Top 10 Reasons Why Austria Needs To Be Your Next Destination
The land of mountains and lakes offers rich experiences for everybody, from sipping wine in baroque cities to twirling in open alpine pastures.
Austria, once one of the most influential empires in Europe, is humbly nestled between Germany and Italy. The richness of Austria’s past still glimmers in the tall, snow-capped peaks that tower over half the country and the posh urban cities that attract dozens of youth from the world over. Some of the world’s most renowned ski resorts are located in the alpine country and the mountain scenery has marvelled the world for centuries. It’s been the setting for the Olympic Winter Games twice and the backdrop for famous Hollywood movies like The Sound of Music.
See for yourself what keeps bringing people back to this small alpine nation year after year.
Here are 10 reasons why you might want to consider Austria for your next destination:
This city in the Tyrolean province of Austria was made world-famous for hosting the Olympic Winter Games not only once, but twice. That’s just how perfectly fit Innsbruck is to host winter sporting events, such as skiing. The slopes from those games are still there today, so you can ski on the same tracks as Olympians. Austria’s highest ski resort, Kühtai, actually resides in Innsbruck. Some would boldly consider Innsbruck “The Capital of the Alps”, and rightly so. The mountainous city not only has a multitude of ski slopes and some of Austria’s highest mountains, but also a vibrant urban centre that gives it rich life during the day and night.
Don’t forget to come around Christmas time. The Christmas markets are some of the most beautiful in Austria.
2) Heiligenblut am Großglockner
This town shares the name of the mightiest and highest mountain in Austria, Großglockner – the second highest peak in Western Europe behind the Mont Blanc massif in Italy/France. Come on the 28th and 29th of June to witness thousands of pilgrims hike into Heiligenblut from the province of Salzburg. The tradition dates back to the 15th century and brings vibrant festivities to the town. Heiligenblut am Großglockner also serves as a good starting point to access to the Großglockner High Alpine Road – a 48km panoramic road that takes you into the heart of Hohe Tauren National Park. The road offers tourists access to some of Europe’s most untouched wilderness and dramatic mountains.
This small town nestled deep in the Ötztal Alps is a famous gem that gained even greater prominence most recently. The ski resort was used as a filming location for the James Bond film, Spectre. Sölden is only about an hour and a half away from Innsbruck by train and bus. It offers some of the best powder for skiing and snowboarding. Have a Salzburger Stiegl at the ICE-Q restaurant at the top of the slopes for some of the most stunning views of Austria’s highest peaks.
This small picturesque village may seem like it’s isolated, but it’s really just about 30 minutes by rail from Innsbruck and provides the perfect hub for outdoor activities in the winter and summer. There’s budget accommodation available, too. If you want to go to Innsbruck but want be even closer to nature, Imst is the way to go. Imagine waking up and walking through this every morning before going on a hike or taking a bus to the nearest ski hill. Pure solitude at its finest. Go take a twirl on the open hill if you’d like.
The Altstadt (Old Town) of Salzburg is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved old towns in Central Europe. The old town and city centre is dominated by some of the most striking baroque churches in Europe and rightly so – Salzburg was once a separate state ruled by the Archbishops of Salzburg. Salzburg is also known for being the birthplace of Mozart and for hosting the famous Salzburg Festival in August that attracts tens of thousands, offering the best in music and drama in Europe. Oh, and let’s not forget: The Sound of Music. Salzburg has a population of about 145, 000 people, but attracts over 6 million tourists a year. You can thank Julie Andrews for that. There are dozens of available tours to see the sites from the movie, which are all in walking or biking distance from one another in the city.
6) The Taurenradweg
This approximately 300km bike path takes travellers into the Eastern Alps without actually having to ascend them. The bike path – mostly flat – smoothly crosses through the alpine valleys in between some of the most striking and untouched nature in Austria. You’ll cycle into towns rarely seen by tourists, crossing through Europe’s highest waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and castles. Need I say more?
7) Zell Am See
Arguably the most beautiful waterfront in the province of Salzburg, this lake is just about an hour and a half south of Salzburg by rail. You might remember from Band of Brothers that the American soldiers were swimming in this lake. The real-life army division and base camp for the soldiers was set up here. The lake is worth it maybe even just for the train ride itself. You go from the relatively flat and hilly surroundings of Salzburg right into the valleys completely surrounded by some of Austria’s most dramatic peaks. Zell Am See is worth a day trip, but I recommend an overnight excursion to watch the sunset on the faces of the mountains. There’s plenty of budget accommodation for students around the water.
Didn’t think I was going to forget the capital, did you? The capital of Austria is home to some of Central Europe’s grandest palaces and houses about a quarter of Austria’s small population of about 8 million. Vienna is a student city, so there is plenty of nightlife for the youth. While there’s no mountains surrounding Vienna, the architecture is arguably the best in the country and there’s plenty of urban flair and fine dining. Enjoy beer gardens outdoors in the summer or a cup of coffee and cake at the one-of-a-kind Vienna coffee houses. If you’re flying into Austria, Vienna’s airport is the largest in the country and makes an ideal starting point for your journey.
When you search for Austria in Google Images, you’re bound to find three photos: Julie Andrews, Salzburg’s old town and Hallstatt. This small alpine town just outside of Salzburg in Upper Austria is the visual jewel of the country and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the poster mountain town. Naturally, because of its beauty, Hallstatt has become overwhelmingly popular with tourists, but don’t let that put you off. The charm of the town remains and there’s still this breathtaking solitude from the big cities in Europe. I recommend heading to the town before noon to watch the Sun rise over the Alps. Also: don’t forget your bathing suit. You can swim in the lake of the same name.
Hallstatt is also very accessible to get to by train from Salzburg. Check out our article on how to get to Hallstatt from Salzburg via train. It’s easy!
10) Did I forget to mention you can do this?