Top Places to Explore in Austria

We try to get to Europe as often as possible.  Kati has her family there and we love exploring the different countries and cultures.  Austria is one of our favorites and no matter how many times we go, we never get tired of it.  There is always something new to discover.

Austria is a tiny country with some of the most enchanting cities and medieval villages with stunning alpine backdrops. Picture a backyard with the Alpine mountain landscapes sprawling across the skies like a wavy blue carpet. Quite a sight to behold! The country offers a dreamy holiday feel whether you’re visiting the cities or the small towns. It’s too beautiful, too magnificent, from whatever location you’re at. This is what awaits you in Austria.

This article takes you through some exciting, gorgeous cities and sites to visit in Austria. We have listed some of the popular destinations, and a few secret locations to check out while you’re in Austria.

So here we go.

 

Vienna

Austria is famed for its boisterous architecture, creative art, and love for tasteful classical music. The locals also relish good food, making wining and dining a celebratory affair. You’ll find extravagant hotels serving great cuisines, delicacies from all over the world – especially Indian flavors, making Vienna the most preferred romantic and sophisticated destination in the Scandinavian countries.

It is no wonder that Vienna is ranked as the world best city for “quality of life”. And so naturally, most extinguished experts’ technocrats and aristocrats alike prefer visiting Vienna for these excesses of life.

So, what do you do once you land in Vienna?

Well, firstly, blend in.

Carry a few tuxedos and ball gowns for the time of your life in the evenings as you get ready for dreamy nights with soothing classical music or charming balls if that’s what you prefer (ok, we really haven’t done this – we typically don’t pack a tux nor ball gown.  But the nightlife in Vienna is magical and the ability to experience Mozart in the city where he worked, having been born in Salzburg,  is incredible).

During the day, visit the magnificent Chloss Schönbrunn Palace. Other grand palaces in the city include the Hofburg, the Belvedere, and the Rathaus Palace.

In the afternoon, take a city tour in a leisurely boat as you cruise along River Danube. Later on, savor local cuisines at the string of cafes littered on Vienna’s clean, organized streets. Everything in the city is so organized you’d think it’s the Vatican City. 

For nature lovers, take long brisk walks in the serene Donau Auen National Park, or enjoy the scenic ambience as you walk through the Burggarten. If traveling with kids, don’t miss out on all the funfair at the Prater amusement park.

Best places to stay in Vienna:

Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof Wien

Hotel Beethoven Vienna

Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront

 

Graz

This unique town is a UNESCO site, located on the shores of River Mur.  It is the second-largest city in Austria and is famously recognized for its colorful rooftops and the stunning Schlossberg castle perched on a hill. 

Your first stop should be the ultramodern Kunsthaus Graz, locally known as the ‘friendly alien’ floating between the Baroque rooftops like a giant hot-air balloon. This exceptional art museum demonstrates how the town impeccably blends technology in a laid-back setting – hence the nickname Graz the ‘City of Design’.

Visit the artificial Island, Murinsel floating in the Mur River. The city is also home to the magnificent  Eggenberg Palace, a UNESCO listed site. The Palace displays the famous actor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s souvenirs to celebrate his lifetime achievements as a sports and movie star. Schwarzenegger grew up in Graz, Austria, and the local authorities decided to set up a “hall of Fame” in his honor at Eggenberg Palace.

 Other fun activities to do in Graz include hiking, swimming and club-hopping at night as you explore the town’s vibrant nightlife.

Best places to stay in Graz:

Ibis Graz

Schlossberghotel – Das Kunsthotel

Palais-Hotel Erzherzog Johann

 

Eggenber Palace

Eggenberg Palace is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and not to be missed in Graz.

 

Salzburg

Located in central Austria, Mozart began the illustrious career that earned him the most prominent classical music title.  Salzburg is the fourth-largest city in Austria. It has so much to offer besides being Mozart’s birthplace. The city has a rich history, most of it inspired the great composer. Enjoy a ride in the sprawling Salzach River against the magnificent scenic backdrop of the Alpine mountains. Visit the medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress, artistically built atop the gorgeous Festungsberg hill overlooking the beautiful.  To get to the fortress, you can hike up the hill for about twenty minutes or take a local funicular which is super-fast, but you miss out on an adventurous walk and its scenic view.

Later on, explore the local museums and the famous St Peter’s Monastery. Visit the Mirabell Palace and its well-manicured gardens. In the evenings, enjoy a local brew in one of the relaxing beer gardens.

And by the way, get used to the Sound of Music everywhere in Salzburg.

Best places to stay in Salzburg: 

Hotel Bristol Salzburg

Hotel Sacher Salzburg

Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron

 

Zell am See

This beautiful city is home to one of the most charming landscapes nestled in the Kitzbühel Alps. The town’s lake, also named Zell am See is a heavenly paradise in Austria. Explore the lovely cottages strewn across the hills as you mingle with the locals. The lake is a world attraction and packs up with tourists during the summertime. You can also drive uphill towards the Grossglockner High Alpine and enjoy stunning views atop the curvy hills.

During winter, skiers fill up for extreme sports adventure. You can combine your trip with Salzburg’s main attractions, which is just minutes’ away by road. 

Visit the Belltower at St. Hippolyte’s Church, and watch magnificent views of the tower’s town.

You can later sample out the local cuisines at one of the countless restaurants in town.  

Best places to stay :

Hotel Tirolerhof

Hotel Salzburgerhof

Hotel Der Waldhof

 

Salzkammergut

If you’re a nature kind of guy, and you’re into outdoor activities like hiking, rowing lazily on crystal clear lakes, and picnicking in the middle of lush landscapes, you should go to Salzkammergut.  The town is a short drive away from Hallstatt in Salzburg – a UNESCO heritage site renowned for its stunning photogenic scenery. Hemmed in magnificent landscapes, crystal clear lakes, rolling mountains, and charming villages, Salzkammergut is a must-visit destination.

The scenic town resembles a fairy tale from the colorful 16th-century chalets.

To enjoy the villages’ unmatched photogenic views and its surrounding landscape, hop on a funicular in Hallstatt and snake through the highland valleys to the Hallstatt footbridge observation point. Afterwards, you can visit the active salt mine in Salzwelten, another famous attraction in the area. You can also hop on a boat and sail across the salty lake within the mine.

Best places to stay in Salzkammergut:

Haus Strutzenberger

Hotel Eichingerbauer

Landhaus Koller

 

Innsbruck

Nicknamed the ‘Capital of the Alps, Innsbruck lies on River Inn banks, surrounded by gigantic 2,000-meter-high mountains. Innsbruck is popular among hiking enthusiasts. Thousands of tourists throng this enchanting city to snowball, hike, and enjoy the magnificent snowcapped mountains during winter. It’s the perfect location for winter sports. The city hosted the 1964 Winter Olympic Games and once more in 1976.

To capture the best photos, witness the exquisite landscapes, rent a cable car, and cruise through to the top of Nordkette. Explore the grand palaces, the magnificent Ambras Castle, and the ancient churches key among them the St. Jacob Cathedral. 

Best places to stay in Innsbruck:

Hotel Seewinkel

Villa Seilern Vital Resort

Hotel Sallerhof

 

Innsbruck

Having hosted two Olympics, Innsbruck is truly an amazing city in the Alps.

 

Wattens, Tirol – Swarovski Crystal World

 

The magic city of Swarovski crystals is a mere 25 minutes from Innsbruck. It’s a world of crystals with 17unique “crystal chambers”, each with an exceptional crystal artwork display. You get to see an “infinity mirror room” with a spinning crystal chandelier and a spectacular crystal dome. The Swarovski Crystal Worlds exhibits are like no other in the world. Imagine an artificial cloud covered in 800,000 crystals competing with the real skies and all the pretty shining stars you see in the galaxy space.  You get to witness creative geniuses’ artwork by famous artist like Keith Haring, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Andy Warhol. The Swarovski Crystal Worlds attracts thousands of visitors every year to see and feel the atmosphere created by renowned designers. Must see crystal worlds collection include: The crystal dome, the Chambers of Wonder, the chandelier jungle, and many more striking crystal themes.

Places to stay in Wattens, Tirol:

Hotel Goldener Adler Wattens

Alpenhotel Speckbacher Hof

Parkhotel Hall

 

Bad Gastein

This is a unique little haven for nature lovers. The thermal springs of Bad Gastein attract thousands of visitors each year to experience thermal baths in this scenic spa town sitting in Austria’s High Tauern mountains. Surrounded by lush forests and cliffs, Bad Gastein is also popular with hikers who throng the city in summer, as do ski lovers during winter.

Where to stay in Bad Gastein: The Grand Hotel de l’Europe – an iconic landmark of the town, the hotel has been around for nearly a century. Visit the Bad Gastein gushing Waterfall nearby and take photos to post on Instagram as a lovely memory of this beautiful town.

Best places to stay in Bad Gastein:

Sanotel Bad Gastein & Residenz

 

Grossglockner High Alpine Road

For adventure lovers, this is an adrenaline-filled destination you don’t want to miss. Strap on your boots and get ready for a wild road trip. Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a breathtakingly beautiful landscape with jaw-dropping dramatic backdrops, meandering roads, and sharp edges. You get to see the spectacular Alpine divide, all the way from Salzach Valley in Bruck towards the Grossglockner, Austria’s tallest mountain. 

Blend in symphonically with the paradise route, a 24 mile stretch of pure bliss. Along the way, you can stop by for quick tours in the stunning national parks and ice glaciers. While you’re gawking at the splendor of Grossglockner, take enough pics and live videos of this magnificent landscape.

Once at the foot of the great mountain, visit Heiligenblut village, and see the striking St. Vincent church. Later on, hike up the High Tauern National Park and see the sprawling Krimml Waterfall –Austria’s highest waterfall. Watch out for sharp-edged roads on your way up the hilly terrain; it’s easy to slip up and break a leg on this path. 

 

Vorarlberg

Vorarlberg lies in the hilly region in western Austria, bordering with German. It’s a stunning region with extensive landscapes making it the perfect location for extreme sports enthusiasts. The vast mountains go way high, up to 2,000 meters, providing a spectacular backdrop on the densely forested trail routes. Adventure lovers can take long boat rides on the serene lakes, row to the echo wall and create funny sounds in the air. To get the best spectacular views of the Vorarlberg valley, rent a cable car and drive up to the comfy mountain inns to chill as you enjoy the breathtaking ambience with a drink in hand.

Visit Verwall in Montafon, one of the beautiful nature spots in the region; Lake Constance, natural beauty, and Feldkirch, Dornbirn, Bregenz, and Hohenems. The Vorarlberg region has several museums that you can visit and is a preferred tourist destination for its lively cultural festivities.

Best places to stay in Vorarlberg:

Walserberg Hotel

Hotel Krone

Hotel Gasthof Hirschen Schwarzenberg

 

Our Final Word

If you’re traveling for adventure, and perhaps romance and an ambience of romantic backdrops, Austria is the place to be. Visit this enchanting country in all seasons and feel the energy oozing from every corner.  Do you feel like meditating? There’s plenty of serene spots to calm your spirits. Do you feel like getting all adventurous? There are endless mountains and skiing spots just for you.

Laze around all day in a cozy restaurant surrounded by giant stunning mountains, enjoy dramatic operas, or experience medieval setting lifestyles. Better still, go to the mountains and get a heavenly breathtaking view of the beautiful world below you.

Look, Austria is too amazing to be described. Let us know your travel experiences in the land of ice and giant mountains.

Posted by Book-JC

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