If you’re planning a visit to Austria, you’re probably thinking about heading to the mountains for glorious alpine scenery and days of hiking and swimming in chilly lakes. But there are also many captivating cities in Austria that are equally wonderful places to explore. From famous Salzburg and the country’s capital Vienna, where you’ll find history and culture in abundance, to tiny Hallstatt and lesser-visited Graz, here are seven beautiful cities in Austria to add to your bucket list.
Charming Salzburg could have stepped right out of an Austrian tourist brochure. Surrounded by mountains with medieval buildings lining cobbled streets, a connection to Mozart, and a filming location for “The Sound of Music”, Salzburg is definitely the place to experience the Austria of fairy tales. The skyline is dominated by the well-preserved clifftop Festung Hohensalzburg, where you’ll have long views over the city and the rushing Salzach River. You can see concerts here throughout the year – often featuring the music of Mozart.
Vienna is beautiful on a grand scale. The Austrian capital’s ornate Baroque architecture is a change of pace from the chalets and alpine meadows of Austrian stereotypes. Visit Vienna to see a classical concert in the State Opera House, admire the opulent Schönbrunn Palace, and try some of its world-class food.
You’ll find it easy to see why Vienna has been consistently voted as one of the most liveable cities in the world as you wander the peaceful Burggarten, cycle along the Danube, or use the excellent public transportation to head to some of the wineries just outside the city.
As the capital of the superlatively scenic Tyrol region, it only makes sense that Innsbruck is one of Austria’s most beautiful cities. Start with its setting, surrounded by jagged Alpine peaks that you can reach easily from the city center to find skiing and hiking opportunities in truly stereotypical Austrian scenery. The city itself is scenic too; Gothic and Baroque architecture lines the Old Town, the Ambras Castle has wonderful gardens to stroll in, and pastel-colored townhouses line the riverbank. If you’re here at Christmastime, you can also take the opportunity to learn about the rather scary Krampus figure.
Not really a city but a village, Hallstatt adorns postcards and tourist brochures of Austria and epitomizes the country’s fantastic scenery in the Salzkammergut region. Sitting by a lake with towering mountains all around, the colorful houses and the church spire make this village one of the prettiest in the world, not just the country. To escape the crowds that descend on Hallstatt, take a boat ride on the lake or head up to the Five Fingers Viewing Platform for adrenaline-filled views over the region.
The gorgeous city of Bregenz is on the eastern shore of Lake Constance, one of Europe’s most attractive lakes and it’s definitely one of the best Austrian towns to visit. You can stroll by the water along the Seepromenade or take the Pfänderbahn up the Pfänder mountain for stunning views into Switzerland and Germany and, on a clear day, over 240 mountain peaks. In the medieval Upper Town of Bregenz, you’ll be able to see the remains of the 13th-century walls and the half-timbered Old Town Hall, and experience the lively markets in the summer and over Christmas.
Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Austria, Graz, the capital of Styria, is often overlooked by tourists who spend their time in Vienna and Salzburg, despite being one of the biggest cities in Austria. Graz is picturesque, with a medieval central square and narrow streets in the UNESCO-listed old town. For views over the city, you can take the funicular up to the Schlossberg. Graz isn’t just a historical city though; it’s got six universities so it’s full of young people and the modern art museum, the Kunsthaus Graz, is a stunning and unusual building.
7. St. Gilgen
Another beautiful village in the Salzkammergut region, St. Gilgen on Wolfgangsee is idyllic. In the spring and summer, you’ll find flowers overflowing from the balconies of traditional alpine houses as you wander through the village. But what really makes St. Gilgen special is its setting; Wolfgangsee is a glacial lake so it’s a vibrant turquoise color and you can either wander around on its shady path or take a boat to some of the other, very pretty, villages on the lake shores.
Plan your trip to beautiful Austria now
There’s a reason Salzburg is number one on our list for its combination of beauty, history, and culture. But there’s so much beyond Salzburg in Austria too. If you like larger cities, you’ll want to head to elegant Vienna or charismatic Graz; if you prefer smaller places, put delightful Hallstatt and St. Gilgen at the top of your list. And make sure to learn some Austrian German before you go!
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.