Austria is one of the most beautiful countries I have been to in Europe. With breath-taking mountain ranges and lakes, charming castles and palaces, dream-like nature, and more- it is a destination unlike any other. Not only is it perfect for outdoor travellers and nature lovers, but is also an ideal place to explore for music enthusiasts.
I visited Austria for the first time during the winter of 2018 and fell instantly in love with its picturesque landscape and baroque design. From the iconic Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, to the dramatic Dachstein Mountains, and the storybook Old Town of Salzburg- I saw some of the most incredible sights of my life in Austria and yet felt like I barely scratched the surface.
So, if you are looking for where to go in Europe next, then let me assure you that there is plenty to see in Austria. To bring you the best places in the country, I got a few fellow travel bloggers to recommend an Austrian destination that they love. In this article, you will find some of the top places to visit in Austria this year. Although the country has a lot more to offer and I would love to go back and explore more of it someday!
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Recommended by Charu from Travel with CG
When thinking about the best places to visit in Austria, Vienna is the one name that usually comes first to the mind. Boosting an implausible number of palaces, museums, restaurants, cafes, and art exhibits, it is a destination with many things to do and places to see. It is also the capital and the largest city of Austria.
Having been home to renowned classical musicians such as Mozart and Beethoven, Vienna is a popular destination amongst music lovers. The Vienna State Opera is one of the most beautiful operas in the world and is a must-visit when there. You can book tickets for a concert in advance or opt to go for a 40-min guided tour. There is also the Haus der Musik Museum which is interesting to see.
Another note-worthy spot to visit in Vienna is the Schönbrunn Palace. It is a former summer residence of the Habsburgs and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Remember to go to the gloriette at the back for an incredible view of the palace and the city. The sunset from there is particularly magical!
Next, you can visit Albertina in the city centre. It is the largest of the former Habsburg residences and houses many permanent and temporary art exhibits. There is also the Hofburg Palace which was their winter residence. The Grand Hotel Wien is a beautiful 19th-century property that is only 12 minutes walking distance from there. In case you have more time, you can also take these day trips from Vienna to explore the nearby regions.
Vienna is also known for some culinary specialties, out of which Sachertorte (a Viennese chocolate cake) is the most famous. Apple strudel, schnitzel, and Austrian soups are also worth trying. Griechenbeisl, Veggiezz and La La Café are some of the nice places to eat in Vienna.
Vienna is well-connected to most international destinations by air. If visiting from Europe, then there are also direct trains to Vienna from many big cities.
Recommended by Charu from Travel with CG
Salzburg is one of the most beautiful and charming cities in Austria. It is the fourth largest city in the country and is widely known for its connection to Mozart and the Sound of Music. Consisting of an otherworldly fortress, glistening lakes, pedestrian bridges, and a beautiful Old Town, it is a must-visit destination to add to your Austria bucket list.
Start with wandering around the Old Town, where you will come across landmarks like the Salzburg Cathedral, Mozart’s Birthplace, St. Peter’s Monastery, and the incredible Hohensalzburg Fortress. Getreidegasse, the famed shopping mile is also located here. You will find many shops, restaurants, and cafés- including Café Mozart, Burgerista, and Kim 168 (a hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurant) there.
Another notable sight to not miss in Salzburg is the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. If you have seen the Sound of Music, you will probably know how beautiful these gardens are. Other than being an iconic filming location for the movie, this is one place where you will have come across plenty of colourful flowers. The Sound of Music tour is also a popular activity to do when in Salzburg.
The city of Salzburg is also a great base to explore the nearby towns, lakes, and castles. The fairy-tale village of Hallstatt, in particular, is a popular day trip (although I recommend staying longer). Mondsee, St. Gilgen, Konigsee, and Werfen Ice Caves are also incredible. If you are into skiing, then you can also visit the Lungau Ski Region.
Salzburg’s Old Town is the ideal place to stay when visiting. Hotel Goldener Hirsch on Getreidegasse is one of the most iconic properties in Salzburg. Imlauer Hotel Pitter is another great choice with modern amenities.
Recommended by Charu from Travel with CG
Hallstatt is a much-loved picturesque village located in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. Surrounded by majestic alps, a gleaming lake, and astonishing mountain views, it is one of the most incredible places to see in the country. Popularly known for the production of salt, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hallstatt is home to the world’s first (known) salt mine.
One of the best things to do in Hallstatt is to take the funicular up to the Salzwelten Hallstatt and learn about its 7000-year-old history. The Hallstatt Skywalk, offering a panorama view of Hallstatt village, Hallstätter See, and the enormous mountains nearby is also a must-visit when there. Next, make your way down to the Marktplatz and explore its quaint alleys on foot.
If you are looking for where to eat, then the lakeside restaurant at the Seehotel Grüner Baum serves freshly made Austrian delicacies. The price is a little high compared to other places nearby, but worth the view and quality of food. Once done, make your way past the 18th century Evangelical Church and head to Hallstatt’s postcard famous viewpoint.
The Aussichtspunkt viewpoint is a viewing platform from where the iconic pictures of Hallstatt with its wooden houses, lake, and the Dachstein mountains are taken. If you only have time to go to one spot in Hallstatt, then don’t think twice before going here. It is absolutely magical! Additionally, the Five Fingers Viewing Platform is another great attraction to visit.
Many people travelling to Hallstatt come only for a day trip, but staying a night at Heritage Hotel Hallstatt is recommended. With all the day-trippers gone by evening, the village starts to feel even better. If you are an early riser, don’t forget to go for a morning stroll to admire this fairy-tale village before tourists start coming in again.
Hallstatt is situated approximately 73 km from Salzburg. You can reach there by bus from Salzburg or opt for a train from either Salzburg or Vienna. The train station in Hallstatt is across the lake, so note that you will have to take a ferry to cross. You can get it upon arrival at the train station.
Recommended by Jenson from Nomadic Inscriptions
Toplitzsee is a small lake nestled in the western Austrian Alps about 98 km (61 miles) from Salzburg. The area around this lake is riddled with various hiking trails along both Lake Toplitz and Lake Grundl. When you walk these paths, the fresh scents of the forest will surround you, filling your lungs as the leaves, needles, and rocks crunch beneath your feet. Every so often, the trees will give way to the stunning views of the lake below and the mountains towering high above.
But even if you aren’t one for hikes, there is still a lot to do here. On the edge of Toplitzsee lies a small restaurant, Fisherhütte, that serves freshly caught fish and whispers stories of the darker history of the lake. Tales ranging from secret underwater experiments to hidden Nazi treasures.
Whether you desire breathtaking views, challenging hikes, mouthwatering meals, or a deep, dark, and surprising history, there is something here for almost everyone.
If you are looking to stay overnight, there are various hotels, apartments, and even a few campgrounds sprinkled throughout the Salzkammergut lake district. However, it is recommended not to stay directly in one of the more touristic towns. Instead, stay at a place such as Sofias Apartments in Bad Goisern.
Toplitzsee is a short 10-15 minute walk from Grundlsee, which in and of itself is a place full of various possible activities, including hikes and boat rides. Unlike Toplitzsee, you are also able to swim in Grundlsee.
There are four ways to get to Grundlsee varying, from a combination of train and taxi to train and bus. But the highest recommended one is renting a car in Salzburg and seeing other nearby sights such as the famous town of Hallstatt and Bad Aussee in one trip.
5. HOHENWERFEN CASTLE
Recommended by Jon from In Faraway Lands
Hohenwerfen Castle is a massive fortress in the mountains of Austria on a high rocky precipice that overlooks the Salzach valley and the small town of Werfen below. The castle is worth visiting not just for the history and stunning example of a medieval fortress, but also for the mountains and forests that surround it.
The castle has a history stretching back 900 years when the Archbishops of Salzburg started construction on it in the 11th-century and has been an important defensive structure since. If you have any interest in castles or history in general, and are in Austria, then this is a place you should not miss.
There is also a falconry show at the castle a few times a day where you can see birds of prey in flight, including falcons and eagles. You can also see a medieval show of sword skills, blacksmith work, and more. However, please note that these run only on the weekends.
You can’t stay at the castle itself, so it’s best to base yourself in Salzburg and do a day trip from there. But, there is a castle tavern where you can enjoy a meal and a drink once there.
If you have your own car, then it will be around a 45-minute drive to reach the castle from Salzburg. Alternatively, you can take the train to Werfen station and then walk around 15 minutes up to the castle. The route is along a peaceful path through a forest and will take you to the ticket window and the first gateways.
6. ZELL AM SEE
Recommended by Jürgen and Martina from Places of Juma
Another beautiful place to visit in Austria is Zell am See. This incredible destination looks like something out of a postcard!
Here you will find an almost kitschy idyll with high mountains, green meadows, bright flowers, and not to forget the crystal-clear lake. All around Zeller Lake, you can expect lots of activities and highlights that will make your holiday in Austria unforgettable. Whether you like swimming, boating, surfing, SUP, hiking, cycling, or sightseeing, no tourist will be bored in this diverse region – that’s a promise!
Another cool thing is that the region offers its own Zell am See Card. This card is included in most accommodations and offers free entry to many of the main attractions. Gondola rides, gorges, lake-baths, museums, and much more can be visited completely free of charge with this!
In Zell am See, there is a whole range of places worth seeing. For example, the Sigmund Thun Gorge: Follow wooden paths through the gorge, past thundering waterfalls. Or a trip to the Kitzsteinhorn, a glacier where you can even engage in winter activities in summer. Another highlight is the Kaprun reservoirs, as beautiful and unique as in a travel magazine. For children and the young at heart, there is also a really cool summer toboggan run, and a boat trip on Zell am See is also a fabulous thing to do!
As Zell am See is a popular holiday destination, you’ll find a brilliant choice of accommodations there. The Grand Hotel Zell am See is particularly nice, with lots of flairs and a great location!
7. GROSSGLOCKNER HIGH ALPINE ROAD
Recommended by Una from Wandernity
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is named after Austria’s highest mountain Grossglockner. It is the highest pass road in the Alps, connecting Bruck in the state of Salzburg with Heiligenblut in Carinthia. It is a stunningly beautiful place to go for a road trip in Austria.
The road itself is 48 km long and has 36 turns. Edelweissspitze is the highest point you can reach on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, and it is just above 2,500 m above sea level.
A day trip of driving this route is an adventure on its own. The road is usually open for the public in late April/early May, and after that, you can take the journey through the lush Alpine meadows with a stunning mountain background.
Don’t skip the best viewpoint on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road! You will notice it by a multi-story car park, a visitors centre, and an observation tower. From there, you will be able to see the Grossglockner and other surrounding peaks of the Alps.
If you wish to spend more time near the mountains and get to the Grossglockner road bright and early in the morning, Hotel Wasserfall is a great choice for a place to stay. It is a traditional alpine chalet, and the best part – a breakfast buffet is included.
Here is the starting point of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. You can have a look at the map and check how to best get there from your location. It’s possible to buy a car or bike ticket for the road online.
8. KRIMMLER WASSERFALLE
Recommended by Cosette from KarsTravels
The Krimmler Wasserfalle is the highest phased waterfall in Europe. The waterfall is 380-meter-high in total, consisting of 3 phases. Two falls of 140 meters and one of 100 meters high.
It is the most famous waterfall in Austria, and shouldn’t be left out from your Austria itinerary. When visiting the waterfalls, look out for a rainbow. There’s a high chance you’ll see one there. The waterfalls are inside the Hohe Tauern National Park, located near the town of Krimml.
Along the waterfalls is a path of 4 kilometers (2.49 miles), which follows the river. The path is a 100-year-old hiking trail. You can hike this path up (and then down again). There are also platforms to view the falls from up close. The first waterfall takes about 15 minutes of walking, and the upper waterfall takes an hour and 15 minutes. Of the 3 waterfalls, the middle waterfall is considered the most beautiful one.
Good choices for staying nearby are the Gästehaus Waltl in the town of Krimml. It has a view of the waterfalls and is just 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) away. Another good option is Hotel Krimmlerfälle, which is 20 minutes on foot away from the falls. The entrance fee to the falls is included with the room.
The waterfalls are open between May and October. In winter the path is closed, so you can only visit the lower waterfall. Entrance to the falls is €4.00 per person. You can reach the Krimmler Wasserfalle on the Gerlos Alpenstrasse.
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Graz is Austria’s second-largest city and the capital of the beautiful state of Styria.
Once in Graz, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the Uhrturm – the city’s main sight and one of the most famous landmarks in Austria located on a small hill. To get up there, you can either climb a few hundred steep stairs or take the less exhausting way: The cable car called Schlossbergbahn.
Another place you shouldn’t miss is the Kunsthaus. It’s a modern art museum housing different exhibition of contemporary artists. Because of its strange look, locals also call it the Friendly Alien.
For lunch or a hot cup of coffee, head to one of the numerous places near the city hall. Some good recommendations are Ginko Greenhouse, Café Sacher or Don Camillo. To get a break from the hectic city life, make your way to Schloss Eggenberg and take an extensive stroll in the big, beautiful surrounding park.
One day is more than enough to see all the main attractions without rushing through the city but if you want to experience real local life, it’s recommended to stay at least two or three days. There are many great hotels in the city centre such as the Hotel Weitzer Graz or NH Graz City.
With a car drive of only 2.5 hours from Vienna and 3 hours from Salzburg, Graz is easily reachable from both of the major cities. Those who prefer public transport can choose one of the many direct train and bus connections that are available a few times a day.
10. GESÄUSE NATIONAL PARK
Recommended by Steve from Austria Direct
The Gesäuse National Park is situated in the mountains on the northern border of the southern Austrian province of Styria. As well as the mountain landscape, the protected area includes the Enns River, a favourite destination for kayakers and other water sports enthusiasts.
The Gesäuse National Park is the newest in Austria’s national park system. It was established in 2002, which means it is coming up for its 20th-anniversary celebrations. Compared to some of the other nature reserves in Austria, the Gesäuse is a relatively small area. It is ideal for a weekend trip to explore the region from cities like Graz, Linz, or Vienna.
Admont, with its historic religious complex of monastery and library, is the nearest town with a good choice of accommodation. The national park area is just to the east, and Admont makes a good base for a visit to the park, as it is within easy reach of the park and is close to motorway and rail connections at Liezen.
It is still possible to stay closer to the heart of the outdoors in the Gesäuse. The small village of Johnsbach is one of the Austrian destinations known as a ‘mountaineering village’ (‘Bergsteigerdorf’) – a group of villages dotted around the country (and in the neighbouring regions which border Austria) which are great for alpine pursuits.
Johnsbach also has a traditional centre for mountaineering and rock climbing- the touching mountain climbers’ cemetery there pays homage to that. Visitors who are not particularly active may still find making the trip to the village worthwhile to see the church and the mountain scenery surrounding it.
If you have your own car, then it is possible to drive to the national park from your location. There are also direct trains that run daily between Vienna and Gesäuse. From there, it is easy to get a public bus or taxi to bring you to the park.
11. SOUTH STYRIA
Recommended by Lori from Travelinmad
The lush verdant region in the southernmost part of Austria, Styria (or Steiermark in German) is known as the Green Heart of Austria, and South Styria is particularly beautiful. If you didn’t know it, you might think you’ve travelled to Tuscany until you see the orange tiled rooftops and Germanic decorations adorning the landscape.
Like much of Austria, South Styria is one of the most prolific wine-producing regions in Austria, known for its crisp white wines. One of the best ways to explore the region is by driving the South Styria Wine Road loop. This long driving loop can take you days to explore- it offers a wealth of charming small towns.
Starting near Ehrenhausen, make time to stop at the Genussregal, an amazing gourmet wine and food store featuring locally produced foods and wine. There’s a restaurant to grab lunch after a wine-tasting and even a tour where you can learn all about the local commitment to sustainable farming and husbandry.
There are lovely wineries around every corner on the wine road, but Sattlerhof in Gamlitz is great for dinner and a tasting. At the end of the line, visit Die Brauerei in Leutschach to taste some of the best craft brews and beer cordials in Austria.
If you’d rather experience the great outdoors on two wheels instead of four, rent an eBike in Gamlitz to see the beautiful countryside.
Along the wine road, you won’t find traditional hotels, but rather local wine taverns — called buschenschanks — which offer their own wines and creative brettlejause platters for dinner, along with comfortable overnight accommodations. One of the best buschenschanks near Gamlitz is Dreisiebner Stammhaus, with lovely views of the surrounding vineyards.
South Styria is located an easy one-hour drive south of Graz, near the Slovenian border. You can rent a car in Graz here.
12. WACHAU VALLEY
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Only about an hour away from Vienna by train, the Wachau Valley, surrounded by hills, is situated on the banks of the Danube River. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its wineries, charming villages, and castles. If you like dry, white wines, visiting the wineries in Wachau is a must.
The scenery is beautiful, there’s plenty of wine to taste, and many of the wineries offer lunch with lovely views over the countryside. There are also several beautiful little towns to explore, many with castles on the hills above. The fortress at Dürnstein is a favourite – it was once the prison of King Richard the Lionheart, and wandering through the ruins is a fascinating experience, with the bonus of stunning views of the valley below.
Wachau Valley makes an easy day trip from Vienna, or you can stay in one of the towns to spend the day exploring the region. Melk and Dürnstein are popular places to stay, with several accommodation options, pretty town centres, and old buildings (such as the abbey and castle) to explore. They also make excellent bases for exploring the region. For something a bit smaller but equally as charming, try the little town of Spitz, which has a couple of boutique hotels.
Direct trains from Vienna stop in the larger towns of Melk or Krems. Alternatively, it’s an easy drive across the city, and car parking is usually available. Cycling through the region is also a good option, as there are easy trails and towns are located relatively close to each other. You can also take a ferry down the river. If you’re interested in visiting for just a day, you can also do an organised day tour from Vienna.
Recommended by Sophie from Just Heading Out
Steyr is a small city in Upper Austria that makes a big impact. The city deed dates back to 980 A.D., although Celts settled in the area as far back as 600 BC. After extensive restoration, it has one of the best-preserved old towns in the country. The beautiful historic city centre is filled with Gothic architecture as well as typical Austrian Baroque buildings.
Travellers looking for a slower pace and lots of history and culture will find just that in Steyr. Located along the rivers Steyr and Enns, the town looks like a postcard.
Start your visit with a stop at the tourist information centre on the main square, where you can get a map of the town and tips on what to see and do. From there, wander around the narrow cobblestone streets in the old city, which feels as if you’ve stepped back in time.
Don’t be afraid to let yourself get a bit lost; there are beautiful hidden places around every corner. Come back to the main square once you’re ready for a break and a refreshing beer.
Some notable spots to visit in Steyr are Schloss Lamberg, Stadtpfarrkirche Steyr, and the Bummerlhaus. For the best view of the city, climb the stairs behind Michealerplatz to the top. The region around Steyr also has some great hiking spots!
Truly immerse yourself in the historic charm of Steyr by booking your stay in Stadthotel Steyr. This elegant hotel is located in a landmark building on the main square. Restaurant Minichmayer is the perfect place to enjoy authentic Austrian cuisine with a view of the river.
Steyr has a small train station and is easy to reach with the S1, either from Linz or St. Valentin, connected to Vienna.
I hope this guide about the best places to visit in Austria has given you some inspiration for your next Europe trip. Austria truly is a beautiful country to explore and there is a lot more to it than just skiing. I wish that more people decide to give this natural destination a chance going forwards!
If you have any questions about Austria or want to suggest another place for me to add to this list, then please send an email or leave a comment below. I love hearing from you!
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