The Must-See Cities in AustriaRuss Bily
Austria is a country of mountains and medieval castles, music and art, wine, coffee, and chocolate. Here Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Strauss were born, and Beethoven was living for a long time. Austria is associated with the Vienna Opera, autumn balls, and classical music festivals, known all over the world.
There are 422 museums and many art galleries in Austria. The most sophisticated art historians will find here interesting and refined creations. In Austria, more than 50 large forts and palace complexes have been preserved. Lovers of romance will be able to admire the medieval castles in Austria like nowhere else. The rich architecture of Vienna, Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and other Austrian cities impresses with a variety of styles and harmony of lines.
Most of the country is occupied by the Alps. The indescribable beauty of the mountains in summer and winter can be seen from many observation platforms, castles, and church towers.
Austria is recognized as ski capital with a huge number of mountain and balneological resorts. There are about 70 ski runs of varying complexity, many offers for cyclists, climbers, kayakers, and hikers.
In Austria, everything is thought out to the details: where to go shopping or with children, and what to do after skiing or an active rest. Pubs, cafes, and restaurants are famous for local wines and delicious dishes. Be sure to try something from the national cuisine: schnitzel and a piece of cake Sacher with a cup of perfect Viennese coffee for a dessert.
In my previous articles, I wrote about Shopping in Austria, and what to visit in Austria with kids, as well as about its national cuisine.
In this article, I would like to show you the must-see cities in Austria, which are worth a visit while visiting this country.
Vienna – the City of Music and Art
When you hear the name of this city, something exquisite and majestic appears in your mind, with Strauss’s touch and monarchical moods. At the time when Austro-Hungarian Empire owned half of Europe, Vienna could almost claim to be the capital of Europe. However, in the XX century, the geography of its possessions narrowed to a small state, surrounded by the snow-covered Alps. Vienna lost imperial ambitions but did not lose its charm with hundred museums for every taste and the famous Vienna Opera.
The must-see places in Vienna include the following:
1. Belvedere is a large and beautiful palace complex in the center of the city, the most famous landmark in Austria. The Belvedere Palace is divided into two building units. Between the buildings on the territory of the complex, there is a beautiful garden. Both, the impressive palace and the beautifully landscaped garden, are built in the Baroque style. At the beginning of the winter, a Christmas ball is held annually in Belvedere.
A permanent exhibition, which shows mainly Austrian artworks, is located in the Upper Belvedere. The Lower Belvedere presents changing exhibitions of various art periods. The Marble Hall is one of the highlights of the inner rooms. The sculptures, wall reliefs and the ceiling paintings there, are especially impressive. The Gold Cabinet lives up to its name. The walls are decorated with mirrors and gold wall paneling.
The huge garden of the Belvedere Palace is an attractively designed park scenery with fountains, water pools, and well-kept paths. The giant cascade fountain in the center of the park is especially spectacular. It is built up of two water basins, interconnected to each other by five cascades. The water flows over the cascades and the rushing water is amplified by some fountains.
- The Vienna State Opera House was constructed in the 19th century in a Neo-Renaissance style. At 1709 seats and 567 standing-rooms, the audience can watch daily opera performances, ballet shows, sometimes concerts and one time a year an operetta— Fledermaus, the traditional New Year’s Eve performance. Marble staircases and painted ceilings make the Vienna State Opera House a truly grand place.
- The Hofburg Palace is an impressive building at the Heldenplatz with a long history. It is located at Vienna’s splendor boulevard, the Ringstrasse, and is reachable from there through the Burgtor gate.
The palace, which was the winter residence of the famous Habsburg dynasty, today is the official residence of the government of the country. There are more than 2.5 thousand rooms there. On the territory of the palace, you can visit the Spanish Riding School, the accessible public collection of the Silberkammer, the Sisi Museum, as well as the exhibition rooms of the Imperial Apartments.
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) is a majestic Catholic cathedral, a universally recognized national symbol, one of the main attractions of the city and all of Austria. A grandiose building in the Gothic style is located on the central square of Vienna. The rich heritage of three empires can be seen in the treasury of the Habsburgs, located in Hofburg.
In addition to the beautiful architecture and works of art, museum visitors can also climb to one of the two towers and visit the ancient catacombs, which contain the remains of the emperors.
I also strongly recommend visiting the Albertina Museum, the Hundertwasser House, the Tower of the Madmen, the Schönbrunn Palace, the Vienna Woods, the Museum of Art History and the Museum of Natural History.
Be also sure to visit the Viennese Prater, the most famous amusement park in Vienna with its attractions. There you can find lots of different attractions like roller coasters, ghost trains, and carousels.
But the Prater is not only an amusement park, which is lovingly called “Wurstelprater” from the Viennese people. It is also a huge recreation park area with a long avenue of trees.
For the more detailed information about the must-see places in the capital of Austria, please go to my article “The Best Way to Travel Between Prague, Budapest, and Vienna.”
Related: Day trip from Prague to Vienna
Baden bei Wien—Thermal Region in the Vienna Woods
Baden located 26 km from Vienna and has gained worldwide fame for its therapeutic thermal springs, open and founded by the Romans for treatment and recreation.
The city is full of not only famous historical sights and is surrounded by beautiful Vienna woods, but also by numerous thermal springs, curing many ailments. Many well-known historical politicians and artists come to the city for medical treatment, and the Habsburg dynasty itself spent its time here.
In Baden, there are numerous large swimming pools with sulfuric thermal water. In addition, the water also contains a natural amount of chemical elements: calcium, sodium, magnesium. It is used for the prevention and treatment of rheumatism, rehabilitation after sports injuries or surgeries. It has relaxing and soothing properties, which is very effective in treating neuroses, as well as a general strengthening of the body. In addition to water treatments, the resort areas offer a complex of wraps with mud, rich mineral elements, messages, and gymnastic water therapies. The treatment is carried out all the year round and is in demand all the time.
Especially popular in autumn is grape therapy, treatment with specially grown in Baden white and red grapes Gutedel. Natural freshly squeezed juice is made from it, due to which its renewal takes place in a natural, gentle way.
Mozart’s City of Salzburg
Salzburg is one of the largest Austrian cities, located in the lowlands of the Alps, and attracts tourists not only with the ski slopes, the natural beauty of numerous lakes, mineral springs but also with its cultural and historical heritage, the administrative center of the land of Salzburg.
The name of the city came from the word «salt» (In German: Salz). Salt mines are now present in the Salzburg neighborhood, such as the salt mine of Hallein. There are also many ancient abbeys, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches that make up the main sights of the city. Part of Salzburg called “Old Town” refers to the world heritage and is protected by UNESCO. The Baroque style is present everywhere in the city.
Here I present the top five attractions in Salzburg, which are worth seeing:
- The Art Gallery in the Old Residence, which is located in the center of the Old Town and includes a whole complex of buildings. The gallery includes a full collection of canvases of 16-19th centuries by Italian, Austrian, French and Dutch artists, such as Rembrandt, Ender, Brueghel, Rubens, and others.
- The fortress of Hohensalzburg, or “High Salzburg” is located on the top of Mount Festungsberg. Initially, it was built as an element of shelter and security for Archbishop princes, a medieval classic castle where enemy forces could not reach both during the medieval years and during the Second World War. Now you can get there by cable car and at the same time look at the wonderful views that open from the top.
- Hellbrunn Palace and fountains (Schloss Hellbrunn & Wasserspiele) are located at the very foot of the mountain. The palace is executed in an elegant Italian style, so a spirit of the Renaissance is everywhere in it: beautiful statues, architecture, and planning. Splashes of fountains arise suddenly in constantly different places here, and this is the only place in the world where such a miracle occurs.
- Mirabell Palace in the Baroque style is also a miracle. Be sure to see the marble hall and the unique staircase of the angels. Around the castle, there is a beautiful shady park with elements of stone figures, the so-called “garden of gnomes,” in statues of which you can observe the life of the inhabitants of the city, and the baroque museum.
- Finally, visit the House of a great composer and musician Wolfgang Mozart. It was in this house where a great musician played the piano, determining his role in life.
In the Old Town of Salzburg, each street is a masterpiece and a historical landmark. So do not ignore other famous places, such as the Salzburger Dom, the Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church), the Stift Sankt Peter Abbey, which includes St. Peter’s Cathedral and catacombs, and Collegian Church (German Kollegienkirche).
In the new part of the city, there are also exciting tourist places: the zoo, the Museum of Modern Art Rupertinum, Mossaterium, Mount Kapuzinerberg, the Church of St. Sebastian, and the Museum of Art Nouveau.
Salzburg is a musical city, where concerts and musical events are constantly held, and Mozart’s music sounds alive in the neighborhood. It is also here that world-famous candy sweets “Mozart” are produced with marzipan filling, created at the Frust Factory.
Related: Travel from Prague to Salzburg
Innsbruck — the Capital of the Alps
One of Austria’s most popular year-round vacation destinations, Innsbruck has retained its medieval Old Town with its narrow, twisting streets and tall houses in Late Gothic style. Wherever you are in this city, the huge ring of mountains surrounds you:
The city of Innsbruck is a major sports center, especially after the Winter Olympic Games. The developed tourist infrastructure of the city, as well as local resorts and sights, have made it world famous not only in the circles of fans of mountain skiing but also the lovers of winter and summer outdoor recreation.
There is a wide variety of offers for active sports here: golf, horse riding, tennis, swimming pools, rock climbing, bike rides, as well as the unique location of a large ski resort, which provides the city with a constant noisy pace of life. On Christmas holidays, the city opens numerous Christmas markets.
While staying in Innsbruck, visit spectacular Court Church, the Hofkirche, built in the local Late Gothic style, and Innsbruck’s old Court Palace, the Hofburg—a former imperial residence in Baroque and Rococo style with its Maria Theresa’s Rooms, Empress Elisabeth’s Apartment, the Ancestral Gallery, the Furniture Museum, and the Painting Gallery.
Innsbruck is home to a number of museums of international repute. A must-see is the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum, Tyrolean State Museum with its rich collections relating to the history and art of Tyrol, including numerous works from the Gothic period. Other notable museums include the excellent Armoury, with its collections of weapons and armor, and the fascinating Tyrol Panorama and Imperial Infantry Museum centered around a huge panoramic painting of the city and region.
The best way to spend time in Innsbruck is exploring the beautiful river banks and esplanades of the River Inn. A great place to begin your walk is the Mariahilf District, noted for its Baroque Mariahilfkirche with the beautiful Botanic Garden and Observatory. Next, head for the district of Hötting, home to the splendid Old Parish Church with its tower. Afterward, make your way to the Hötting Ridgeway for its fine views of the city and mountains. A good place to end your walk is in St. Nikolaus District, a little further downstream, notable for its Neo-Gothic church.
By the way, in Innsbruck, you can have a good shopping, thanks to the presence of large shopping centers and the traditional store “Swarovski.” Please see other popular places for shopping in Austria at “Shopping in the Czech Republic and Austria. What to Bring as a Souvenir“.
Hallstatt—the Pearl of Austria
In my article “How to Get from Prague to Salzburg and Spend a Good Time on the Way,” I wrote about Hallstatt, Austria’s most beautiful lake town.
Hallstatt is a small town in the Austrian Alps, famous for its oldest salt mines in Europe. It’s located between the rocks and the lake; that’s why it’s so beautiful that I couldn’t but include it on the list of must-see places in Austria.
A perfect view of Hallstatt will open for you from the viewing platform Five Fingers. So be sure to see this exceptional landscape of Hallstatt, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Krems an der Donau
Krems an der Donau is another beautiful city of the beautiful Wachau Valley. In my article “How to travel from Prague to Vienna by Private Car and have a Stop in Wachau Valley”, I told you about picturesque Wachau Valley with its vineyards and cute villages. So please get more information about it at “From Prague to Vienna by Private Car With a Stop in Wachau Valley“.
Wachau Valley stretches between the towns of Melk and Krems. Krems is worth seeing because of its natural beauty location among the green hills of the Alps. The city is located on the two banks of the Danube River. It is brought by UNESCO to the list of natural and cultural heritage for its beauty and unusual landscapes.
The main historical sights worth seeing in Krems are the following:
– a beautiful medieval church of St. Veit in Baroque style with beautiful frescoes;
– the unique gate Steiner-Tor, the symbol, and pride of the city;
– the ancient Land Street or Landstrasse, along which the main Krems’ Old Town passes;
– one of the oldest buildings in the city—the Gotstsoburg Palace, executed in the Italian style of the medieval era;
– Wine Museum deserves special attention, where the main traditions of winemaking of the valley are collected;
– the Göttweig monastery, where the Habsburg dynasty carried out a complete reconstruction of the monastery in the Baroque style in the 18th century, and today it is one of the most beautiful creations of the old era.
Klosterneuburg Abbey – the Oldest Wine Estate
12 km from the Old Town of Vienna, there is a famous town of Klosterneuburg, which is surrounded by vineyards and green hills of the Alps. Thanks to its unique location and climate, the city has grown grapes and produced wine for centuries, so it has one of the oldest viticulture institutions.
In my article “From Prague to Vienna by Car with a Stop in the Danube’s Wachau Valley,” I have already given some recommendations and description of this fantastic Abbey.
The main historical object in the city is the abbey of the Augustinians. The monastery and the church are the central part of the abbey and the national shrine. You can explore the wonderfully sacred treasure trove in the monastery church with its frescoes, the magnificent early Baroque organ, the Treasury houses, the artistic ivory cuts, and sacred vestments from the Baroque era. Visit the famous Verdun Altar, the best-preserved artwork of the Middle Ages.
In addition to the buildings and facades of the abbey, the following attractions are also worth seeing: Lepidarium with the ancient age limestone statue of St.Madonna, the Marble Hall with beautiful ceiling frescoes, the central monastery staircase in the Baroque style, the Essell Art Gallery and of course, in Klosterneuburg you can also enjoy the plenty of authentic Heurige wine bars, typical for Eastern Austria.
Austria is a land of stunning mountain scenery, a deep cultural heritage, beautiful ski resorts, music, opera, and fabulous desserts. We can describe the most beautiful cities in Austria for hours, but it’s better to see them on your own.
In winter, thousands of tourists come to the Alpine resorts, in summer residents and visitors rest on mountain lakes of extraordinary purity and beauty. All the year round, travelers explore Austrian museums, theaters, exhibitions, which literally “breathe” this land.
If you are looking forward to traveling through Austria, think about going there by a private car with a local English-speaking driver-guide. In this case, you will feel the benefits of the individual travel schedule. You will visit castles and villages, take pictures at any place you like. Bookings can be made on our Best Trips resource.