Many people may not realize that humble Austria is actually an extremely popular holiday destination in Europe. To that end, whenever you visit you will find a huge amount to do there, and the great thing about this country is that winter is as exciting as summer.
All across Austria you will find stunning natural beauty, and if you are a history buff then there is plenty to see in the form of gorgeous churches, engaging museums, and epic towering castles. Austria is one of the smallest countries in Europe, but it still packs a punch in terms of attractions and you can spend time in some of the most spectacular locations in the world if you come here, like the mighty Eastern Alps, the magical Northern Bohemian Forest, or on the banks of the roaring Danube River.
Here are the 25 best things to do in Austria…
1. Visit the Hofburg
The Hofburg is the Imperial Palace in Vienna, the capital city of Austria.
In the days of old this would have been the home of the Royal Family who were known as the Hasburgs.
Nowadays however the palace is used by the President although parts of it can also be visited by the public.
These include rooms which date from 1275 when the palace was built and include Gothic, Classic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture.
There are 2,600 rooms here so make sure not to miss signature collections such as the Imperial Silver Collection and the Imperial Apartments which used to be the home of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.
2. Trek the Krimmler Ache
The Krimmler Ache is the tallest waterfall in Austria and it has a drop of 380 meters.
To get here you will first have to make your way to the delightful town of Krimml which sits at 1,076 meters above sea level before trekking out to the Krimmler Ache.
From Krimml you will find a selection of exquisite hiking trails to choose from and this is a great spot to spend several days enjoying the great Austrian outdoors.
3. Browse in Admont Abbey Library
Admont Abbey Library is a library space with a twist, as is it actually located in a monastery that houses Benedictine monks.
The monastery sits on the scenic Enns River and dates from the 18th century.
It also has the claim to fame of being the largest library in the world that is contained in an abbey, and for that reason alone you shouldn’t miss it if you are in the Admont area.
As well as the sheer size of the library you can also enjoy brightly decorated ceilings and gold leaf adornments all over the building.
4. Watch a show at the Spanish Riding School
The Spanish Riding School in Vienna first opened in the time of Emperor Maximilian II who made his name (in part) by bringing Lipizzaner horses to Austria in the 16th century.
In the present day you will find equestrian shows here which are much the same as they would have been in the days of Charles VI. The hall where the shows takes place dates from 1735 and you will get to see a unique form of riding that has been used by nobility over the centuries.
One thing to note is that it is best to reserve a seat here in advance as it is a very popular event in Vienna.
5. Pay tribute to Mozart in Salzburg
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in Austria in 1756. His humble home at Number 9 Getreidegasse has now been turned into a museum which is aptly named Mozart’s Birthplace and you will find family memorabilia, musical instruments, and paintings of Mozart all over the house.
Another attraction in Salzburg is called Mozart’s Residence and this is another spot in the city where he lived from 1773 which has collections of his belongings.
The last spot on the Mozart tour of Salzburg is Mozart Square which has a monument in tribute to this famous composer.
6. Explore the Eisriesenwelt
Eisriesenwelt means ‘World of the Ice Giants’ in German and is the biggest ice cave in the world, located just outside of the city of Salzburg.
As a result, make sure not to miss it if you are in the area, as the cave stretches for an impressive 42 kilometres in the Hochkogel Mountain in the Tennengebirge area of the Alps.
You can take a lift down into the ice cave before following a guided hike that will point out all the best spots inside this icy palace.
7. Discover the Tomb of Emperor Maximilian I
Emperor Maximilian I died in 1519 and was interred in spectacular fashion in the Hofkirche (also known as the Court Church) in Innsbruck.
The tomb consists of a sarcophagus made of black marble that is topped with a figure of the Emperor that is cast in bronze.
Around the sarcophagus you will find 24 different reliefs carved from marble that show scenes from the life of Maximilian I and there are also 28 bronze statues of key figures close to the Emperor including King Arthur.
As if that wasn’t enough there are also 23 statues of saints made out of bronze as well as 20 busts of famous Roman emperors.
8. Marvel at Schlegeis Lake
Schlegeis Lake is located in the pretty Zillertal Valley in Tyrol.
Schlegeis is an artificial lake and shimmers with an azure blue hue even in the winter months.
It is made even more beautiful thanks to the rugged mountains that encircle it, and if you like hiking or climbing then this is a great place to come and enjoy the great Alpine vistas for which Austria is famous.
The journey to get to the lake is also known for being stunning as you will need to take the Schlegeis Alpine Road which cuts through some of the most delightful countryside in this part of Austria.
9. Learn some history at the Landeszeughaus
Located in Graz, the second largest city in Austria after Vienna, is the Landeszeughaus which is also known as the Styrian Armory, The building dates from 1644 and you will find a wide selection of 17th century weaponry including armour and weapons that would have equipped 32,000 men.
Certainly if you are a fan of history make sure not to miss this impressive and comprehensive collection.
10. Enjoy the serenity of Melk Abbey
Melk Abbey is one of the most well known Benedictine monasteries in the world and you will find some of the most stunning religious architecture in Austria here.
The buildings fan out across seven different courtyards and the main complex here spans 325 meters.
One of the most amazing things about the abbey is that it is located on a rocky promontory above the majestic Danube and you will also find an array of varied historical sites here.
Some of these include the tombs of the members of the House of Babenberg, the first family of Austria, as well as the tomb of Saint Coloman of Stockerau.
There are also portrait galleries and statues of other famous rulers of Austria.
11. Hike the Kitzbüheler Horn
Standing proud in the Tyrol Region of Austria is the Kitzbüheler Horn which is almost 2,000 meters high.
It is known for being one of the most spectacular peaks in Austria and you can take a cable car to the top or trek to the summit from the village of Kitzbühel if you are feeling active.
Once at the top, you will have views all over the scenic valleys blow.
12. Take a cable car to the Hornköpfli
The Hornköpfli is to the south of the Kitzbüheler Horn and sits at 1,772 meters high.
You will also need to take a cable car to the top but it is more than worth the journey for the breathtaking views from the summit.
At the top of the mountain you will also find the Gipfelhau which is a traditional mountainside house as well as a dainty chapel, a typical Austrian garden, and a small restaurant serving local fare.
13. Visit the Burg Hochosterwitz
Located close to St. Veit is the Burg Hochosterwitz which sits on a bluff that rises 160 meters above a lush valley.
The Burg Hochosterwitz is a castle that was built the medieval period and is one of the most popular castles in the country.
It dates originally from 860 AD although it was altered several times including in 1570 and it was the former home of the Khevenhüllers.
Look out for 14 different gates here as well as sun-dappled courtyards and a sweet chapel that dates from the 16th century.
14. Go for a walk around Hallstatt
Hallstatt is known for being one of the prettiest Alpine towns in all of Austria and is the perfect spot to go for a ramble to check out the local scenery.
Some of the highlights here include the caves beneath the town as well as the 5 Fingers viewing platform which has a sheer 400 meter drop over the Alps, so is not an attraction for those who suffer from vertigo.
Other highlights in Hallstatt include the Hallstätter Lake and you can enjoy boating here in the winter months or swimming in the summer.
15. Watch a performance at the National Theatre
The National Theatre, also known as the Burgtheater, is located in Austria’s capital Vienna and was founded by the Emperor Joseph II in the 18th century.
It is the most popular theatre in all of Austria and has four different stages where some of the famous names in Europe have performed.
As well as the shows held here the interior is like something out of a museum with a range of paintings, busts, and memorabilia that tell the history of the building and date from the Baroque period.
Make sure not to miss the frescoes that run all the way up the central staircase.
16. Visit the Church of Maria Saal
Located on a hillside overlooking the town of Zollfeld is the Church of Maria Saal.
The area looks unassuming although this is actually one of the most important pilgrimage sites in all of Austria.
The church dates from 750 AD and has Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture.
Make sure to check out the ornate facades carved into the stone here as well as the Keutschach Epitaph which dates from the 16th century and shows a scene from the Coronation of Our Lady.
17. Travel along the Grossglockner Road
The famous Grossglockner Road runs from the town of Bruck to Heiligenblut and dates from 1935. One of the reasons to come here is that this is one of the most amazing mountain passes not only in Austria but in all of Europe.
The road passes through the Hohe Tauren which is the highest mountain massif in the Austrian Alps and this is definitely one of the must-see sights in this region and you can expect panoramic views that stretch for miles across emerald green Alpine valleys.
18. Admire Klosterneuburg Abbey
Klosterneuburg Abbey is also the location of St. Leopold’s Chapel which is the final resting place of Leopold III. One of the main highlights of the abbey is the Verdun Altar which is made of enamel and dates from the medieval period.
You will find 51 different panels here that show key scenes from the Bible that all date from the 12th century.
19. Tour Gurk Cathedral
Gurk Cathedral dates from 1200 and houses the body of Saint Hemma, a noblewoman known for distributing alms to the poor.
The cathedral has some amazing architecture in the form of large twin towers which used to be topped with onion shaped domes.
The cathedral is also covered in gorgeous stained glass and vivid oil paintings including a famous portrait of Saint Christopher as well as the Death and Assumption of the Virgin.
Also make sure that you don’t miss the wooden panels with the story of Saint Hemma on them.
20. Enjoy the views at the Franz-Josefs-Höhe
The mighty Hohe Tauern Mountain Range is the home of the Franz-Josef-Höhe which is a vantage point located at 2,422 meters and will reveal some of the best panoramic views in the whole of Austria.
From here you can see across to the iconic Grossglockner, the highest mountain in the country.
There is also a visitor’s centre here where you can learn more about this region and which has an engaging exhibition about glaciers.
21. Get lost in the Northern Bohemian Forest
The Northern Bohemian Forest forms a natural border between Austria and Germany that stand on one side and the Czech Republic that sits on the other.
The area is covered in everything that you could associate with Alpine fun such as glassy lakes, ski chalets, and rambling hiking trails that let you take in the best of the local scenery.
The forest, which is also a mountain range, sits in the icy north of Austria, and if you want to explore a less visited and more rugged corner of this country then this is a great place to come.
22. Climb Grossglockner
Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria and towers to 3,798 meters.
The mountain has an iconic pyramid shape that is easily recognizable from afar and although it may look imposing it is one of the easier mountains to climb in Austria.
The route that takes you to the summit has the grade of a PD+ which means ‘a bit difficult’ so even if you are not a very experienced climber it is possible to trek at least part of the way to the top.
23. Alpenzoo Innsbruck-Tyrol
Nestled close to the Old Town area of Innsbruck is the Aplenzoo Innsbruck-Tyrol which has 2,000 different animals and 150 species which are mostly Alpine animals that are indigenous to the region.
These include the likes of mammals, birds, reptiles, and the zoo is also known for having the largest cold water aquarium in the world.
24.Wander around Linz Castle
Linz Schloss or Linz Castle sits in the city of Linz and dates from the 9th century.
It has been repaired and rebuilt over the centuries and most of the actual castle that now stands was built in the 16th century.
As well as being able to go on a tour of the castle you can also explore the Schlossmuseum which is full of art work and collections of historical memorabilia like weaponry and armour from the Roman and medieval eras.
25. Go skiing in Arlberg
Austria is of course famous for its ski resorts but one of the most popular of these is Arlberg.
Here you will find a scenic cluster of five small villages and one of these, called St.
Anton, was the first place to use a cable car in the winter months in Austria.
Both professional and beginner skiers love Arlberg as there are a range of runs here for all levels of ability and the main ski resort provides ski equipment and classes.