Austria: Where the hills are alive with the sound of music, and the puns are just as melodious.
This is not just a saying but a solid fact about Austria – a land of picturesque landscapes, rich history, and cultural treasures waiting to be explored! If you are a first-time traveller to this enchanting country, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. Having visited Austria five times, my love for this Central European gem multiplies with each visit. Situated in the heart of the Alps, Austria might be a favourite destination for skiers and hikers, but it also boasts an exceptional musical legacy – from Mozart, Haydn, Liszt, and Mahler to the Von Trapp family, whose life inspired the movie “The Sound of Music.” On a map, pear-shaped Austria might appear small, but it packs a punch when it comes to attractions. In this ultimate Austria Travel Guide, I will take you on a journey to the top 5 must-visit places in Austria – Vienna, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Zell am See, and Innsbruck. Get ready to discover the must-see attractions, travel tips, ideal itineraries, budget-friendly options, and everything you need to know for a seamless exploration of Austria. Whether you are a nature enthusiast, a history lover, or an adventure seeker, Austria has something special for everyone. Let’s dive in and uncover the wonders of this magnificent country!
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Top 5 Places To Visit In Austria
Vienna, the former capital of Austria-Hungarian Empire, is famous for its elegant architecture, rich history, and vibrant cultural scene. It’s a city that seamlessly blends the past with the present, offering visitors a glimpse into Austria’s imperial past while also home to a thriving arts and music scene.
Must-See Attractions in Vienna
- Schönbrunn Palace: This magnificent palace was once the summer palace of the Habsburg monarchs and is now converted into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace’s stunning gardens and intricate interiors are a must-see.
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral: Located in the heart of Vienna, this Gothic cathedral is an iconic landmark and offers breathtaking city views from its towers.
- Vienna State Opera: One of the world’s most famous opera houses, the Vienna State Opera is a must-visit for music lovers.
- Naschmarkt: This bustling outdoor market is a food lover’s paradise, offering various international foods and drinks.
- Hofburg Palace: This vast complex of imperial palaces and museums offers visitors a glimpse into Austria’s rich history.
Travel Tips for Vienna
- While Vienna is beautiful in every season, the best time to visit the Austrian capital is in the spring or autumn when the weather is mild, colourful flowers and leaves are everywhere, and the crowds are smaller. If you visit during the summer, be prepared for high temperatures and larger crowds.
- Vienna is a walkable city, but public transportation is also efficient and easy to use.
- For the city’s best views, head to the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral or climb up to the viewing terrace at the top of the Danube Tower.
- To experience Vienna’s famous coffee culture, head to one of the city’s traditional coffeehouses like Café Central, Demel, Cafe Landtman, and Hotel Sacher.
- For a unique experience, take a ride on the Wiener Riesenrad. This giant Ferris wheel offers panoramic views of the city.
Where to Stay in Vienna
Vienna has many accommodations, from budget hostels to luxurious hotels. If you’re looking for a centrally located hotel, I’d recommend staying at Hotel Bristol as it is centrally located and is near many of the city’s top attractions.
How to Reach Vienna
Vienna is well-connected by air, train, and bus. The city’s main airport is Vienna International Airport, about 20 km from the city centre. You can take a train or bus from the airport to the city centre.
Recommended Days to Stay in Vienna
I recommend spending at least three to four days in Vienna to see the top attractions and get a feel for the city’s vibrant culture.
Salzburg, located in western Austria, is a beautiful city known for its stunning Baroque architecture, association with Mozart, and breathtaking mountain scenery.
Must-See Attractions in Salzburg
- Hohensalzburg Fortress: This medieval fortress sits atop a hill overlooking the city and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
- Mirabell Palace and Gardens: These beautiful gardens were featured in the movie “The Sound of Music” and are a popular spot for wedding photos.
- Getreidegasse: This historic shopping street is home to several beautiful buildings and is where you can find Mozart’s birthplace.
- Salzburg Cathedral: This stunning Baroque cathedral is the most significant church in Salzburg and features beautiful artwork and architecture.
- Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains: This Baroque palace features beautiful gardens and unique water features, including hidden fountains that surprise visitors with unexpected sprays of
Travel Tips for Salzburg
- The best time to visit Salzburg is in the summer when the weather is mild, and the city is bustling with outdoor events and concerts.
- If you’re a music lover, be sure to attend a performance at the Salzburg Festival, which takes place each summer and is one of the world’s most famous music festivals.
- For the city’s best views, take the funicular to Hohensalzburg Fortress or hike up to the Kapuzinerberg viewpoint.
- To experience Salzburg’s culinary scene, try some local specialities like schnitzel, dumplings, and strudel at traditional restaurants like St. Peter Stiftskeller or Zum Fidelen Affen.
- For a unique experience, take a guided tour of the Salzburg salt mines or explore the city’s many Baroque churches and palaces.
Where to Stay in Salzburg
Salzburg has a range of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. For a central location and stunning city views, I’d recommend Hotel Sacher Salzburg.
How to Reach Salzburg
Salzburg has a small international airport and is easily accessible by train or bus from other major European cities.
Recommended Days to Stay in Salzburg
We recommend spending at least two to three days in Salzburg to see the top attractions and explore the city’s charming streets and gardens.
Hallstatt, located in the Salzkammergut region of Austria, is a picturesque village known for its alpine scenery, historic salt mines, and charming architecture.
Must-See Attractions in Hallstatt
- Hallstatt Skywalk: This viewing platform offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Hallstatt.
- Old Town: The charming streets of Hallstatt’s Old Town are lined with colourful buildings and offer plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining.
- Hallstatt Ossuary: This tiny chapel is home to over 1,200 human skulls and is a unique and eerie attraction.
- Lake Hallstatt: This pristine alpine lake is famous for swimming, boating, and hiking.
- Hallstatt Salt Mine: This historic salt mine dates back to the Celtic era and offers visitors a glimpse into Austria’s rich mining history.
Travel Tips for Hallstatt
- The best time to visit Hallstatt is in the summer when the weather is mild, and the village is alive with outdoor activities and events.
- To avoid the crowds, consider visiting Hallstatt in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall.
- Consider renting a bike or kayak to explore the surrounding mountains and lakes.
- Try some traditional dishes like Kasnocken or Wiener Schnitzel at Gasthof Zauner or Gasthof Simony for a taste of local cuisine.
- For a unique experience, take a boat tour of the lake or visit the nearby Dachstein Ice Cave.
Where to Stay in Hallstatt
Hallstatt has a range of accommodations, from cosy guesthouses to luxury hotels. For a charming and centrally located option, I recommend Seehotel Grüner Baum.
How to Reach Hallstatt
Hallstatt is accessible by car, train or ferry from nearby towns like Salzburg or Vienna.
Recommended Days to Stay in Hallstatt
We recommend spending at least one or two days in Hallstatt to see the top attractions and enjoy the stunning alpine scenery.
Zell am See
Zell am See, located in the Austrian Alps, is a beautiful resort town known for its stunning lake, mountain scenery, and outdoor activities.
Must-See Attractions in Zell am See
- Lake Zell: This stunning alpine lake is famous for swimming, boating, and hiking.
- Schmittenhöhe Mountain: This mountain offers stunning views of the Alps and is home to several hiking trails and ski slopes.
- Kitzsteinhorn Glacier: This glacier offers year-round skiing and snowboarding and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- Old Town: The charming streets of Zell am See’s Old Town are lined with historic buildings and offer plenty of shopping and dining options.
- Kaprun High Mountain Reservoirs: These reservoirs are located high in the mountains and offer stunning views of the surrounding glaciers and peaks.
Travel Tips for Zell am See
- The best time to visit Zell am See is in the summer when the weather is mild, and the lake is perfect for swimming and water sports.
- Winter sports enthusiasts should visit when the ski slopes and ice rinks are open in winter.
- For a unique experience, take a boat tour of Lake Zell or hike up to the nearby Schmittenhöhe Peak.
- To experience local cuisine, try some traditional dishes like Kaiserschmarrn or Tiroler Gröstl at restaurants like Restaurant Feinschmeck or Gasthof Limberg.
- To save money on ski passes, consider purchasing the Zell am See-Kaprun Summer Card, which includes access to several attractions and ski areas.
Where to Stay in Zell am See
Zell am See has a range of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. For a comfortable and centrally located option, I recommend Hotel Berner.
How to Reach Zell am See
Zell am See is easily accessible by train or bus from nearby cities like Salzburg or Vienna.
Recommended Days to Stay in Zell am See
We recommend spending at least two to three days in Zell am See to see the top attractions and enjoy the stunning alpine scenery.
Innsbruck, located in the Austrian Alps, is a historic city known for its stunning architecture, winter sports, and alpine scenery.
Must-See Attractions in Innsbruck
- Golden Roof: This historic balcony in the heart of Innsbruck’s Old Town is covered in gold tiles and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
- Ambras Castle: This Renaissance palace is home to an impressive art collection and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- Nordkette Cable Car: This cable car offers stunning views of the Alps and is a popular spot for hiking and winter sports.
- Old Town: The charming streets of Innsbruck’s Old Town are lined with historic buildings and offer plenty of shopping and dining options.
- Bergisel Ski Jump: This ski jump was designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Travel Tips for Innsbruck
- The best time to visit Innsbruck is in the winter when the ski slopes and ice rinks are open or in the summer when the city is alive with outdoor activities and events.
- For a unique experience, ride on the Hungerburgbahn funicular or hike up to the nearby Hafelekar Peak.
- To experience local cuisine, try traditional dishes like Tiroler Speckknödel or Wiener Schnitzel at restaurants like Gasthaus Anich or Café Munding.
- For a cultural experience, attend a performance at the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music or visit the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum.
- To save money on attractions, consider purchasing the Innsbruck Card, which includes access to museums and cable cars.
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
Innsbruck has a range of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. For a central and comfortable option, I recommend the Hotel Innsbruck.
How to Reach Innsbruck
Innsbruck has a small international airport and is easily accessible by train or bus from nearby cities like Munich or Vienna.
Recommended Days to Stay in Innsbruck
I recommend spending at least two to three days in Innsbruck to see the top attractions and enjoy the Austrian alpine beauty.
Suggested itineraries and budget for all five cities:
3 Days in Vienna
Day 1: Visit the Hofburg Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the State Opera. Enjoy a traditional Viennese meal at one of the many local restaurants.
Day 2: Explore the Schönbrunn Palace and its beautiful gardens. Visit the Belvedere Palace and Museum, followed by a visit to the Naschmarkt.
Day 3: Stroll through Prater Park and ride the famous Ferris wheel. Visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum and end the day with a classical music concert.
Budget: For a 3-day trip to Vienna, budget around €600-€1500 per person for accommodations, food, transportation, and entrance fees to attractions.
3 Days in Salzburg
Day 1: Explore the historic Old Town, including the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, Mozart’s Birthplace, and the Salzburg Cathedral. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 2: Visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress and take in the stunning views of the city. Take a Sound of Music tour and visit the locations of the famous movie.
Day 3: Take a day trip to the nearby Eagle’s Nest and the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines.
Budget: For a 3-day trip to Salzburg, budget around €500-€1000 per person for accommodations, food, transportation, and entrance fees to attractions.
3 Days in Hallstatt
Day 1: Take a boat ride on Lake Hallstatt and explore the charming Old Town. Visit the Hallstatt Salt Mines.
Day 2: Hike up to the nearby Dachstein Ice Cave and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Take a scenic drive along the Hallstättersee.
Day 3: Visit the nearby town of Bad Ischl and enjoy a spa day at one of the local thermal baths.
Budget: For a 3-day trip to Hallstatt, budget around €600-€1500 per person for accommodations, food, transportation, and entrance fees to attractions.
3 Days in Zell am See
Day 1: Take a boat ride on Lake Zell and explore the charming Old Town. Enjoy a traditional Austrian meal at one of the local restaurants.
Day 2: Spend the day skiing or snowboarding at the nearby Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. Visit the Kaprun High Mountain Reservoirs.
Day 3: Take a day trip to the nearby town of Saalbach-Hinterglemm and enjoy the stunning alpine scenery.
Budget: For a 3-day trip to Zell am See, budget around €500-€1000 per person for accommodations, food, transportation, and ski passes.
3 Days in Innsbruck
Day 1: Visit the Golden Roof, the Nordkette Cable Car, and the Bergisel Ski Jump. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 2: Explore the Ambras Castle and Museum. Ride on the Hungerburgbahn funicular and visit the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum.
Day 3: Spend the day skiing or snowboarding at the nearby ski resorts. Enjoy a traditional Tyrolean meal at one of the local restaurants.
Budget: For a 3-day trip to Innsbruck, budget around €300-€350 per person for accommodations, food, transportation, and ski passes (if applicable).
How many days are enough to explore Austria
To explore all 5 cities in Austria, you should stay at least 15 days. Here is a suggested itinerary:
Day 1-3: Vienna
Day 4-6: Salzburg
Day 7-9: Hallstatt
Day 10-12: Zell am See
Day 13-15: Innsbruck
Total Budget – how much would a trip to Austria cost?
Austria is less expensive than Switzerland, France, and Italy but more expensive than Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia. Luckily, Austria can be done on a reasonable budget, and the average solo traveller spends around 822 EUR (907 USD) a week, assuming double occupancy and budget travel.
For a 15-day trip to Austria, budget around €1500-€2500 per person for accommodations, food, transportation, and entrance fees to attractions. This budget assumes mid-range accommodations and meals and includes transportation between cities by train or bus. To save further, you can travel in the off-season months to Austria, typically January, February, November and December. These are the coldest months of the year and the least popular for tourism. Although, the Christmas markets of Austria are worth visiting.
Of course, the above itinerary and budget are just suggestions. You can adjust it based on your interests and budget. Remember to book your accommodations and transportation in advance, especially during peak season, and leave for unexpected detours and spontaneous adventures sometime in your itinerary.
No matter what your itinerary looks like, Austria is a country that is sure to capture your heart with its stunning alpine scenery, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality. Happy travels!
Whether you’re a culture vulture, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Austria has it all. From immersing yourself in the rich heritage of Vienna to marvelling at the surreal beauty of Hallstatt, this First Timer’s Travel Guide covering the top 5 places to visit in Austria will help you create unforgettable memories and experience the best of Austria. Stay tuned for our comprehensive itineraries, travel tips, budget-friendly options, and how to reach these incredible destinations. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure like no other!