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. At the end of the post, there’s a map with all these top Austrian destinations.
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Best Places to Visit in Austria
- Lünersee and the Rätikon Alps
- Mayrhofen and the Zillertal Alps
- South Styria
- Tennengebirge Mountains
- Hohenwerfen Castle
- The Grossglockner High Alpine Road
- Hohe Tauern National Park
- Hochkönig Mountains
- Wachau River Valley
- Virgental Valley in East Tyrol
- Felsentherme in Bad Gastein
- Schladminger Tauern Mountains
- Gosau Lakes
At the bottom of this post, we’ve plotted all these destinations on an interactive map.
Capital of Austria
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 drinking 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 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.
Lünersee and the Rätikon Alps
Alpine Lake in Vorarlberg
Lünersee is a large alpine lake in the Austrian State of Vorarlberg. Made extremely accessible by the Lünerseebahn, the cableway that connects Brandnertal to the lake, this alpine destination is for everyone. People of all ages come here to walk, fish, hike and climb.
Lünersee is the starting point for many hikes in the Rätikon Alps – the limestone mountain range that straddles the border between Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. In a single day, you can even cross into Switzerland.
If you’re visiting for the day, you can hike the circuit trail around the lake (2 hours, 6.1 km). You can also hike to Gafalljoch ridge as part of your circuit (3 hours, 8.7 km). Experienced hikers should summit Schesaplana, the highest mountain in the Rätikon. To learn more about your hiking options, read our Lünersee hiking guide.
Hut to Hut hiking enthusiasts should consider doing this multi-day tour around the Rätikon.
When you’re hungry, head to Douglas Hütte for lunch. This hut is conveniently located next to the cableway station. The food is delicious and the service is outstanding. On the other side of the lake, you can grab a snack at Lünersee Alpe. Another option is to hike up to Totalphütte, a mountain hut positioned above the lake, on the trail to Schesaplana. Their Apfelstrudel is to die for.
How to Get to Lünersee: If you’re relying on transit, take a train to Bludenz. From the Bludenz train station, you can hop on bus line 81 to Lünerseebahn.
When to Visit Lünersee: Late May – Early October.
Where to Stay: Stay in Brandnertal (Brandner Valley) or Tschengla, an alpine plateau overlooking Branderntal. We highly recommend staying in the all-inclusive Schillerkopf Alpine Resort, a 4-star Alpine Resort located on Tschengla Plateau. Amazing wellness facilities combined with a culinary-themed stay make this a fantastic place to stay for at least two nights.
Mayrhofen and the Zillertal Alps
Alpine Town and Mountain Range in Tyrol
The town of Mayrhofen charms visitors with its Tyrolean architecture, live music, hearty Tyrolean food, and shops. It’s the best base for exploring the majestic Zillertal Valley and Alps. Read Fantastic Things to Do in Mayrhofen in Summer. We traveled to Mayrhofen to begin the celebrated Berlin High Trail, a multi-day trek through the Zillertal Alps. You can read our full Berlin High Trail trekking itinerary here.
How to Get to Mayrhofen: Take an ÖBB train to Jenbach Bahnhof. From Jenbach, take the Zillertalbahn (Zillertal Train) to Mayrhofen in Zillertal.
When to Visit Mayrhofen: Mayrhofen is an all-year-round destination. For summer hiking, we recommend coming here between mid-June and early-October.
Where to Stay in Mayrhofen: We stayed in the 4-star Alpenhotel Kramerwirt, a family-run hotel in the center of Mayrhofen. It’s a convenient 4-minute walk from the train/bus station. This authentic Austrian hotel exhibits a high standard of hospitality, food, and comfort. We loved the spaciousness, light, bedding, and design of our “Superior Room.” And that breakfast buffet – priceless!
Wine Region in Südsteiermark
South Styria (Südsteiermark) is a region in the Austrian State of Styria (Steiermark), bordering Slovenia. This is one of Austria’s most celebrated wine regions. You can spend days visiting wineries and traditional wine taverns (Buschenschänke). Read this in-depth guide to wine tasting in South Styria.
When to Visit South Styria: Summer and Fall.
Where to Stay in South Styria: Stay in Jaglhof by Domaines Kilger in Gamlitz. Overlooking rolling vineyards, this serene hotel offers unbeatable sunrise and sunset views. We loved the comfort of our bedroom (bedding, mattress, Nespresso machine, bathrobes, bathtub) and the delicious cuisine served in the on-site restaurant.
Alpine Village in Salzburg
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 Austrian 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)
Mountain Range in Salzburg
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 this hidden gem, 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
Castle in Salzburg
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 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
Alpine Road in Salzburg and Carinthia
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
Protected Natural Area in East Tyrol, Carinthia, and Salzburg
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. Another idea (actually GREAT idea) is heading to Gschlösstal Valley and hiking the Innergschlöss Glacier Trail.
Capital of Styria
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.
Mountain Range in Salzburg
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
UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lower Austria
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.
Valley in East Tyrol and Gateway to the Venediger Group
Virgental Valley is a scenic valley in East Tyrol, extending from the town of Matrei in Osttirol. Virgental is also a gateway to the Venediger Mountain Group of Hohe Tauern National Park. It’s an incredible base for hiking, as you can access several mountain huts and lakes from the valley.
The famous multi-day treks Venediger High Trail and Lasörling High Trail both begin in Virgental as well. It’s a peaceful and quiet destination, allowing you to absorb your natural surroundings and the clean alpine air. Furthermore, the landscapes aren’t corrupted by ugly chairlifts or cut ski slopes. A string of small villages is located along the valley, including Hinterbichl, Prägraten, Wallhorn, Bobojach, Virgen, Mitteldorf and a few more.
Where to Stay: We recommend staying in Hinterbichl. From here, you can access several trails by foot and hike to Umbalfälle (waterfall), Clara Hütte, Essener Rockstocker Hütte, Neue Reichenberger Hütte, and other destinations. There are two accommodation options in Hinterbichl: Hotel Gasthof Islitzer and Heimat Hotel.
At Heimat Hotel, you’ll be treated to a bountiful breakfast buffet, including homemade jams and chutneys, regional and organic cheeses and meats and a muesli bar. Though we enjoyed the location and breakfast of this hotel, we were a bit disappointed by the lack of hospitality here. Our presence and questions seemed like a burden. For a more welcoming environment, we recommend staying at Hotel Gasthof Islitzer (where we ate dinner).
Read Next: Venediger High Trail Hiking Guide
Felsentherme in Bad Gastein
Spa & Wellness complex in Salzburg
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 several 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).
Mountain Range in Styria and Salzburg
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).
Alpine Lakes in Upper Austria
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.
Best Places to Visit in Austria Map
In this map, you’ll find all the top places to visit in Austria. We grouped the destinations by color. Each color pertains to a different Austrian State. For example, all green markers signify destinations in Salzburg State. Al purple markers signify places in Tyrol.
Read More About Austria