It’s tough to have a short list of my top 5 places to visit in Austria. For me, it’s the perfect destination. Austria is known for many things including its history, natural beauty, and Alpine terrain. It’s a perfect vacation destination for travelers in search of a new adventure in Europe. Winter sports enthusiasts regularly visit to ski and snowboard on the iconic Austrian Alps. But there is much more to Austria than snow. In fact, Austria has some of the most historic architecture in all of Europe, and a myriad of towns and cities with their own unique cultural feel. Here’s my short list:
Vienna is widely considered to be a cultural haven for music, fine art, and architecture. Known for many diverse architectural styles throughout the city, travelers can expect to find many well-preserved examples of Romanesque, Baroque, Classicist, and Art Nouveau styled structures. Vienna is also celebrated for its rich performance-art tradition, hosting over 200 balls a year. It also hosts a variety of classical music concerts featuring many of the famous composers who once called Vienna home, including Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and others. No visit to Vienna is complete without a visit to one of their outstanding cafes. Austrian cakes, like the “Sacher Torte” are world famous. Why not try a cake and coffee at a famous landmark like the Demel.
Situated near Germany’s southern border with Austria, the city of Salzburg, like its capital counterpart, is famous for its long-standing musical traditions. Salzburg is the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart and features the Mozart Museum, his former home. Beyond the numerous examples of historic architecture and artistic attractions, Salzburg is surrounded by a breathtaking Alps mountain range. A visit to Salzburg allows you to explore the experiential contrast of rich history and stunning natural beauty simultaneously. Take the funicular to Hohensalzburg Fortress for a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding countryside. It is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, dating back to 1077.
Salzkammergut – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is an Austrian resort area surrounded by serene blue lakes, verdant hills, and snow-peaked mountain ranges. For over a century, it has served as one of the countries prime tourist destinations. Salt production started the area (“salz”) and dates to the Bronze Age. A tour of the salt mine in Halstatt is well worthwhile. Outdoor recreational activities abound including mountaineering, horseback riding, swimming and cycling. The Salzkammergut region is also famous for the many luxury spas and hotel resorts inhabiting the area. If you are visting in the summer months, a slow boat ride on Lake Halstatt will be serene and provide gorgeous views of surrounding towns and mountains.
Famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, the city of Innsbruck is widely considered to be one of the best winter sports destinations in the world. Visitors not so keen on skiing or snowboarding, or those visiting during the summer months, can find plenty to do in the historic city as well. Explore the Innsbruck Cathedral, the bell-making museum, or one of the city’s many local restaurants. Innsbruck is nestled in the heart of the Alps and is one of Austria’s most scenic cities. A 20-minute train ride takes you up the mountain to Seefeld, where you can then take a funicular and cable car to Rosshutte. On a clear day, you’ll see the mountain tops of 4 countries- Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
Zell Am See
For travelers who are looking for the ultimate in natural scenery, and wilderness adventures, the town of Zell am See is a ‘must-visit’ destination in Austria. Surrounded by majestic alpine mountains, world-class ski slopes, and tranquil blue lakes, Zell am See hosts numerous outdoor recreation events throughout the year. During the winter, it hosts a number of ski and snowboard competitions. The driving here is also out-of-this-world, be sure to take the Grossglockner Alpine Road from here for some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the country.
I’m a fan of most European countries but Austria has my heart. If you haven’t been, you must get there. You’ll go back again and again, like I do.