Vienna is the obvious go-to choice when visiting Austria for the first time – famed for its diverse and exciting cultural scene. However, there is much to be found beyond the capital, with mountainous landscapes and picturesque towns waiting to be discovered.
A Skier’s Paradise
Although France and Switzerland are often considered the finest destinations in Europe for winter sports junkies, Austria is a worthy rival. Beginners or less confident skiers should try Alpbach – one of Austria’s most pretty towns – and only a 40-minute drive from Innsbruck. Alternatively, for more challenging slopes, head to St.Anton, a destination considered one of the finest resorts in Europe for serious and advanced skiers.
On par with Italy, Switzerland, and France in terms of natural beauty, Austria has a diverse and a beautiful countryside full of rolling hills, jagged mountains, and serene lakes. Take the wondrous Gruner See, for example – a meadow in Styria that transforms into a lake in the summer months, or the sprawling mountainous landscape that surrounds Innsbruck.
Vienna isn’t the most raucous of cities, however, it can get crowded with tourists in the summer months. Visiting Salzburg, Innsbruck or some of the smaller towns and villages will be a far more peaceful experience. Camping or staying in a cosy cabin tucked away in the woods are both great options when visiting Austria and guaranteed to give you a relaxing time away.
Vienna trumps with its incredible cultural scene, but some of the smaller cities boast impressive galleries and museums. Salzburg’s Museum of Modern Art has one of the finest collections in Austria, with an ever evolving collection of works from some of the finest modern artists; and the Swarovski Crystal museum, located just outside Innsbruck, will be one of the most unusual spectacles you’ll come across. Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hunderwasser’s work is probably the best example of weird yet wonderful architecture in Vienna. As well as his famous wobbly apartment block, he also designed some of the buildings around the Rogner Bad Blumau, making for wonderfully surreal surroundings.
Vienna is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, however, if you venture out to the countryside, you’ll discover some gorgeous little town and villages, boasting ‘TheSound Of Music‘ style scenes. Hallstatt, a quaint lakeside town with just 800 residents, has much to offer in terms of natural beauty and cultural sites. Check out our guide to the top ten things to do when visiting.
During the colder months, Austria transforms into a winter wonderland, with thick snow falls and quaint Christmas markets. When the temperature drops, there’s nothing more comforting than escaping to the steaming pools of a spa set in a snow-tipped mountainous area when the frost starts to set in. There are lots of swimming pools with saunas and steam rooms attached in Vienna, but the most alluring are outside the cities, blending into natural surroundings. The Aqua Dome thermal spa resort (pictured) is a perfect example, boasting salt water baths with Alpine views, and a sauna and steam room.
The Viennese culture of coffee houses, classical music and ballroom waltzing is well explored. Get to know a different side of Austria by visiting Tyrol or Salzburgerland – both places with rich identities. For example, in some regions of East Tyrol, there is an age old tradition known by locals as ‘Krapfenschnappen.’ Taking place on All Saints Day, ‘Krapfenschnappen’ is a custom that involves boys and men, dressed in traditional attire, being ‘rewarded’ with delicious pastries after dancing.
Austria is a fantastic place for walking and hiking, something that you may miss out on if you visit Vienna. The mighty mountains of Tyrol are a great place to start, with the capital, Innsbruck, being a popular choice. A diverse landscape, astounding views and network of distinct trails will delight keen ramblers.