Home to some of Europe’s most impressive mountain ranges, river valleys, and alpine lakes, Austria is first and foremost a destination for nature lovers and outdoor explorers. Many Austria travel itineraries are limited to Vienna, Salzburg City, and Hallstadt. Unfortunately, both Salzburg City and Hallstadt are inundated with tourism, and we can’t recommend either destination. We can, however, share our favorite places to visit in Austria. To put this post in some context, Kati is Austrian and I (Sabrina) have lived in Austria for quite some time. This blog post will help you discover the hidden wonders and top attractions in Austria.
Planning a trip to Austria? Also, read our Austria Travel Guide!
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Best Places to Visit in Austria
- Tennengebirge Mountains
- Hohenwerfen Castle
- The Grossglockner High Alpine Road
- Hohe Tauern National Park
- Hochkönig Mountains
- Wachau River Valley
- Felsentherme in Bad Gastein
- Schladminger Tauern Mountains
- Gosau Lakes
Vienna is a destination for art, music, and architecture enthusiasts. The elegant Austrian capital invites visitors to revel in classical music, tradition, and beauty. You can spend hours in traditional coffee houses savoring Viennese cakes and coffees you’ve never heard of like Wiener Melange, Verlängerter, Einspänner. You can watch a world-class opera at the Vienna State Opera for 4 EUR. Read about how to get 4 EUR Standing Room Tickets. You can gaze at the intriguing works of secession artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. And, you can visit palaces in every corner of the city.
We created a Vienna City Guide, which will help you figure out what to do, where to eat, and where to stay. And if you’ve already visited Vienna, why not check out our comprehensive list of Vienna Hidden Gems.
When to Visit Vienna: Any time of the year.
Filzmoos is a small alpine town in the state of Salzburg. Directly facing the Gosaukamm mountains, which form part of the Dachstein range, Filzmoos makes for a great alpine holiday destination in summer, or winter. In summer, we highly recommend driving to Oberhofalmen via a tolled road and hiking from there to Hofpürglhütte, Sulzenalmen, and Almsee. At Sulzenalmen, savor the local cuisine in an atmospheric mountain hut. Read more about these hikes in our summer guide to Filzmoos.
From the village center, you can take the Papageno gondola to the top and hike along the ridge to the mountain hut Radstädterhütte. As you hike along the trail, it looks like the whole Dachstein mountain range is a magazine layout, and you’re walking across it.
The Papageno gondola ride is included in the SalzburgerLand Card, which is a 6-day or 12-day tourist card that grants guests free or discounted access to 190 attractions across the state of Salzburg. We highly recommend buying this card (see pricing) if you’re planning on actively exploring the region of Salzburg.
When to Visit Filzmoos: December – March (for skiing), mid-June – September (for hiking)
Tennengebirge (Tennen Mountains) is a small mountain range in the Northern Limestone Alps. Can you guess in which movie you’ve seen these rugged mountains? You know it! They form the backdrop of the famous Do Re Mi musical scene in the Sound of Music. Watch the clip again, and take note of the castle in the background as well. That’s Burg Hohenwerfen. The Sound of Music filming location is accessible by foot or car from Werfen via Dielalmweg road.
Our favorite place in the Tennengebirge is Wengerau in Werfenweng. From here, you can hike to the mountain huts Werfener Hütte or Dr. Heinrich Hackel Hütte. Read more about the hike to Werfener Hütte in Best Hikes in Salzburg. You can also revel in the alpine scenery whilst eating a delicious meal at Wengau Alm – no hike necessary. This alm restaurant is a mere 2-minute walk from the parking lot. The food and the views don’t disappoint.
When to Visit Tennengebirge: Late-June to late-September
Cradled by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the Tennengebirge, the 900-year-old Hohenwerfen fortress stands proud atop a steep rock overlooking the Salzach Valley. The fortified medieval castle was constructed in 1077 under Archbishop Gebhard during the investiture conflict. Gebhard was an ally to Pope Gregory VII who was in continuous conflict with King Henry IV of Germany (Holy Roman Emperor). The building of this castle along with Hohensalzburg and Petersberg Castle was meant to secure the route across the Eastern Alps against the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Today, the castle is open to the public. Castle entry and the guided tour is included in the SalzburgerLand Card. While a visit to the castle is definitely worthwhile, we were disappointed in the way in which guided tours were organized. You can only access the interior of the castle on a tour. Though tours are only conducted in German, audio guides are available in multiple languages. That means that you’ll have to join a German-conducted guided tour whilst listening to your audio guide.
When to Visit Hohenwerfen Castle: Early April to early November. See opening hours.
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Großglockner Hochalpenstraße in German) is a paved serpentine road that steers you into the heart of Hohe Tauern National Park and directly to the base of the Grossglockner (3,798 m), Austria’s highest mountain. If you’re looking for beautiful places in Austria, this scenic road delivers beautiful landscapes at every turn. Read our Grossglockner High Alpine Road post to find out where to stop, eat, and hike along Austria’s most stunning mountain road.
Note, this is a tolled road. As of 2019, it costs 36.50 EUR for private cars to access the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. SalzburgerLand Cardholders can choose between free access to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road (what we did), or a 24-hour Salzburg City Card.
When to Drive the Grossglockner High Alpine Road: Early May to early November. Check opening hours.
Where to Stay: Woferlgut – Wellness & Sport Hotel in Bruck. The Grossglockner road stretches between Fusch an der Großglocknerstraße in Salzburg and Heiligenblut am Großglockner in Carinthia. You can drive in either direction, so you have a range of possibilities in terms of where to stay, including Heiligenblut and Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße.
Hohe Tauern National Park
Encompassing 1,856 square kilometers, Hohe Tauern National Park is the largest national park in the Alps. The park is divided into a core zone and an outer zone and stretches across the Austrian States of Carinthia, Salzburg, and Tyrol. A great introduction to Hohe Tauern National Park is the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. There are also many hiking routes that traverse the protected area, including the Grossglockner Rundwanderweg (Grossglockner Circuit Trail), the Venediger High Trail, and the beginning of the Alpe Adria long distance trail.
Graz is the oh-so-darling capital of Styria. It’s actually Austria’s second largest city, though it feels more like a town. Graz impresses immediately with its beautiful architecture and laid-back atmosphere. Begin your day trip to Graz in the city’s Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The historical center sports splendidly medieval facades as well as visionary modern buildings. From the Old Town, head to Schlossberg (Castle Hill). The uphill walk will take you to the iconic Uhrturm (clock tower), where you’ll have a great view of the city.
When to Visit Graz: Any time of the year. However, some attractions are closed during the winter.
The Hochkönig massif contains the highest peaks in the Berchtesgaden Alps, a range shared by Austria and Germany. The holiday region of Hochkönig encompasses the towns fo Maria Alm, Dienten and Mühlbach. This is a popular destination in both summer and winter. We visited several times in the summer, hiking segments of the Salzburger Almenweg. Here are a few things you can do:
- Hike from Erichhütte to Arthurhaus (Salzburger Almenweg Stage 2)
- Hike from Dientner Sattel – Schneebergkreuz (Salzburger Almenweg Stage 3)
- Hike to and eat at Pronebenalm.
Read more about hiking in the memorable Hochkönig mountains in our Best Hikes in Salzburg post.
When to Visit Hochkönig: December – March (for skiing) and late-June to late-September (for hiking).
Wachau River Valley
The Wachau is an enchanting river valley and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lower Austria between the towns of Melk and Krems. You can explore both sides of the Danube river by bike, or car. Because this is also a notable wine-growing region, we highly recommend visiting a few Heuriger (wine taverns) while you’re out exploring. Notable landmarks in the Wachau include the Melk Abbey, Schönbühel Castle, Aggstein, and the Dürnstein Castle Ruins, where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned in 1193.
When to Visit the Wachau: Spring, Summer, Fall.
Felsentherme in Bad Gastein
Bad Gastein is a spa and ski town in the Hohe Tauern mountains of Salzburg. If you’re planning a ski holiday in the Gastein Valley, head to the Felsentherme thermal spa complex after a long day on the slopes. Or, if you’re visiting in summer and experiencing bad weather, Felsentherme is a great option for those moody, rainy days in the mountains.
The thermal waters of Felsentherme are sourced from 18 hot springs. There are a number of indoor and outdoor pools where you can swim and soak in the mineral-rich waters. We highly recommend spending most of your time in the sauna area. The sauna complex is for adults only and is strictly textile-free (no bathing suits allowed). Here, you can enjoy 8 different saunas and steam rooms on two different levels along with pools, showers, and relaxation rooms. Don’t miss the saline grotto. Surrounded by alpine scenery, there’s no better place to relax and unwind.
SalzburgerLand Cardholders get free access for four hours.
When to Visit Bad Gastein: December – March (for skiing) and late-June to late-September (for hiking).
The Schladming Tauern mountains are a subrange of the Austrian Central Alps and are located in the Austrian federal states of Salzburg and Styria (Steiermark). The closest town, or transportation hub, is Schladming. This is one of Austria’s premier skiing destinations. However, summer is also an incredible time to visit. We hiked across the range on the Schladminger Tauern High Trail, a 5 stage hut to hut hike, and it was spectacular.
When to Visit Schladminger Tauern: December – March (for skiing) and late-June to late-September (for hiking).
Gosauseen are three lakes in the Dachstein mountains in Upper Austria: Vorderer Gosausee, Gosaulacke, and Hinterer Gosausee. You can spend a whole day walking, hiking or climbing around these scenic lakes. The largest lake, Vorderer Gosausee, is easy to access, as it’s only a few minutes away from the parking lot. Once you arrive, you can walk along a flat trail that circuits the lake. You can also hike to the other Gosau Lakes, Gosaulacke (969 m) and Hinterer Gosausee (1154 m), which takes 2.5 hours one-way. At Hinterer Gosausee, you’ll find an alm restaurant, Hohe Holzmeister Alm, that serves food and refreshments to hungry hikers.
For more impressive views of the Dachstein and Gosaukamm ridge, ride the Gosaukammnbahn cable car. From the top station, you can hop between mountain huts, walk to Zwieselalm (a good option if traveling with kids), or hike to Grosser Donnerkogel. Experienced via ferrata hikers can climb the Donnerkogel route.
SalzburgerLand Cardholders get a single roundtrip use of the Gosaukamm cable car.
When to Visit Gosau Lakes: (May) June – October (November), depending on snow conditions.
Read More About Austria
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- We received complimentary Salzburgerland Cards. All opinions are our own as always!