Austria in winter is a magical place to visit, with excellent winter sports, Christmas markets and lots and lots of snow. Whether it’s a secluded snug log cabin or concerts in Vienna, read on for Culture Trip’s guide to the best places for a winter break in Austria.
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Breathe in the spicy scents, hug your hands around a steaming mug of gluhwein, and allow yourself to melt into the festive spirit at one of Innsbruck’s Christmas markets. Austria is famed for being an all-round pro at all things festive, and the markets in this city never fail to raise Christmas cheer. One of the best and most traditional takes place in front of the iconic Golden Roof – a building gifted by the Emperor to his wife in Austria’s Imperial days – and sees clusters of wooden stalls selling a variety of handcrafted treats and trinkets and serving delicious homemade dishes.
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Vienna is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most beautiful capital cities and a place where merrymaking and Christmas celebrations are taken very seriously indeed. Events across the city range from quaint markets held in the shadow of dramatic baroque architecture and classical concerts in some of the greatest venues in the world to art installations and ice rinks. Check out our guide to the best activities in Vienna at Christmas.
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This is an idyllic area of Austria, perfect for those who want a rural getaway, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The resort of Schönleitn is a charming cluster of wooden cabins, arranged around the beautiful lake Faaker See. It is incredibly beautiful when snow falls, transforming the Alpine area into an elegant winter wonderland.
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Second to Vienna, the city of Salzburg is the next best venue for an Austrian Christmas city break. The Christmas markets are atmospheric and the surrounding snow-tipped Alps make a delightful backdrop for seasonal festivities. You can also escape into the wilderness; a 90-minute drive from Salzburg’s city centre, Saalbach is a delightful and charming village full of great cafes, bars and boutique hotels. With the addition of a new ski lift and slopes ranging from 830m (2,723ft) to 2,095m (6,873ft) it’s perfect for winter-sport enthusiasts.
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Beautiful year round, but especially spectacular in the colder months, this picturesque Alpine valley contains four idyllic villages: Niederau, Oberau, Auffach and Thierbach.
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Located 700m (2,300ft) above sea level, the district of Gmunden in Upper Austria is blessed with densely rich forests, rugged mountains and glittering streams. Between 13 and 21 January each year, the azure skies explode with colour, when hundreds of Luftballons grace Gosau’s heavens for Hot Air Balloon Week. This is just one of many spectacular attractions to enjoy here; the glaciers and the enchanting Lake Gosau are also sights not to be missed.
Zell am See
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Holidays in this spectacular lakeside town are terrific in both the summer and winter. Those who visit in the warmer months should embark on some hiking trails, which deliver breathtaking panoramic views and some satisfyingly challenging routes. Nearby Kaprun is famed for its glacier ice rinks.
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Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s work is probably the best example of weird yet wonderful architecture in Vienna. As well as his famous wobbly apartment block in Vienna, he also designed some of the buildings around the Rogner Bad Blumau in Styria, making for a wonderfully surreal world. Around the spa, there are a variety of outdoor thermal pools and massage and treatment packages available, providing some respite from the cold weather.
Aqua Dome – Tirol Therme Längenfeld
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This photogenic, dreamy spa in Tirol is undoubtedly one of the best in the Alps. Forget all your troubles in one of its 12 beautifully designed thermal swimming pools (the outdoor pools have temperatures of 93-97°F), or sweat your way to serenity in one of the seven saunas, each of varying intensity – a unique experience when there is snow on the ground outside. A range of treatments is also available, including massages and facials.
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The intriguingly named Bohemian Forest lies between South Bohemia in the Czech Republic and Germany and Austria, creating a natural barrier between the countries. There are various resorts located in the Austrian area, and one of the favourites among the skiing community is Hochficht.
Ski resort Kitzbuehel
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The sprawling Kitzbuehel ski area creeps over two provinces and seven municipalities. Fifty-four cable cars and lifts commute high above the world-famous ski resort on the summit to 2,000m (6,600ft) above sea level. On the piste map you’ll find an immaculately groomed 179km (111mi) of slopes and 36km (22mi) of ski routes.