From enchanting cities and fairy tale villages to sweeping Alpine mountain landscapes, we explore the most beautiful places to visit in Austria.
Whether you thrive in charming cities or crave the great outdoors, a trip to Austria promises to satisfy all tastes. From cities steeped in centuries of history to charming villages nestled in breathtaking mountains, the country is full of magnificent places to visit. Just take a look at these popular destinations throughout Austria.
Austria’s illustrious capital has long upheld its reputation as a hub of classical music and art and ornate Baroque architecture. The city’s exquisite cuisine also makes it one of the most desirable places to visit in Austria. Ranked as the world’s top city for quality of life, it is also a popular choice among ex-pats. The largest city in Austria is the epitome of elegance and hosts more than 200 grand balls every year. There are numerous opulent landmarks to explore, too, including the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace, the Hofburg, the Rathaus, and Belvedere Palace.
Whether you want to watch the Vienna Philharmonic perform at the State Opera House, take in the sights of the city on a cruise along the Danube River, or enjoy a world-class meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, a visit to Vienna is sure to impress. If you prefer to relax in nature, an idyllic walk through the Burggarten or sprawling Nationalpark Donau Auen is not to be missed. Thrill-seekers, meanwhile, can get their kicks on the funfair rides at the iconic Prater amusement park.
Located in central Austria, Salzburg is the fourth-largest city and the famous birthplace of Mozart. And it’s not hard to see how this magnificent historic city inspired the great composer. Sprawling along the Salzach River, against a backdrop of stunning Alpine scenery, the city is truly enchanting. Its skyline is made all the more majestic by the medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress, which sits high atop the Festungsberg hill overlooking the city. You can visit it by walking uphill for 20 minutes or taking a funicular which gets you to the top in just one minute.
Fans of The Sound of Music, meanwhile, can visit several local shooting locations including St. Peter’s Monastery and Cemetery, and Mirabell Palace and Gardens. Salzburg is also home to the actual von Trapp family residence, which is now a popular hotel. Mozart aficionados, meanwhile, can visit his famous birthplace and marvel at some of his preserved instruments and musical scores. But if you prefer to just take in the sights and sounds of the city, a stroll through the historic old town will reveal an abundance of beautiful Baroque architecture; not to mention relaxing beer gardens.
With its crystal clear lakes, rolling mountains, and charming towns and cities, Salzkammergut should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Just a half-hour drive from Salzburg, the stunning UNESCO-listed region is also home to Hallstatt; one of the most photogenic destinations in Austria. Surrounded by majestic mountains and sparkling water, it’s easy to see why this enchanting village has captured the hearts of so many photographers. The picturesque setting resembles something from a fairy tale; made all the more so by the colorful 16th-century chalets.
To enjoy unparalleled panoramic views of the village and surrounding landscape, you can hop on a funicular railway in Hallstatt and head through the mountain valleys to the Hallstatt Skywalk viewing platform. Austria’s biggest active salt mine, Salzwelten, is also a popular attraction in the region. Adventure-seekers will no doubt enjoy taking a boat trip across the subterranean salt lake hidden within the mine.
Located on the banks of the Inn River, against a backdrop of 2,000-meter-high mountains, Innsbruck is one of the most idyllic places to visit in Austria. Also known as the ‘Capital of the Alps, the country’s fifth-largest city is a popular destination among hikers and skiers. Each year, millions of visitors come to enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery and hit the slopes during winter. The city is world-famous for its excellent winter sports facilities and has twice hosted the Winter Olympics, in 1964 and 1976.
For the best views of the city and surrounding landscape, you can take a cable car from the center and journey to the top of Nordkette mountain. However, make sure you don’t miss all the exquisite castles, churches, and palaces to explore in the medieval old town itself. St. Jacob Cathedral, the Hofburg (former imperial palace), and Ambras Castle are among the must-see sights.
Perched on the banks of the Mur River, Austria’s second-largest city, Graz, is famous for its red rooftops and Schlossberg hilltop castle. It is also characterized by the futuristic Kunsthaus Graz, which is often dubbed the ‘friendly alien’. Floating like a giant blue balloon between the Baroque rooftops of the historic center, this unique art museum demonstrates how the UNESCO-listed town seamlessly blends the old with the new. The vibrant creativity of Graz has even earned it the nickname, the ‘City of Design’.
Another intriguing structure to explore is Murinsel; an artificial floating island in the middle of the Mur river which connects the two banks. The city is also home to the stunning UNESCO-listed Eggenberg Palace and the childhood home of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The latter features a fun exhibition filled with all kinds of memorabilia spanning the movie star’s career. Graz is also popular among nature lovers, owing to the 605 hiking routes scattered throughout the surrounding countryside. The city’s vibrant nightlife scene also helps to attract the younger crowd, including the local student population.
6. Bad Gastein
If you love to be pampered then a visit to the thermal springs of Bad Gastein should definitely top your list. Each year, thousands of people come to visit the many resorts and thermal baths in this picturesque spa town in Austria’s High Tauern mountains. The surrounding forests and steep mountain slopes also make the town a popular destination among hikers in summer and skiers in winter.
For complete indulgence, you can book a stay at the famous Grand Hotel de l’Europe. Perched on the mountainside overlooking the town below, this 11-story hotel has remained an iconic landmark for more than a century. Nearby, the unique Bad Gastein Waterfall flows through the center of the town, making this one of the most unique places to visit in Austria.
7. Grossglockner High Alpine Road
For the road trip of a lifetime, fewer places beat Austria’s Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Winding its way through the breathtaking Alpine divide, the scenic road leads from Bruck in the Salzach Valley towards Austria’s tallest mountain, the Grossglockner. Blending in harmoniously with the dramatic landscape, the route offers 48 kilometers of driving paradise. Along the way, you will pass through Alpine meadows, mountain forests, stunning national parks, and ice glaciers. Needless to say, photographers will have the time of their lives capturing magnificent shots of the landscape.
Located at the foot of Grossglockner mountain, the village of Heiligenblut am Grossglockner is a particularly good photo point. Its striking Church of St. Vincent is a particular highlight. Located in the High Tauern National Park, Austria’s highest waterfall, Krimml Waterfall, is also worth a visit. Be warned though, there are some hair-raising twists and turns in store along this epic road. And keep an eye out for Alpine marmots (adorable fluffy rodents) which live there in abundance.
8. Zell am See
Nestled in the Kitzbühel Alps, next to a crystal-clear blue lake of the same name, Zell is See is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Austria. This is largely due to the cozy chalets and rolling green hills that surround it. In the summertime, the small town is bustling with tourists who come to relax and swim in the lake and cycle the local trails. Those with a car can also drive up to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road and enjoy sensational views from above.
During winter, however, the town is brimming with skiers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts. The cozy coffee shops and beautiful old buildings in the town center also attract locals from nearby Salzburg. St. Hippolyte’s Church, with its famous bell tower, offers some of the best views of the town. There are also a number of restaurants to explore which serve hearty and classic Austrian food.
Located on the Danube River in the Wachau Valley wine region, the small town of Dürnstein is one of the most picture-perfect places to visit in Austria. It is also a hotspot for wine-lovers; given that several vineyards along the river produce the famous Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes. Perched high on a rocky hill overlooking the town, the ruins of the medieval Dürnstein Castle are steeped in history. It was in this spot, in 1193, that Duke Leopold V held Richard I of England captive during the Third Crusade. You can visit the castle on foot which takes around 20 minutes from the town center.
There are many beautiful buildings to explore while strolling along the cobbled streets of the idyllic town. Among these are the Kremser Tor (eastern city gate), Kunigunden Church, and the Poor Clare Monastery. If you want to venture out and explore the valley, however, you can hire a bike and follow the cycle paths along the river. If you have time, the nearby towns of Melk, Krems, Willendorf, and Spritz are also worth visiting.
Some of the most spectacular scenery in Austria lies in the mountainous region of Vorarlberg. Located in western Austria, on the border with German, the sprawling landscape is a dream destination for hikers and skiers. Reaching up to 2,000 meters, the towering mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop to the forested trail routes. Along the way, you will discover beautiful lakes, gorges, and an echo wall where you can create your own unique sounds. For sensational views of the valley, you can hop on several cable cars and journey up to the cozy mountain inns to relax with a warm drink in hand.
Vorarlberg is also home to several beautiful nature spots including the Verwall area in Montafon. This is one of the largest European Protection Areas in the Natura 2000 network. The stunning Lake Constance and surrounding cities of Bregenz, Dornbirn, Hohenems, and Feldkirch are also located here. The region is famous for its cultural festivities and boasts numerous museums and buildings.