When most people think of Austria they probably think of something like the opening scene of The Sound of Music – Maria dancing in high green fields with bright skies and rolling countryside that will make you want to sing. As well as the fresh mountain air and idyllic scenery, the European country also is home to culturally sophisticated cities, quirky modern art galleries and breath-taking architecture. I fell in love with Austria after several visits with my family and then as an adult when I couldn’t keep away and went on quite a few romantic trips with my partner! And trust me Austria is truly romantic (and has many beautiful places to visit)! From my time exploring this refined and picturesque country, here are all my Austria recommendations….
Vienna – Austria’s elegant capital
As Austria’s capital, Vienna is perhaps the city most associated with Austrian life, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Vienna is buzzing with excitement – street theatre, ballets, operas, musicals, art galleries and shows make it a dynamic and lively city to visit. But this modern flavour doesn’t take anything away from the tradition that still resounds through this splendid city. There are several imperial palaces, some stunning museums that proudly overlook majestic squares and of course, the Hofburg, once the impressive home of the Habsburg rulers. This fusion of fast-paced modern living and serene historical architecture make Vienna a truly spectacular city. Try the gorgeous Kaiserin Elisabeth, Hotel Lamee, Hotel Rathaus or Hotel Topazz for unique and elegant places to stay.
Hallstatt – one of the prettiest towns in Europe
Often mentioned as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Austria – if not Europe – this small scenic town overlooks the serene waters of the Hallstatt lake. As well as offering you the chance to indulge in some rock climbing, hiking and boating, there are some intriguing places to visit that make this area particularly interesting. The Beinhaus (bone house) displays stacks of human remains that were taken there due to the shortage of grave spaces. Although it sounds morbid the experience is very different, there is something very beautiful and humbling about visiting the Beinhaus. The ice caves and salt caves are also worth visiting and are truly spectacular. Hotels Pension Sarstein and Heritage Hotel Hallstatt are fabulously located.
Salzburg – the birthplace of Mozart and Sound of Music
Salzburg is definitely the place for music fans. It also celebrates its accolade as Mozart’s birthplace by allowing visitors into the home where Mozart was born and running exhibitions in the space. Salzburg may be home to Mozart and all things baroque, but for an astounding 70% of overseas visitors, The Sound of Music remains the primary reason for travel to the city with tour companies all over the city offering their own version of the Sound of Music tour. Also brimming with exceptional galleries, museums, a rich array of restaurants and a diverse selection of shopping opportunities ranging from farmer’s markets to upmarket stores the city always seems to live up to visitors expectations. Hotel Wolf-Dietrich and Hotel Villa Carlton are some great accommodation options in the city.
Innsbruck – the stunning city nestled in the beautiful Alps
The snow-topped mountains and tall colourful buildings of Innsbruck make it a postcard-worthy alpine destination. Perfect for those who love to hit the slopes, it has a number of well-managed ski resorts and excellent winter sports facilities. Other sites of interest include Ambras Castle, the Folk Art Museum, and the Court Church. There are some very trendy hip bars at the centre of a thriving nightlife. Serenity has its place too, with the gentle carriage rides and the luxurious thermal spa. Adlers Mountain View Design Hotel and Gasthof Weisses Rossl are recommended hotels in Innsbruck.
Mostviertel – Lower Austria’s most captivating region
The Mostviertel is Lower Austria’s most captivating region. It combines rolling green meadows in the North with snow-laced rugged peaks in the South. This combination of landscapes contributes directly to the regions endless charm and also boasts Europe’s largest continuous area of pear orchards. Its chocolate box scenery makes it a wonder for adults and children alike and offers museums, monuments and family activities as well as the chance to ski. Try Hotel Kartause Gaming or Zur Linde for hotel options in this area.
Vorarlberg – the region made up entirely of mountains
The mountainous region of Vorarlberg boasts beautiful scenery and stunning architecture. It’s more than just a new place to explore, it’s a delight for your eyes to witness. The mountains of Vorarlberg present a unique and artistic view for any hiker, explorer, or artist. The landscapes between Lake Constance and the mountains are perfect for long walks; especially with the mountains reaching up to 2,000 metres. There are several natural wonders in Vorarlberg. One of our favourites is the Verwall area in Montafon. Verwall in Vorarlberg is one of the largest European Protection Areas in the Natura 2000 network. The views that you can enjoy as your hike along its routes are as beautiful and diverse as the mountains themselves.
Graz – home to one of the best-preserved historic centres in Europe
Despite being Austria’s second largest city, Graz is a very relaxed location. Although the city is overflowing with beautiful architecture, it still has a young feeling; thanks to the handful of modern buildings dotted around. There is a vibrant arts centre in this city, which fits in well with its Renaissance courtyards and baroque palaces. Thanks to the large student populous (around 50,000 students spread across four University campuses), the nightlife in Graz is booming. Of course, if you’re not much of an art person and you don’t see yourself going out to dance in the late evenings, then the palace gardens of Schloss Eggenberg Parkland are a relaxing place for frolicking among peacocks.
Alpbach – one of Austria’s prettiest villages
Alpbach has been voted the most beautiful village in Austria and it’s not difficult to see why. The sweet village is nestled in between a cluster of majestic snow-capped mountains and allows access to the perfect ski slopes while maintaining a strong alpine tradition. Alpbach is full of picturesque wooden farmhouses, fields of cattle and locals skilled in traditional crafts. If you fancy a taste of how Austria used to be and enjoying the experience of time standing still then Alpbach is the place for you. Looking for charming places to stay? Try Bikepension Gästehaus Larch Alpbach or Alphof Hotel Alpbach.
St. Gilgen – a scenic Austrian town
A stroll through the village of St. Gilgen (located in the Austrian state of Salzburg) is a welcome breath of fresh air for any travel. The village takes you by the northern shore of Lake Wolfgangsee and is coupled with elegance and fashionable flair. It is a village teeming to the top with traditions and culture, as well as architecture and unique tourist locations. The legendary Oxen Cross island can be found nearby, next to Fürberg cove, both of which can offer any holiday explorer a sight to behold. Finally, make the time to take the Zwölferhorn Mountain cable car up to the peak directly from the village. It’s a view you won’t soon forget.
Grossglockner Alpine Road – the highest surfaced mountain road in Austria
This winding precarious, beautifully scenic road is definitely worth a visit. It will lead you to the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park as well as up the giddy heights of the Grossglockner (Austria’s tallest mountain), passing through the Pasterze glacier. It’s an ideal way to experience the Austrian landscape at its best, as you’ll pass through mountain forests, alpine meadows, plains of ice and sheer cliff faces. You can hire a vintage car, take a bus, ride a motorcycle, go by bike or venture by foot; either way you can guarantee an experience of a lifetime. Villa Orania and Schiefe Alm Hotel Bad Gastein are some gorgeous accommodation options in the area.
Gesäuse National Park – wild rivers and looming rock faces
The newest of Austria’s beautiful National Parks, Gesäuse is set in a region of mountain ridges, deep valleys, and dense forests. It is the perfect location for harmless exploring and is a favourite location for rafting connoisseurs and hikers. Of the six mountain peaks over 2000 metres in the park, Hocktor is the highest and most popular among visiting hikers – reaching a staggering 2369 metres in height. Artists, photographers, and travel bloggers would reap the benefits of visiting such a beautiful setting in Austria – if you can manage to reach the top, of course.
Tirol – a region known for its spectacular Alpine scenery
Within Tirol lies the historic old town of Innsbruck which we’ve mentioned above but this incredible region is worth exploring more. It’s a region steeped in folklore, mountains and ski resorts and makes a fantastic destination to visit in Austria either summer or winter – the scenery is truly breathtaking! Expect miles of walking and hiking trails across nature, fresh air, clear mountain streams. History lovers can also enjoy the record-breaking suspension footbridge that is Highline179. This remarkable structure is 114 metres high and 406 metres long, it connects Ehrenberg Castle to the remains of the 17th century Roman Fortress Claudia in the market town of Reutte.
Saalbach-Hinterglemm – a pretty Alpine resort town
In the district of Zell am See, you can find Saalbach-Hinterglemm, which is a municipality known for its skiing, mountain biking, and other rough and challenging outdoor sports. It’s located in the Saalbach valley, which makes for some absolutely breath-taking views at any time of day, especially if you’re coming in from Bründlkopf. This location largely consists of small towns and has several transport links – including Zell am See, which is around 20km away. The town, itself, is largely orientated towards tourism, but that doesn’t make it any less of a perfect place for exploring and taking on the outdoors and all it has to offer.
Hochosterwitz Castle – Austria’s most impressive medieval castle
Many consider it to be the most impressive medieval castle in Austria, and with good reason. It stands proudly on top of a 160 metre high Dolomite rock formation, making it look like something out of a fairytale. Between Easter and the end of October, each year visitors are allowed inside certain parts of the castle. Tourists can walk along the 620-metre pathway through 14 intriguing fortified gates before they reach the stunning façade of the castle. If you want to stay near here try the Art Lodge or Chalet Hotel Senger.
Zell am See – a historic lakeside town
When you visit Zell am See, you’ll be able to witness some amazing sites. The first one that is likely to capture your full attention is the beautiful bluer-than-blue lake, Zeller See. You can dive into the lake and even cycle around its picturesque, plant-filled shores. Hiking and skiing in the mountains is also available, and if you have or rent a car, you can drive up high on the Grossglockner Road. Every year, more than a million visitors from around the world visit Zell am See, in search of new sites and new adventures. When the blue of the sky is reflected in such a clear lake, it’s hard for nature explorers to not fall in love with this piece of Austria’s beauty.
Krems – one of the oldest cities in Austria
Krems an der Donau is a postcard-pretty riverside town in the Lower Austria’s Danube’s Wachau Valley tourist region. It is renowned for both its wine production and its beautiful historical centre (which has earned it a UNESCO heritage site status). Situated at the gateway to the World Heritage cultural landscape of the Wachau, it displays one of the most stunning stretches of river valley in the whole of Europe. For elegant and unique places to stay try Wein-Gut Hutter or Gourmethotel Am Förthof .
If you’re an avid skier and you’re looking for one of the top ski resorts in Austria, look no further than Kitzbuhel. Legends have been born on these slopes, including three-time Olympic medallist Toni Sailer. But Kitzbuhel actually began its life in the 16th century as a mining town that catered for silver and copper mining. Today it still has a charming historical feel and has kept some of its medieval architecture.
Thayatal National Park – unspoiled countryside rich in fauna and flora
Thayatal National Park lies close to the border of Austria and the Czech Republic. This unique location is Austria’s smallest national park, and one of central Europe’s last natural valleys. The park itself is technically two parks split across the border. The landscape consists of a deep canyon with steep slopes and numerous rock formations. The Thaya river (or the Dyje river if you’re across the border in the Czech Republic) cuts across the canyon, making for truly spectacular views.
Durnstein – a small and pretty town on the River Danube
The almost impossibly photogenic location that Durnstein sits on in the Danube is known for its beautiful buildings. It’s also a historical hotspot for anyone wishing to visit the castle where the Lionheart, Richard the First of England was once imprisoned. However, make sure that you plan your trip to this wondrous part of Austria in the summer when it’s busy with visitors and tourists. Durnstein essentially entirely closes up in the winter. It’s a dream for photographers. With large, sweeping landscapes, high hilltops, and stunning architecture. The ruins of the castle sit high up on the green hills, against the blue backdrop of the sky, making for some perfect shots.
Faaker See – a beautiful turquoise mountain lake
Faaker See is an alpine lake in the Austrian state of Carinthia. It’s the state’s fifth largest lake and one of the most beautiful – famed for its glorious clear azure water. Popular with locals and tourists alike here you can bath, fish, go boating or just kick back and enjoy the beautiful Austrian scenery. Looking for hotels with superb lakeside views? Try Haus Am See Hotel Weissensee or Bio-Vitalhotel Weissenseerhof.