Things to do in Austria - tips and ideas for luxury holidays
We love Austria. So much so we've written a lot about the country, as you’ll see here in this collection of our favourite things to do in Austria. Yes, that was a Sound of Music reference – we love that too.
So, why Austria? Luxury holidays in Austria are characterised by very stylish accommodation, gourmet meals and authentic, unusual cultural activities. We love exploring Austria's cities and towns, its lakes and mountains. We enjoy the culture, the food, the customs and getting to know its people.
Its name alone conjures up impressions of green pine forests, snow-topped mountains and crystalline rivers. But it also has cities such as Salzburg, Vienna, Innsbruck, and Graz, which are just full of culture.
Unsurpassed for winter sports, Austria enjoys guaranteed snow. It's possible to ski on glaciers in some regions for ten months of the year – and a winter wonderland of activities including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and tobogganing.
Though it’s traditionally regarded as a winter destination, there are also many fabulous places to visit in Austria in summer. At this time of year, Austria reveals its natural wonders as her rugged landscape welcomes fans of the great outdoors.
Alpine beauty, mountain adventure
Whether down in the valleys or high on the mountain peaks, Austria is a paradise for walkers, cyclists, canoeists and rock climbers who wish to test themselves in this challenging playground.
Austria’s alpine scenery too holds visitors in awe of its beauty and you’ll find towns and villages with A-frame houses, flowers overflowing from omnipresent window boxes. For those seeking rejuvenation, Austria has been a premier spa destination since the 1800s and offers traditional as well as state-of-the-art treatments.
Here are just some of the best things to do in Austria:
Don't miss PeakWorld 3000 at the top of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, with its mountain viewing platform at 3,029 metres, indoor cinema and Nationalpark Gallery with outstanding views and tours of Hohe Tauern National Park.
Put some sparkle into your trip at Swarovski Kristallwelten (or Crystal Worlds) at Wattens near Innsbruck. A modern journey of crystals and art, it’s described by Swarovski as: “A world that magically lures visitors into its interior, where Chambers of Wonder ignite beacons of imagination.”
Fancy a little culture and history? Then explore some of the finest castles and palaces in Europe – Tratzberg Castle and Hof Palace are just a few to mention.
Swim in a lake - the country's lakes are as clean as the air and regularly attract bathers.
See a cattle drive - it's a festival atmosphere in towns across the country as autumn arrives and farmers bring their cows down from the mountains in a colourful event.
Prepare for a festive fright from the Krampus - the scariest Christmas character in the world.
Ski on a glacier such as Hintertux or Kitzsteinhorn, and you can ski most months in the year.
Plan your travel to Austria with this map
There are so many places to visit in Austria if you’re considering an Austria holiday take a look at our regional highlights here to decide which city or region suits you, plus read on for countless stories from all over Austria.
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 also regularly ranks at the top of lists of the world's most liveable cities.
Things to do in Salzburg
Salzburg is perhaps Austria’s most famous city with visitors keen to see the landscape that inspired The Sound of Music. Film lovers can take guided trips around locations from the much loved musical such as the perfectly-landscaped Mirabell Gardens.
Then there is the city’s most famous son, composer Mozart, whose story you can discover in the old town.
One of the most interesting but unusual things to do in Salzburg is to unearth Austria’s beer culture and explore the huge number of breweries in the city.
Every summer Salzburg hosts one of the most prestigious festivals in the world. Set in the centre of the Baroque city, the Salzburg Music Festival with its opera, theatre shows and concerts is an exceptional event. Finally, don’t miss Salzburg in the festive season for its Christmas markets.
The region surrounding Salzburg is called Salzburgerland. Not only does it feature more locations from The Sound of Music, but it is home to spectacular lakeside locations such as the famed Fuchlsee, and some of Austria’s best skiing, in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, on Kitzenhorn glacier and mountains and around Zell am See-Kaprun.
Where to go in Upper Austria
Linz may not be the best known, or most visited city in Austria, but the capital of Upper Austria is a cultural centre. It is famous for its art scene and unusual museums like the ARS Electronica.
Outside of the city, Upper Austria unveils some of the country's most magical landscapes. The town of Wolfgang, for example, sits beside the lake of the same name with a dramatic mountain backdrop.
Down by the Danube 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!
Go west, to Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg is Austria's westernmost region, between Tirol, Switzerland and Germany. Vorarlberg's main city Bregenz sits beside Lake Constance - the natural border between Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Not only is it a beautiful place to while away some hours, but Bregenz also hosts an annual festival on the water. The Bregenz Festival sees a live show performed on the water each summer.
Vorarlberg is also a popular place for skiers, especially those seeking more challenging slopes, with Lech one of its popular resorts.
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 are a host of adventures in one of the most beautiful regions in Austria.
With the high mountain peaks giving way to pretty villages huddled in valleys there is 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.
Enjoy the winelands of 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.
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 to340 bird-species.
Make nature your playground in Carinthia
The southern region of Carinthia is Austria's Mediterranean side, with the most sunny days in the country. But don't write it off in winter. Nassfeld is one of the most cosmopolitan ski resorts in the country, with a cappuccino waiting for you in Italy at the bottom of some of its slopes.
Carinthia also makes the most of its lakes though. In winter skating is the order of the day. In summer take to the region's lakes like Weissensee for a swim, or go stand-up paddleboarding or boating. If you like your trips active this is the place for you.
Discover more great things to do in Austria on the links below.