Austria is one of my favorite countries in Europe to visit. It has gorgeous Mountain landscapes, pretty ski resorts, delicious food, and amazing cities just waiting to be explored.
I first visited Austria on a ski trip to the Tyrol region as a child, and I’ve recently explored some of the most popular cities – Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Vienna. Every destination in Austria I’ve visited has impressed me, whether it’s been a large city or a scenic lakeside village.
Here are the best cities in Austria to visit!
Best Cities to Visit in Austria
The cities in Austria are a huge variety, from vast metropolises like Vienna to tiny cities like Rattenberg. Here are my favorite cities in Austria!
Located in the less mountainous Eastern part of Austria, Vienna is one of the best capital cities in Europe to visit. Vienna is much busier and larger than other cities in Austria.
Make sure you visit the majestic Schönbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the historic Vienna State Opera.
Beyond the main landmarks, Vienna boasts a contemporary edge with its buzzing coffee culture and hip nightlife.
Looking for free things to do in Vienna? Check out this comprehensive guide to discover budget-friendly activities and attractions in the city: Free Things to Do in Vienna
And if you’re visiting during winter, Vienna has some of the best Christmas markets in Austria.
Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, Innsbruck in the Tyrol region is a paradise for nature lovers. You can jump on a lift from the city center high into the mountains and even visit an Alpine zoo high above the city.
The Golden Roof, Ambras Castle, and the futuristic Bergisel Ski Jump are among its top attractions.
To make the most of your visit, I recommend the Innsbruck Card.
It gives you unlimited access to public transport, the hop-on hop-off bus, and many major attractions, including entry to the top of the Innsbruck cable car, which is nearly the same cost as the pass itself.
Heading to Innsbruck, Austria? Discover the top things to do and must-visit attractions in this breathtaking city with this ultimate guide: Things to Do in Innsbruck, Austria
Salzburg, located near Germany’s border, is the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the film ‘The Sound of Music’. You can see most of the places where the sound of music was filmed on the sound of music tour bus.
Salzburg is one of the best places to visit in Austria with kids; there’s plenty to see and do.
Make sure you visit the Hohensalzburg perched atop the Festungsberg hill, which dominates the Salzburg skyline. The Baroque Mirabell Palace and the Salzburg Cathedral are also must-visits.
Salzburg offers a delightful shopping experience, blending traditional Austrian boutiques with modern stores.
Getreidegasse is the city’s most famous shopping street, where intricate wrought-iron signs hang above doorways, leading to shops selling Mozartkugel chocolates, handcrafted ornaments, and traditional dirndls.
As for food, Salzburg is a culinary delight. Find a local cafe to savor the famous Sacher Torte, enjoy hearty Austrian meals like Wiener Schnitzel and Apfelstrudel, or visit the bustling green markets, such as Grünmarkt, for fresh local produce and delicacies.
Salzburg is also the perfect jumping-off point for day trips. Located near the German-Austrian border, the city provides easy access to many enchanting destinations. During my visit, I visited Lake Wolfgang and Innsbruck on day trips.
The Bavarian Alps and towns like Berchtesgaden are easily reachable from Salzburg too.
The second-largest city in Austria, Graz lies in the southern part of the country. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and for good reason. When you visit Graz, explore the Clock Tower, Eggenberg Palace, and Kunsthaus.
The Grazer Schlossberg or Castle Hill, crowned by the iconic Uhrturm (Clock Tower), is an unmissable sight. A climb up the hill (or a funicular ride for the less adventurous) rewards with panoramic views of the city’s terracotta rooftops stretching below.
The vibrant Hauptplatz, the main square, is just a stroll away, bustling with life, cafés, and market stalls.
Located on the Mur River, Graz also serves as a gateway to the wine regions of Southern Styria for day trips
As the capital of Upper Austria, Linz is often overshadowed by its big brothers, Vienna and Salzburg. However, those who delve into its streets find a city pulsating with life, culture, and innovation.
Linz, situated along the Danube River in northern Austria, is a must-visit city. Explore the old town with its cobbled streets and unique architecture such as Linz Castle and St Martin’s Church – the oldest in Austria.
The Hauptplatz, Linz’s main square, is one of the largest urban squares in Europe. Surrounded by Baroque architecture and vibrant establishments, it’s the beating heart of the city.
For day trips from Lindz, the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, a poignant reminder of Europe’s dark history, is located just outside the city.
Alternatively, the nearby Czech border offers an easy gateway for a quick international adventure.
Ah, Villach! Standing majestically along the Drava River and rubbing shoulders with both Italy and Slovenia, this gem is renowned for its invigorating spas and the captivating beauty of the Faaker See lake.
Villach serves as an idyllic base for day trips, with the stunning Lake Ossiach and Faaker See just a stone’s throw away, offering serene boating and picturesque picnic spots
The nearby Dobratsch Nature Park, with its hiking trails and panoramic views, was a personal highlight. Villach strikes a perfect balance for those seeking a mix of urban and natural experiences.
Located in Upper Austria, Wels boasts a history that dates back to the Roman times. Wels Castle and the Stadtmuseum are worth exploring. If you time your visit right, the annual Wels Fair offers a deep dive into the local culture.
Wels, located in the heart of Upper Austria, is a city where history meets contemporary life. As one strolls through its streets, the impressive Wels Castle and the ancient town square. The Ledererturm, a well-preserved tower, offers panoramic views of the cityscape.
In the heart of the Tyrol region, Wörgl is a gateway to many ski resorts. If skiing is your passion, or even if you’re just a beginner. Wörgl offers an exciting Alpine experience. The mountainous backdrop is perfect for hiking and biking.
Whether you’re a foodie or not, pay a visit to the local market. I love going to markets in Austria and making a picnic out of my finds.
Wörgl is a pivotal transportation hub in Tyrol and a treasure trove of experiences.
The city’s backdrop is breathtaking between the majestic Kitzbühel Alps and the Rofan mountains. But the allure of Wörgl isn’t limited to its scenic beauty; its list of activities is equally enthralling.
For history enthusiasts, visiting the Museum of Wörgl is a must. Here, you can dive deep into the region’s past, including its intriguing experiment with a local currency during the Great Depression.
Wörgl is also home to the popular Wave Wörgl, a popular aquatic center with thrilling slides, a wave pool, and saunas.
The city center bursts with bustling markets, boutique shops, and quaint cafes for a shopping spree or a leisurely coffee. And as seasons shift, Wörgl transforms—skiing in winter, vibrant summer festivals, and the enchanting melodies of local music echoing year-round.
Visiting in summer? Get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant summer festival scene in Austria. Check out this guide to find the best summer festivals that will make your trip unforgettable: Best Summer Festivals in Austria
Rattenberg, often referred to as Austria’s smallest city, is a picturesque gem beside the Inn River in Tyrol. This medieval town is renowned for its well-preserved architecture, characterized by narrow streets. Its historic charm is emphasized by the lack of cars in the city center, creating a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere reminiscent of times gone by.
A highlight of any visit is Rattenberg Castle, which looms above the town and offers sweeping views of the surrounding Alpine landscape.
Rattenberg’s most acclaimed claim to fame is its tradition of glass-blowing. The town is brimming with shops that showcase intricate glassware, from colorful ornaments to bespoke crystal pieces.
During winter, Rattenberg transforms into a festive haven with its Advent market. The unique combination of twinkling lights, the silhouette of the castle, and the snow-capped mountains in the backdrop make it a magical winter destination.
Deciding Which Austrian Cities to Visit
Here’s how to decide which Austrian cities to visit on your trip:
- Your Bucket List: This one is a no-brainer. Start your research by writing a list of the cities and places in Austria you’ve always wanted to visit and why, e.g. Salzburg, because you’ve always wanted to see where The Sound of Music was filmed.
- The Length of Your Trip: Write down how long you have to explore Austria. Two weeks is the perfect time to see some significant sights and smaller hidden gems.
- How Long You Want to Spend in Each Place: When I’m short on travel time, I zip between cities visiting a different one each day. However, it’s best to spend 3-4 nights really getting to know a city. With this in mind, determine how many destinations you have time to visit during your trip.
- Narrow Down Your Bucket List: There’s always time to return in the future rather than rushing your trip. Based on the length of your trip, narrow down your list to the number of places you can visit. I recommend combining major destinations such as Salzburg and Vienna with lesser-known gems such as Worgl and Lindz.
More tips to Help You Decide
- Events and Festivals: Check out the calendar of events for each city you’re considering. Visiting during the Salzburg Festival, for instance, can offer a unique cultural experience, while the Christmas markets in Vienna are a must-see in the winter season.
- Logistics and Proximity: Austria’s efficient rail system makes it easy to travel between cities, but it’s essential to consider the distance and connectivity. You can easily add both to your itinerary if cities are closely situated, such as Vienna and Wels.
- Budget: Lastly, it’s crucial to factor in the cost. Austria can be quite an expensive country. Some cities might be more expensive than others regarding accommodation, dining, and activities. Draft a preliminary budget, considering travel expenses, lodging, meals, and any activities or attractions you wish to experience.
How to Get Around Austria: Traveling Between Cities
Trains in Austria: ÖBB, the national railway company, offers efficient and scenic train journeys. The Railjet is particularly fast and connects major cities. A window seat is a must!
Hiring a Car and Driving in Austria: The country boasts well-maintained roads and highways. When using the motorways, remember to buy a ‘vignette’ or toll sticker.
Coaches Around Austria: Companies like FlixBus offer affordable and comfortable coach services between cities.
In conclusion, Austria is a captivating country filled with charming cities waiting to be explored. From the grandeur of Vienna to the musical heritage of Salzburg, each city offers its own unique attractions and experiences. Whether you’re indulging in the vibrant culture, exploring historic landmarks, or immersing yourself in the picturesque landscapes, Austria has something for everyone. Plan your trip and embark on an unforgettable journey through the best cities this remarkable country has to offer.
- Planning a 10-day itinerary for your trip to Austria? Explore the best places to see and create an unforgettable adventure with this comprehensive guide: Best Places to See in Austria: 10-Day Itinerary
- Calling all photography enthusiasts! Capture the beauty of Vienna with this guide to the best photo opportunities in the city. Don’t miss out on these stunning spots: Photo Opportunities in Vienna