in Austria
1. St. Gilgen
One of the most famous and picturesque lake towns in Austria is, without a doubt, St. Gilgen.
What’s especially wonderful about this particular Austrian Village is the fact that it is just twenty minutes from Salzburg, making it easily accessible to both native city dwellers and foreign tourists visiting this nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area.
You can take a local bus from Salzberg, or take a car; there’s ample parking in a large parking lot near the cable car station.
The beauty of this place will amaze visitors as soon as they arrive. This village is at the base of Zwolferhorn mountain and on the shore of Lake Wolfgang. There’s a public beach if you feel like going for a dip in the summer; in the winter there’s a perfect Christmas market.
The restaurants are tasty, authentic, and welcoming. Wooden homes and shops with Baroque-style architecture are everywhere and they make this town of 3,700 residents look like something out of a fairy tale.
It’s no wonder St. Gilgen seems like the ultimate alpine town – if you’ve seen the movie version of The Sound of Music, you’ve actually seen it before.
Many of the outdoor scenes in that film were shot in St. Gilgen. This town is famous for that, and also for the fact that Mozart’s mother was born here; his family had many connections to this area.
Things to Do in St. Gilgen
The main thing to do in St. Gilgen is to take a cable car ride up to the top of Zwolferhorn. Once you get to the top, you can simply admire the views and then return, or you can spend some time checking out the many trails at the top.
You also might consider renting an electric boat to explore Wolfgangsee Lake, or taking a boat tour with one of several companies that offers them here.
If you’re itching to see several lake towns in Austria including St. Gilgen, check out this Viator Tour: Austrian Lakes and Mountains Half-Day Tour from Salzburg.
Places to Stay in St. Gilgen
There are dozens of great places to stay in St. Gilgen. You can stay in one of a number of authentic alpine lodges in town if you wish; so many are well rated. Haus Stadler is an excellent choice.
If you’d rather stay in a bed & breakfast, you might enjoy Landgasthof & Restaurant Batzenhausel.
The charming town of Hallstatt may seem familiar to you as well; if you have a little one who is obsessed with the Disney movie Frozen, then you’ve seen hints of Hallstatt – in cartoon form – in the background while watching it.
Disney based the setting of Frozen on this small town because, well, it’s perfect. This is one of the most photographed villages in Austria, and it’s easy to see why.
Like St. Gilgen, this village is on a lake – in this case, the Hallstatter See. The population of this tiny hamlet is under 1,000, but since many people go out of their way to visit it, it may seem like more than that while you’re there.
The town’s residents are squeezed between the lake and the Salzkammergut Mountains on just a few narrow and winding streets, but no one seems to mind. After all, Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so anyone who is lucky enough to live there feels very fortunate indeed.
Things to Do in Hallstatt
Despite its small size, there are actually quite a few things to do in Hallstatt. In the summer, visitors can enjoy boat rides on the lake and in the winter they can simply marvel at the beauty of these gingerbread-like houses covered with snow.
However, suppose you’re looking to do something a bit more involved. In that case, you can take the funicular railway into Salzwelten, an ancient salt mine, where you’ll learn about the salty history of this area, or take it the other way to the Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform.
There are also many hikes to waterfalls to try in this area; the views you see in the mountains here will stay with you forever.
Trying to get to Hallstatt from Salzburg? It’s quite easy, as many tour companies offer day trips. Check out this on Get You Guide: From Salzburg: Half-Day Tour to Hallstatt.
Where to Stay in Hallstatt
If you want to stay in the center of it all, you’ll love I da Mitt in the center of town. It has a bar and garden and room service if you want to spend a day just relaxing at the hotel, plus everything else you’d want or need just steps away.
Adults wishing to enjoy a few days without kids around might prefer the Boutiquehotel Strand Hallstatt, which is right on the lake.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Vienna, Austria
3. Zell am See
Zell am See is the largest small town on our list (so far) with a population of 9,600, but don’t let that fool you – there’s still plenty of village charm to be found in it! Like St. Gilgen, this mountain village is not far from Salzberg, making it an easy day trip if you are staying there.
Zell am See is a snowy lakeside town that is a great destination at any time of year. In the summer, it’s bright and green and covered with wildflowers. In the winter, it’s one of Austria’s top skiing destinations; Schmittenhohe mountain and other mountains nearby offer over 80 miles of slopes.
The town center has a medieval feel to it and you’ll love the architecture all over town. There are plenty of high-end dining and shops to keep you busy; these cater to ski vacationers but most are open year-round.
Things to Do in Zell am See
Besides simple exploring and relaxing, you might consider paddleboarding on Lake See or even swimming if the water is warm. Or, you can take the Schmittenhohe cable car to the top of the mountain to enjoy great views of Salzburg in one direction and Hohe Tauern National Park in another.
A rafting tour is also a good option.
If you visit in the winter, you absolutely must ski; even if you’ve never skied before, there are plenty of places to rent equipment and take lessons.
Where to Stay in Zell am See
A perfect place to stay in Zell Am See is on the water and there’s no better hotel on Lake Zell than the Grand Hotel Zell am See. It’s on a private peninsula and you will have absolutely spectacular views out your window no matter what type of room you choose.
Senses Violett Suites is a unique and child-free property above the main town area; it has a much more modern look than other hotels in this area, but perhaps that’s what you seek.
Durnstein is a tiny village in Austria like Hallstatt with a population of just 880, but unlike the other Austrian villages on this list so far, it is not located on a lake.
Instead, it’s on the shore of the Danube River, just south of Vienna. As a result, many people who come to Austria to visit Vienna find themselves in Durnstein at some point during their trip.
That’s a wise choice, as this medieval town, in the middle of Austrian wine country, is absolutely worth a visit!
The buildings here are different from other places in Austria; they are not only quite old pretty much across the board, but they are colorful too.
The blue Baroque tower of the 15th Century Durnstein Abbey is striking and memorable, and Durnstein Castle, set high on a hill above town, makes one wonder if they might also encounter a knight battling a dragon at some point during their stay.
Things to Do in Durnstein
Anything involving wine is THE thing to do in Durnstein; there are dozens of wineries and wine tastings to check out during your time in this place. However, if you’re a non-drinker, there are lots for you to do here as well.
Take a river cruise that departs from here and enjoy the beauty of the Danube River, or rent a bike and ride along the paths along the river’s shore.
Where to Stay in Durnstein
Winzerhof – Gastehaus Stoger is a great choice of accommodation in Durstein. It’s a hotel but it makes you feel like you’re a guest in someone’s home. It’s only a few steps from the river and the gardens are lovely; you can also rent a bike, or store your own in the on-site bicycle storage.
If you’re more interested in a more traditional hotel, then you might like Hotel Richard Lowenherz which is also right on the bank of the river. It’s quite charming, too.
See Related: Best & Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to Visit
This beautiful town in Tyrol sits at about 3,000 feet and is the first on our list that is not on a lake OR river!
This high-elevation mountain town is one of the best small towns in Austria. Alpbach has a population of 2,600 and the mountain folk that live there are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet.
Most visitors to Alpbach come for skiing, but this tiny town is also the site of the yearly Alpbach European Forum, a two-week conference that brings world leaders together to discuss and try to come up with solutions for the world’s problems.
One can imagine that they must get a lot done in such a beautiful setting.
The buildings here are traditional; they are built with local timber, and in the summer, flowers pour from vessels on every balcony.
The town requires that all new construction matches the currently existing buildings, making this a truly breathtaking and picturesque town that looks exactly like you’d think a little town in the Austrian Alps should.
Things to Do in Alpbach
Like Zell am See, Alpbach is a ski town, so make sure you get out on the slopes if you visit this small town in the winter at Ski Juwel.
In the summer, there’s plenty of hiking and mountain biking to do near here, or feel free to spin in circles on any of the hills surrounding this town, just like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music did.
Where to Stay in Alpbach
Since all the hotels here follow Alpbach’s rules about their exterior look, they all kind of look the same, and that look is absolutely charming in every way. Most have two to three floors and balconies for you to stand on to view the beauty all around, and gardens for you to relax in with a good book.
Two especially well-rated, centrally-located options are Apartment Haus Schonweis and Apartment Galtenberg, but there are few properties here that aren’t lovely; it would be hard to go wrong in Alpbach.
Of all the small towns on our list, Lienz is the most unique, and for that alone, it deserves a place on our list of most beautiful villages in Austria.
Lienz is a little large to be considered a village with a population of 12,000, but it still has that small-town feel despite being quite a bit larger than the others mentioned above.
This Austrian town is in southern Austria near the border of Italy, and as a result, it looks much more Mediterranean than the others, but that’s what makes it so special.
Furthermore, due to its southern location, it’s a lot warmer and sunnier than some of these other Austrian villages, too. Still, you can also ski here in the winter at Zettersfeld or Hochstein, the two sunniest ski resorts in the nation.
Many people love Lienz because there’s plenty to do and there’s a perfect balance of urban adventures and nature. It’s quite family-friendly and is a great choice for a place to visit if you’re bringing the little ones along on your trip.
Things to Do in Lienz
The main attraction in Lienz besides the skiing is Bruck Castle; it was a medieval fortress, but today it’s a fantastic museum.
If you’re looking for something a little more thrilling, then Lienz has that too – The Osttirodler is an alpine coaster located in the town’s Moosalm Park. Once you get off the coaster, give the park some more time and you’ll find a petting zoo, a great playground, and a climbing park, too.
Where to Stay in Lienz
Hotel Ansitz Haidenhof is on the outskirts of town, but you’ll love being a little distance away from the action and the views of the Dolomites from it are epic.
If you’d rather stay in Lienz proper, then Gasthof Goldener Fisch might be a better choice for you. It has a spa and restaurant with a pub garden and is right on the Isel River.
See Related: Best Castle Hotels in Austria for Accommodation
7. Maria Alm
Maria Alm is in such a beautiful setting that it looks Photoshopped, or like some sort of diorama or snapshot from a model train set. But no – this alpine village of 2,000 is real and it’s worth a visit at any time of year!
Like others on our list, Maria Alm is a ski town, but it’s equally beautiful and alluring in the summertime when the greenery that pops up everywhere offers such a striking contrast against the snowcapped mountains in the near and far distance.
About an hour from Salzberg, it’s far enough from Austrian cities to feel completely rural and quiet, but it’s not entirely isolated either.
This area is known for outdoor activities all year. In the warmer months, people flock here for trail running, mountain biking, hiking, and climbing, and in the winter not only alpine skiing is popular near Maria Alm, but cross-country skiing is as well.
Things to Do in Maria Alm
Maria Alm is pretty silent so you’ll want to whisper everywhere you go, but don’t feel like you have to. If you’re not someone who likes the active sports listed above, this is a great place to just sit in a chair, stare at the vistas all around, and take deep full breaths of that mountain air.
It’s a great place for a relaxing getaway. Don’t forget to take pictures of the church from every angle, no matter what the season. Even if you’re a terrible photographer, they’ll turn out looking like postcards.
Where to Stay in Maria Alm
TanTe FriDa – Family Hotel is an excellent and well-rated choice if you’re visiting Maria Alm with your family. There’s a kids club, a restaurant, a bar, a garden, and you can ski right up to your room, and it even has a water park!
Alternately, you might book a room at Hotel Lohningerhof – it’s in the heart of Maria Alm and every room has a balcony. The views are amazing.
8. Bad Gastein
Bad Gastein is both a ski town and a spa town and it’s, therefore, a big draw for people of all types. With a population of 4,500, it’s small but not too small, and you can get here by train in two hours from Salzberg if you’d like.
The buildings here are colorful and the town itself is surrounded by alpine peaks; you’ll feel like you’re tucked into the pages of a storybook during your visit here.
The word “bad” means spa in
German people love to relax in the thermal, healing waters either in their hotels or in any of the public spas around town. In the winter, people flock here to ski at nearby resorts; there are over 100 miles of downhill runs in the surrounding mountains.
Things to Do in Bad Gastein
The big things to do in Bad Gastein are clearly skiing and soaking and hopefully, you’ll have a lot of time for both.
There are lots of great restaurants and shops in this town as well, and you’ll love wandering in the mountains on foot or by bike.
Where to Stay in Bad Gastein
It would be silly to go to Bad Gastein and stay somewhere without a spa on-site, so two great options that have spas are Romantikpension Villa Anna – which overlooks the waterfall and is in the center of town – and Gesundheitzentrum Barenhof, a modern hotel an health center that features an indoor pool.
See Related: Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Austria
Like Lienz, Feldkirch is a bit different from many of the other, more traditional Austrian villages because, like Lienz, it’s on the edge of the country.
In this case, rather than being close to Italy, Feldkirch is near the borders of both Liechtenstein and Switzerland, so you’ll notice the foreign influence here.
Feldkirch is best known for being a well-preserved, historic, medieval town and you’ll love exploring the cobbled streets and nearby vineyards. Many of the homes and businesses are brightly colored and very Instagrammable.
The turquoise blue water of the Ill River that flows through town will undoubtedly captivate you and your companions for hours.
Things to Do in Feldkirch
This town is one of the largest on our list with a population of 30,000 which means there is a lot to do in Feldkirch.
There are many authentic Austrian restaurants here and most serve the local wine. Stop by St. Nikolaus Cathedral or dive into the local culture by attending one of the many festivals held here in spring and summer.
Where to Stay in Feldkirch
Landhaus Maria Grun B&B is a lovely bed and breakfast just outside of town; it offers great views, a garden, and onsite dining.
You also might like Hotel-Gasthof Lowen, a traditional Vorarlberg hotel that’s about a mile from the medieval city center. You’ll love its sauna and steam bath!
Gmunden is another picturesque village on the shores of a lake in the Alps. In this case, this old town is on the northern shore of scenic Lake Traun. Like the others on this list, mountain vistas and snow-capped peaks surround it.
Gmunden has a population of around 13,000 and is about an hour east of Salzburg. It’s easy to get to by train or by driving and by car, the route is mostly highway.
Perhaps the most notable and memorable thing about Gmunden, besides its overall beauty, is Schloss Ort, a medieval castle that is located on an island in the middle of the lake.
Today it’s used as an event space; you can walk to it on a footbridge. It’s not the only castle nearby, so if you’re a castle enthusiast, you’ll love Gmunden and the surrounding area.
Things to Do in Gmunden
When visiting Gmunden, you’ll want to check out at least one or two castles, but if that’s enough castles for you, then you’ll enjoy strolling on the small town, waterfront promenade looking out at Schloss Ort and watching the boats go by.
The town square is the cherry on top of this charming village with its colorful buildings and, in the warmer months, abundant flowers. Hikers will enjoy the challenging hike to the top of Grunberg Mountain, but if you aren’t one for mountain climbing, you can take the popular local cable car to the top instead.
Where to Stay in Gmunden
Hotel Magerl is a fine choice of accommodation in Gmunden, especially if you don’t wish to drive; it’s within close walking distance of the lake and the cable car. After a long day of hiking, you can relax in the indoor pool or steam bath.
If you want to stay on the shore of Lake Traun, Seegasthof Hotel Hois’n Wirt not only fits the bill but has a private swim beach as well.
See Related: Best Warm Winter Destinations in Europe
The town of Heiligenblut is tiny; the population is just 1,000. However, many people come to this village every year for two important reasons. The first reason is directly related to Heiligenblut’s name – it means Blood of Christ.
The church in this town was built in 1271 and is believed to have a vial of Jesus Christ’s blood; people have been traveling to Heiligenblut to see this relic for hundreds of years.
Second, this little village age is at one end of the scenic Grossglockner High Alpine Road. This scenic highway is the highest paved road in the country and offers incredible views.
People come from all over to drive it. Heiligenblut is a great place to start your thirty-mile journey along this road to Bruck near Salzburg.
Things to Do in Heiligenblut
Heiligenblut is in the shadow of the nation’s tallest mountain, the Grossglockner, for which the High Alpine Road is named. This area is lovely in both winter and summer and people come here to hike and ski depending on the time of year.
The Hohe Tauren National Park nearby is a great year-round destination to explore as well.
Where to Stay in Heiligenblut
Hotel Kaiservilla is just a short walk from the center of town and the ski area. It has a ski storage room so you don’t have to drag your gear into your room, which is a big plus for winter visitors.
After a long day of skiing or hiking or driving the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, you can relax in the Finnish sauna and steam bath.
Zirbenhof is on a small farm on the outskirts of town if you’d prefer accommodations more in the countryside. The views from this hotel are spectacular and the hospitality here is unmatched. If you’re you’re looking for rentals you can find good deals at VRBO.
12. St. Wolfgang
St. Wolfgang is on the northern shore of Lake Wolfgang, not far from St. Gilgen. It would be easy to visit both of these towns in a single day, but you’ll likely fall in love with Lake Wolfgang as soon as you lay eyes on it, and it would be easy to spend a week or more relaxing in the small towns around its edge.
Although the town of St. Wolfgang has a population of under 3,000, it seems larger but still maintains all the small mountain charm you seek. There are many good restaurants and cafes here, and it’s easy to get lost in St. Wolfgang’s charming and colorful back alleys.
Two memorable structures worth visiting in St. Wolfgang are the 14th Century church and the world-famous Im Weissen Rossi hotel. The site of the church was chosen by St. Wolfgang himself and includes an elaborate Gothic altar that will greatly impress even the non-religious.
The hotel overlooks the lake and is rather expensive, but even if you can’t afford to stay there this trip, you should have a drink or meal at the on-site restaurant while you gaze out at the mountains and water.
Things to Do in St. Wolfgang
Besides admiring the view from the shore, you should take a trip out onto the lake as well. There’s a steamboat here that is quite popular with visitors, or you can charter a smaller boat for you and your companions.
Alternately, take a ride up Schafberg, the town mountain, on the Schafbergbahn, a cog railway that opened way back in 1893. Views from the top of the mountain will stay with you forever.
Where to Stay in St. Wolfgang
As mentioned above, the famous Hotel Im Weissen Rossi is a great choice in St Wolfgang. The rooms of this hotel are spread out over nine adjacent historic buildings on the shore of the lake. There’s a spa with a hot tub and steam bath, a relaxation room, a fitness room, a restaurant, and a heated outdoor pool.
Hotel Zimmerbrau is in the center of town and is another great option; it’s only a three-minute walk from the lake. It’s located in a building that was originally a brewery dating back to the 14th Century that was renovated and updated in 2011.
See Related: Best Restaurant in Innsbruck, Austria
Kufstein is actually quite large for this list with a population of 17,000 but it still has that small-town feel that makes it relevant.
This is a medieval town in the Tyrolian Alps and is situated on the Inn River. The most memorable structure in this town is the Kufstein Fortress which is high on a hill above the town; it was built in the 13th Century and you’ll learn a lot about the history of this area when you visit it.
The homes and hotels in this area are exactly what you think of when you picture Austria in your mind, and you’ll almost expect various fairy tale characters to pop up to meet you around every turn.
You’ll love this mountain town and everything that comes with it, and it’s a great choice for people who are looking for a small town that isn’t too small, either!
Things to Do in Kufstein
Eating and drinking are great ways to pass time in Kufstein and thanks to the larger size of this small town there are numerous options so you won’t have to go to the same places twice even if you stay for a whole week.
In addition to touring Kufstein Fortress, you should also take the time to check out the Heldenorgel organ, the world’s largest outdoor organ. If you want to take some great photos for your Instagram, take a stroll down the postcard-perfect Romerhofgasse – it’s the most picturesque lane in town.
Where to Stay in Kufstein
There are lots of different hotels in Kufstein at a variety of price points; there’s something for every persona and every budget here. You can get a very affordable but comfortable room at the KUF Hotel; it’s bare-bones, but what more do you really need?
The Hotel Andreas Hofer is a bit more expensive but has more amenities if that’s what you seek. Both are quite pleasant.
Last but not least on our list is Seefeld, which is not far from Kufstein and Innsbruck, and is also located in the state of Tyrol.
This village is located on a high plateau and is known as one of the best cross-country skiing centers – not only in Austria but in the world. It hosted this sport in the 1964 and 1976 Olympic games.
In the summer, people come from all over to hike and mountain bike in this region as well. Athletes in all of the above sports train here, and it’s a popular destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts of all kinds.
In the evenings, there’s more nightlife than you might imagine here, and that’s a draw for many, too. There are many bars and restaurants in Seefeld and a casino as well.
Seefeld has a little bit of everything, so it’s no surprise that is such a highly-visited destination, even though the population is only about 4,000.
Things to Do in Seefeld
Clearly, the main thing to do in Seefeld is to participate in outdoor sports, but if that’s not your thing, you might instead visit the Tiroler Bio Alpakas alpaca farm; you can meet the alpacas and take them for guided walks.
If you want to visit a beautiful lake, The Wildsee awaits you at the bottom of Gschwandtkopf Mountain.
Where to Say in Seefeld
It’s a twenty-minute walk from the center of town, but onsite you’ll find an indoor pool, a sauna, a steam bath, and hot tubs, and you can get massage and beauty treatments there too. Breakfast is included and guests even get a snack in the afternoon.
If you’d rather stay in town, you might like Hotel Diana. It’s about a third of a mile from the ski life, but it’s in the center of everything else. It has a great restaurant and a spa on site.
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