I fell in love with Austria when my brother moved there and I can’t get enough of the culture (and food!). This list, compiled with help from other travel bloggers, includes all of my favorite things to do in Austria. Whether you’re hoping to enjoy the mountain scenery in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful towns in the world, attend shows at internationally renowned cultural institutions, tour an ornately decorated palace, or hit the slopes in the winter, I think you’ll fall in love with it too. And if the attractions don’t do it for you, the food and drink just might win you over. If you’re planning a visit and find yourself wondering what to do in Austria, look no further than this collection.
Top ten things to do in Austria
I picked this group from all of the categories to represent the top things to do in Austria. The top ten includes famous palaces, cultural institutions, skiing at some of the most iconic Austrian resorts, and some of the country’s incredible scenery.
See a performance at the Vienna Opera House
Photo by Elizabeth from The Fearless Foreigner
Visiting the Wiener Staatsoper, the Vienna Opera House is a must when spending time in Austria. It is one of the most opulent and famous opera houses in the world. The best way to experience the theater is to see a performance.
Every year you can choose from more than 60 operas and ballets. Make sure to arrive early to take in the grand staircase and impressive interiors throughout the entire building. I have been to a lot of theaters and opera houses around the world, but this one had the most well-dressed audience. The elegantly attired audience along with the decor of the theater and the quality of the ballet performance we saw created a night to remember.
Be careful buying seats on the sides of the theater as it can be difficult to see the stage. If you really want to see and not just hear what is happening, buy tickets on the ground floor or the center sections of the balconies. You can sometimes buy very cheap standing room tickets for only 3 euros! If you haven’t been to an opera before, be advised that they are long and will seem even longer if you are standing.
If tickets to a performance are out of your price range or not available during your visit to Vienna, you can take a guided tour. In addition to the beautiful theater you will also get a behind the scenes look at what goes on to produce each production. You will learn more about the history and architecture of the theater as well.
Another way to see a production is to attend one of the live screenings outside of the theater. A large screen is attached to the building and broadcasts the performance that is currently going on in the theater.
However you visit the Vienna Opera House, you won’t regret it!
By Elizabeth from The Fearless Foreigner
Visit the alpine village of Hallstatt
Visiting Hallstatt is one of the top things to do in Austria. Just look at that view!
Hallstatt is one of the most picturesque alpine villages that you’ll ever come across and one of the best places to visit in Austria. Set alongside a lake in the Alps not far from Salzburg, this historic town is absolutely dreamy. Houses and other buildings were built up the side of the mountain making it uniquely beautiful – be sure to spend some time exploring the staircase passages between some of them. During the summer, you can take boats out on the lake or even take a chilly swim. Or, just hole up at one of the lakeside cafes and take in the view.
For a cool bit of history, you can tour the centuries-old salt mine that once drove the town’s economy. As a bonus, you’ll have stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains from an observation deck at the top before or after you take your tour. We loved exploring the mine and sliding down the wooden slides that were used to travel to lower levels. There are also ice caves just outside of Hallstatt that can be visited using a local bus route.
Drive the scenic Grossglockner Road
Photo by Fiona from Passport and Piano
The Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria and one of the largest in the Alps. The easiest way to get to the top is to drive one of the world’s most spectacular roads. For any driving enthusiast, the 36 challenging hairpin bends are a dream. There is a hefty toll fee, but it’s well maintained, and the smooth tarmac makes for enjoyable driving.
The route is only 30 miles long but as it winds its way up the mountain and through Hohe Tauern National Park, the views get more and more magnificent. For passengers, the ever-changing landscape of meadow flowers, rocky cliff faces, lakes and glaciers means that there’s never a dull moment. The road was completed in 1935 and was built along the old mountain pass between Bruck and Heiligenblut. Today, the tollbooth is located at Ferleiten near Fusch and if you want to avoid the tourists it’s best to arrive early in the morning.
By early, I mean 6 am, particularly if you don’t want to get stuck behind camera enthusiasts and slow drivers. That is of course if you’re here to spin your wheels and take a drive of a lifetime. The highest point of the route is Hochtor, which is 2,505 meters above sea level. Here there is a tunnel which is a whopping 1.5 miles long.
There are many lookouts along the way, including the Swarovski tower, which is a viewing platform made from glass and has the latest optical equipment to view the spectacular alpine landscape. The Edelweissspitze viewing tower has 360-degree panoramic views, and the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe overlook has a tourist deck with fabulous views across the Grossglockner and Pasterze Glacier.
By Fiona from Passport and Piano
Ski at one of Austria’s legendary resorts
The Austrian Alps are home to some of the best skiing in Europe and you’ll find resorts throughout the mountains. If you find yourself wondering what to do in Austria in the winter, zooming down one of its famous runs should be high on the list. Skiing in Austria has a long history, and it’s no surprise that the country has won more Olympic alpine skiing medals than any other country in the world. Of course, you don’t have to be a world class skier (or snowboarder) to hit the slopes here – I certainly wasn’t when I skied at Hinterstoder – as you’ll find runs suitable to all skill levels at the different resorts.
Advanced skiers will drool over the legendary St. Anton am Arlberg with its expert terrain and moguls. For a more family oriented resort (with just as much charm for non-skiers) try Kitzbühel located between Salzburg and Innsbruck. Sölden, also located near Innsbruck, is great for all skill levels and was also used as a filming location in a James Bond movie. Mayrhofen is great for snowboarders with a dedicated lift and kids area in addition to their massive snow fields. For picturesque views, it’s hard to top Zell am See‘s lake views, and for visitors looking for evening activity, its famous après-ski scene is just as memorable. Wherever you end up, you’ll enjoy incredible runs and views that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
See a performance at the Spanish Riding School
Photo by David Mark on Pixabay
Despite its name, the Spanish Riding School is located in Vienna, and it also happens to be one of the top classical riding institutions in the world. Originally, performances were only presented for guests of the court, but these days you don’t have to be a royal bigwig to attend one – all you’ll need is a ticket (pre-book as early as possible because they do sell out!). During shows in the historic arena, all stages of the training the Lipizzaner horses undergo are demonstrated, from the early stages with a young stallion to an intricate performance including eight riders and their horses and a variety of choreographed maneuvers with a background of classical music. If you can’t snag a ticket for a performance, morning exercises can also be attended for a lower cost. Both are held in the Hofburg, right in the heart of Vienna, so the venue is easy to access on foot or via public transportation. The elegant performance is consistently ranked as one of the top things to see in Austria and
Get views high above Salzburg at Hohensalzburg Fortress
One of the most recognizable buildings in Salzburg, Fortress Hohensalzburg towers above the city atop a hill. The white ramparts are beautiful against the surrounding mountains, but the views from the top for those who take the funicular for a visit are even better. While touring the historic fortress, you can learn about its construction and the way it evolved over the years, visit ornately decorated rooms, and see some medieval torture tools. There is also a restaurant at the top and concerts are frequently performed in the evenings. While there, don’t skip the balcony overlooking Salzburg as it’ll give you a fantastic view of the historic old town below you, the river running through Salzach, and the mountains in the distance. It’s especially beautiful in the winter when snow covers everything with fluffy white.
Sip glϋhwein at the Vienna Christmas markets
Vienna is absolutely magical at Christmas, with the city decorated with garlands and twinkling lights. It’s one of the top destinations for Christmas markets, and is home to my favorite out of the ones we’ve hit. There are several scattered throughout the city, but the one I fell in love with was in front of the Vienna Rathaus. With rows and rows of booths full of merchandise, vendors selling delicious street food, and enough glϋhwein (hot spiced wine) to keep you toasty warm and maybe a little bit buzzed, it’s sure to be a highlight of any winter visit. We also loved the ice skating rink at the market with its winding, ice-covered pathways that you could zoom down being much more fun than your typical open skate experience where you just sort of mill around in a circle. The Christmas market typically begins in mid-November and runs to just after Christmas.
Explore Innsbruck’s historic old town
Photo by Jacqueline Macou on Pixabay
With its location in the Alps, Innsbruck is one of the most beautiful cities in Austria. With its imperial architecture and historic sites with mountain peaks as backdrops, it’s hard to imagine a more picturesque historic area. Take some time to wander the streets and appreciate the pastel painted medieval houses found in the area. Another top tourist attraction is the Golden Balcony, which was originally constructed as a royal box for the emperor to view tournaments below. Nowadays, the view from the balcony would be of bustling shops and tourists taking selfies, though I suppose that could be equally entertaining. If you’re looking for a more active visit, you can hit the surrounding slopes – in summer, there are miles and miles of hiking trails to check out and in winter the ski resorts come to life and offer world-class skiing.
Attend the floating opera on Lake Constance
Photo by Kathi220664 on Pixabay
In the western-most state of Austria, Vorarlberg is the home of the famous town of Bregenz. This small but unique town is located on the shore of Lake Constance, where it borders neighbors of Germany and Switzerland.
Bregenz is famous for its Bregenzer Festspiele – a summer music festival that takes place on the floating lake stage at Lake Constance. Each year, talented artists design and construct the colorful themed stage Seebühne. It becomes the backdrop for this festival, as well as other performances and operas.
In 2008, the Bregenz floating stage made it into a James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Since then, flocks of visitors have made a pilgrimage to Bregenz each year, mostly to check out the festival and the stage. World-class acts perform on this stage every year: from Puccini’s Turandot, to Rigoletto and Carmen. Definitely a sight to see!
Bregenz itself is a cute, laid-back little town with some other attractions to check out. For foodies that are looking for great Austrian cuisine, the Vorarlberg State is famous for its traditional Vorarlberg Käsknöpfle (egg pasta with cheese and roasted onion). You simply have to try it!
By Halef and Michael from The Round the World Guys
Tour elegant Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace is perhaps the grandest in Vienna. Though it began as a hunting lodge, it was transformed over the years by the Habsburg rulers into a majestic palace. Your visit inside Schönbrunn will take you through several of the ornately decorated rooms, and highlights two of its most famous residents – Empress Maria Theresa and Empress Elizabeth “Sisi.” I particularly enjoyed learning about Sisi and seeing her gymnastic equipment in one area. Some rooms are decorated as they appeared in the lifetimes of both women. Outside the palace, don’t miss the formal gardens full of mazes, flowers, fountains, and statues. They’re even free to visit. If you have time, check out the Gloriette where you can have lunch in the café overlooking the palace.
Palaces and Museums in Austria
It’s no surprise that Austria has its share of palaces and art museums – and some of the attractions on this section of best places to visit in Austria double as both! Whether you’re looking for stately gardens, impressive galleries, or a dose of water-based fun check out these top spots to visit.
See Spectacular artwork at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
Photo by Loredana from Earth’s Attractions
Vienna has many wonderful museums and one of my favorites is The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (the Museum of Art History). Here you will be able to admire amazing paintings by famous artists (they are grouped by category and, trust me, you won’t realize how time flies when you are in the galleries.) The Picture Gallery is my favorite – you can admire works by Rembrandt, Raphael, Caravaggio, Velázquez, Italian Baroque painters, and more. I admit, this gallery is the reason why I consider this museum to be one of the best places to visit in Vienna.
The museum also has an impressive coin collection, as well as one with Greek and Roman antiquities, one focusing on historic musical instruments – and there are a few more exhibitions that will leave you in awe.
They also have temporary exhibitions – you can check their website to see what is the current one and what will be featured next.
The museum is easily accessible and you get a discount for the tickets if you have the Vienna pass. As The Kunsthistorisches Museum is home to numerous and diverse exhibitions, I’d recommend you to book one day for visiting it thoroughly. You’ll feel energized after visiting it and admiring the treasures exhibited here. The building itself is also worthy to be observed – and admired. The Kunsthistorisches Museum should definitely be on your Austria bucket list!
By Loredana from Earth’s Attractions
Get splashed in the trick fountains at Hellbrunn
My favorite palace in all of Europe is Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg. The building itself is smaller and less ornately decorated than some, but the gardens in back are the real attraction. They were constructed by a prankster who wanted to be able to secretly squirt his guests with a variety of hidden water jets. Whereas most European castle gardens are somewhat reserved as visitors wander through stately hedges and flowers, the Hellbrunn gardens are filled with kids and adults alike squealing in delight as they come across a new trick fountain.
Our tour started off at a dining table where the Prince-Archbishop would entertain his sophisticated guests before having the fountains douse them with water. It had to be even funnier to see the fancy ladies in their dresses than the tourists in shorts and t-shirts who visit nowadays. There are plenty of other fountains with hidden grottos that seem to trap you behind a waterfall to jets that arch over the sidewalk to an ornately carved wooden “theater” that is operated completely by the flow of water. Hellbrunn is best visited in hot weather and closes for the winter. Be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet and have something waterproof to store your electronics and anything else you don’t want to get wet.
Visit an art museum in a Baroque palace
Photo by Abigail from Inside the Travel Lab
Flecked with gold, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt steals the show at the Belvedere Art Museum in Vienna. But the building complex itself is a work of art: a combination of Baroque palaces set in sprawling garden grounds right in the heart of the city. Built during the height of Vienna’s Imperial success as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, the grounds feature cascading fountains and regal walkways as well as an Orangery and stables.
The palaces form the Upper and Lower Belvedere are now art museums with ornate gates and grand white staircases. The Baroque state rooms – the Golden Room, Marble Gallery and the Hall of Grotesques – remain open to the public in their original form following reconstruction work after the bombing of World War Two.
As you’d expect, the Belvedere is popular and it pays to plan your visit in advance and arrive early to beat the crowds. It’s received a boost following the (somewhat unflattering) appearance in the movie The Woman in Gold, which stars Helen Mirren. The film traces the true story of one woman’s efforts to retrieve a family-owned work by Gustav Klimt, stolen by the Nazis and eventually hung at the Belvedere. The museum café returns to happier times, with a chance to taste traditional Austrian food in between taking in some of the best art in the world.
By Abigail from Inside the Travel Lab
See the sparkles at the Swarovski Crystal World museum
Photo by Janine from Fill My Passport
Those Swarovski crystals in the shop window sparkle and leave you intrigued to check them out. With a huge collection spanning animals, birds, and now pop culture characters from Disney and elsewhere, the Swarovski name has truly become household with millions having at least one on display at home. But where do they come from?
Outside Innsbruck, the Swarovski Museum is a sight to be seen on any Austria trip. The artistic fountain of a man made of green starts your quirky experience before you head inside to delve into some of the wackiest exhibits you will ever witness. Take glittery photos, marvel at the largest crystal in the world, and then browse the exclusive shop for limited edition pieces, jewels, and accessories to cap off your visit. If you love quirky expressions of art, cultural intrigue, and some indulgent, yet deserving shopping, the Swarovski Museum really is for you.
By Janine from Fill My Passport
Active thing to do in Austria
Austria’s spectacular scenery makes it a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With endless hiking trails, miles and miles of rivers, and some of the most challenging ski terrain in the world, if you like to get out to nature you’ll love these things to do in Austria.
Bike Europe’s most popular cycling path
Photo by Amanda from A Dangerous Business
What do you get when you combine bikes, the second-longest river in Europe, and adorable riverside towns? You get the Danube Cycle Path, the most popular biking path in all of Europe.
The Danube Cycle Path is a developed bike path that runs along the Danube River for its entire length, from where it starts in Donaueschingen, Germany to where it empties out into the Black Sea 2,860 kilometers later. The most popular section of the path for people to ride is the 340 km from Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria, which can take anywhere from 3 to 7 days.
But you don’t have to tackle the bike path for multiple days – you can also enjoy a more leisurely ride for just a morning or afternoon, which is exactly what I did in Austria.
While on an active river cruise on the Danube, I spent one morning biking 19 kilometers of the Danube Cycle Path between the towns of Krems and Spitz. This section of the path traverses through the UNESCO-recognized Wachau Valley, which has you pedaling past vineyards and tiny Austrian villages. A highlight was stopping in the riverside town of Dürnstein to see its famous blue church.
This part of the Cycle Path only took a couple of hours, but it definitely piqued my interest in doing a longer section of it sometime. The Danube Cycle Path is well-maintained, safe, and suitable for just about any type of cyclist – which is probably why it’s the most popular bike path in Europe!
By Amanda from A Dangerous Business
Kayak the Danube River
Photo by Iris from Mind of a Hitchhiker
Traversing Austria by river is one phenomenal way to get around. Yes, you can take a river cruise in comfort and see the sights, but if cruising is not your thing, you can actually DIY it. Trust me, I’m a paddler!
The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe. It passes through/beside 10 countries, and Austria is the second one after Germany. The Danube is already a fully-developed river by the time it reaches Austria at the border in Engelhartzell. By the time it reaches the border with Slovakia, you’ll be a very skillful paddler. That’s what makes it adventurous, but without the very high fear-factor.
Along the river, you’ll find a lot of natural beauty and an absurd amount of castles, abbeys, natural backdrops, one UNESCO site, foodie spots, industrial areas, and historic places. In order of appearance from upstream to downstream: Engelszell Abbey, the Schlögener Loop (Schlögener Schlinge), Linz city, Greinburg castle, Donauwörth island, Weitenegg castle ruins, Melk abbey, Schönbühel castle, Wachau Valley (the UNESCO site) and its apricots (Marillen), Zwentendorf nuclear power plant (“the safest nuclear power plant in the world”), the old Roman frontier fortifications in Tulln, Vienna and its airport, Danube-Auen national park (Nationalpark Donau-Auen), and Hainburg. After Hainburg, Austria passes the Danubian torch to Slovakia.
The best thing about paddling the Danube in Austria is that you can proverbially hitchhike the infrastructure built for the Danube Bike Path (Donauradweg); there are many hotels, pensions, and campsites built for the cyclists that are close enough to the shores to be useful to you. On certain stretches, you can rent a kayak or canoe, but on others, you’ll need to bring your own. I’m currently paddling it downstream in an inflatable canoe.
By Iris from Mind of a Hitchhiker
See sunrise from an alpine peak
Photo by Suzanne from The Travelbunny
Seeing the sunrise from the peak of Wiedersbergerhorn mountain in Alpbach was a very special moment during my recent visit to Austria. It was a 4 a.m. start but worth every minute of lost sleep, and I don’t say that lightly because I am definitely not a morning person. We were up and out of the hotel while it was still dark and rode the Wierdersbergerhorn gondola, alighting at the second station. We were greeted by the soft hum of Alpine horns floating on the night air and a lone cow who was curious to see what was going on.
Glad of my warm fleece, we started the 45-minute uphill hike to the top of Wiedersbergerhorn, our breath clouding the chilly morning air. The sky was gradually lightening. I checked the horizon every few minutes as we climbed and could see a widening ribbon of gold behind the rugged peaks of the Wilder Kaiser mountains in the east. We traversed our way up the mountain and reached the peak just as the sun tipped over the distant mountain range.
All around us the valleys, rolling hills and mountains emerged from the darkness bathed in a warm golden light. It was my first sight of Austria’s dramatic mountainscape and is an experience I recommend and will treasure for a long time to come.
Read more about summer in Albach and the sunrise mountain hike on Suzanne’s blog.
By Suzanne from The Travelbunny
Foods and drinks to try in Austria
One of the joys of traveling is trying the food and drink wherever you find yourself. I absolutely fell in love with Austrian cuisine on my visits there and love how hearty and delicious it is. These are some of the most famous foods and drinks that you’ll find here and should absolutely be on your list if you visit Austria.
Sip coffee at a traditional Viennese café
Photo by Kenny from Knycx Journeying
I was visiting Vienna last Christmas and I had an amazing experience in its Christmas market tasting local food, drinking eggnogs, and viewing local handicrafts. Apart from the Christmas markets, I had an enjoyable time during the day in the Viennese coffee houses.
Many local Viennese enjoy their unique coffee culture sitting in a coffee house with a cup of coffee the entire afternoon. Traditional Viennese coffee is made by two shots of espresso into whipped cream and syrup, topped off with cocoa sprinkles. However, you will find that there are more than 20 kinds of coffee on the menu with different levels of milk and alcohol mix – Melange coffee is a mixture of coffee with hot milk; Einspänner Coffee is an espresso topped with whipped cream; Eiskaffee adds vanilla ice-cream to coffee.
If you are looking for something extra, try a slice of classic Sachertorte (a well-known Austrian chocolate cake) with your coffee, the sweetness and bitterness complement each other perfectly; or have a full breakfast Viennese-style. Historic coffee houses are located everywhere in Vienna. Recommended places include Café Central, Café Sperl, Café Museum, Café Mozart, or Café Hawelka. Many of them used to serve famous musicians and public figures. Imagine what it would be like when Mozart was sitting in one of the cafes while you learn about the cafe’s history and admire their beautiful décor, chandeliers, and furniture. It will enrich your day in Vienna.
By Kenny from Knycx Journeying
Stuff yourself with wiener schnitzel in Vienna
I want to go back and eat this schnitzel all over again.
One of Austria’s most famous dishes, wiener schnitzel is a must-try for visitors whether or not they consider themselves foodies. Named after Vienna (Wien in German), traditional schnitzel is made of veal cutlets that are pounded until very thin. The meat is then breaded and pan fried in butter until it has a perfect crispy coating. If veal isn’t your thing, you’ll also find schnitzels made of pretty much any other meat, but the traditional is so delicious it’s definitely worth a try. Wiener schnitzel can be found throughout Austria, but its namesake city is the ideal place to find it. Some of the top rated schnitzel restaurants include Skopik & Lohn, Café Dommayer, and Figlmüller (very close to St. Stephen’s Cathedral). We also had some fantastic, plate-overflowing schnitzel at the beer garden, Schweizerhaus, at Prater Park. Of course, if you aren’t visiting Vienna on your trip, you’ll find wiener schnitzel at restaurants throughout the country.,
Indulge your sweet tooth with famous Sacher torte
Photo by Stefanie Laubscher on Pixabay
Growing up in Germany, my aunt would always treat us to a delicious Sacher Torte (a rich dark chocolate cake) at various family gatherings and it always was my favorite. So when I went to Vienna, my number one bucket list item was to eat a piece of Sacher Torte in the Hotel Sacher Cafe, where the famous cake was invented. Hotel Sacher is the number 1 luxury hotel in Vienna. The opulent design will make you feel like royalty instantly. After all, Queen Elizabeth and JFK stayed there. Unfortunately, I was a broke college student at the time of my visit, so spending the night there was out of the question.
The next best thing was to eat their delicious cake at the Hotel Sacher Cafe. It was still a splurge, but even if the cake cost more than my dinner and the coffee more than a glass of wine, it was definitely worth the experience. Invented in 1832, this cake is a lasting success story. More than 360,000 pieces of Sacher Torte are sold each year at the Cafe. Treating yourself to this little luxury allows you to experience Vienna on a Champaign taste, even if you are on a beer budget.
By Maria from Europe Up Close
Sip beer brewed by monks in a monastery
Photo by Amber from With Husband in Tow
Much like its neighbors to the North, Germany and the Czech Republic, Austria produces a wide range of outstanding beers. Experiencing Austrian beer is a must when traveling around the country. For a truly unique Austrian beer experience, travel to Engelhartszell an der Donau in Upper Austria. On the banks of the Danube sits Engelszell Abbey. It is home to a small contingent of Trappist monks who brew their own beer. Founded in the 1290s, Engelszell Abbey began life as a Cistercian monastery. Over the centuries, the Abbey witnessed the Protestant Reformation in Austria, which resulted in both financial and spiritual decline. Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph II dissolved the Abbey in 1786 leaving it to fall into ruin.
In the early 20th century, the Abbey was reborn as a Trappist monastery. The Trappist monks flourished until the Second World War when Nazi Germany annexed Austria. In 1939, 71 Trappist monks resided at Engelszell. During the Nazi occupation of Austria, several monks were sent to Dachau Concentration Camp for their religious beliefs. Other monks were imprisoned or forced to join the German army. At the end of the Second World War, only a third of the original 71 monks returned. Today, the monastery is home to only 4 monks. Self-sufficiency is a pillar of the Trappist monks.
To support themselves, the monks of Engelszell are one of 14 Trappist monasteries to brew beer. Trappist beer is one of the unique Austrian drinks to try and you can only get it in this small village on the Danube River. Along with beer, the monks of Engelszell distill their own schnapps. Tours of the abbey are available as well as the opportunity to purchase Trappist beer and schnapps along with other products made by the monks. For those who love history or love beer, a visit to Engelszell Abbey should be on your Austrian bucket list.
By Amber from With Husband in Tow
Visit vineyards along the South Styrian Wine Road
Photo by Lori from Travlinmad
In southern Austria lies the area of South Styria — the Green Heart of Austria — and the charming South Styrian Wine Road that runs through it. This part of Austria is just being discovered by Americans and even many Europeans. The 44 mile long route begins near Ehrenhausen and winds through quaint towns, through the rolling hills of the wine country, past scenic vineyards and inviting wine taverns until you reach the end of the loop near Leutschach. The route is easy to leisurely follow and we recommend renting a car to go at your own pace. The scenery is reminiscent of Tuscany with hillsides everywhere covered with bright green vineyards, small stands of trees and the orange-roofed buildings of farms and the wineries.
The region is famous for excellent dry white wines that are aromatic and crisp and some of the finest in Austria. If you go during the harvest you’ll find stürm being served at small farm stands along the route. It’s a fermented drink from the first pressing of grapes that is festive and high in alcohol. Look for small inns with a bundle of twigs above the entrance for something light to eat. These are called buschenshanks and only serve cold dishes and their own wine as the only thing to drink. You’ll also find formal restaurants called heurigers with full menus. For a special treat, plan to stop at the famous Heart Shaped Road that can be seen from the buschenshank, Dreisiebner Špičnik. To view the road you walk on a path through the vineyard to an overlook with a large statue and bench. You’re now on the border between Austria and Slovenia — a nice finishing touch to a day on the South Styria Wine Road.
By Lori from Travlinmad
Other top cultural things to do in Austria
This is the miscellaneous category of things to do in Austria. From scenic views to shopping for traditional Austrian garments to historic sites and gorgeous libraries, just because this category is the catch-all doesn’t mean these activities should be skipped.
Try an Austrian spa at Rogner Bad Blumau
Photo by Carol from Wandering Carol
Austria has some terrific thermal spas, with pools fed by hot springs filled with natural salts and minerals. A place that combines art, funky architecture and top notch spa treatments is Rogner Bad Blumau, a holistic resort that might resemble something out of a crazy cartoon, but follows a serious holistic philosophy of ‘harmony with nature.’
Only 40 miles from Graz, and 80 from Vienna, this high-end spa resort with stunning indoor and outdoor pools is also popular with day visitors, who come here to soak, steam and wander the grounds through labyrinthine paths, past black-outlined buildings with bright accents, golden domes, peaked roofs, and walls that seem to merge seamlessly out of grass-covered slopes.
Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an artist, architect and passionate environmentalist, Rogner Bad Blumau is a unique and relaxing experience. A day pass costs between €45 and €54, depending on the day of the week, and the resort provides bathrobes and towels. Driving is quickest, but if you’re taking the train, get off at Bad Blumau Station, and take the free shuttle from there.
By Carol from Wandering Carol
Visit Sound of Music filming locations
The Sound of Music is probably the most famous film set in Austria for American audiences. Some of the scenes were shot on site in the Salzburg area and a variety of guided tours will take you for a visit, or you can visit all or some of the sights on your own. Right in the heart of Salzburg, you’ll find Schloss Mirabell, whose gardens were used in one of the most iconic scenes in which Maria and the kids dance around the fountain. Near Hohensalzburg, Stift Nonnberg served as the convent that Maria began her journey in. Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg was also used for some of the singing scenes. Schloss Leopoldskron is now a hotel, and was depicted as the family’s residence in the film. Outside of Salzburg, there are two other filming locations, each 20-40 minutes from the city center. In Mondsee, you’ll find the basilica used for the wedding scene – and you’ll probably want to stick around to enjoy the gorgeous alpine lake if you traveled independently. On a nearby lake, St. Gilgan was used for the movie’s opening scene. Guided tours last about half a day and include all of your transportation – you’ll even get to listen to the movie’s soundtrack on the bus. Another Salzburg spot Sound of Music fans will enjoy is the catacombs right outside the Hohensalzburg funicular. These inspired the scene in which the family hides from the Nazis, though the actual filming was done in a replica set constructed in a soundstage. Despite the fact that the cameras weren’t there, you’ll definitely still recognize the cemetery.
Ride Vienna’s famous Riesenrad ferris wheel
One of my favorite spots in Vienna, Prater Park is a little amusement park right inside the city. Its centerpiece is the Riesenrad, an historic ferris wheel that draws long lines of tourists eager to take in the views of the city from the top. The wheel was the tallest in the world at the time it was built and was somewhat of a marvel of engineering for that day. It’s become a symbol of Vienna and you can still go for a ride. If you have the budget, you can even book a reserved dining car in which you’ll be served dinner right on the ferris wheel.
If you’re just planning to take a normal ride, you’ll join the queue and board one of the cars when it’s your turn. These wooden cars hold groups of people and you stand up inside, unlike carnival-style ferris wheels that have seats for only a couple per car. Because of its size and the way it loads, your trip around includes only one rotation, but you’ll be stopped for a couple minutes at a time as other cars load. This means that everyone on the cars should have a chance to enjoy the views whenever you’re stopped. Around the Riesenrad, you’ll find other amusement park rides, including a small roller coaster, food, and shops.
Enjoy the stunning views from Stubnerkogel
Photo courtesy of Alexander from Destinavo
Stubnerkogel is a legendary mountain when it comes to skiing, and it attracts many tourists every single year who come to enjoy the slopes. But it’s not all about skiing here; Stubnerkogel is also home to an impressive 140-meter-long suspension bridge, which attracts visitors as well. And the views from the bridge are truly stunning, overlooking the landscapes and a view of the highest mountain in Austria – the Grossglockner, which has a height of 3798 meters above sea level.
To get up to the top of Stubnerkogel, you can either walk or take the lift, which is recommended if you want to save time and energy. It’s generally better to preserve your energy and use it to walk around at the top instead if you’re going to Austria during the summer season. As for the winter season, the ski lift is a must to get to the top.
There is also a fun center for kids, which makes it a great family destination as well. The Stubnerkogel fun center has an area of 250m² and offers lots of various entertainment for the whole family.
The best way to get to Stubnerkogel is to rent a car or drive your own, but visitors can also come here by bus or shuttle from Bad Gastein, which is the closest ski town from Stubnerkogel. Another option is to take the train, from which you just have a few minutes’ walk to the ski lift.
At the top, visitors can also dine in a restaurant that has a beautiful view and traditional food from Austria.
By Alexander from Destinavo
Enjoy the views from the top of The Untersberg
Photo by Jules from Part-Time Passport
If you’re travelling to Salzburg and are lucky enough to get a clear day, then a trip to the top of The Untersberg might just be the highlight of your whole vacation. Just a short 40-minute bus ride away (take the number 25 from Salzburg city center) and a rather stomach-lurching 10-minute cable ride up the side of a mountain will bring you to the summit of the majestic Untersberg. From here, you’ll be rewarded with the most incredible panoramic views of the Northern Alps and sprawling mountain valleys below. Remember to layer up because it’s seriously chilly at the top!
There’s a restaurant at the cable car center where you can warm up with a hot chocolate, or grab a local beer from one of the mountain-top bars with unbeatable views. Or, if you’re looking for something more adventurous, there are plenty of high-adrenaline activities on offer, depending on the time of year – from skiing, hiking, ice cave tours and even paragliding.
A round trip on the cable car costs €25 therefore it’s definitely worth purchasing a 24 hour Salzburg Card for €29, as this covers your cable car ride, as well as your bus fare, and admission to most other attractions in the city. However you choose to spend your time at the Untersberg, this is one bucket list adventure that’s not to missed on a trip to Austria.
By Jules from Part-Time Passport
Visit Austria’s smallest town
Photo by Helene from Masala Herb
Rattenberg is a medieval city in the region of Tyrol, situated between Innsbruck and Salzburg. Rattenberg is known as the smallest city in Austria with only 400 inhabitants and is well known for its glass art and setting next to the River Inn. Colorful buildings stand in a row, with boutiques selling handmade specialties from the region. Discover the chapel in the cave, the castle ruins on top of the town, the old monastery museum and watch how glass is made and shaped. You can hire a cycle too and go for a ride to the nearby village of Kramsach with its massive outdoor farmhouse museum or the original museum cemetery. The city makes a great base to explore other places nearby such as the beautiful Alpbachtal or the Tiefenbachklamm gorge.
The charming town of Rattenberg hosts the annual medieval feast there with people coming from afar to take part in the fun festivities. The Christmas market in Rattenberg is one of a kind as well due to the setting and unique little stalls. You will find great gifts from the region for your loved ones back at home. Rattenberg is for all those who seek the original, untainted cultural experience of the region and should be on your bucket list if you want to explore Austria’s hidden gems.
By Helene from Masala Herb
Tour one of the most beautiful libraries in the world
Kremsmϋnster Abbey, located in a small town between Salzburg and Linz, should be high on the list of things to do in Austria for book fans and library enthusiasts. This historic abbey which also includes a gorgeous church and a restaurant that served up some of the best food we had in Austria on both of our visits is home to one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Visitors can take a guided tour to see the lobby with an extra special twist – you enter through a bookshelf door. The décor is beautiful and as a map-lover, I was enthralled by the enormous globes on display. I would’ve loved to sit there all day with a good book. While there, you can also take a different tour of their “skyscraper” full of scientific specimens that leads you out to an observation deck on the roof.
Shop for traditional trachten
Photo courtesy of Karen from Wanderlusting K
One of the most unique experiences to have in Austria is to buy trachten. Trachten is the name for traditional Austrian clothing worn by men, women, and clothing. You’ll often see trachten at festivals, however within small towns (such as Enns!), you’ll see older people wearing trachten as they go about their errands. Austrians are incredibly happy to see tourists and others wearing a proper pair of trachten.
I encourage you to visit an appropriate store to buy a pair. Generally stores specializing in trachten have a related term in the name (e.g. Tracht). However, I warn you that this can be quite pricey. For a great experience, look for a secondhand clothing store to browse. I was able to visit a small secondhand shop specializing in women’s clothing, which was full of beautiful trachten. It was a fantastic experience having the shop owner and the fellow customers rate my various dirndls/recommend small additions to improve the budget. Trachten can be quite pricey (a good set can cost more than 200 euros), so don’t be afraid to check the quality before purchasing. Many tourists make the mistake of buying dirndls with cheaper material and that are too short to be appropriate, so check for organic materials and look carefully at the length!
By Karen from Wanderlusting K