As someone who has had the privilege of exploring the enchanting country of Austria, I’m excited to share with you the best things to do in this European gem. Austria is a land of stunning natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a nature lover, or a history buff, Austria has something to offer everyone. In this article, we’ll dive into the top activities and attractions that will make your visit to Austria truly unforgettable.
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is a city that exudes imperial grandeur. It’s a place where history, art, and culture come together in perfect harmony. Start your Austrian adventure by exploring Vienna’s finest attractions.
Discover the Historic Schoenbrunn Palace
One of the absolute must-visit places in Vienna is the Schoenbrunn Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage site was the summer residence of the Habsburg emperors and is a stunning example of Baroque architecture. Wander through its opulent rooms, stroll in the magnificent gardens, and don’t forget to visit the world’s oldest zoo, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn, located within the palace grounds.
Stroll Through Belvedere Palace Gardens
For art enthusiasts, the Belvedere Palace is a dream come true. This historic complex houses an impressive collection of Austrian art, including Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, “The Kiss.” The gardens surrounding the palace are a work of art themselves, offering a serene place to relax and appreciate the beauty of Austria.
Enjoy a Concert at the Vienna State Opera
Vienna is synonymous with classical music, and there’s no better place to experience it than at the Vienna State Opera. Attend a performance of world-class opera or ballet and immerse yourself in the elegance and tradition of this iconic venue.
Salzburg: The Mozart Connection
Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is a city that resonates with music and history. Here are some top things to do in Salzburg:
Visit Mozart’s Birthplace
Step into the world of Mozart by visiting his birthplace. The museum offers a glimpse into the life and work of the musical genius. You can see his childhood violin, clavichord, and other personal artifacts.
Explore the Hohensalzburg Fortress
Perched on a hill, the Hohensalzburg Fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Explore the medieval fortress, visit the museum within, and learn about Salzburg’s fascinating history.
Take a Sound of Music Tour
Fans of the beloved movie “The Sound of Music” can’t miss a tour of the filming locations. Sing along to the movie’s iconic songs as you visit places like the Mirabell Gardens and the Nonnberg Abbey.
Innsbruck: Alpine Adventures
Innsbruck, nestled in the heart of the Alps, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Here’s what you can do in this stunning city:
Hit the Slopes in the Winter
Innsbruck is a premier destination for skiing and snowboarding. With multiple ski resorts nearby, you can enjoy the thrill of winter sports against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains.
Discover the Swarovski Crystal Worlds
Swarovski Crystal Worlds is a unique art installation and museum showcasing the brilliance of Swarovski crystals. Explore the dazzling chambers and gardens designed by various artists.
Walk Through the Old Town
Innsbruck’s Old Town is a picturesque wonder. Stroll through cobblestone streets, admire the colorful buildings, and visit the Golden Roof, an iconic symbol of the city.
Hallstatt: A Lakeside Paradise
Hallstatt, often referred to as the “Pearl of Austria,” is a charming village nestled by the Hallstatt Lake. Here’s what you can experience in this idyllic setting:
Admire the Stunning Hallstatt Lake
The crystal-clear waters of Hallstatt Lake reflect the majestic Dachstein Alps, creating a mesmerizing sight. Take a boat ride or simply walk along the lake’s shore for breathtaking views.
Tour the Hallstatt Salt Mine
Hallstatt is famous for its salt mines, and a tour of the salt mine is both educational and thrilling. Ride the funicular, slide through tunnels, and learn about the history of salt mining.
Visit the Bone House
A unique attraction in Hallstatt is the Beinhaus, or Bone House. Due to limited burial space, the bones of the deceased are exhumed and stored in an ossuary. It’s a sobering yet intriguing experience.
Graz: A Taste of Styria
Graz, the capital of Styria, is a city known for its culinary delights and cultural treasures. Here’s what you can do in Graz:
Explore Schloss Eggenberg
Schloss Eggenberg is a baroque palace with beautiful gardens and an art collection. Explore the opulent rooms and the Alte Galerie, which houses European paintings.
Wander in the Old Town (Altstadt)
The Old Town of Graz is a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its well-preserved medieval architecture. Stroll through narrow streets, visit the Graz Cathedral, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Taste Traditional Styrian Cuisine
Don’t miss the chance to savor traditional Styrian dishes like pumpkin seed oil, Styrian fried chicken, and Kürbiskernöl ice cream. Pair your meal with a glass of local wine for the full experience.
Eisriesenwelt: The World of Ice Giants
Eisriesenwelt, the largest ice cave in the world, is a natural wonder located near Werfen. Here’s what you can expect when you venture into this frozen realm:
Venture into the Ice Caves
Explore the magical ice formations, massive caverns, and frozen waterfalls within Eisriesenwelt. Guided tours take you deep into this subterranean world, where temperatures can drop significantly.
Experience the Magic of Frozen Wonderland
The caves are illuminated, creating a surreal and enchanting atmosphere. It’s a journey that feels like stepping into the pages of a fantasy novel.
Bregenz: Lakeside Serenity
Bregenz, situated on the shores of Lake Constance, is known for its cultural events and natural beauty. Here’s what you can do in Bregenz:
Attend the Bregenzer Festspiele
The Bregenzer Festspiele, or Bregenz Festival, is a renowned open-air opera festival. Enjoy world-class performances on a floating stage with the beautiful lake as a backdrop.
Take a Ride on the Pfänderbahn Cable Car
For panoramic views of Lake Constance and the surrounding mountains, take a ride on the Pfänderbahn cable car. The summit offers hiking trails and a chance to see local wildlife.
Hiking in the Austrian Alps
The Austrian Alps offer some of the most stunning hiking experiences in Europe. Here are a few hiking destinations to consider:
Conquer the Grossglockner
Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak, beckons adventurers. Hike to the summit for breathtaking views of the Alps, or explore the surrounding national park.
Hike the Eagle’s Walk
The Adlerweg, or Eagle’s Walk, is a long-distance hiking trail that traverses the Austrian Alps. It offers diverse landscapes and a chance to experience the beauty of the mountains.
Trek in Gesäuse National Park
Gesäuse National Park is a rugged and pristine wilderness. Explore its trails, encounter wildlife, and soak in the unspoiled natural beauty.
Don’t forget to pack a quality pair of trail running shoes. I personally tackled this hike wearing my Hoka Speedgoat 5, and it made the journey a breeze.
Danube River Cruise
A Danube River cruise is a serene way to explore Austria’s picturesque landscapes and historic towns. Here’s what you can expect:
Embark on a Romantic Danube Cruise
Cruise along the Danube River, passing through charming villages, vineyards, and medieval castles. It’s a romantic and leisurely way to see the countryside.
Explore the Wachau Valley
The Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known for its vineyards and apricot orchards. Stop at towns like Dürnstein and Melk to explore historic sites and taste local wines.
Austrian Culinary Delights
Austria is a culinary delight for food enthusiasts. Here are some dishes you must try:
Savor Viennese Sachertorte
Indulge in the rich and decadent Sachertorte, a famous Austrian chocolate cake. It’s best enjoyed with a cup of Vienna coffee.
Try Austrian Strudel
Austrian strudels come in various flavors, including apple and cherry. They’re flaky, fruity, and utterly delicious.
Delight in Schnitzel and Apfelstrudel
Schnitzel, a breaded and fried meat cutlet, is a classic Austrian dish. Pair it with Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) for a satisfying meal.
Austria is known for its vibrant cultural festivals throughout the year. Here are a few notable ones:
Attend the Vienna Opera Ball
The Vienna Opera Ball is a glamorous event that combines music, dance, and high society. It’s an unforgettable experience for those who appreciate elegance and culture.
Celebrate at the Vienna Film Festival
The Vienna International Film Festival (Viennale) showcases a diverse selection of films from around the world. It’s a cultural highlight for movie enthusiasts.
Join the Innsbruck Christmas Market
In the winter, the Innsbruck Christmas Market transforms the city into a festive wonderland. Enjoy mulled wine, crafts, and the magic of the holiday season.
Austria’s picturesque landscapes are perfect for biking enthusiasts. Here are some biking experiences to consider:
Ride Along the Danube Cycle Path
The Danube Cycle Path offers a scenic route along the river, passing through charming villages and historic sites. It’s a leisurely way to explore the countryside.
Explore the Salzkammergut Lakes by Bike
The Salzkammergut region is known for its stunning lakes. Rent a bike and explore the picturesque shores of lakes like Wolfgangsee and Hallstättersee.
Museums and Art Galleries
Austria boasts a rich cultural heritage, and its museums and galleries reflect this. Here are a few to visit:
Visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
The Kunsthistorisches Museum houses an impressive collection of European art, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Raphael.
Explore the Leopold Museum
The Leopold Museum focuses on Austrian art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s a must-visit for fans of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.
Discover the Albertina Museum
The Albertina Museum in Vienna showcases an extensive collection of graphic art, including drawings, prints, and photography.
Austrian Lakes and Beaches
Austria’s lakes offer serene escapes during the summer months. Here are a few to consider:
Relax by Lake Wolfgangsee
Lake Wolfgangsee is known for its clear waters and stunning mountain scenery. It’s a great place to swim, sunbathe, or take a boat ride.
Swim in Lake Neusiedl
Lake Neusiedl is the largest steppe lake in Central Europe. Its shallow waters make it an ideal spot for swimming and windsurfing.
Sunbathe on Lake Wörthersee
Lake Wörthersee is a popular summer destination. Relax on its beaches, go sailing, or explore the charming towns along its shores.
Local Experiences and Traditions
To truly immerse yourself in Austrian culture, consider these local experiences:
Attend a Traditional Austrian Wine Tasting
Austria is known for its quality wines. Visit a local winery and savor some of the finest Austrian wines, including Grüner Veltliner and Riesling.
Learn to Waltz in Vienna
Vienna is the birthplace of the waltz. Take a dance class and learn to waltz like a local, then put your new skills to the test at a traditional ball.
Visit a Local Heuriger
A Heuriger is a traditional Austrian wine tavern where you can enjoy locally produced wine and hearty Austrian cuisine. It’s a wonderful way to experience the country’s hospitality.
Austria offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to every traveler’s interests. Whether you’re captivated by the grandeur of Vienna, enchanted by the natural beauty of the Alps, or craving cultural immersion, Austria has it all. So, pack your bags, embark on an Austrian adventure, and make memories that will last a lifetime.
- What is the best time to visit Austria?
The best time to visit Austria depends on your preferences. Summer (June to August) is ideal for outdoor activities and festivals, while winter (December to February) is perfect for skiing and Christmas markets.
- Is Austria an expensive destination?
Austria can be moderately expensive, but there are ways to enjoy it on a budget. Consider staying in guesthouses, dining at local eateries, and using public transportation.
- What are some lesser-known places to visit in Austria?
Explore the charming towns of Krems in the Wachau Valley, and Melk with its stunning abbey. These places offer a more intimate Austrian experience.
- Can I visit multiple cities in Austria in one trip?
Yes, Austria’s efficient train network makes it easy to travel between cities like Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck in a single trip.
- Is it safe to drink tap water in Austria?
Yes, tap water in Austria is safe to drink and of high quality. You can refill your water bottle from taps without any concerns.