If you had to select all the elements that make up an ideal European destination, there’s a good bet you’d come with something resembling Austria.
There’s so much to love about this Western European nation: beautiful natural scenery, well-designed cities, friendly people, fascinating history, and all sorts of things to see and do.
There’s no end to the castles to tour, forests to explore, and mountains to ski down: It’s an all-year destination with amazing things to check out anytime of the year.
Read on to learn where to stay in Austria, including the best areas, things to do, and hotels. Let us be your guide!
Why You Should Visit Austria in 2023
Whatever your travel goal is, Austria can accommodate it. Want to twirl around and sing yourself silly in an alpine meadow, just like in “The Sound of Music?” That was literally here.
Want to buy hand-crafted gifts at an amazing late-night Christmas market? This is also the place. Or go ahead and check out medieval castles so amazing that the United Nations has declared them cultural sites that the world absolutely must enjoy.
Your Austria destination can be part of a larger European tour or you can easily spend your vacation time exploring the many ins and outs of this amazing country.
The country’s cultural heritage includes all sorts of music, literature, and art. Austria has played an important part in defining Western culture for more than 1,000 years, so there’s no end to history to be absorbed.
At the same time, the various cities continue to move forward and bring in visitors excited to see how vibrant and modern everything is.
The 4 Best Areas in Austria
Austria is about the size of the State of Maine for comparison purposes, but includes a lot more people (8.9 million vs. 1.3 million, as of 2022).
There’s plenty to experience in every region, from picturesque villages in the Alps to major population centers, including outstanding restaurants, cultural attractions, galleries, elegant palaces, and more.
The prime areas worth seeing include:
- Salzburg. Museums and scenic vistas abound, including stunning views of the Eastern Alps.
- Vienna. The country’s capital has had an illustrious history dating back centuries.
- Innsbruck. Some call this the ‘picture postcard town’ because of its memorable design and unforgettable appearance.
- Graz. This city perfectly blends old and new elements to create a vibrant, modern community.
Where to Stay in Austria: 4 Best Areas
You’ll find plenty of accommodations for your Austrian experience, from chain hotels to inns that have been continuously serving food and drink and providing places to stay for centuries.
Because these communities are all popular with tourists, there are many places to stay close to train stations and airports, including hostels for budget-conscious travelers.
Austrians are generally friendly to tourists, especially those eager to learn about their culture. German is the country’s official language but it’s common to find merchants who speak English well.
Although there are busier times of the year, there are also different expectations. Summer visitors may be more eager to hike the hillsides, while winter visitors may be more excited about skiing – and apres-ski festivities.
Be sure to plan ahead – if you’re planning a ski trip, for instance, you need to make sure rooms are available as well as places to rent gear. Winter sports crowds in some communities may also intersect with Christmas market fans, decreasing the availability of rooms around certain dates.
Salzburg has been called the Stage of the World, Festival City, and “The Prettiest City.” It has the honor of being the birthplace of Mozart, although the famed composer spent much of his professional life in Vienna.
It’s where “The Sound of Music” was filmed and where the actual von Trapp family hailed from, who the popular musical was based upon. Today, there’s all sorts of museums, gardens, historic churches, pubs, and other attractions to enjoy.
It’s divided between the Old City (Altstadt), which still has intact and functional medieval and baroque streets, and the New City (Neustadt), dating ‘only’ to the 19th century.
I visited during the “high time” of summer and found it lived up to its “pretty” nickname, with green hills, blue skies, mild temperatures, and fewer people than Vienna.
Things to Do
- Museum of Modern Art. Although there’s hundreds of years of art in the area’s galleries, this contemporary institution provides exciting new additions to the area’s artistic landscape.
- Salt Mines Tour. Until production ceased in 1989, salt was actively gathered here for nearly 1,000 years. Now tours let you learn about the once-thriving industry.
- Mirabell Palace. This location, including scenic gardens, is considered one of the top wedding backgrounds in the world.
- Mozart’s Birthplace. The home/museum at No. 9 Getrediegasse where Mozart was born in 1756 is considered one of the city’s most-visited museums.
Where to Eat
- M32. If the weather is right, this mountaintop restaurant lets you see a wonderful view of the whole community. Plus, in warmer months, it’s enjoyable to dine outside on the terrace. The menu is a blend of Mediterranean and Austrian cuisine.
- IKARUS. Located in the Red Bull hangar at the airport, you’ll find a gourmet restaurant that includes a rotating group of top chefs from around the world who are flown in regularly to showcase their talents.
- The Glass Garden. Diners surrounded by walls of glass can enjoy panoramic views of a beautiful garden. There’s an all-vegan menu as well as a traditional menu. Weinerschnitzel, the city’s official entrée, can be ordered as well.
- Esszimmer. The family-owned restaurant focuses first on fine, locally-sourced ingredients as well as Austrian wines. But from there, they dabble in fun creations and even create fusion meals featuring global spices.
Where to Stay
- Campingplatz Torrenerhof. This rustic campground offers a scenic location that’s close to many attractions, but not many more extras. Campers can access separate units, a shared bathroom, private parking, and an on-site bar. There’s a continental breakfast in the morning.
- A&O Salzburg Hauptbahnhof. This dormitory-style hostel offers six beds per room, which could be fun for a group of friends, a family, or even small parties of travelers eager to meet others. It does include private bathrooms and is pet-friendly. Visitors also can access TVs in each room.
- Hotel Scherer. The family-owned hotel is in Old Town. Guests will find air conditioning and a minibar in each room. There’s also an on-site restaurant that provides Austrian food choices, along with a breakfast buffet. It’s an easy walk from here to train stations and the Salzburg Congress Center.
- Hotel Modus. This location is near Mirabell Palace, a train station, and the Old Town area. Rooms have terraces for enjoyment. In-room tea and coffee is provided. There’s also a snack bar. Different size rooms are available depending on the number in the party.
- Boutiquehotel Amadeus. Two-bedroom apartments are available. The hotel has been in operation since early 2003 but recently received an extensive renovation to the guest rooms. Rooms have private bathrooms that include showers or bath. In the lobby, guests can find coffee, tea, and cakes served throughout the day, plus wine in the in-house bar.
- Austria Trend Hotel Europa. Visitors will be able to access a panoramic restaurant on the 15th floor and also be within walking distance of sights such as the Mirabell Gardens. Visitors also receive a discount for one day at participating stores in the Designer Outlet Center.
Vienna’s contribution to music and art goes back centuries. The city, nicknamed the Waltz Capital of the World, inspired Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and even Sigmund Freud, who all spent considerable time here.
The Danube River, which goes through the town, is also considered one of the more beautiful rivers in Western Europe. Though there’s plenty for history-seekers to enjoy, it’s also a fun modern city to visit, with plenty of galleries, cafes, restaurants, and all sorts of spots to inspire creativity.
It represents Austria’s largest population, with about 2.2 million residents. The downtown is designed to be walkable but might be challenging if you’re a fan of driving or have mobility challenges.
Some ‘top city’ lists do rank Vienna a little high on the ‘unfriendly’ list, and there might be some truth to this in comparison to the warm welcome experienced in some of the smaller Austrian cities.
But this isn’t especially unusual – most larger cities around the world, from Paris to New York, have a reputation for the locals being a little brusque.
Things to Do
- Christmas Market. These holiday gatherings run from November to Christmas Eve and offer handicrafts, food, music and general good times.
- Schonbrunn Palace. Emperor Franz I once lived in this ornate castle. The grounds, gardens and even some rooms are open to the public.
- Natural History Museum. More than 30 million natural objects from the Stone Age to the end of the 19th century make up this collection, including insects, gemstones, dinosaur fossils, and more.
- Schonbrunn Zoo. Sure, there are zoos aplenty. But this one is considered the oldest in Europe, an outgrowth of royalty collecting their own exotic animals. It has earned UNESCO cultural heritage status and includes animals from around the world, including giant pandas.
Where to Eat
- Restaurant Stefanie. Vienna’s oldest inn, the Hotel Stefanie (formerly the Weisse Rose Inn) dates back to 1600. The restaurant’s elegant dining room offers a classy experience, with chandeliers, porcelain, and silver service to match an extensive classical menu.
- The Steirereck. This formal restaurant often appears on lists of the best restaurants worldwide. It’s definitely a white-glove kind of place, where food is brought to you via trolleys. But it also tries to incorporate its natural surroundings in the city’s main park, with several terrace tables available.
- Pramerl and The Wolf. This spot is a good example of a unique dining style: casual fine dining, where you can get a great meal without all the formal trappings and dress codes of higher-end establishments. The former pub has a diverse Austrian menu, including mandatory weinerschnitzel, as well as a secret menu with local ingredients.
Where to Stay
- Suburb Hostel. Visitors can have their choice of a single room, a double room or a four-bed dormitory. Shared bathrooms are available, and each room includes a hair dryer and linens. It’s about 10 miles from the Natural History Museum and 20 miles from the airport.
- Hotel Adlon. Private rooms and private bathrooms are available. It’s close to major tourism areas, including St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Vienna Prater Amusement Park. Guests also have access to a desk, free toiletries, and linens.
- Arthur Garden Inn. Visitors can take advantage of a shared lounge, a sauna, a fitness center, a business center, and snack machines. Breakfast is also available with vegan, vegetarian, and traditional continental choices.
- ARCOTEL Wimberger Wien. Located near a metro stop, this property provides easy access to area attractions. Guests can enjoy a fitness area with hot tub and sauna, air-conditioned rooms, and access to the Handwerk restaurant that serves Austrian cuisine, as well as Joe’s Bar, which serves a variety of alcohol.
- Grand Hotel Wien. Everything is designed to be as pleasing and luxurious as possible here, including five restaurants, two bars and a rooftop terrace. A big component of the Grand Hotel is the Grand Spa, an area that offers all sorts of pampering services, such as a steam bath, sauna, and cardio area.
- The Leo Grand. The property is near St. Stephen’s and easy to access prime tourism areas. The in-house restaurant provides breakfast each morning. A bar is also available. The hotel is proud to offer concierge staff that speaks many common languages and can arrange services, including reservations and car and shuttle rental.
While Salzburg has more Germanic influences, the look of Innsbruck’s architecture is a little more Italian. Both cities are also near mountain ranges, but the ones in Innsbruck are closer.
The history of the “Capital of the Alps” dates back to the 1100s when it was the capital of Tyrol.
In (relatively) recent years, Innsbruck has been on the global stage as the host site for the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, plus the Winter Youth Olympics in 2012, the Winter Paralympics in 1984 and 1988, and the World Ice Hockey Championships in 2005.
Mountain fun is definitely a big part of the Innsbruck lifestyle, whether it’s snow sports in winter to hiking in summer. But there’s also fun neighborhoods to explore, plenty of museums and galleries to visit, and amazing parks.
It’s also one of the only cities worldwide that officially celebrates Towel Day each May (“Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams claims he was inspired to write his series here.)
Temperatures can be a little cooler here and it can get dark a little earlier here than in other Austrian communities, so pack accordingly.
Things to Do
- Mount Nordkette. Explore this mountain on foot on nature trails or take your choice of three cable cars up to the top.
- Bergisel Olympic Ski Tower. You no longer have to be a world-class jumper to climb to the top of this 50-meter structure. It provides a great view of the city and mountain ranges, plus an appreciation of the skill that jumpers possess in order to throw themselves down it.
- Swaroski Crystal Worlds. Learn about the origins of the world’s most famous form of ‘bling,’ including how these crystals are gathered and sold. There’s also several showrooms using them in all sorts of clever arrangements.
- Town Tower. One of the distinguishing features of Old Town Innsbruck is this mighty tower in the center. Climbing the 50m structure that has stood for more than 450 years allows you to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
Where to Eat
- Gasthoff Lamm. Sustainability is a focus of this establishment along the river. Diners can watch the scenery through large windows. The menu focuses on organic ingredients when possible, or at least high-quality meats. There are also some local delicacies like area fish.
- Restaurant Goldener Adler. Hearty food from the mountains region can be found here, including locally-sourced bacon and venison, cheeses, plus northern Italian flavors and sauces.
- Restaurant Oniriq. Although meat-based dishes like weinerschnitzel are a big part of Austrian dining, this establishment focuses only on vegetarian creations, although they can throw in meat for special guest requests. Menus change every few months based on seasonally-available vegetables, herbs, and wines. Guests are recommended to stay at least three hours, and meals may include up to seven courses.
Where to Stay
- Jugendherberge Innsbruck. This hostel is geared towards younger travelers as well as families with children. For instance, along with twin rooms or 6-bed dormitory rooms, there’s a game area with table tennis and table football, plus an outdoor playground and climbing wall. Breakfast is available, and there’s a grocery store nearby.
- Kolpinghaus Innsbruck. Twin rooms and 6-bed rooms are available to hostel guests. Private bathrooms and closets are included as well as bed linens. It’s near major attractions like the Imperial Palace.
- The PENZ. Sometimes staying a modern hotel has its advantages. The fairly new “design” concept hotel is aesthetically appealing with bright glass. Guests can access a rooftop breakfast restaurant as well as the American Bar on the fifth floor. Room sizes vary.
- Nala Individuelhotel. If you’re planning on doing a lot of exploring, this could be a great start point. It’s in the center of town, near shopping areas, and bike rentals are available. Start your day with a small breakfast or the full buffet. There’s also a fitness center and an Italian restaurant on site.
- Stage 12 Hotel by Penz. This elegant downtown hotel includes terrace rooms and great views of the city and mountains. There’s a breakfast buffet that focuses on local ingredients plus a bar that serves a variety of regional wines and liquors. Guests can also visit an on-site spa, fitness area, and steam bath.
- Boutique Weisses Rossl. This smaller hotel is near the Golden Roof, a favorite cultural attraction, as well as close to a main shopping area. It includes access to a historic restaurant and bar. Breakfast is available in continental or vegetarian options. One appeal of the location is that it’s within a “quiet pedestrian zone” so outside noise and traffic stays at a minimum.
If Vienna is considered the cultural capital of Australia, Graz could be considered the intellectual capital. The country’s second-largest city has four universities and four colleges, plus plenty of other attractions for residents, students and staff, and visitors.
Graz also has the honor of appearing on various “off-beat” city lists. This isn’t necessarily a negative or a designation that indicates overly unusual places or strange people.
Most organizations define the term simply as having amazing attractions but less public attention, which means smaller crowds and often a more appealing experience overall.
As with other Austrian cities, Graz has plenty of history to explore, along with many modern restaurants, galleries, and bars.
Things to Do
- The Rutsche Slide. The world’s tallest underground slide takes passengers down 64 meters in about 40 seconds.
- The Clock Tower. This sturdy 16th century tower is a focal point for the town. It still keeps the time, but newcomers sometimes are confused since the minute hand is larger than the hour hand.
- Murinsel. The strange looking metal thing in the middle of the Mur River is a basically a stationary boat that includes a café, bar, and a stage. Footbridges from both sides of the river connect to it, which allows people to go back and forth between both areas of the city. It also lights up at night.
- Schwarzenegger Museum. The body builder, actor, and politician was born in a nearby village, but the people of Graz say it’s close enough to claim him. Visitors can learn all about his accomplishments.
Where to Eat
- Der Steirer. It’s hard to quantify what type of food is available here, but the world seems to love it. Diners can get small plates, chilled wine, and classic Austrian fare. It’s especially known for the backendl, a fried chicken dish.
- Café Aiola Upstairs. Although technically a hip café, it offers a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, including Italian delicacies and a wide range of wines.
- El Gaucho. This steakhouse offers a blend of Austrian beef and beef from Argentina. Fish dishes are also available. There’s an extensive bar as well to enjoy drinks with your meal.
- Landhausekeller. During nice days, diners at this historic restaurant can eat al fresco in the courtyard next to the Landhaus, a Renaissance-era palace and a focal point of the city. The menu includes classic Austrian dishes like weinerschnitzel.
Where to Stay
- Pension Gunther. Double rooms and triple rooms are available at this location near the Clock Tower. Guests can use a picnic area and seasonal pool, as well as a fitness room. A guest house includes an outdoor dining area and barbecue area.
- Arbeiterwohnheim Workers Dormitory. Basic accommodations include double rooms and a shared bathroom, with access to a kitchen, microwave, stovetop, and refrigerator.
- Grand Hotel Weisler. This impressive property is in the middle of Granz and provides easy access to many downtown attractions. Guests can enjoy a breakfast buffet as well as other meals from the Salon Marie restaurant. There’s also a fitness center and spa.
- Boutique Hotel Dom. This hotel has an interesting blend of classic and contemporary furnishings. It’s close to the historic cathedral. Rooms include air conditioning and coffee. Breakfast is provided as well as snacks and drinks throughout the day.
- Schlossberghotel – Das Kunsthotel. The central location makes it easy to explore the community. There’s also a 24-hour bar, restaurant, and sauna, plus an outdoor swimming pool. The hotel is decorated with antique art. Some rooms also include kitchenettes.
- Palais Hotel Erzherzog Johann. The elegance of this former baroque palace continues into a modern hotel. Guests can enjoy well-decorated rooms and breakfast in the coffee shop or the Ernest Fuchs Bar. There’s also a sauna and fitness area. The hotel is near the main downtown square.
So Where Should You Stay in Austria?
|🍷 Best for Nightlife||Vienna|
|⛷️ Best for Winter Sports||Innsbruck|
|🦞 Best Luxury Area||Salzburg|
|💰 Most Budget-Friendly||Graz|
As you can see, there’s no end to the attractions available, with some buildings going back centuries. But Austria also does its best to be a modern, dynamic country and draws tourists from around the world.
Each major community has similar features but also some unique characteristics that make it work visiting. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Austria has to offer. Happy travels!