For such a small country, there are so many wonderful and breathtaking places to visit in Austria. Even though I’ve visited all of Austria’s major cities and been to all nine of its Bundesländer, I still haven’t been everywhere. However, I believe I have enough knowledge of the country and its sights to create a list of the best, most important places for tourists to visit in Austria. Here’s my list.
(Featured Image: Hallstatt)
Adding Bregenz to this list is me doing some guesswork, considering I only visited Bregenz on a cloudy, cold day in December. But due to its location on Lake Constance – a large lake which borders, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland – I can see how Bregenz would be a great place to visit in the summer. The Old Town is also pretty and, if you do happen to be there in December like I was, the Christkindlmarkt offers some warm drinks and a cozy atmosphere.
Lake Constance from Bregenz
For such a tiny village, Hallstatt gets a lot of attention because of its beauty. It’s a small Alpine village on a lake surrounded by mountains. It’s quiet, serene, and only accessible from the train station by a ferry. Only a few hours are required for a visit, as you can walk from one end of the village to the other within half an hour and there isn’t much else to do there besides marvel at how beautiful it is. But that’s part of its charm.
Famous view of the village
For how beautiful it is, I don’t find that Graz gets nearly enough attention as it deserves. It’s lovely Old Town and the Eggenberg Castle comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Schlossberg (literally castle mountain) is the perfect place to take a short hike and enjoy some spectacular views of the city. There are also a lot of trees in the city, which made it especially breathtaking in the fall.
View from the Schlossberg, with the rest of Graz in the background
The major reason people visit Melk is for the monastery, Stift Melk, which is beautiful and enormous and sits on a hill above the town. You can spend a few hours getting a tour of the interior of the monastery and walking around its grounds. Besides the monastery, the Old Town of Melk, though small, is also nice, and the landscape around Melk is stunning as well.
Melk Abbey from the town below
Mozart’s hometown is popular for numerous reasons, and it could easily be number one or two one someone else’s list (and it was a difficult decision for me to place it number at three instead of in the top two). It’s breathtaking – the landscape, the Old Town, the fortress above the city – and there is a lot to do in the city. You can visit the house where Mozart was born, you can spend hours at the fortress, and there’s a mountain within the city you can hike around. There’s also a lot of good places to eat, including entire stores dedicated to Mozart chocolate. Salzburg is a must-visit in Austria.
View of the Fortress and Old Town from across the river
In many ways, Vienna is the best place to visit in Austria. It’s the capital city and it’s big so there’s lots to do. There are a ton of museums, a number of palaces, beautiful gardens, and event venues, like the Vienna State Opera House. Even the Vienna National Library and its main cemetery are worth visiting. It’s also wonderful to visit at every time of year, as there are lots of events and festivals in the spring, summer, and fall, and there are like ten different Christmas markets spread throughout the city during December. And even though it gets a lot of tourists, it doesn’t feel crowded because there’s so much to do, so tourists are spread out more. Placing it at number two instead of number one was a tough decision.
I am biased because I lived right by Innsbruck during the eight months I lived in Austria, but that’s not why it’s number one. Innsbruck is, in my opinion, the popular place to visit that best encompasses the spirit of Austria. In other words, there are mountains. In the winter there’s the possibility of going skiing, and in the warmer months you can hike in the mountains, and for those who prefer neither of those, you can enjoy the view of the mountains from within the city. Although the mountains technically aren’t part of the Innsbruck, they surround the city and are easily accessible from it. There are things to do within Innsbruck as well, though not as much as in Vienna. The Old Town is beautiful, there are a few museums, a palace, a castle, cafés, and many places to get wonderful views of the city and the mountains. Vienna and Innsbruck are really a tie for my top pick, but I put Innsbruck as number one because it’s not just a city – it’s an entire landscape.
Colorful buildings in downtown Innsbruck on the Inn River