Let me state this now – we love Austria. So much so we’ve written much about the country and our favourite things to do in Austria. We love getting out and exploring its cities and towns, its lakes and mountains. We enjoy the culture, the food, the customs and the people.
But one thing has gone unsaid for a long time. And it’s something that we can’t leave any longer. Sometimes we just love staying in hotels in Austria.
There – said it. It feels strange, illegal almost.
We encourage travellers to leave the cosy shackles of their five-star hotels behind to have a real experience in a place. And we’ve done as much in Austria too – go ahead and check out all those stories of great times had meeting locals, discovering the history and the culture, and learning new creative skills.
But we genuinely can’t get enough of Austrian hotels. We can vouch for them all as we have personally visited each of these hotels over the past five years.
Qualities we enjoy in Austrian hotels
There are so many reasons why they stand out to us. There’s the quality, facilities, design, food, spas, their quaint traditions (including staff wearing traditional dress at many) and their quirks. One hotel has a bottle of schnapps and glasses in a lift because “schnapps is always a good idea”.
Austrian hotels are often family-run, many with a long history of hospitality, and as it’s a family business they are more invested in its success than you would find among staff in chain hotels, so service levels and passion run high.
But don’t be fooled – though many have traditional Alpine architecture and others grand imperial interiors, Austrian hotels also have cutting-edge architecture. There are design hotels with smart technology, cool interiors and fun features.
A huge number have excellent, expansive spa facilities – Austrian’s are passionate about well-being and their spas are well equipped to serve up special treatments.
Food is an integral part of the experience of Austrian hotel stays – many, especially those outside the larger towns provide excellent half-board options. What makes them so good? The hotels often have the best gourmet restaurants in the region. Breakfast time sees an excellent spread of buffet options with organic produce, locally sourced ingredients, homemade breads, jams and freshly churned butter (sometimes from the hotels’ own cows). Plus there’s usually an afternoon tea included each day, so you have wonderful food and excellent value.
Things to do in Austria and where to stay when you’re there
There are so many places to visit and things to do in Austria, here are regional highlights and our favourite hotels in each, or jump to the destination you want:
Things to do in Vienna
Architecture, art, history, music, cakes and traditional cafés – there’s so much that makes Vienna a classic city. As the city of artist Gustav Klimt, Austrian princess Sisi, and the Spanish Riding School tradition runs through its core.
But this is no old-fashioned European capital – Vienna has a vibrant, youthful buzz, with modern art, fashionable boutiques, coffee culture and great nightlife. It was also recently named the world’s most liveable city.
Our favourite places to stay
Hotel Imperial Vienna – located on the city’s most regal street, The Ring, this hotel is full of old world glamour.
Hotel Am Konzerthaus – a Klimt fan’s dream, it seems to take its inspiration from his most famous works and features a number of prints around the hotel.
25hours Hotel – this fun, modern design hotel has excellent views over the MuseumsQuartier and The Ring and sweet suites with floor to ceiling windows for you to enjoy the view. Read more about the 25hours Hotel in Vienna.
Things to do in Salzburg
Salzburg is perhaps its most famous city with visitors keen to see the landscape that inspired The Sound of Music, and then there’s perhaps its most famous son, composer Mozart. It’s also a great place to unearth Austria’s beer culture with a number of breweries in the city.
Our favourite places to stay
Arthotel Blaue Gans – is unmissible for its excellent location in the heart of the Old Town. Bringing 21st century design to this traditional city, this boutique hotel also has a good restaurant and a few quirky offerings like bike hire to help you see more of Salzburg.
Hotel & Villa Auersperg – this is a style and substance boutique hotel on the other side of the River Salz. Set in a couple of old mansions, it has plenty of modern elegance, a small spa (sauna and steam room) and a great organic breakfast selection.
Things to do in Salzburgerland
The region of Salzburgerland not only features in The Sound of Music, but is home to many of the country’s spectacular lakes, and some of its best skiing, especially in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, and the Kitzenhorn glacier and mountains around Zell am See and Kaprun.
Our favourite places to stay
Romantikhotel Im Weissen Roessl – set alongside one of Austria’s most beautiful lakes, Wolfgangsee. With its near perfect reflections of the mountains and sky above in the lake, the hotel has many great rooms with a view. But if that doesn’t get you close enough, head to its large spa and the heated swimming pool sunk into the lake for a duck eye view of the water’s wide expanse.
If you’re seeking wellbeing, Tauern Spa Kaprun cannot be missed. Describing itself as basecamp for body and mind it has views onto the Kitzenhorn glacier from its panorama sauna and indoor-outdoor pool (yes, don’t miss the chance to swim indoors and outdoors in all weather – this is a feature of many Austrian hotels). But this experience is far from where the spa treats end here. Tauern Hotel is attached to the Tauern Spa – a huge public spa with 13 different steam rooms and saunas and 12 different swimming pools.
Around 30 minutes drive from there the Theresia Gartenhotel in Saalbach-Hinterglemm is set in a traditional Alpine building with overflowing window boxes of flowers. Inside rooms are a mix of traditional and modern takes on Alpine style and there are considerable spa facilities for guest use. The restaurant here serves only organic produce from local producers.
Things to do in Tirol
Many of the best things to do in Austria revolve around outdoor activities, and if you love the outdoors you’ll love Tirol. No matter the weather there’s a host of adventures in perhaps the most beautiful region in the country.
With the high mountain peaks giving way to pretty villages huddled in valleys there’s excellent skiing, ice climbing and even fat-biking in winter, then hiking, biking and just enjoying its green pastures in summer.
The city of Innsbruck is in the heart of the Tirolean Alps and is a charming city of historic sites and beautiful sights with views onto the mountains.
Our favourite places to stay
Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt, near Going am Wilden Kaiser, is one of our favourite hotels in the world, least of all Austria, the Stanglwirt is a quirky little luxury number. Built in the 17th century, the hotel has been expanded numerous times over the years, but it still maintains its traditional interior. Crafted almost entirely in wood, it’s an Alpine masterpiece.
The hotel also has a fantastic array of features – stables with Lipizzaner horses (the same breed as those of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School), which you can ride, an expansive spa with a fantastic array of treatments, extensive sports facilities – not only is it close to the Wilder Kaiser range for skiing, but it has 12 tennis courts and offers coaching, plus a championship golf course. Finally there’s a gourmet restaurant and even one where you can dine in a barn alongside the Stanglwirt’s cows. It truly has to be seen to be believed. Read more about the Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt.
Kaiserhof – set in the hills over the village of Ellmau, it’s all about the location at this hotel. But it also has a fantastic cellar of wines – many specially produced for the hotel with wine tasting by one of Austria’s former sommeliers of the year. Read more about the Kaiserhof in Tirol.
Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl – the town of Obergurgl has long been popular with skiers, and this hotels is a great ski-in, ski-out Austrian hotel. But with an indoor-outdoor pool and expansive spa, and delicious meals at its restaurant, it’s a good choice any time of the year for mountain lovers. Read more about the Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl.
Locally farmed produce exemplifies the Hotel Edenlehen, in Mayrhofen, another popular ski resort in the Tirol region. Like many Austrian hotels it has a half-board package which usually includes an afternoon tea, and here it means you are served meat and dairy products from their farm and more.
Gourmets, film fans and skiers alike will love Central Spa Hotel Solden which has brought gourmet food to the town and slopes of Sölden. Set at 1,400m the hotel was recently refurbished and has excellent quality accommodation. Its restaurants include gourmet restaurant, Feinspitz serving an extensive buffet breakfast with the hotel’s homemade jams, local cheeses and much more, as well as an à la carte evening menu.
Head 3,048 metres up to the summit of the Gaislachkogl glacier for the hotel’s other restaurant, Ice Q. Not only may you recognise this glass building from its appearance in Bond film, Spectre, it is perhaps the best fine dining restaurant in the mountains. It has an extraordinarily creative menu for skiers and food lovers alike. Read more about the Central Spa Hotel.
Many of the hotels listed here – particularly those in Tirol are picture-perfect examples of Alpine architecture. There’s A-frame wooden buildings with balconies and window boxes bedecked with flowers in summer and lights in winter. If you’re looking for a traditional stay, the Romantik Hotel Boeglerhof is another perfect example of this local architecture. This dark wood building in the pretty ski-town of Alpbach also has a great spa, and an excellent restaurant.
The beautiful town of Seefeld is just 30 minutes by train from Innsbruck and a must visit for a mountain escape from the city. History and tradition combine at the five-star Hotel Klosterbrau, which at more than 500-years-old is one of the oldest hotels in Austria. Its facilities are as up-to-date as you’d expect however, highlights being its spa and well-stocked cellar, which hotel regular and tennis ace, Boris Becker has some of his favourite tipples.
Also in Seefeld, a town well endowed with luxury hotels, is the Krumers Post Hotel & Spa, another modern Austrian hotel with excellent spa facilities and a strong focus on wellness – offering a broad range of restorative therapies and personal training options.
Things to do in Styria
Styria is perhaps one of the lesser-known regions of Austria, but it is also one of its most beautiful. Mountain peaks are home to ski resorts, its major city, Graz is one of the most charming in Austria, with such a passion for fine food it comes out each year in its sell-out Long Table event, where 700 guests are fed a gourmet meal produced by the city’s best chefs.
The south of Styria is wine country, producing some of the best-known labels in the country, such as Polz. And with wine comes more good food and beautiful vineyards views that stretch for miles. Go to Styria to eat, drink and be altogether merry amid its verdant countryside.
Our favourite places to stay
Learn more about wine in Styria at the – wine culture at Loisium Wine And Spa Resort Südsteiermark. The Design Hotel is fascinating not least for its modern architectural style – its wood and glass exterior blending beautifully with the countryside. But it also places wine – an important aspect of Styrian culture – front and centre, with a wine tasting bar offering tutorials and seminars, plus wine-based treatments at its spa using Vinoble products. Read more about the Loisium Wine and Spa Resort.
Hotel Erzherzog Johann – isn’t just in one of the most beautiful regions of Styria, surrounded by five lakes, it’s also the geographic centre of the country. The hotel has great spa facilities across two floors and a restaurant serving gourmet evening meals as well as one of the broadest breakfast buffets we’ve ever seen.
Erika’s Buschenschank is perhaps more of a bed and breakfast than a hotel and certainly doesn’t have the trappings of a five-star stay, but what Erika’s lacks in fancy facilities it more than makes up for in the homely welcome and incredible personality of its owner. Erika provides guests with a unique experience, a chance to stay at a heurigan or traditional Styrian wine bar and we couldn’t recommend it enough for a fun and real experience. Erika is one of our all-time favourite Austrians – send our love if you visit!
Things to do in Lower Austria
Another area where wine growing is part of the landscape, this time it’s actually a crucial part of its history. Journey along the River Danube and visit the UNESCO World Heritage landscape, characterised by terraces of vines. There are popular historic towns here too such as Dürnstein – famed for its blue church, and the elegant university town of Krems – home to a fun annual apricot festival during which the world’s longest apricot cake is produced. Fruit lovers rejoice!
Wine & Spa Resort Loisium Langenlois is the second Loisium Design Hotel in the country and not only is it home to more striking architecture, a wine-focused spa, fine restaurant and a cellar full of the best local wines. It also has the Loisium Wine Experience, an interactive museum charting the history and culture of wine production.
Further your wine culture experience by getting closer to the people who produce it and stay at a pension. The Bauernhof Weingut Donabaum Farmhouse, in Spitz, is a working wine farm on the banks of the Danube. Again, it’s not a traditional take on luxury, but its spacious Geniesserzimmers, or gourmet suites, have balconies facing onto the vineyards, as well as rain-showers, atmospheric lighting, and a minibar filled with the best wines from the Wachau Valley. But the real beauty of it is the opportunity to stay on a wine farm. Read more about the Donabaum.
Things to do in Burgenland
Another wine-lover’s paradise, Burgenland may be the smallest of Austria’s regions, but it packs plenty of interest. It’s a region of castles and palaces – don’t miss baroque Esterhazy Palace and Burg Forchtenstein. Classical music fans will enjoy visiting Haydn’s House Museum to learn more of the composer and then there’s the Nationalpark Neusiedler See – Seewinkel home to 340 bird-species.
Our favourite places to stay
Burg Lockenhaus is situated at an altitude of 368m in the Güns Valley and was built around 1200, has an incredible history and is certainly the most unusual place to stay here. A castle and formerly a medieval fortress, usually for a hotel, it has a torture chamber, complete with an Iron Maiden and other implements. There’s much to explore in the building’s grounds and its staff have many fascinating tales to tell. But it is also a cultural centre, with an annual chamber music concert held in its auditorium. Rooms keep things authentic with antique furniture.
Want to know more about the best hotels in Austria? Take a look at this listing of the country’s finest places to stay.