As well as the fresh mountain air and idyllic scenery, the European country is home to culturally sophisticated cities, quirky spots, and breathtaking architecture! I’m personally a huge fan, and from my time spent exploring this refined and picturesque country, here are my favourite beautiful places to discover in Austria…
1. Vienna – the elegant capital city
As Austria’s capital, Vienna is perhaps the city most associated with Austrian life, but I think that doesn’t make it any less attractive. Every time I visit, the elegant city is buzzing with excitement – street theatre, ballets, operas, musicals, art galleries, and shows in my opinion make it a dynamic and lively city to explore!
But I love that this modern flavor doesn’t detract from the tradition that still resounds in this splendid city. There are several imperial palaces, some stunning museums that proudly overlook majestic squares, and I would highly recommend visiting Hofburg the once impressive home of the Habsburg rulers. In my opinion, this fusion of fast-paced modern living and serene historical architecture makes Vienna a truly spectacular city and I think you’ll fall in love with it like I did!
My must-see highlights
- The city has a musical heritage like no other, so try to watch a concert in Vienna. Catch a performance at the Golden Hall or in one of their beautiful historic churches for an exquisite and cultured Austrian experience.
- Visit the world-famous Schönbrunn Palace, a Cultural World Heritage Site and Austria’s most frequently visited tourist attraction.
- Marvel at the Rathaus Vienna/City Hall, a beautiful and instantly recognizable neo-gothic building that overlooks the Christmas market in the winter months.
- If your planning and budget allow, attend the world-famous Vienna Opera Ball at Wiener Staatsoper (the State Opera House).
- Go for a unique Viennese coffee and a strudel and people-watch in Vienna’s gorgeous historic center.
- Try cocktails mixed with beautiful views at the 25Hours Hotel rooftop bar, The Dachboden Loft (in the 7th District,, the city’s hipster district).
2. Hallstatt – the famous picturesque village
Now famous with Instagrammers this small scenic town which overlooks the serene waters of Hallstatt Lake is one of my favourite places in Europe. I also think it looks spectacular in both summer and winter.
The town is filled with chocolate box pretty 16th-century Alpine houses, and its winding cobbled alleyways are home to quaint cafes and independent shops. As well as offering you the chance to indulge in some rock climbing, hiking, and boating, some intriguing places make this area particularly interesting.
I would recommend visiting 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 wonderful and humbling about visiting the Beinhaus.
The ice and salt caves, with their impressive subterranean salt lake, in my opinion, are also worth visiting and are truly spectacular (the funicular railway connects Hallstatt to Salzwelten).
My must-see highlights
- Take a stroll around the lakefront, filled with such picturesque scenery that it looks like it’s straight out of a storybook.
- Pay a visit to the extraordinary ice caves, to view notable frozen waterfalls and incredible ice formations.
- Check out the salt mine – considered the oldest in the world. It is also worth visiting, especially if you have children (they will love the thrilling miners’ slide).
- Hire a boat to explore the lake; for a unique alternative, try the traditionally crafted wooden salt boats.
- Go to Five Fingers Viewpoint, which offers one of the most spectacular views in the Alps.
- See the beautiful colorful half-timbered houses in the central Market Square.
- Have dinner on a beautiful open-air restaurant terrace around the lake.
3. Salzburg – the birthplace of Mozart
I completely fell for Salzburg’s charms and this is also 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 there.
Salzburg may be home to Mozart and all things extravagant, 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 town offering their version of the Sound of Music tour and I would highly recommend going on one, they are a lot of fun!
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, I defy you not to fall in love with this utterly charming city just like I did!
My must-see highlights
- Go on a Sound of Music tour for hours of kitsch fun at the Austrian Way.
- Wander around the beautiful Old Town, one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps and brimming with stunning baroque architecture. Make sure you include a visit to the main cathedral and the Town Hall.
- Hear famous Mozart pieces performed inside the historic fortress castle at the impressive Mirabell Palace and Gardens.
- Wander down Getreidgasse,, a charming Medieval shopping street filled with interesting independent shops.
- Go for a beautiful Mozart Dinner Concert at the Baroque Hall of St Peter`s Abbey in Salzburg.
- Experience one of Salzburg’s Beer Halls – try the Augustiner Bräustübl Tavern, with a garden attached to a monk’s brewery.
4. Innsbruck – the pretty city famous for winter sports
This is a stunning Alpine gem! Here the snow-topped mountains and tall, colourful buildings make it a postcard-worthy alpine destination. Perfect for those who love to hit the slopes, it has several well-managed ski resorts and excellent winter sports facilities.
Other sites I would recommend visiting include Ambras Castle, the Folk Art Museum, and the Court Church. Some very trendy hip bars are at the center of a thriving nightlife so I would suggest making the most of these too. Serenity has its place here though as well and I fell in love with the gentle pace of life here as well as the many luxurious thermal spas that also reside here!
My must-see highlights
- Hang out in the gorgeous Old Town, filled with boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants.
- Visit Tyrol Panorama; there’s a museum on site, but the real draw is the incredible views of the surrounding areas.
- Take a cable car, Nordkette Mountain Range, for stunning Alpine scenery.
- Visit and maybe swim in Lake Achensee, Tirol’s largest lake.
5. Vorarlberg – for stunning mountain scenery
The mountainous region of Vorarlberg boasts beautiful scenery and stunning architecture and I was seriously wowed by this place when I visited! It’s more than just a new place to explore; it’s seriously a delight for your eyes to witness and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves walking, biking, skiing, and photography!
I personally think 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 my personal favorites is the Verwall area in Montafon. Verwall in Vorarlberg is one of the largest European Protection Areas in the Natura 2000 network. In my opinion, the views you can enjoy as you hike along its routes are as beautiful and diverse as the mountains!
6. Graz – the city filled with historic and cultural charm
Despite being Austria’s second-largest city, in my opinion, Graz is a very relaxed location. Although the town is overflowing with beautiful architecture, I love that the city has a youthful vibe, which I think is down to its young, friendly population and the handful of impressive modern buildings dotted around.
There are many great things to do in Graz. There is a vibrant arts center in this city, which fits in well with its Renaissance courtyards and baroque palaces. Thanks to the large student population (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 dancing in the late evenings, then I would suggest visiting the Schloss Eggenberg Parkland palace gardens which are a relaxing place for just frolicking among peacocks!
7. Zell am See – a pretty lakeside Alpine Town
When you visit Zell am See, I can tell you, you are going to witness some fantastic sites! The first one likely to capture your full attention is the beautiful bluer-than-blue lake, Zeller See!
You can dive into the gorgeous lake and cycle around its picturesque, plant-filled shores. Hiking and skiing in the mountains are also available, and if you have or rent a car, I would recommend driving up high onto the very scenic and famous 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 sky’s blue is reflected in such a clear lake, in my opinion, it would be hard for nature explorers not to fall in love with this piece of Austria’s beauty.
8. Mostviertel – for stunning orchards
I personally think 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 to the region’s endless charm and 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, family activities, and the chance to ski. I would suggest trying Hotel Kartause Gaming or Zur Linde for hotel options in this area.
9. Alpbach – a traditional Alpine town
Alpbach has been voted the most beautiful village in Austria, and when I visited I immediately saw why! The sweet village is nestled between a cluster of majestic snow-capped mountains, allowing access to the perfect ski slopes while maintaining a solid alpine tradition.
Alpbach is full of picturesque wooden farmhouses, cattle fields, and locals skilled in traditional crafts. If you fancy a taste of how Austria used to be and enjoy the experience of time standing still, then in my opinion, Alpbach is the place for you!
I would suggest trying Bikepension Gästehaus Larch Alpbach or Alphof Hotel Alpbach for places to stay here.
10. Tirol – for skiing and stunning Alpine Scenery
Within beautiful Tirol lies the historic old town of Innsbruck, which I’ve mentioned above, but I think this incredible region is worth exploring!
I personally think it’s a truly stunning spot 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, and clear mountain streams. History lovers can also enjoy the record-breaking suspension footbridge that is Highline179 and I would highly suggest visiting. This remarkable structure is 114 meters high and 406 meters long; it connects Ehrenberg Castle to the remains of the 17th-century Roman Fortress Claudia in the market town of Reutte.
My must-do highlights
- Visit the suspended terrace of Café 3440 (pictured above), which sits 3,440 m above sea level and offers incredible uninterrupted panoramic views of the beautiful Alpine scenery.
- Go on the Nordkette Cable Car, a gondola lift from Innsbruck to the Nordkette, which offers more gorgeous views.
- Go hiking, rock climbing, and cycling to make the most of the Alpine scenery.
11. Grossglockner High Alpine Road – a very scenic mountain road
I think this famous 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.
In my opinion, it’s an ideal way to experience the Austrian landscape at its best, as you’ll pass through mountain forests, alpine meadows, ice plains, 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, the experience is jaw-dropping! Villa Orania and Schiefe Alm Hotel Bad Gastein are gorgeous accommodation options in the area.
12. Nationalpark Gesäuse – for stunning scenery and wildlife spotting
The newest of Austria’s beautiful National Parks, beautiful Gesäuse, is set in mountain ridges, deep valleys, and dense forests. I think it’s the perfect location for exploring unspoiled nature and is a favorite for rafting connoisseurs and hikers.
Of the six mountain peaks over 2000 meters in the park, Hocktor is the highest and most popular among visiting hikers – reaching a staggering 2369 meters in height.
I personally think artists, photographers, and travel bloggers would reap the benefits of visiting such a beautiful setting in Austria – if you can reach the top!
13. Saalbach-Hinterglemm – a pretty resort town in both winter and summer
In the district of Zell am See, you can find a municipality known for its skiing, mountain biking, and other rough and challenging outdoor sports. It’s located in the Saalbach Valley, which has some breathtaking views at any time of day, especially if you’re coming in from Bründlkopf.
This peaceful location in Austria primarily consists of small towns and has several transport links – including Zell am See, which is around 20km away.
The town itself is primarily 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, I stayed in an eco-hotel here for a few days and I fell in love with the uncrowded, beautiful and tranquil landscapes here!
14. St. Gilgen – for picturesque landscapes
A stroll through the village of St. Gilgen (in the Austrian state of Salzburg) is a welcome breath of fresh air for any travel. The town 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, culture, architecture, and unique tourist locations and I thought it was utterly charming especially if you’re looking for a place filled with Austrian tradition! The legendary Oxen Cross island can be found nearby, next to Fürberg Cove; both can offer any holiday explorer a sight to behold.
Finally, I would recommend taking the Zwölferhorn Mountain cable car up to the peak directly from the village. It’s a seriously stunning view!
15. Hochosterwitz Castle – a unique historic attraction
Many consider it the most impressive medieval castle in Austria and with good reason. It stands proudly on top of a 160-meter-high Dolomite rock formation, and I personally think it looks like something out of a fairytale! Between Easter and the end of October, visitors are allowed inside certain parts of the castle each year and I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in Austria during these months.
I would suggest walking along the 620-metre pathway through 14 intriguing fortified gates before you reach the stunning façade of the castle. Try the Art Lodge or Chalet Hotel Senger if you want to stay near here.
16. Krems an der Donau – a small and picturesque historic town
Krems an der Donau is a postcard-pretty riverside town in Lower Austria’s Danube’s Wachau Valley tourist region. It is renowned for its wine production and beautiful historical center (which has earned it a UNESCO Heritage Site status) and I loved this place! I thought it was charming, relaxed, and highly photogenic!
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 Europe so don’t forget to bring your camera! For elegant and unique places to stay I would suggest trying Wein-Gut Hutter or Gourmethotel Am Förthof.
17. Kitzbuhel – for pretty Medieval architecture
If you’re an avid skier and looking for one of the top ski resorts in the country then I would say you need to look no further than Kitzbuhel! Legends, including three-time Olympic medallist Toni Sailer, have been born on these slopes so you’ll be in great company!
But pretty Kitzbuhel began its life in the 16th century as a mining town catering to silver and copper mining. Today, in my opinion, it still has a charming historical feel and has kept some of its medieval architecture.
18. Thayatal National Park – Austria’s smallest national park
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. I personally think this deserves a place on this list for its incredible scenery, its numerous hiking trails, its well-preserved castle ruins, and its wildlife spotting including the European otter, the black stork, and the Wild Cat.
19. Dürnstein – a photogenic lakeside town
I was a huge fan of this almost impossibly photogenic spot! Durnstein sits on the Danube and is known for its beautiful buildings and scenic riverside location. 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, I would recommend that you plan your trip to this wondrous part of Austria in the summer when it’s busy with visitors and tourists and has a real buzz about the place. Durnstein essentially entirely closes up in the winter.
I think it’s a dream for photographers, with large, sweeping landscapes, high hilltops, and stunning architecture. The castle’s ruins sit high up on the green hills against the blue backdrop of the sky, making for some perfect shots.
20. Faaker See – a large stunning 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. When I visited I fell completely in love with this beautiful spot and its tranquil vibe and I loved that the lake stretched on for miles!
Popular with locals and tourists alike, here you can bathe, and go boating, but I would suggest also just kicking back and taking in the beautiful Austrian scenery! Enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed my list, I’ve spent a lot of time in Austria and fell in love with the country so I hope you do too! My personal favourite places include Vienna for its elegance and beauty, Vorarlberg for its jaw-dropping mountain scenery, and The Tirol for its stunning Alpine scenery, but it’s a tough choice as the whole country is filled with beauty!
Emma-Clair Ni Clearaigh – writer and photographer
With itchy feet, an inquisitive nature and an ardent wanderlust, Emma Clair has always been a traveller at heart. Hailing from the Emerald Isle she calls a small coastal town near Dublin home, but has lived in a few countries including Saigon, Vietnam where she resided for over a year, now she balances travel and travel writing with teaching and a passion for vintage interior design. She counts supping on Bloody Marys on a rooftop in Manhattan, downing Singapore slings at the Raffles Hotel, daring a paraglide on the Grand Cayman, spending an exotic Christmas in Malaysia and exploring the Angkor Wat, Cambodia as her all time favourite travel moments. Although, she’ll always have a special place in her heart for the city where she makes her annual pilgrimages – Paris, her true city of lights. Find Emma-Clair on Instagram or Facebook.
Hotel Reviewing Experience – Asked by tourist boards and many high-profile travel brands to formally review hotels including the Catalonia Tourist Board, Visit Finland, Visit Zurich and Atout France. Also travelled around the world scouting out and reviewing all the most unique hotels in the world, check out our Instagram page for photos.