Austria is one of the prettiest countries in Europe. Located in central Europe, it is filled with beautiful Austro-Hungarian architecture, pristine lakes, stunning alpine towns, and resorts. So here’s presenting the 15 most beautiful places in Austria for your bucket list – from city breaks, winter sports, road trips to scenic mountain views!
15 Most beautiful places in Austria: Bucket list Items
About Austria – Essential tips & background
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Before we dive into these beautiful places for the Austria bucket list, we will share travel tips to help you prepare your trip.
- Capital city of Austria – Vienna
- Tourist Visa – Schengen Visa. For citizens of the United States and Canada, no visa is required. US and Canadian passport holders can enter and stay in Austria for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. After 2022, eTIAS (an online authorization) needs to be applied for.
- Official Language – German
- Currency – Euros (part of EU and Schengen Zone)
- Best time to visit Austria – Austria experiences all the four seasons, and has something to offer at all times of the year! Spring and fall seasons are the best time to visit as there fewer crowds and prices are lower for airfares, and accommodation. Read our guide to visiting Vienna in the spring
- Visit Austria in the spring to explore major sightseeing attractions and museums with fewer crowds. Winter is another popular season to visit, Austria is home to Christmas markets, ski resorts, and winter glam! Find winter vacation spots in Europe
Little bit about Austria
Austria is all of 83,879 km – so it is not a huge country in size, but it surely is packed with so much history and tourist attractions that it will leave you wanting for more.
Austria’s history can be traced back to 976. Fast forward to the 12th century Austria was ruled by Rudolf I who was the first Habsburg ruler. The Habsburg ruled for over 750 years and gained a lot of territories in Europe.
The rule of Franz Josef I became instrumental in giving more power to Hungary by creating a Dual Monarchy – the Austro-Hungarian empire. This began the fall of the Habsburg domination and later in 1919 (end of World War I) saw the collapse of the Austrian Republic.
In 1938 Austria was annexed into Germany, and many of Austria’s Jewish population were either asked to leave or taken to concentration camps. With the end of World War II, Austria was divided and was not an independent country until 1955. In short, Austria had played a dominant role in European politics and history. Today, it is part of the European Union.
From the mighty royal Habsburg architecture to the modern era history to medieval colorful towns and the compositions of Mozart, Austria will surely melt your heart.
Vienna – the capital city of Austria
Vienna is the capital city of Austria. The one thing that Vienna oozes is tons of royal vibe, something which is hard to miss. Of all the central/eastern capital cities we visited (where the Austro-Hungarians ruled), Vienna is impeccably special (and expensive!).
Home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you will find palaces, and royal remnants wherever you go. The historic Old Town of Vienna is beautifully surrounded by palaces, upscale shops and cafes and is very walkable.
The Old town is called the Innere Stadt, and here you will find the Hofburg Palace, Marienplatz, Vienna Opera House, Karlskirche,Vienna Cathedral, Kärntner Strasse and Graben, with art galleries and restaurants dotting the surrounding streets.
Other notable tourist attractions in the city include Imperial palaces like Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ summer residence and the Belvedere Palace. MuseumsQuartier district, Giant Ferris Wheel and the nearby Vienna Woods are must visit as well.
During winters, Vienna Old Town glows in festive lights and Christmas market stalls. Find how to spend one day in Vienna
Must try food in Vienna: Sachertorte, Wiener Schnitzel
Salzburg – Of Mozart and ‘Sound of Music’
Salzburg is the fourth-largest city in Austria. Salzburg is super close to Germany like it is a 2-hour train ride away from Munich, and its location is very picturesque. Salzburg’s prime attractions lie on both sides of the Salzach River.
There are medieval and baroque buildings located in the Altstadt (Old City) area on its left bank, and on the other side is the newer – 19th-century Neustadt (New City), and with that is stunning views of Eastern Alps.
At the Old town (Altstadt) you will find a statue of Mozart, that’s because Salzburg is the birthplace of famed composer Mozart. There is a museum (Mozart Residence – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at No. 9) where Mozart’s childhood instruments are showcased.
Located nearby is the pedestrian shopping street of Getreidegasse. All of the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other attractions in Salzburg include Mirabell Gardens, cruising on Salzach River, Hellbrunn Palace (beautiful baroque palace), Salzburg Cathedral and Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of my favorite attractions in the city. The fortress sits atop the Festungsberg, and from there you can soak in stunning views of the Alps (located at an altitude of 506 m). You can either hike to the top or hop on a funicular ride. The fortress complex is huge, and it is considered as one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.
Another must-do Salzburg activity is joining a ‘Sound of Music’ tour and exploring many stunning locations in the city (which were also used in the movie). Salzburg also hosts pretty Christmas Markets in the winter at the Altstadt.
Wachau Valley – Danube & vineyards
The Wachau Valley is located about an hour away from Vienna, and this makes it a perfect place for a getaway for nature lovers.
Wachau Valley is located between the towns of Krem and Melk in Austria and the beautiful landscape is formed by the river Danube. Everything in the valley is a perfect reminisce of the European countryside. And no wonder, it has been listed as a UNESCO Heritage site since 2000.
There are tons of things to do in the Wachau Valley to keep you busy for a day trip or a weekend getaway from Vienna. The Melk Abbey is one of the stunning and biggest baroque abbeys in Europe. You can easily spend 1-2 hours here. After exploring the abbey, you can either enjoy a cruise on the Danube or bike to the vineyards.
The Valley is sprinkled with medieval castles, you can view the Schloss Schönbühel from Danube river banks (or boat tour), and the Aggstein fortress, which is situated 480 metres above sea level. Book a day tour from Vienna to Wachau Valley
Klagenfurt – Explore culture & nature
Klagenfurt is a small city located in southern Austria, on the eastern banks of Lake Wörthersee. This hidden gem is a perfect destination to experience culture, nature and adventure.
The Old Town of Klagenfurt is home to Renaissance style courtyards with modern-day boutiques, trendy bars, and biergartens.
The city’s prime attraction is the ‘Lindwurm’, a legendary winged dragon who is believed to have resided here. Throughout the city, there are a lot of museums – showcasing history and culture, and art.
Lake Constance is one of the largest lakes in Europe bordering 3 countries – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Although the German side of the lake is the most popular (the town of Konstanz near the Swiss border), Bodensee aka Lake Constance can be explored from Germany to Austria.
In fact, it takes 5 days (260 km) to bike along the lake and explore all the 3 countries, so definitely a Austria bucket list item. The lake is fed by the Rhine River, and comprises the Untersee (lower lake) and the larger Obersee (upper lake).
There are many pretty resort towns located along the lakeside, in all three countries. They have a quintessential old town, which are perfect for a weekend in the outdoors and for enjoying medieval architecture.
Lake Constance Nature Museum is a must visit in the area. It provides an interesting display of flora and fauna found in and around Lake Constance.
Austria Bucket list Alert: Attersee lake in Upper Austria
St Wolfgang – Picture perfect Austrian Village
By Nancy from Around the world at the weekend
If you are looking for the picture perfect Austrian village, nestled in the mountains and bordering a glimmering lake, then St Wolfgang is the place for you.
St Wolfgang is very easy to reach, as it’s less than an hour’s drive from Salzburg and as such, has a ‘Sound of Music’ style of purity in all aspects of its being; from the architecture to the crystal clear water to the pure mountain air.
The centre of the little town has a town square with a hotel which has a lakeside terrace – the absolutely breathtaking White Horse Inn. Enjoy a day on the lake in a boat – there is even a paddle steamer or alternatively, go for a mountain hike.
If hiking isn’t your thing then you can take the Schafbergbahn which is a steam-powered mountain railway to the absolutely breathtaking views. When you come down you can go for a swim in the crystal clear water or an ice-cold beer on the hotel terrace. I really can’t think of a better place to have a truly Austrian adventure.
Retz, a unique city to visit in Austria
By Rand from Well Traveled Mile
The city of Retz is located in the north of Austria just a few kilometers from the Czech border and can easily be visited from Vienna on a day trip. This lovely wine town that lays in the middle of the vineyards and rolling hills is definitely worth visiting.
When you arrive in Retz you will be enchanted by its beautiful main square surrounded by historical buildings with Venetian Renaissance facades. One of the building’s facades dates back to the 16th century and shows scenes from Greek mythology and the Old Testament. The houses lining the main square are one-of-a-kind and give the majestic tower in the center a special flair. Strolling through the winding old streets of Retz and walking along the medieval walls will let you discover the most beautiful places in the city.
A must-see in Retz is its 20-kilometer long network of underground cellars. Practically the entire central city has a basement, which is the largest historical wine cellar in Austria. You can even take a tour of this unique and extensive cellar system, which is dated back to the 13th century.
Another memorable place to visit is the windmill, the symbol of Retz. A short 15 minutes walk from the main square through the vineyards will bring you to the beautiful old windmill of Retz, which is one of the last two working windmills of Austria.
Its unique location with great views over the city and the surrounding area with vineyards makes it definitely worth visiting. On top of that, you will also be able to enjoy a snack with views right next to the windmill at a traditional Austrian restaurant, Windmühlheuriger.
If you prefer to explore Retz over the weekend rather than on a day trip, you should spend a night there. The hotel Althof Retz is your choice if you are looking for a luxury hotel, including a rooftop spa. Retz and its neighboring villages also have lots of traditional Austrian guest houses to stay at, for example, the guest house Annemarie.
Hallstatt – A fairy tale town
By Anjali from Travel Melodies
An Austrian town of Hallstatt attracts thousands of tourists every year for its fairy tale like settings. With a single street sprinkled with gingerbread houses, cute cafes, boutique shops, a little market square, and a few churches, it has to be the tiniest town I’ve ever visited. You can walk the entire town end to end in less than 30 minutes.
The best way to feel the essence of Hallstatt is by sipping a latte with a slice of baguette in one of the quaint cafes while admiring the views of Lake Hallstatt surrounded by Salzkammergut mountains. Hallstatt begs you to slow down to know what it’s like to live in a moment!
Adventurous and restless souls can rent a boat and get out on the water or hike the Hallstätter Höhenweg or The World Heritage Skywalk to capture the views over Alpine waters of Lake Hallstatt or tour the prehistoric salt mine – as tiny as it may be, Hallstatt has something for every kind of traveler.
You can easily visit Hallstatt as a day trip from Salzburg or Vienna, but I’d recommend spending 2 to 3 days exploring the Salzkammergut region beyond Hallstatt.
Seehotel Grüner Baum with its beautiful rooms that offer panoramic views of Lake Hallstatt is one of the best hotels in Hallstatt. Overrun by tourists during summer, it’s wise to plan your trip during spring or fall.
Gamlitz – For wine & scenic road trip views
By Lori from Travlinmad
Any trip to Austria should include a few days in South Styria in southern Austria. This is the Green Heart of Austria, well known for its vineyards, quaint villages, spas, amazing scenery, and quaint inns called buschenschank, which serve wine and traditional local food.
30 miles south of Graz is the town of Gamlitz and a great starting point for a day trip along the South Styrian Wine Road. The 44-mile long route is well marked and takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery that Austria has to offer.
Historic Schloss Gamlitz (Castle Gamlitz) is a major attraction with its wine museum and a tavern for wine tasting. But during the harvest season, it’s the seven wineries in the Gamlitz area that steal the show. These all produce some of Europe’s finest wines especially aromatic crisp whites.
Lackner Tinnacher is a must-visit, and known for producing incredible Austrian wines. Sattlerhof, Hack-Gebell, Weingut Dietrich, and Dreisiebner Stammhaus are smaller wineries in the Gamlitz area where you can enjoy local wines along with local seasonal foods.
To overnight in a buschenschank, Gamlitz has several to choose from, but Weingut Hack-Gebell is especially lovely at harvest time in the fall. A perfect stay along the South Styrian Wine Road.
Innsbruck – Of Alps and charming squares
By Izzy from thegapdecaders
Innsbruck in summer is a glorious city, surrounded on all sides by the magnificent Alps, their winter ski slopes lush and carpeted with wild flowers. Visitors to Innsbruck in summer come for the huge variety of activities on offer such as cycling and hiking, along with white water sports and paragliding.
The Altstadt of Innsbruck is also a big draw, full of character, with charming squares and wide pedestrian streets lined with cafes and independent boutiques. Must-sees are the Imperial Palace, a world-class museum showcasing the lavish lifestyles and huge wealth of its former owners.
Wander the streets and marvel at the Golden Roof, known because of the light and colour gave off by the 2657 copper tiles, and see the Rococo Helblinghaus, which you cannot visit, but have to admire from outside. Stop for a coffee and slice of warm, crisp strudel, a speciality here, and totally delicious.
For incredible panoramic views of the surrounding Alps and the city itself, hop on the Nordkettenbahn cable car. Speed up the mountain and you’ll reach 2,300m above sea level in an hour or so; enjoy the fresh mountain air and a hot chocolate at the top!
Stay at Stage 12 hotel by Penz, right in the heart of the Altstadt, and with views of the Nordkette mountains from many rooms. You’ll also find a well-equipped spa, a buzzy cocktail bar, and one of the best breakfasts in Innsbruck, perfect to start your day of activity and sightseeing.
Graz – World’s Cultural Heritage
By Mark from Vogatech
A well-preserved city having impressive places, cultural and historical background, is the Graz in Austria. There cannot be any reason left since UNESCO declared it as World’s Cultural Heritage. It is full of a fascinating city and has a rich cultural background.
From Vienna, you can reach your destination means Graz only in 2 and a half hours. Almost daily, 16 plus trains travel from Vienna to Graz and come back. Trains follow the quickest route, while the bus takes up to 3 hours. If you have your car, you can go there at the same time as the train takes. Mostly people prefer to travel by train, as it adds more thrill to make your journey unforgettable.
Enter the Graz from its famous street Herrengasse, famous for old magnificent buildings. For eye-catching sights and crazy shopping, you can visit Mariahilferstraße. To visit side streets and delightful scenes, you must go to Schmiedgasse and Spongasse as well.
To enjoy spectacular places, to enjoy delicious meals, there is Coffee Break.
Murinsel is the modern architecture place and Mur River having beautiful views attracts visitors. Besides that, to have an affordable and delicious meal, you can visit Lunch at Ger Steirer as well.
Over the year, Graz weather remains mixed. From May to October, tourists prefer to visit Graz wonderful places. Although the temperature gets milder from April and continues till Oct. However, in summer seasons, there are rains off and on.
We recommend you stay there for a week if you want to explore all the famous places in Graz. Or if you haven’t enough time or capacity, you can enjoy the best places in only two days as well.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road Austria Bucket list item
By Darek from Darek and Gosia
If you are looking for the best places in Austria, then the Austrian Alps come to mind first. Many people associate the Alps mainly with skiing and snowboarding. And although it is indeed a real paradise for winter sports, in the summer it is not less interesting there.
One of the most famous places in this country is the road called Grossglockner High Alpine Road. The ride on the most picturesque road in Austria is breath-taking.
The Großglockner-Hochalpenstrasse is the highest paved road in the country. Yes, it was built for tourist purposes and it climbs serpentine from green meadows to the land of eternal snow.
At the top there is a viewing platform, located at an altitude of 2504 m above sea level, from where there is an unforgettable panorama of the Austrian Alps on the highest peak of Austria – Grossglockner (3798 m above sea level).
The peak is located in Hohe Tauern National Park and there is also the longest glacier in the Eastern Alps called Pasterze (length of 10 kilometers). The Grossglockner is the summit belonging to the Crown of Europe and is visited by about 1 million tourists every year. So, if you are planning a holiday in Austria make sure you have the Grossglockner High Alpine Road on your itinerary too.
Mayrhofen – Explore mountains & lakes
By Kylie from Between England and Iowa
A pretty town to visit in Austria is Mayrhofen, located 1 hour from Innsbruck in the Zillertal Valley. In the winter it’s a ski resort, but summer in Mayrhofen is wonderful for hiking and exploring the mountains.
There are 2 cable car stations in the village, the Penkenbahn, and the Ahornbahn, that take you up the mountains on either side of the valley. At the top of the Ahornbahn is Lake Ahorn, which is lovely to relax by on a warm day.
The Zillertal Arena Coaster makes for a fun day trip, it’s in the nearby town of Zell am Ziller, just 15 minutes away by train. Further afield is the Hintertux Glacier, where you can ski year-round.
For non-skiers, the Ice Palace is a really interesting ice cave tour or join a magical Christmas tour.
A great hotel to stay in while in Mayrhofen is the Alpendomizil Neuhaus. From the outside, it looks like a typical Austrian chalet but there are so many hidden areas in the hotel! The St Josef wing is across the road but it’s connected to the main hotel via an underground tunnel. There are an amazing spa area and a large outdoor garden with lovely mountain views, plenty of sun loungers, and an outdoor pool!
Ehrwald – Town at the foot of Zugspitze
By Diana from The Globetrotting Detective
Ehrwald is a cute little Tyrolean town in Austria at the right foot of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak (2,962 meters). Ehrwald is situated at an elevation of 1,000 meters and it’s encapsulated by breath-taking nature. Thanks to its great location and the surrounding stunning mountains, lush green forests, sparkling lakes, streams, and waterfalls, Ehrwald is home to amazing holiday destinations and leisure activities.
In winter, Ehrwald and the districts around it are fantastic travel destinations for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, alpine curling, or sledding. In summer, the most popular leisure activities are hiking, mountaineering, climbing, mountain biking and cycling.
One of the most spectacular hikes in the region are hiking from Ehrwald to the Seebensee Lake and Drachensee Lake summertime.
Seebensee and Drachensee are two of the most picturesque lakes in Austria. They are natural mountain lakes located approximately 10 km away from Ehrwald.
Seebensee is lying at an altitude of 1,657 meters and Drachensee at a height of 1,910 meters.
On the way to these charming marvels, you will be in awe and joy by the surpassing beauty of the natural elements around you. Moreover, it’s not only the nature that will leave your speechless, but the beautiful highland cattle, goats, and cows that look so perfect in their environment that you will not know if it’s real or you have a painting in front of you.
En route and when you reach Drachensee, there are also a couple of traditional mountain huts where you can’t miss a traditional Tyrolean feast. Dishes such as egg noodles called Kasspatzen or the fluffy shredded pancake called Kaiserschmarrn accompanied by a good beer made in Tyrol will make your experience complete in Ehrwald.
Ruette & Highline 179 Suspension Bridge
By Tiffany from Mommy and Me Travels
Nestled along B179 is a cute market town of Reutte, Austria. We visited this quaint town and found so many things to see and do but the highlight is Highline 179 Suspension Bridge.
To access the bridge you will have to take a short hike up a well-marked path that kids of all ages are able to easily accomplish or parents can carry an infant rather easily. During your hike up a short hill to reach Highline 179 bridge, make sure you plan to explore each of the ruins that the bridge connects, Ehrenburg Castle ruins and Fort Claudia ruins.
Another stop not to miss is Lake Plansee. Here you will find plenty of land and water activities to keep you busy all day long. Want to relax instead? You can definitely do that while sitting on the side of the water taking in the breathtaking views.
Looking for a place to stay for a few days to explore this amazing little town? Check out Hotel Romantik Krone or Naturhotel LechLife for a comfy night’s sleep. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling solo or with a family, Reutte Austria has plenty of water and land activities to keep you exploring all day long.
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Planning your trip to Europe – If this is your first-ever trip to Europe, consider reading our Europe 101 guide.
Schengen Visa – If you require a visa to travel to Europe, most likely it is the Schengen Visa (for those belonging to the Euro Zone or EU, doesn’t include the UK). Read our guide to applying for Schengen Visa.
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We hope you enjoyed this list of the most beautiful places to visit in Austria. There is definitely something for everybody – from history and culture lovers, adventure or outdoor enthusiasts. Don’t forget to add the UNESCO World Heritage Sites to your Austria bucket list!