Sitting right in the heart of central Europe, Austria delights travelers with its Alpine mountains and grand imperial heritage. Although it is quite a small country, it offers a lot of places to visit and things to do. You can spend your trip to Austria exploring stunning cities full of culture, swimming in crystal-clear lakes, or skiing down epic mountain slopes.
Narrowing down what to do in Austria can be a real challenge, so we’ve decided to help you out by listing all the best places to visit in Austria in one place. These are all the places you need to know about when planning a visit to this beautiful country.
A natural place to start when you visit Austria is the capital city, Vienna. Once the heart of the Habsburg Empire, this grand city sure looks the part, with its traditional architecture and sophisticated coffeehouses.
Vienna is home to some of the best-known tourist attractions in Austria, including many elegant royal residences, such as Schönbrunn Palace and the Belvedere. Some other striking landmarks in the city center are Vienna City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the Karlskirche.
As a city of culture, Vienna is also home to many museums, the Albertina art museum and the Museum of Art History being two of the finest. On the lighter side, you’ll find quirky buildings like the Hundertwasser House and the delightful Prater amusement park.
For a complete guide to the city, take a look at our detailed Vienna itinerary.
Famous for its connection to The Sound of Music, the city of Salzburg is easily one of the best things to do in Austria for tourists. The Mirabell Palace Gardens is where you’ll go to see a filming location for The Sound of Music, but there are many other captivating places to see in the Old Town, especially Getreidegasse with its characteristic architecture and antique signage.
Salzburg is also famous for being the birthplace of renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You can visit the house where he was born in Getreidegasse, now the Mozart’s Birthplace museum, and the house where the family lived, the Mozart Residence museum. A large statue of the composer stands in Mozartplatz.
The city’s sense of culture extends beyond music, with a great selection of museums over in the DomQuartier beside a majestic cathedral. Watching over it all is Hohensalzburg Fortress, a mighty castle full of history that defines the city’s skyline.
Heading to Salzburg on your trip to Austria? Don’t forget to check our Salzburg itinerary for suggestions on what to see, where to stay, and so much more.
Another major city in Austria that you won’t want to miss is Innsbruck, out in the west of the country. Surrounded by the Alps, this destination combines winter sports with distinguished imperial architecture.
Down in the city’s Old Town is a selection of fine historic landmarks tied to the old Habsburg dynasty. The most iconic of these is the elaborate Golden Roof, boasting over 2,000 gilded tiles. Innsbruck’s Old Town is also home to its very own Hofburg Palace, a former imperial residence, and the gorgeously Gothic Hofkirche.
You can roam the medieval Old Town and admire the scenery of these historic buildings, which sit alongside the Inn River with the snow-covered Alps popping out over the rooftops. In the mountains above Innsbruck is the Nordkette Ski Resort, which you can reach from the city center via funicular in just 20 minutes.
Few places are as famous in Austria as the fairy-tale village of Hallstatt. Sitting among lakes and mountains in the Salzkammergut region, Hallstatt is adored for its enchanting scenery. As you walk through the village, you’ll see swans swimming around a pristine lake on one side and quaint Alpine houses on the other.
But there’s actually much more than pretty scenery here, starting with the Bone House, a small ossuary inside St. Michael’s Chapel. You can also delve deep into the Hallstatt Salt Mine, the oldest salt mine in the world.
On the hillside above town, you’ll find the Hallstatt Skywalk, an observation deck that offers incredible views of the Hallstätter See and the nearby Dachstein Mountains. After exploring the town and finding its iconic viewpoint, you’ll agree that Hallstatt is one of the best things to see in Austria.
Although it’s the second-largest city in Austria, Graz is a destination that many travelers underestimate. But there’s plenty to see in this historic cultural hub in the country’s southeast. Its most iconic landmark is the symbolic Graz Clock Tower, which watches over the city from Schlossberg, a tree-covered hill where you’ll find superb views.
Down in the heart of the city is the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of Renaissance and Baroque architecture centering on Hauptplatz. Other interesting attractions in town include Graz Castle and its famous double-spiral staircase, the world’s largest historic armor collection in the Styrian Armoury, and the Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II next to Graz Cathedral. Then there’s the modern side of Graz, whose landmarks include the man-made island of Murinsel and the bizarre Graz Art Museum, nicknamed “The Friendly Alien.”
For more information on Graz, take a look at our comprehensive Graz itinerary.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road
If it’s a scenic drive you’re after, put the Grossglockner High Alpine Road on your itinerary. Grossglockner, the tallest peak in the country, is one of the must-sees in Austria, and you’ll enjoy a fantastic view of it on this drive. In fact, you’ll be surrounded by incredible Alpine scenery on this windy drive that takes you over the highest paved mountain pass in Austria.
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road starts in Bruck and follows the Fusch Valley up to the village of Heiligenblut, heading back down into Carinthia and Tyrol. You’ll make your way through 36 bends and reach altitudes of over 2,500 meters – which is why this route is popular with motorcyclists. If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful pass roads in Europe, this is the drive for you.
Zell am See
With its lovely lakeside scenery and ski slopes, Zell am See is a popular year-round destination and one of the best towns in Austria for outdoor activities. Here you have both the lake and mountains at your disposal. The best way to start your visit, though, is to explore the town and walk along the beautiful Zell am See Esplanade.
The other things to do in Zell am See depend on when you’re there. In the winter, you can ice-skate on Lake Zell and take lifts up to the Schmittenhöhe ski slopes. Come summer, you can go swimming or boating out on the lake, or follow one of the many hiking trails up into the mountains above town.
In a hidden valley among the High Tauern mountains lies the spa town of Bad Gastein. The fresh mountain air, thermal springs, and sounds of the nearby waterfall make this a perfect place to relax. Throughout Bad Gastein, you’ll see elegant Belle Époque buildings and villas that reflect its history as a popular spa retreat from the 19th century.
While you can spend your time here soaking in the local hot springs, whose waters are rich in minerals and radon, Bad Gastein is also a base for various outdoor sports, including hiking and biking in summer and skiing in winter. Don’t forget the mighty Bad Gastein Waterfall, which you can visit by following the Wasserfallweg (Waterfall Trail). It’s said that the mist from this waterfall even gives the town’s air a healing quality.
You really have your pick of lakes when vacationing in Austria, but a hard one to beat is Wolfgangsee (Lake Wolfgang) in Salzkammergut near Salzburg. This serene lake makes for a perfect getaway, thanks to its gorgeous turquoise waters, surrounding mountainscape, and nearby towns.
When you visit Wolfgangsee, you have your pick of towns – including St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut, and Strobl – each one home to charming traditional buildings. You also have plenty of ways to enjoy the lake, whether you want to cycle along its banks, swim in its crystal-clear waters, or rent a boat for the day.
Also not to be missed is the towering mountain of Schafberg overlooking the lake. Whether you hike up or take the special rack railway to the top, you’ll be amazed at the 360-degree views of the region’s many other lakes and mountains.
Wachau Danube Valley
The Danube River flows right across Austria, and its arguably most captivating stretch is the Wachau Valley. This section of the Danube River, which flows between the towns of Melk and Krems, is crammed with attractions of all kinds, making it a major player for tourism in Austria.
Starting up one end with Melk, you should explore the colossal and lavish Melk Abbey, which dominates the town. From there, follow the river by boat, bike, or car to stop in at historic sites like Schönbühel Castle and the ruins of Aggstein Castle.
Soon enough, you’ll reach the picturesque town of Dürnstein, which lies under the ruins of the castle where Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner. Dürnstein is also a great place to sample the valley’s produce, including apricot liqueur and saffron. At the far end of this region lie Krems and Göttweig Abbey, which both make quite the impression.
While there are plenty of mountains to climb in Austria’s Alps, Hoher Dachstein is the best one to visit if you want to see glaciers. It’s actually home to several, including the Hallstätter Glacier, Gosau Glacier, and Dachstein Glacier. This mountain in the Northern Limestone Alps sits on the border of Upper Austria and Styria; at 2,700 meters, it’s the highest mountain in either state.
Upon reaching the top of Hoher Dachstein, you’ll find a nice variety of ways to enjoy the mountain views. You’ll need to be brave to get the most out of your visit, experiencing the thrills of the Dachstein Suspension Bridge, the precarious Skywalk observation deck, and the glass-bottomed Stairway to Nothingness. Luckily for those uneasy about heights, there’s also the Dachstein Ice Palace, full of intricate ice carvings that anyone can enjoy.
At first glance, Bad Ischl might look like just another Austrian spa town. But thanks to its location and close ties with the royal Habsburg family, Bad Ischl is much more than that. This spa town sits neatly among the many lakes that lie around the Salzkammergut region, making it an ideal gateway to places like Hallstatt and Wolfgangsee.
While Bad Ischl was already a popular spa resort, it became even more famous when Emperor Franz Joseph l chose to have his summer residence there. Among the town’s various parks and spas, you can still find the Kaiservilla, which became the royal summer home in 1854. Interestingly, it was from the Kaiservilla that Franz Joseph signed the declaration that began World War I in 1914.
If you plan to see some of the country’s beautiful waterfalls when traveling to Austria, the Krimml Waterfalls should be on your list. These waterfalls in Hohe Tauern National Park are the highest in the country, measuring a total of 380 meters and crossing three tiers in their plummet toward the village of Krimml.
To see each stage of the falls, you can take the 4-kilometer path that leads between the tiers, enjoying views from the observation platforms along the way. The Waterfall Trail also takes you into the serene surrounding forest, providing a nice day out in nature.
St Anton am Arlberg
Skiing and Austria go hand in hand, and many say that St. Anton am Arlberg is the best ski resort in Austria. In fact, this village in the Tyrolean Alps is often credited with inventing the sport.
You can learn about the history of skiing at the Museum St. Anton am Arlberg, housed inside a traditional Alpine chalet – but you’re probably most excited to get out on the slopes. You’ll find 305 kilometers of pistes and another 200 kilometers of off-piste itineraries around the village, giving you plenty of choices.
Whether you’re interested in skiing, snowboarding, winter climbing, or hiking, St. Anton am Arlberg is bound to deliver. No matter how you spend the day, the village’s lively apres-ski scene is a fun way to end it.
Hohe Tauern National Park
Of Austria’s six national parks, Hohe Tauern is the oldest and largest, making it another place you shouldn’t miss. What’s so great about this park is the sheer diversity on display, which includes its wildlife. It’s home to animals from roughly half the species in Austria, such as golden eagles, chamois, and marmots.
There’s also plenty of incredible scenery among the park’s many valleys and Alpine ranges, two standouts being the Pasterze Glacier and the aforementioned Krimml Falls. Hiking trails and bike tracks throughout the park make it a great destination for fans of the outdoors.
That just about sums up the best places Austria has to offer visitors. You’ll have a hard time fitting all these destinations into one trip, so why not plan two?
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