Best things to do in Austria

written by Andy Turner
updated 1/23/2023
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Austria's scenic beauties draw visitors here in their millions in summer and winter. Meanwhile millions more revel in its unsurpassed cultural heritage. Its charm is legendary, its inhabitants welcoming, and its cuisine heartily filling. Here's our pick for the best things to do in Austria.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

Innsbruck for winter sports

The dramatically located Gothic and Baroque city of Innsbruck has a gem-like medieval core. More than Austria’s other provincial capitals, Innsbruck is a truly Alpine city. It offers some great outdoor activities, like hiking, skiing and climbing.

The city is proud of the fact that its office workers can nip up to the slopes for a quick spot of lunch-hour skiing. Visiting this beautiful city is one of the best things to do in Austria.

Christmas is one of the best times to vist Austria. Check out our guide to planning your Austrian Christmas trip.

Innsbruck is one of the best places to visit for winter sports © Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock

See all things Mozart: from Salzburg to the Capital City

An Austrian icon, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg. Visit Mozart's birth house (pictured), or try to catch a Mozart-related concert while in town.

Another point of interest is Mozarthaus in Vienna. Mozart lived here from 1784 to 1787, one of his most productive periods, during which he composed his Marriage of Figaro. In 2006 the museum was completely redesigned to mark the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.

Where to stay in Salzburg:

Or browse other great accommodations in Salzburg.

Mozart's birth home — a great reason to visit Austria © Ulrich Mueller/Shutterstock

Hallstatt — for stunning scenery

With its pretty pastel-coloured buildings the village of Hallstatt is deservedly world-famous. This beautiful town is crammed between the deep and dark green waters of Hallstätter See and the steep slope of the mountain to the west.

Besides being picturesque in the extreme, Hallstatt is also known for the spectacular archaeological finds made here in the 19th century. An array of fascinating Iron Age finds are beautifully presented in the Museum.

The charming villages of Hallstatt © Shutterstock

Savour coffee and cake in Vienna

Austria generally, and Vienna in particular, can be said to have given the world the archetypal Central European coffee house. For the price of a single cup, time could traditionally be spent reading the newspaper, engaging in intellectual conversation or writing a novel.

Kaffeehäuser still thrive, offering a bewildering range of up to 30 options. Indulge in coffee culture and mouthwatering traditional treats such as Sachertorte (a melting chocolate cake) in one of Vienna’s ornate coffeehouses.

Want to experience Austria, but without the hassle of booking and planning? Our Danube Capitals trip offers you the experience of seeing many of Europe's capital cities up close and in person.

Grabbing a coffee is one of the best things to do in Austria © katjen/Shutterstock

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See art in Wien (Vienna) — from museums to imperial apartments

Seeing the art collections in Vienna is one of the best things to do in Austria. The Albertina is home to the world’s largest and most important collection of graphic art.

Or to see an art collection in context, take a tour of Vienna's imperial apartments. This is the imperial palace of Emperor Joseph II and Empress Elisabeth. The 24 rooms are filled with many interesting art pieces and are one of the top tourist attractions in Austria. Don't miss the imperial silver collection.

Where to stay in Vienna:

Or find the accommodation of your dreams in Vienna.

Visit Austria to see fantastic art collections © And-One/Shutterstock

Ski at one of Austria's famous ski resorts

St Anton am Arlberg has always attracted serious sportspeople because of its superb conditions. This glamorous resort has also long attracted the rich, royal, and famous because of its reputation as a prestigious playground.

Meanwhile, the small town Bad Gastein is a great budget base for excellent skiing. At the end of the day, soak those aching muscles in one of the town’s hot water spas. The snow-covered peaks of this area are just as much worth visiting as the more expensive popular ski resorts.

Dreaming of hitting the slopes? Don't miss our guide to the best ski resorts in the world.

Bad Gastein and the main ski resort © trabantos/Shutterstock

See the stunning architecture of Schloss Schönbrunn

Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna is by far the most magnificent of the Habsburg’s many palaces. The beautiful imperial palace attracts over 2 million visitors each year.

Like Louis XIV’s Versailles, Schloss Schönbrunn palace is a treasure trove of 18th-century splendour. Rich in historical associations and packed with paintings, tapestries, parquetry and panelling. Visit to be surrounded by mirrors and marble, lacquer panels, gilt and stucco. The stunning baroque architecture has a show-stopping effect.

Ready to immerse yourself in the history of England? Our tailor-made trip service makes travelling easy by taking care of the planning and booking. Our Castles Across Austria and Czechia trip will take you from Schloss Schönbrunn to Prague Castle. Our trips are crafted by local travel experts and are completely customisable.

Seeing Schloss Schönbrunn is one of the best things to do in Austria © vichie81/Shutterstock

Enjoy the Sound of Music

Straddling the Salzach river as it emerges from the Alpine foothills, the c of Salzburg is a glorious fusion of nature, architecture, history and culture. Nature has provided the swiftly running river as well as the dramatic heights later crowned by citadels and churches.

The Sound of Music put the city on the map for many who might otherwise have never heard of it. Hardly a surprise then that Salzburg has become one of the world’s great tourist attractions, with millions of visitors annually.

See our guide to the best cities in Austria — and why Salzburg made our list.

Salzburg, Austria — one of the best places to visit © canadastock/Shutterstock

Hike the bluff to Melk's monastery

Spectacularly perched on a woody bluff overlooking the Danube, Melk’s monastery is a must-see. The great Baroque monastery has been called the ‘cradle of Austria’ since it was from here in the early Middle Ages. Its terrace overlooks the town and river

From its terrace overlooking town and river, to its church, marble hall and 100,000-volume library, Melk is a triumph of Baroque architecture and interior design, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Planning a solo trip? Don't miss our guide to the best places to travel alone.

Melk Monestary is one of the best things to do in Austria © trabantos/Shutterstock

Eat fresh foods and visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Graz

Graz is a foodie’s dream. On the traditional farmer's markets, you can taste everything from pumpkinseed oil and homemade sausages to creamy local cheeses and Styrian apples.

The historic sites of this town are hard to miss. The historic centre of Graz is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Where to stay in Graz

Or find your perfect accommodation in Graz.

Eat fresh local foods when visiting Austria © Alexeysun/Shutterstock

Visit the Vienna State Opera — one of the best things to do in Austria

Vienna remains unrivalled as a centre for classical music and opera. It continues to pay tribute to the extraordinary roll-call of composers associated with the city, among them Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schönberg and Webern.

The Staatsoper, or State Opera is one of the world’s top opera houses. Its orchestra, the Wiener Philharmoniker, is world-renowned. Tickets for the Staatsoper are notoriously difficult to get. Though inexpensive standing places are put on sale shortly before each performance.

Vienna State Opera © Shutterstock

The Eisriesenwelt — the world's largest ice cave

One of the best hidden gems and Austria tourist attractions is the Eisriesenwelt. This is the world's biggest ice cave. It is located high above the village of Werfen and reached by cable car.

These are some of the most extensive and spectacular ice caves anywhere, made even more dramatic when lit only by the lamps of guides and visitors.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Our tailor made service allows you to travel without the hassle. Our Grand Eastern European trip will take you through the many of the gems of Central and Eastern Europ. All tailor made trips can be modified together with your local expert.

Eisriesenwelt near Werfen in Austria © Shutterstock

Take a road trip on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is an ancient trading route that follows the valley of the Fuscher Ache. Celtic, Roman and medieval remains found along its course testify to the importance of the old pass route.

It was in the early 1930s, with the urgent need to relieve some of the country’s acute unemployment, that this feat was laid out. Today it is a gloriously scenic, meticulously engineered toll highway. Taking a road trip on this mountain range road is one of the best things to do in Austria.

Grossglockner High Alpine Road © Shutterstock

Explore the hiking trails of Hohe Tauern National Park

Krimmler Wasserfälle (or the Krimml Waterfalls) is one of the country’s great natural wonders, unequalled anywhere else in the Alps. The Krimmler Ache river (located in Hohe Tauren National Park in Salzburg) feeds this massive waterfall.

At over 380 meters tall, it is by far one of the tallest waterfalls in Europe. You'll want to explore the hiking trails nearby. Some claim that the mist of the pummeling waters has health benefits.

Nationalpark Hohe Tauern in Tirol in Austria © Shutterstock

Zell am See — a great example of the beautiful country of Austria

The charming old town of Zell-am-See is one of the loveliest and (in summer) warmest of Austria’s mountain lakes. It is idyllically located on the west bank of the Zeller See. This is one of the most picturesque sites and visiting this town is one of the best things to do in Austria.

The classic excursion from Zell is by cableway to the top of the local mountain, the Schmittenhöhe. This offers fabulous all-around views — including the snowy peaks of the high mountains of the Austrian Alps.

Where to stay in Zell am See:

Or browse other fantastic accommodations in Zell am See

Zell am See in Tirol Alps in Austria © Shutterstock

This list could truly go on. There are countless fantastic things to do in Austria. Ready to start planning your trip? Check our Rough Guides guidebooks — your guide to travelling the world.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Austria without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: Aerial view of the Austrian ski and spa resort Bad gastein famous for waterwall flowing through ist city center © trabantos/Shutterstock

Travel advice for Austria

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written by Andy Turner
updated 1/23/2023
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