Austria tourism offers spectacular mountains that make the country an outdoor adventurers paradise, stately cities that prove just how magnificent architecture can be, and one of the strongest cultural epicentres in Europe thanks to its history of world-renowned composers, operas and symphonies, and artists.
With tour comparison Austria offering options focusing on city visits, possibilities for hiking, biking and skiing tours, and itineraries that combine the lot, there is plenty to see and do whatever your travel style. Check out our Austria travel guide list of the must-dos and sees below!
Learn the meaning of grand architecture in Vienna
The capital was the stately residence of the Hapsburg dynasty for 642 glorious years, of the Empire where ‘the sun never sets’. The magnificent city is living testimony to the Hapsburg legacy, with numerous museums, palaces, fine art galleries, theatres, and royally good coffee houses. Some even call Vienna the cultural capital of Europe.
Stroll through Schönbrunn Palace
Not content with having one palace already in the city (Hofburg), Empress Maria Theresa added to the Habsburg imperial collection by dedicating Schönbrunn as her summer ‘cottage’. With 1441 immaculately designed rooms and a 52-hectare garden, the Palace is Austria’s most visited tourist attraction – take a guided tour for priority entry and to avoid the crowd.
The magical music of Mozart and Strauss
Austria’s prodigal sons were inspirational classical era composers, with Mozart writing his first requiem at the age of five. It is almost unforgivable if you miss a concert featuring the work of his cohort, the ‘Waltz King’ Johann Strauss while in Vienna. Most tour operators offer excursions with pre-reserved seats, which are very handy in peak opera season.
Feel fancy on a fiaker horse and carriage ride
The only way to feel as stately as the city of Vienna itself is to take a ride on one of the traditional ‘fiaker’ horse and carriages, which have been part of the cityscape since 1693 – though we suspect the horses and drivers have changed a few times since then.
Marvel at Melk Abbey
The Baroque hilltop abbey is one of the most famous monasteries in Europe, where Benedictine monks have lived for over 900 years – and when you spy the elaborate building perched atop a rocky outcrop, you will understand the appeal. Entry to the museum is off the highway from Vienna to Salzburg, and organised guided tours give the opportunity to witness the stunning frescoed walls and marbled sculpture.
The Sound of Music in Salzburg
It’s about non-stop humming of ‘Edelweiss’ and feeling alive with The Sound of Music and Mozart in stunning Salzburg. Trace the steps of the Von Trapps and Wolfgang to Mirabell Palace and Mozart’s birthplace, and admire the striking Hohensalzburg Fortress and Franciscan church which stood over the city long before the Von Trapps or Mozart brought Salzburg to greater prominence.
Ski like an Olympian in Innsbruck
Twice host to the Winter Olympics, this gem of a Tyrolean town is a gateway to hiking and climbing the Alps, as well as ski slopes where jumps and bob sled runs remain beckoning. When fresh snow arrives, so do the skiers, as do dozens of Christmas market stalls huddled with hot glühwein under the Golden Roof. For a truly authentic experience, pick an itinerary that includes a stay in a traditional wooden chalet.
Take a turn on the Prater ferris wheel
Known locally as Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna’s 64.75-metre-tall Ferris wheel is situated at the entrance to Prater amusement park and is one of the city’s most popular attractions thanks to its spectacular views.
Snow bunny at SkiWelt
280km worth of runs make Austria a skiing mecca in Europe, with a huge interconnected area and legendary schnapps fuelled après-ski. Join a week-long organised tour to master the slopes and take advantage of day trips to different parts of the country.
Remember at Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp
Nazi atrocities recorded in the tragic labour and death camp during the Holocaust have led to this spine-chilling memorial in honour of the victims – reminding us not to forget the past and learn for the future.
Escape to the Austrian Hills
See the rural countryside in the cute mountain villages of the Kitzbühel region, where you can while away an afternoon yodelling on a mountain bike, passing curious cows with bells, or at a trout farm superimposed with immaculate meadows of Alpine scenery.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC