A visit to Austria provides the opportunity to view stunning mountain vistas, explore beautiful pastoral landscapes, discover world-famous cities and walk in the footsteps of history.
Austria is a destination that has much to offer and like a good wine is a destination to be savored. We recommend that you sample the local cuisine, try Austrian beers and wines, and attend the opera or a symphony to listen to some of the classical music for which this country is so well known (although jazz and other types of music are also popular).
If you have some extra time, consider walking, hiking or bicycling in rural areas to experience the richness of this idyllic country. Read on for our recommendations on the best places to visit in Austria.
Be sure to see our detailed highway map of the best places to visit in Austria. It can be used to calculate routes between the places we recommend, if you are interested in driving the spectacular Austrian countryside. In addition, using the satellite tab, you can see beautiful aerial views of the best places to visit in Austria.
Regarded as one of the most interesting and pleasant cities in Europe, tourist Vienna is timeless, romantic and enchanting. Founded by the Romans, Vienna became a capital of the Hapsburg Empire and one of the preeminent European capitals. The Imperial City is such a fascinating destination that we have created a comprehensive, illustrated, multi-page Guide to Vienna that can be found here.
- While we provide several recommendations below on some of the best places to visit in Vienna, we recommend exploring our detailed guide to sample the many wonders of Vienna. We have articles on the best places to visit, the best museums, best churches, Vienna’s best shopping ,the best day trip from Vienna and more.
Below, is the short version of the best places to visit in Vienna for those of you in a hurry.
- You should focus the start of your visit on the city’s “historic center”, the area within the mid-19th century construction known as the Ringstrasse, an important thoroughfare that surrounds Vienna’s Old Town. Many of the city’s leading attractions are inside of or scattered along the edge of this two and half mile long road, which replaced the city walls and battlements that once protected Vienna’s core from the Ottoman Turks and other invaders.
- There is much to see and do in Vienna in addition to admiring the city’s visual history and architectural treasures.
Be sure to see:
- The Hofburg – a stunning castle/palace with sections dating from the 13th century. The Hofburg became the formal palace of the Hapsburgs at the peak of their power and the family endlessly tinkered with the architecture of the building over successive generations. The Hofburg (the Imperial Palace) is extremely impressive and not to be missed.
- The beautiful Stephansplatz surrounds the noted Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) that towers over the city The Cathedral has many notable features, but most visitors climb the south tower for an incredible view of the Vienna.
- The Karlsplatz sets the stage for the Karlskirche (St. Charles’s Church), regarded by many as the finest example of Baroque architecture in Vienna. The two front columns framing the dome of the church make a dramatic and powerful statement.
- A visit to Vienna would not be complete with without a stop at the Oper – Vienna’s famous Opera House. If you are interested in opera, consider taking a guided tour.
- Vienna has numerous palaces, museums and galleries to attract your attention, so be sure to budget your time wisely.
- While you are thinking about what to see, stop at Demel (the city’s most famous sweetshop) for a taste treat, as well as to soak-up of some of this pastry shop’s incredible ambiance.
- The Belvedere Palace (outside the Ring) consists two stunning buildings separated by lovely gardens
- The Palace is now an art museum. Be sure to visit the world famous art collection – Österreichische Galerie Belvedere – at the Belvedere Palace.
- The Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) was the summer home of the Hapsburgs and, along with its gardens, is extremely elegant. The Schloss Schönbrunn is one of the most beautiful palaces of Europe.
- If these locations have you thinking about a trip to Vienna, be sure to explore our detailedGuide to Vienna that features numerous photos of the Imperial City.
Mozart’s hometown celebrated the Master’s 250th birthday in 2006 and his music continues to be a fundamental part of the ambiance of this charming town. Music is an integral part of this city’s essence and those interested in Mozart may want to see the his statue in Mozart Square (the Mozartplatz), visit his birthplace in the Old Town or the official Mozart Residence across the Salzbach River from the Old Town.
Salzburg’s Old Town, a wonderland of Baroque architecture, is includes the majority of the important sights in this historic town. Large areas of the Old Town are pedestrian-only, which makes its exploration even more delightful.
- During your tour of the Old Town, be sure to explore Cathedral Square for its beautiful and historic Cathedral (the Salzburger Dom).
- Continue across the street to explore the impressive Residenz Palace, the former home of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg and a treasure trove of art, furnishings and other historical artifacts from past centuries.
- Also, budget time to tour the Hohensalzburg Fortress (often called the Festung), which has dominated the Salzburg skyline for over a thousand years. In addition to beautiful views of the city, you will also find the castle, its furnishings and armaments quite interesting.
- When you have seen enough monuments and historic buildings, stop in a cafe (such as Demel) for a delicious treat or wander along the Getreidegasse to experience the city’s best shopping .
- By the way, this is the street where Mozart’s family lived and where he was born in 1756.
- The house is located at # 9 Getreidegasse, and is now a small museum in honor of the master.
- By the way, this is the street where Mozart’s family lived and where he was born in 1756.
- Reserve some time viewing the Mirabel Palace and its delightful gardens on the right bank of the Salzach River (across the river and north of the Old Town, but south of Saint-Julien Strasse). The gardens are beautiful when they are in bloom and this is an excellent location for snapping some prized vacation photos.
- Salzburg has a number of quality museums, mostly focused on art. For more information, see the city’s official tourism site.
- Visit St. Gilgen if your schedule permits and you are in the looking for a memorable example of idyllic life in the Austrian countryside. The village is about 25 miles east of Salzburg on the banks of Wolfgangsee Lake and makes a pleasant day trip.
- If you find the Hohensalzburg fortress interesting, you might be interested in Castle Werfen, one of its sister fortresses, about 30 miles south of the city. It is one of the most scenic of Austria’s hilltop castles.
If you will be traveling between Salzburg and Graz, take time to the the incredibly beautiful village of Hallstatt on the shores of the Hallstätter See (about a one hour drive from from Salzburg and forty minutes from St.Gilgen mentioned above).
- Twice chosen to host the Winter Olympics, Innsbruck is one of the “ski” capitals of Europe. In summer, the area is a hiker’s paradise with twenty five holiday villages to use as destinations for outings. In addition to its natural assets, Innsbruck is blessed with notable cultural attractions. Innsbruck’s setting and scenery are gorgeous – don’t miss it.
- For more information about visiting Innsbruck, see the city’s official tourism website.
- The historic center of Graz is considered one of Europe’s best preserved “Old Towns”. A city of narrow lanes, numerous architectures, and beautiful, ornate courtyards, Graz beckons the tourist to explore its paths. Be sure to see the Chateau Eggenberg, the marvelous clock tower at the Glockenspieplatz, the Italian renaissance Landhaus, and the Cathedral and Mausoleum.
- See this official website for more information about Graz.
- The Danube Valley is one of the major attractions of Austria and a unifying theme for the country. The best way to see it is from the water, sitting on the deck of a river cruiser or one of the sightseeing boats that ply its channel. If you have the chance, take an extended river cruise that explores the Danube Valley. If you do, you will find a pleasant way to explore beautiful countryside, dramatic castles, and delightful towns.
Other towns in Austria that may be of interest include:
- Klagenfurt, the regional capital of Carinthia, is an 800 year old city whose Old Town is graced with more than its share of stately mansions, historic houses, museums and galleries.
- The city sits nested along Lake Wörthersee, known for its swimming, recreation, as well as housing Gustav Mahler’s “Composer’s Lodge” on its south bank. In addition, Klagenfurt is surrounded by beautiful countryside, more than 20 castles and numerous castle ruins. Some of the castles are now being used as hotels and serve as pleasant bases for exploring this interesting area.
- More information on Klagenfurt can be found at this site.
- Eisenstadt, the capital of Burgenland, is an interesting baroque town where Joseph Haydn worked for over thirty years while composing some of his most famous works. Haydn labored in the Chapel Church of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy during its peak in the 18th century. If you are a “Haydn” fan, be sure to visit the Esterhazy Palace and the Haydn Church (Bergkirche).
- See this site for more information.
- Bregenz, in Vorarlberg, Austria’s westernmost province, is a two thousand year old town on the banks of delightful Lake Constance (the Bodensee.) A visit to Bregenz offers relaxing vistas, good recreational opportunities and a summer music festival with performances on a stage floating in the Lake.
- For more information on the Bodensee, try this official website.
- Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, is nestled along the bank for the Danube River. It has an interesting Old Town, especially the Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall), which dates from the early 16th century. Be sure to see the Linz Castle dating from the 8th century, but rebuilt and redesigned numerous times. Today the castle functions as the Upper Austrian Castle Museum and contains an interesting collection of medieval items. Also see the Lentos Museum of Modern Art featuring works by Klimt, Schiele and others in a dramatic new building that overlooks the Danube. Linz was designated as the European Cultural Capital for the year 2009.
- For more information on visiting Linz, see the city’s official website.
The Wachau and Melk
- The landscape between the towns of Melk and Krems is called the Wachau and is named after the Wachau River whose watery fingers tie the area together. The Wachau area is a visual treat, although it is better known as one of Austria’s premier wine growing regions. The Wachau combines agriculture, urbanism and historic sites in a blended and seemingly naturally integrated setting so unique that it has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status.Melk is the premier town in this area and there are many reasons to visit it environs. The leading attraction, however, is Melk’s scenic, Benedictine Abbey, which in one form or another has been perched on a hilltop above the town and the Danube River for over one-thousand years.If you plan to visit the Wachau, you should also visit Krems, an interesting market town, and Dürnstein, where Richard the Lionheart was held captive during his return from the Third Crusade. For more details on the Wachau, Krems, Dürnstein and Melk.
The official tourism website for Austria is Austria.Info. The site provides additional details on our recommended best places to visit, as well as details on the locations that did not make our list. Websites for individual cities are usually referenced in our detailed guides on these locations.
For country facts on Austria, as well as travel information related to visas, driving rules, safety, medical conditions, visas and other travel-related information, see this page on Austria Travel from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State Department. Regardless of your home country, we think you will find the information provided to be useful when planning a trip to Austria.