Where to go in Austria
Austria is one of Europe’s top winter sports capitals but it’s just as popular during the warmer months drawing many visitors to hike through the magnificent scenery of the Alps. Beyond the mountains, there are lush, green valleys, sparkling lakes, and picturesque vineyards to explore. No matter what the season, the charming villages and magnificent cities offer plenty to enjoy as well, including a wealth of historical and cultural attractions.
With so many diverse offerings when it comes to where to go in Austria, you’ll want to narrow down the destinations to some of the most enticing.
Vienna is Austria’s stunningly beautiful capital set on the banks of the mighty Danube River. It boasts a long, rich history and magnificent centuries-old buildings lined along narrow, meandering streets that feel like a step back in time. The atmosphere is so authentic you might expect to encounter composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart around the next bend. Grand baroque palaces from the Habsburg area soar over the city while artistic and musical masterpieces are nestled between independent bookstores and endless coffee houses. There’s a surprising number of attractions for families with young children too, including a zoo and an amusement park. Despite some two million residents, Vienna somehow manages to have a more relaxed, small-town feel, perhaps in part due to its numerous green spaces, parks, woodlands, and surrounding hills.
Located near the border of Germany, Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart. It’s also the city where you can practically hear the “Do-Re-Mi” of the von Trapp Family singers echoing through. There are guided tours for exploring the “Sound of Music” filming sites, including the Do-Re-Mi fountain in the Mirabell Palace Gardens while Mozart’s birthplace at 9 Getreidegasse now serves as a museum focused on his life and work. The storybook Old Town is particularly alluring, looking almost as it did when the composer lived here some 250 years ago. Set beside the Salzach River, it’s filled with graceful spires, elegant domes, and an impressive clifftop fortress, while the towering mountains lie beyond. There’s lots of delicious Austrian fare to fuel all your exploits, including dumplings and schnitzel that can be enjoyed with a glass of tasty local wine or a cold brew, with Salzburg the country’s beer capital.
Innsbruck is the capital of the Tyrol region, tucked into a valley with mountains soaring above. Its position in the Alps provides incredible opportunities for winter sports, not surprising considering it’s hosted two Winter Olympics in ‘64 & ‘76. The jagged spires of the Nordkette range are so close it almost seems as if you can reach out and touch the rock. Some say Innsbruck is a microcosm of Austria, with its medieval Old Town the stuff fairytales are made of, overlooked by a majestic palace and a baroque cathedral. It offers the charms of a small mountain town with historical sites and an abundance of outdoor adventures that not only include skiing but hiking, mountain biking, and relaxed rides with breathtaking views from the funiculars and cable cars. If you’re here around the holidays, there are four Christmas markets to enjoy, each with its own unique vibe.
The magnificent Austrian Alps stretch across the country, taking in the dramatic cities of Innsbruck and Salzburg along with many small, charming villages worth spending time in. The quaint village of Hallstatt along the western shore of Lake Hallstatt is home to fewer than 1,000 residents providing a haven of tranquility and unparalleled alpine views. Originally founded in 5000 BC, it also has a fascinating history to explore. The early settlers hoped to exploit the vast salt reserves in the mountains that surround the town and were ultimately successful, with centuries of salt mining resulting in its enduring prosperity. The mountain village of Lech am Arlberg on the banks of the River Lech is one of the world’s top ski destinations, attracting winter adventurers from across the globe.
As you can see, Austria is much more than the birthplace of Mozart and the filming location of “The Sound of Music.” With landscapes that look like paintings around nearly every bend, rich culture and history, majestic cities with opulent palaces, and many charming villages while outdoor adventure abounds, one could easily spend weeks here without covering it all. Embrace the country’s tapestry of delights with a customized journey based on your own interests and desires.
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