With its pristine lakes and snow-capped peaks, this charming country offers visitors a wealth of activities to enjoy, from hiking to exploring its many historical and nature sites. This is truly one of the world’s most beautiful places.
Now that travelling overseas is back on the cards, it’s only natural that you’d like to scratch that wanderlust itch with something entirely different from Singapore. And if you ask us, one place to definitely consider backpacking solo or luxury travelling with your family and kids would be Austria.
Home to numerous stunning snow-capped mountains, lush meadows, and gorgeous lakes, it’s no wonder that Austria is considered one of the world’s most beautiful places.
Millions of travellers flock to this German-speaking country for its scenic and cultural richness — a place to breathe in the crisp mountain air, grand architecture, and picturesque natural vistas. Plus, a perfect stop to visit if you’re already on a quarantine-free trip to Germany anyway, the land of romantic road trips and beautiful German architecture.
So if you’re down to explore this idyllic European country, here are some of the best places to visit in Austria!
1. Vienna: Palaces, festivals, and culture
To kickstart your Austrian adventure, be sure to make Vienna a place to visit — the capital city that’s filled to the brim with culture, history, and tradition.
As one of Europe’s key cultural hubs with imperial roots in the Holy Roman Empire, Austria’s biggest city combines cosmopolitan vibes and elegant architectural grandeur.
Take a sightseeing tour around the many palaces of Vienna, including the prominent Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, and Belvedere Palace. These are architectural monuments that have thrived for centuries and remain to be top-tier tourist attractions.
Witness the Baroque marvel that is Schönbrunn Palace, a massive structure that houses over 1,400 rooms as well as vast gardens of various styles and sculptures that reflect its history of more than 300 years.
Over at the Hofburg Palace, dive into a millennium of European history at the Imperial Treasury. It’s where you’ll get up close with the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, the Treasury of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the crown of Emperor Rudolf II. The ancient decadence in the room of ceremonial robes, where you can see clothing made from the finest silks and stitched with gold, pearls, and rubies.
The Belvedere is an art museum with a massive collection of works ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. This is where you’ll find the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimpt paintings — including The Kiss — as well as works from various art periods such as Biedermeier, Austrian Baroque, and French Impressionism.
Vienna has also reopened its breathtaking slate of concerts, festivals, and other cultural events in the city. Catch public orchestral performances (this is the country that birthed Mozart, Schubert and Strauss after all) as well as open-air film screenings on the square in front of the Rathaus. Be on the lookout as art fairs and food festivals can pop up anywhere across the city.
People who travel to Austria also tend to forget that Vienna is the coffee capital of the world, with a coffee culture that has been recognised by UNESCO. Said to be the birthplace of the coffee filtering process, the coffee houses in the city hold a history dating back to 1683 — so you know they serve great coffee and desserts to go along with it.
To get the best bird’s-eye view of the entire city from above, we recommend going on a day roadtrip to Kahlenberg, a mountain that lies in the Vienna Woods.
2. Salzburg: Music, history, and art
Salzburg is famed for two things: the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the setting of The Sound of Music.
Located in northwest Austria, the rich musical heritage in this pretty European town is apparent in every corner. The house where the Mozart family used to reside has been converted into a museum, displaying mementoes like the composer’s portraits, his violin, original scores of his compositions, and many other keepsakes of the man’s life and passion.
Fans of the classic Julie Andrews musical The Sound of Music should get a kick out of visiting the many picturesque locations where it was filmed. Even if you aren’t a fan, there’s still plenty to appreciate — from the Baroque fountain of the Salzburg Residenz to the symmetrical flower beds found at Mirabell Garden.
As a city known for its music festivals, be sure to attend a show or two in Salzburg’s many historic theatres and concert halls. They can be found in the Festspielhäuser, a building adorned with 17th-century frescoes and the place where the famous Salzburg Festival — a five-week showcase of European music and drama — has been held since 1925.
Opposite the Salzburg Residenz is where you’ll find the Neugebäude (New Building), which houses the Salzburg Museum — an art museum with an impressive collection of artefacts from the Middle Ages, including the Late Bronze Age helmet of Pass Lueg and oil paintings from before 1800.
Stand outside the building to hear a glockenspiel consisting of 35 bells that play Mozart tunes three times per day (7:00am, 11:00am, and 6:00pm) daily. Of course, this is best experienced with a visit to The Mozart Square, where the Mozart Monument (unveiled in 1842) stands stall, a bronze statue dedicated to the man and his legacy.
For something a bit more out of the box, head over to Salt Mine Berchtesgaden, located at the Salzberg mountain outside the city. Trace the footsteps of miners who’ve been mining salt at the Berchtesgaden salt mine since 1517. Or go on exhilarating rides down 36m-long slides and a boat that’ll take visitors across a subterranean salt lake.
3. Hallstatt: History and scenic views
Hallstatt is best described as a tiny village with the most beautiful scenery in the world — every part of this place is postcard-perfect.
Located three hours away from Vienna, this fairytale town is situated beside a mountain lake, surrounded by the steep slopes of the Dachstein mountains. The community of Hallstatt dates back to prehistoric times (possibly even 4000 BC) as a salt mine, and the town is currently a UNESCO-protected settlement due to its ancient historic significance.
But really, people and backpackers go there for the wondrous views. The quaint buildings, tranquil waters, and majestic mountain range make for extremely photogenic scenery. The best way to capture the beauty of it all is by taking a cable car into the Alps to get to 5Fingers, a viewing platform in the Dachstein mountains named after its hand-like shape.
This “World Heritage View Point” protrudes from the sheer rock face and offers visitors a spectacular panoramic view of the mountain range and lake from 500m above ground.
Visitors interested in learning about the town’s history can don a jumpsuit and go for a guided tour of the salt mines. The fun bit involves going on a 64m wooden slide to access different levels of the mines.
Just be prepared for a lot of tourists while roaming around! Hallstatt became a travel hotspot after getting featured on South Korean TV series Spring Waltz. It got even more popular after the town was rumoured to have inspired the fictional town of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen.
4. Bad Gastein: Spas, skis, and mountain views
The Austrian spa and ski town of Bad Gastein is where you go for the snowy mountain getaway.
Situated on the Hohe Tauern mountain range, the picturesque municipality is home to the Gastein Waterfall and a variety of historic hotel buildings from the European golden age of Belle Époque.
It’s a town where emperors, empresses, and other monarchs visited to rest and recharge with healing baths in the mineral-rich waters. You’ll want to check out the Felsentherme spa, a favoured spot of the locals where patrons can soak themselves in the thermal water from 18 springs. Otherwise, some hotels also offer their own in-house spas.
Most of Europe’s prettiest hotels can also be found in Bad Gastein, such as the charming Miramonte, a designer hillside hotel with a wonderful view into the mountains. For something with an older touch, the Grand Hotel de l’Europe offers ten floors of rooms reflecting more than a century of history.
Bad Gastein is where you can cross off your skiing bucket list as well. Four ski areas allow for plenty of opportunities for skiing and snowboarding down the mountains — accessible even for amateurs. Don’t forget to pack all your sports essentials!
Nature lovers will find no lack of hiking trails to conquer and waterfalls to see around the area, though you’ll easily come across one of the most famous waterfalls in Austria — Bad Gasteinerfall — running down the middle of the city centre already. Do remember to do some route planning before going on the trails, lest you get lost.
There’s no lack of breathtaking scenery as well. Being away from the bustling cities of Salzburg or Vienna gives Bad Gastein a sense of deep calm — enhanced, of course, by the view of the beautiful Alps.
5. Gosau: Hikes, lakes, and natural beauty
Gosau is the epitome of idyllic European greenery, an alpine village known for its lush mountain pastures, ancient woodland and the famous Gosau Lake.
Picture-perfect houses, hotels, and inns wind through the vast 14km-long valley, encircled by the mountains of Inner Salzkammergut. Visitors will often see residents going about their traditional way of life, which consists of rearing sheep and cattle, as well as collecting wood for the winter on horse-drawn carriages.
The mountain lake of Gosau offers a stunning view of natural beauty. The path around the lake makes for an easy stroll with a stunning view of the towering Dachstein glacier in the background.
Thirsty from the long walk? Drink up from the lake itself, which is pure and cold enough as drinking water. Locals often bathe, dive, fish, or go boating in the lake too.
Summers at Gosau allow for various hiking, mountain climbing and mountaineering opportunities across various difficulty levels — even trails that are suitable for kids, making it one of the best places to go with your little ones. Multiple huts adorn the hiking trails for visitors to either spend the night or have a meal among bountiful views of the mountain and the lake.
In rural spots in Gosau, connection may not be the best. To stay connected throughout your travels in Austria, check out our article that can help you satisfy all your data roaming needs.
Things to note while travelling in Austria
The city of Vienna has stricter rules in place than the rest of Austria. A 2G+ rule is in effect: proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid on top of a negative PCR test (no more than 48 hours old) is required at all events where there are more than 25 people, as well as bars and restaurants. Where 2G+ rules apply, masks aren’t mandatory.
Free PCR tests are available at "Teststraßen" test facilities throughout Austria, but appointments have to be booked in advance. It’s best to ask your hotel about the nearest facility. The tests are valid for 48 hours.
Outside of Vienna, negative PCR tests aren’t mandatory — but proof of vaccination is still required prior to entry everywhere. A vaccination certificate in English can be used as proof of vaccination, as long as you’ve been vaccinated with recognised vaccines: BioNtech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. It’s important to note that Austria considers two-dose vaccinations valid for nine months only from the date of the second dose.
Masks are only mandatory on public transport, when using taxis and in essential shops (e.g. supermarkets, post offices and pharmacies). They must be FFP2-grade masks — essentially N95 masks, which can be easily bought from stores if you’re running out. Check here for updated Covid-19 measures in Austria.
If there’s one word to describe a holiday experience in Austria, it’s awesome, in the most literal sense. Austria is where you get awestruck by the breathtaking beauty of Europe, a place to visit to rejuvenate your soul with both culture and nature — perhaps the very things we need after some tough times of late.
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Best time to visit
Summer is the best time to visit Austria to get the best views of green valleys and clear views of the majestic Alps. Winter offers a different experience, though just as great — this is when the ski season begins and tourists make their way to Austria’s world-class ski resorts.
In cities like Vienna and Salzburg, the best way to zip around is by the urban metro networks — U-Bahn for the former and the S-Bahn for the latter. Ticket machines are available at stations, and one can buy single tickets or passes for longer periods of time.
The railway is the most efficient way to get around Austria while also taking in the stunning scenery of the country. The Osterreichische Bundesbahnen (OBB) operates the trains, and inter-city travelling is relatively short because Austria is fairly small — it’s about two and a half hours from Vienna to Salzburg, for instance. You’ll have to get the OBB Vorteilscard to get on the trains, and we recommend the Einfach-Raus Ticket for an entire day’s excursion.
Do note that services operated by the City Airport Train (CAT) from the airport to Wien Mitte Station are expected to resume in spring 2022.
Austria is not expensive to visit if you plan your budget carefully. The Euro is the official currency in Austria. Using your local bank or credit cards is not recommended due to transaction fees, service charges and inflated currency exchange rates. You can exchange currency in Austrian banks, which are open from 8:00am to 3:00pm every business day except Thursday, when they stay open until 5:30pm.
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