A country of contrasts, Austria goes out of its way to charm every single traveler who sets foot there. From wide-open spaces peppered with snowcapped mountains and glistening lakes to urban metropolises brimming with museums and centuries-old palaces, Austria offers something for everyone.
When the snow starts to fall, Austria’s winter resorts burst into life with ample opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and climbing. Not to mention more places to indulge in the hedonistic après-ski scene than you could ever imagine!
As summer melts the snow away, Austria transforms into a blissful paradise full of lush green parks perfect for picnics, sun-kissed historic villages that invite you to explore, and thundering waterfalls that form rushing streams. Whenever you decide to visit, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Austria.
With so many incredible things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Austria. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Austria bucket list, and you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time exploring this incredible European city!
- 25 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Austria
- 1. Go kayaking along the river Danube
- 2. Explore the sprawling grounds of Schonbrunn Palace
- 3. Take a road trip along Grossglockner Road
- 4. Celebrate the summer’s longest days with Sonnenwende
- 5. Watch a performance at the Vienna Opera House
- 6. Ride the cable car to the top of the Zwölferhorn
- 7. Tour the historic Hohensalzburg Fortress
- 8. Treat your taste buds to apfelstrudel
- 9. Explore the streets of Innsbruck’s Old Town
- 10. Discover the grandeur of the Hofburg Palace
- 11. Watch a floating opera on Lake Constance
- 12. Sample Austrian fare at the Genuss Festival
- 13. Ski down powdery slopes
- 14. Explore the largest ice cave in the world
- 15. Get back to nature in the Bohemian Forest
- 16. Dig into wiener schnitzel
- 17. Admire art at the Kunsthistorisches Museum
- 18. Enjoy the best of Austria at the Snowbombing Festival
- 19. Be dazzled by the Swarovski Kristallwelten
- 20. Marvel at the world’s largest freshwater aquarium
- 21. Get in the festive spirit at Vienna’s Christmas markets
- 22. Hike up to the Krimmler Ache
- 23. Visit the picture-perfect alpine village of Hallstatt
- 24. Warm up with tiroler gröstl
- 25. Attend a formal Viennese ball
- Frequently Asked Questions
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25 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Austria
1. Go kayaking along the river Danube
The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe. And while you’ll find plenty of companies offering boat trips on it, one of the coolest things to do in Austria is to kayak along the river.
When you paddle down the river in a kayak, you can get as close as you like to all the fascinating places that line it. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to admire ancient abbeys, marvelous castles, grandiose palaces, and countless naturally stunning scenes.
Melk Abbey, Schönbühel castle, Schlögener Loop, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wachau Valley, and the Danube-Auen National Park are just some of the things you’ll pass if you kayak far enough.
The Danube River begins in Germany and passes through Austria second. If you’re strong and confident enough, you can kayak all the way down to the Slovakian border!
Although it may sound a little intimidating, there are plenty of places to stop along the way if you do plan to kayak to Slovakia. Along the banks of the river, you’ll come across a number of campsites, hotels, and lodges where you can rest before continuing with your adventure.
2. Explore the sprawling grounds of Schonbrunn Palace
The iconic Schӧnbrunn Palace is one of the most gorgeous Baroque complexes in Europe. The magnificent palace was originally used as a summer home for the royal Habsburgs. But today, it’s open to the public, and you can step inside to find out how some of the wealthiest and most influential people in Europe lived hundreds of years ago.
While there’s a staggering total of 1,441 rooms within the palace, only 40 rooms are available to explore. These esteemed rooms have hosted many different famous people over the years, including Mozart, Napoleon, and President Kennedy. So you can really imagine what the rooms were like centuries ago, they’ve been kept in pristine condition, just like they were in their heyday.
One of the best things about the Schӧnbrunn Palace is that you can wander around the gardens for free. Although they’re impressive at any time of year, the gardens are most spectacular during summer, when the trees are thick with green leaves and the flowerbeds are bursting with color.
3. Take a road trip along Grossglockner Road
One of the most fun things to do in Austria is to drive along the famous Grossglockner High Alpine Road. This incredible road connects the towns of Bruck and Heiligenblut and dates all the way back to 1935.
What makes the journey along Grossglockner Road stand out from any other road trip is the remarkable scenery. Along the route, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most magnificent mountain views in all of Europe. From snow-covered peaks in winter to vibrant wildflowers in summer, this road trip is an incredible thing to do at any time of year.
The road is named after the Grossglockner mountain, which is the tallest mountain in Austria and one of the biggest in the Alps. If you’re up for a challenge, you can drive along one of the most spectacular roads in the world to reach the top.
You’ll need to put your driving skills to the test to navigate the 36 tight hairpin bends along the way. But it’s definitely worth it for the experience and the views. There are tolls on the journey, but the road is well maintained and covered in smooth tarmac that’s perfect for driving on.
4. Celebrate the summer’s longest days with Sonnenwende
If you’re planning on visiting Austria at the end of June, you’ve got to check out the Sonnenwende (Summer Solstice) celebrations. Held each year around June 21 in the Wachau region of Lower Austria, the festival is a real feast for the senses.
The UNESCO-listed Wachau Valley creates the perfect backdrop for the popular Austrian festival. During the celebrations, the evening is lit up with dramatic firework displays, huge bonfires, vineyards full of twinkling torches, and dancing lights that gracefully float down the river Danube. The atmosphere is so magical that you get a sense that anything can happen.
Sonnenwende is such a stunning sight that many river cruise ships normally dock nearby, so passengers can witness the spectacle while onboard.
Many of the villages in the Wachau Valley join in with the celebrations by offering special menus complemented by fine wines. Most menus highlight the fresh, seasonal, and local produce that’s at its very best in the summer and serve each plate along with a glass of locally-produced wine.
5. Watch a performance at the Vienna Opera House
One of the best things to do in Austria if you’re a music lover is to be in the audience during a performance at the Vienna Opera House. Also known as the Wiener Staatsoper, the Vienna Opera House is one of the most stunning and extravagant opera houses on the planet.
There are more than 60 opera and ballet performances held each year. Tickets sell out very fast, so make sure you book as early as possible to guarantee your seat.
We recommend you show up a little early for the chance to really appreciate the inside of the building before the performance begins. The grand staircase, magnificent frescoes, and remarkable statues will take your breath away. It’s a good idea to dress in your finest clothes because the audience is always incredibly well attired.
If you don’t manage to snap up any tickets, you can admire the Vienna Opera House on a guided tour. As well as the magnificent theater, you’ll also get the chance to explore behind the scenes and see all the backstage work that goes into each production.
6. Ride the cable car to the top of the Zwölferhorn
For some of the best sights in Austria, hop on the cable car and make the journey to the top of the Zwölferhorn. In just 11 minutes, you’ll be transported to the summit of St. Gilgen’s most famous mountain, which stands 4,993 feet tall.
You’ll find absolutely loads to do here, whenever you visit. In summer, you can explore the area’s hiking trails, join open-air yoga classes, or just relax and enjoy a picnic. If you’re in the mood for some adventure, you can even go paragliding and get a genuine bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area!
There’s just as much to do at the top of the Zwölferhorn in winter. When the mountain is blanketed in snow, you can follow the winter hiking trails, have a go at snowshoeing, or go on a ski tour. Paragliding is also available during the colder months.
If you get hungry when you’re up there, you’ll be spoiled for choice with places to eat. We love Das Zwӧlfer. In summer, you can sit on the outside terrace and watch the cable car go up and down.
7. Tour the historic Hohensalzburg Fortress
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the most emblematic and eye-catching buildings in all of Austria. Towering above the city of Salzburg, the intimidating structure is known for its white ramparts, which contrast enigmatically against the natural mountain backdrop.
The best way to reach the fortress is to ride the funicular to the top. Before you go inside, take a walk around the exterior and check out the views. The balcony that faces Salzburg is where you’ll find the best vistas.
From here, you can see all of the historic Old Town, as well as the river which runs through Salzach and the mountains far off in the distance. In winter, when the scene is covered in fresh white snow, the view looks even more incredible.
When you’re ready to check out the inside, you’ll have the chance to learn all about how the fortress was built and the many ways in which it’s been changed over the years. There are loads of ornately decorated rooms to explore, as well as some authentic medieval torture tools.
8. Treat your taste buds to apfelstrudel
When you’re in the mood for a sweet treat in Austria, find the nearest bakery and order an apfelstrudel. Although the classic dessert is usually considered to be German, apfelstrudel is one of the most popular desserts in Austria.
Apfelstrudel is a buttery, flaky pastry that’s filled with a sweet apple pie-like filling. The apples are spiced with cinnamon, sweetened with sugar, and livened up with some raisins. The smell of this wonderfully simple yet delicious dessert baking in the oven is something you’ll fall in love with over and over again.
Apfelstrudel is so popular that you’ll find it for sale in practically every bakery and even grocery stores throughout Austria. It also takes pride of place on many restaurant menus.
Cafe Mozart in Vienna is one of our favorite places to indulge in the sweet dish. The historic coffee shop has been around since 1899 and serves several different versions of apfelstrudel. You can have it with whipped cream, vanilla sauce, or both. There’s even a lactose-free variety.
9. Explore the streets of Innsbruck’s Old Town
The Old Town in Innsbruck (also known as Altstadt) is where you’ll find some of the best Austria sightseeing opportunities. This small, welcoming town is tucked away in the Alps and boasts a wide variety of stunning architecture with jagged mountain peak backdrops.
Explore the town’s cobbled streets, and you’ll discover everything from imposing imperial palaces and striking towers that almost reach the clouds to pretty pastel houses and inviting independent cafes. Even if you don’t actually go inside anything, you’ll still have a wonderful time just wandering around.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more energetic, there are plenty of things to do on the surrounding slopes. When the weather’s pleasant, the hiking trails provide you with an excellent way to appreciate the more natural side of Innsbruck.
In winter, you can check out the many ski resorts and get involved in the world-class skiing and snowboarding they offer.
10. Discover the grandeur of the Hofburg Palace
Visiting the Hofburg Palace is definitely one of the must-do things in Austria. Also known as the Imperial Palace, the Hofburg Palace covers such a huge area that it’s thought to be a city within a city.
The total complex of the palace covers 59 acres, including 18 individual building collections, 19 gorgeous courtyards, and an incredible 2,600 rooms. There’s so much to explore within the palace that you could easily spend a full day here.
If you’re in a rush, make sure you find time to visit the Imperial Apartments. They’re one of our favorite parts of the Hofburg Palace. In their heyday, they were the residences of some of the most important people in Vienna.
They’ve hardly been changed in centuries to help you imagine what they looked like when they were at their finest. The original artwork, furniture, and fabrics are still there.
Other particularly interesting parts of the palace include the Spanish Riding School, where you can see Lipizzaner horse shows, the Sisi Museum, which contains 300 personal artifacts originally belonging to Empress Elisabeth, and the Silver Collection, which includes more than 7,000 treasured items.
11. Watch a floating opera on Lake Constance
Being in the audience of a floating opera performance is one of the most unique things to do in Austria. These one-of-a-kind shows are held on Lake Constance in the west of the country in a small, quiet town known as Bregenz.
Each summer, when the Bregenzer Festspiele festival is held, a special floating stage is set up on the lake for the spectacular water performances. A team of incredibly talented artists works together to design and build the stage that forms the focal point of the festival.
The stage is themed, and each year seems to become more impressive and mind-blowing. Past stages have been modeled on a giant skeleton opening a book and a huge clown holding a hot air balloon.
From theatrical performances to operas and orchestral concerts, all kinds of remarkable cultural shows take place here. World-class performances regularly feature, including Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Puccini’s Turandot.
12. Sample Austrian fare at the Genuss Festival
If you’re a foodie, don’t pass up the chance to attend the Genuss Festival. Held in the Vienna Stadtpark each May, the Genuss Festival is the biggest food festival in Austria and gives you a chance to try all kinds of amazing Austrian dishes.
People from more than 100 cafes, bars, restaurants, vineyards, farms, and other production facilities head to the festival to showcase the finest cuisine in Austria. Be there, and you’ll have the chance to try everything from regional charcuterie and freshly-baked pastries to Viennese wine and Salzburg Schnapps.
The event takes place outdoors over the course of a weekend. Walking around in the delicate springtime sunshine while sipping crisp white wine and nibbling on all sorts of delicious delights is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Be on the lookout for free samples!
If you want to bring a taste of Austria back home with you, you’ll find plenty of things you can take on the plane. Sealed bottles of wine, packets of handmade cookies, and organic jams are just some of the items that travel well.
13. Ski down powdery slopes
One of the top things to do in Austria in winter is to try out all the amazing sports that are on offer. The Austrian Alps are where you’ll find some of the very best skiing and snowboarding opportunities in all of Europe, and there’s a huge choice of ski resorts scattered throughout the mountains.
Whether you’re a professional skier or you’ve never set foot on a snowy slope before, you’ll have a great time in the resort town of Arlberg. One of Austria’s best and most popular ski resorts, Arlberg has a comprehensive range of runs that are suitable for people of all ages and abilities. The main ski resort also rents out ski equipment and hosts classes to help you get to grips with the basics.
If you’re more into snowboarding than skiing, check out Mayrhofen. This resort has many facilities just for snowboarders, as well as a dedicated kids’ area for up-and-coming snowboarders.
14. Explore the largest ice cave in the world
The name “Eisriesenwelt” translates into English as “World of the Ice Giants,” which is a fantastic description of this place. This natural attraction is the biggest ice cave on the planet and can be found just outside Salzburg.
The colossal cave stretches on for an impressive 26 miles in the Hochkogel Mountain in the Tennengebirge region of the Alps. Because it’s so far underground, you’ve got to take a lift down into the depths of the cave. From here, you can join in with a guided tour to discover all the most fascinating spots within the icy wonder.
The cave is incredibly cold (even in summer!), so make sure you’ve got the right clothing to keep warm and enjoy the day. The only light you’ll have to guide your way is a gas lantern. It may sound a little scary, but it gives the cave an eerie, mystical feeling and really adds to the experience.
15. Get back to nature in the Bohemian Forest
When you need a little peace and quiet, get away from Austria’s bustling streets and seek serenity within the Bohemian Forest. One of the best Austria attractions for outdoor enthusiasts, this forest is exactly what you imagine when you close your eyes and try to picture the Alps.
There are mountains blanketed in lush grass, cute wooden chalets, glassy lakes, and vibrant wildflowers as far as the eye can see. With hiking trails, cycling routes, climbing opportunities, horseback riding trails, picnic spots, and water sports, you’ll never be stuck for something to do here.
The Bohemian Forest is also a great place to spend some time in winter. When there’s a thick layer of snow, you can go on magical snowshoe walks through a real winter wonderland or test your limits on cross-country ski trails.
If you’re into art, you’ll find even more activities to enjoy in the Bohemian Forest. Grab your camera and capture remarkable scenic and wildlife shots or pick up a paintbrush and try to recreate them on canvas.
16. Dig into wiener schnitzel
If you’re planning on visiting Vienna during your time in Austria, you’ve absolutely got to try a wiener schnitzel.
Also known as a Vienna schnitzel, this iconic dish is made from a piece of meat that is hammered until flat and tender. It’s then covered in flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs before it’s deep-fried until it reaches crispy, golden-brown perfection.
It’s usually served with a delicious Austrian potato salad and is the perfect way to warm up on a cold winter’s day.
Traditional wiener schnitzel is made using veal, but it’s pretty tricky to find the veal version in the city. Instead, most restaurants dish up a pork or chicken alternative. As the dish is so popular, you can even find vegetarian and vegan versions in specialty restaurants.
Landia is the best place for a meat-free wiener schnitzel. Here you’ll find one type of schnitzel made with seitan and one with celery root. They’re both fantastic!
For a more traditional experience, check out Schnitzelwirt. Here you can treat yourself to a giant meat schnitzel that is literally larger than the dish it’s served on.
17. Admire art at the Kunsthistorisches Museum
One of the best things to do in Austria is to check out an art gallery. While the cultured country is full to the brim with amazing galleries, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (the Museum of Art History) is one of our favorites.
This gallery is where you can see outstanding works of art created by some of the best painters who have ever lived. The paintings are conveniently grouped by category, so you can check out your favorite sections and avoid the ones you’re not interested in if you’re short on time.
The Picture Gallery is one of our favorite parts. Here you can admire pieces created by Velázquez, Raphael, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and various important Italian Baroque painters. There are so many impressive paintings to see that you’ll easily lose track of time when you’re inside.
Other parts of the gallery worth exploring include the coin collection, Roman and Greek antiquity display, and the musical instrument exhibition. It’s also worth checking out which temporary exhibits are currently running as they change often.
18. Enjoy the best of Austria at the Snowbombing Festival
The Snowbombing Festival is one of the most exciting and comprehensive festivals held in Austria. Whatever you’re into, you’re bound to find something for you here!
Held in Mayrhofen every April since 2005, the Snowbombing Festival combines winter sports with live music performances, regional food and wine, spa experiences, and even more to create a colossal celebration that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
In addition to the usual skiing and snowboarding Mayrhofen usually offers, the festival also incorporates live music concerts, energetic DJ sets, quirky cable car raves, fun chairlift speed-dating, panoramic rooftop jacuzzis, steamy spas, and family-friendly snow games.
There’s also a fantastic assortment of food and drink on offer. As well as traditional Austrian dishes made from organic and locally-grown ingredients, you’ll also find countless regional wines and beers to enjoy.
The Snowbombing Festival only goes on for a few days. So try and fit as many different activities as you can so you don’t miss out!
19. Be dazzled by the Swarovski Kristallwelten
The sparkling Swaorksy crystal brand was founded in Austria in 1895, and if you visit Tyrol, you can stop by the Swarovski Kristallwelten and be left awe-struck by its endless sparkle and glitter.
One of the best Austria activities for fans of the iconic jewelry brand, a trip to the Swarovski Kristallwelten will leave you spellbound. For many people, the highlight of the attraction is the water-spouting giant you see at the entrance. But step through the doors, and you’ll find even more wonders awaiting within.
Huge exhibits filled with sparkling chandeliers, optical illusion-creating mirrors, glistening outdoor water features, mind-blowing corridors, and the largest crystal in the world are just some of the things you can expect. Grab your phone and get ready to capture loads of cool shots.
The Swarovski Kristallwelten was originally designed to be a thoughtful gift to customers, collectors, and employees to celebrate Swarovski’s 100th anniversary. But since then, it has developed into a popular tourist attraction, attracting people all across the world with its glitz and glamor.
20. Marvel at the world’s largest freshwater aquarium
If you’re visiting Innsbruck, don’t miss the chance to visit Alpenzoo. Much more than an ordinary zoo, Alpenzoo is a non-profit association that’s dedicated to the protection and conservation of Alpine animals. It’s the only zoo of its kind in the world!
The zoo is home to around 2,000 animals, including 20 types of alpine mammals, 60 birds, 11 reptiles, six amphibians, and almost every alpine fish species. From roe deer, European wildcats, and bearded vultures to black storks, oscillated lizards, and European tree frogs, there are absolutely loads of species to see here.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the biggest freshwater aquarium in the world. It’s made up of 17 individual tanks that house a total of 50 species of alpine fish, some of which are pretty rare. Each tank is specially designed to recreate the environment needed by the specific species to thrive.
21. Get in the festive spirit at Vienna’s Christmas markets
For one of the best things to do in Austria during the run-up to Christmas, check out the festive markets in Vienna. The Austrian capital is a truly magical place in December, full of gorgeous ice-skating rinks, towering Christmas trees, and traditional German Christmas markets.
Opening dates vary across different markets, but most open around mid-November. And instead of stopping after Christmas, they transform into New Year’s markets and continue on throughout the beginning of January.
All of Vienna’s Christmas markets are so spectacular that it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. With over 150 stands selling all kinds of goodies – from handcrafted ornaments to traditional winter cookies – the City Hall Christmas Market is one of the biggest and most popular.
Throughout the festive season, it also hosts a number of spellbinding choir performances and organizes themed workshops for children so they can learn how to create gifts such as festive candles and Christmas cookies.
Our favorite part of this market is the huge ice-skating rink which stays open in the evening, inviting you to take a romantic skate under the stars!
22. Hike up to the Krimmler Ache
Waterfalls probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Austria. But after you visit the Krimmler Ache, you’ll be able to picture it every time you think of your trip. If you love being impressed by nature, this should be at the top of your Austria bucket list!
The tallest and highest waterfall in Austria, the Krimmler Ache plummets 1,246 feet over three levels into a bubbling pool. It’s surrounded by seven viewing platforms that allow you to get so close that you can feel the cooling mist on your face.
To visit the Krimmler Ache, you’ll need to make your way to Krimml, a charming village perched 3,530 feet above sea level. From here, you can trek on foot out to Krimmler Ache on a number of hiking trails. While it will take some time to get there, the views of the waterfall are so spectacular that you’ll be glad you made the effort.
If you’ve got some energy left by the time you get to the top, there are even more hiking trails. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be treated to beautiful forest surroundings, and you may even see some native bird species drinking from the falls!
23. Visit the picture-perfect alpine village of Hallstatt
Austria is full of charismatic, delightful villages, and Hallstatt is one of our absolute favorites. Located a short drive away from Salzburg and framed by alluring mountain scenery, this tranquil village looks even more dazzling in real life than it does in photos.
A glistening blue lake, tree-clad mountains, and a small number of colorful houses staggered on a mountain face all make Hallstatt feel more like a fairytale village than the real thing. Whether you visit in summer when the village is surrounded by thick greenery and flowers or during winter when it’s blanketed by fluffy snow, Hallstatt always looks stunning.
Despite its small size, there’s loads you can do in Hallstatt. There are caves below the village to explore, viewing platforms with remarkable panoramas, countless secret passageways to check out, and a huge lake that you can sail or swim across. If that sounds like too much work, you can always hole up in one of the cute cafes and take in the views.
24. Warm up with tiroler gröstl
When you’re in the mood for some indulgent comfort food, pop into an authentic Austrian restaurant and order a plate of tiroler gröstl. This classic Austrian dish can be found all over the Austrian Alps, and it’s the perfect thing to warm you up and re-energize you after a long day on the slopes.
Tiroler gröstl is a simple, hearty dish made from pan-fried potatoes mixed with chopped beef or pork. Lots of butter is added to make it even more indulgent, as well as some chopped fried onion for extra flavor and texture. It’s usually finished with a sunny-side-up egg with a soft yolk that melts into the rest of the dish.
The best tiroler gröstl we ever had came from Gasthof Weisses Rössl in Innsbruck. This restaurant is hidden away inside a hotel in the center of the city. Here they serve it with a crunchy cabbage salad, which adds great contrast to the dish.
25. Attend a formal Viennese ball
One of the most special and enchanting things you can do if you visit Austria in winter is to attend a Viennese ball. It doesn’t matter whether you actually get on the dancefloor yourself or you just observe from the sides, the experience is incredible and it’s something you won’t find anywhere else.
Vienna’s ball season begins in mid-November and continues until February. During these months, a huge number of standard and elegant balls are held throughout the most prestigious locations in the city.
Standard balls are black-tie events during which you can see a spectacular opening ceremony before hitting the dance floor and enjoying waltzes and other traditional dances with your partner. Elegant balls are white-tie events that are even more lavish and sophisticated.
Both types of Viennese ball usually begin around 9:00 pm and don’t end until 5:00 am the following day! To help keep your energy up, there’s always an indulgent buffet to enjoy in between dances.
There you have it! The 25 best things to do in Austria. What’s your favorite thing to do in Austria?
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