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Austria is a small country, but there’s no shortage of cities and towns to explore. Its compact size means you can visit many of them in one trip, too!

This landlocked European country may be best-known for its mountains, but there’s also a lot more to Austria. In fact, there’s so much that it might be hard to choose exactly where to go.

This list of the best towns and cities in Austria should give you plenty of ideas and inspiration when planning a trip to Austria. Every place below has been recommended by professional travellers, so you know you won’t be disappointed!

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Cities to visit in Austria 

A city break in Austria isn’t your standard European break. Instead, you’ll enjoy all the fun of city exploring combined with mountain surroundings and beautiful views. 

Here are some of the best Austrian cities to add to your itinerary.

 

 

 

Bregenz

Recommend by Chris at Explore Now or Never

Beautiful Bregenz makes the perfect base for exploring much of western Europe. Nestled between Switzerland and France in the most western part of Austria, it’s an easy hop to both of those countries as well as Lichtenstein and northern Italy.

Bregenz also sits at the edge of lovely Lake Constance, city of the famous summer performing arts festival on an open lakeside stage. It’s easy to rent electric bikes in the centre of town for cycling part of the lake past the wildlife preserve and over the Bregenzer Ach and Rhine Rivers. (Lock your bikes mid-ride at the yacht harbour and pop into Seerestaurant for a beer and lovely outdoor lunch lakeside.)

There are so many  things to do in Bregenz, but be sure to hike the Pfänder—the mountain range right in Bregenz—while youre here. The best way to do it is to grab the Pfänderbahn, a panoramic cable car, for the quick trip to the top. The lookout there is one of the most famous in the area. In fact, you can see more than 200 alpine peaks across three countries. Then hike it down.


The Bregrenz Gondola and a view over Bregenz. There are trees in the foreground and the sea is behind the city
The Bregenz gondola has amazing views

 

 

Innsbruck 

Recommended by Michael from Time Travel Turtle

500 years ago, the great Austrian Emperor Maximilian I made Innsbruck his imperial capital and the city still has a sense of those glory days. The opulent old town, impressive castles, and colourful houses show you the wealth that flowed through Innsbruck.

But it’s the city’s location, so close to natural beauties, that makes it particularly special. After you have toured the Hofburg Imperial Palace and Church, strolled along Maria-Theresien Strasse to the Golden Roof, and explored Ambras Castle, I think one of the best things to do in Innsbruck is to take the funicular and cable car up Nordkette mountain. From the top, you get incredible views of the city and there are some great hiking trails. It’s amazing to think you can go from the centre of the city to the top of the mountain in just a matter of minutes.

For easy access to all the sights, it’s worth staying in the Old Town. A lovely boutique hotel I would recommend is NALA individuellhotel. For an authentic local meal, head to the Stiftskeller, next to the Imperial Palace.


Colour buildings on a street of Innsbruck in Austria
Colourful buildings are surrounded by mountains in Innsbruck

Linz

Recommended by Ivan from MindTheTravel

Lying along the banks of the Danube, Linz is a tranquil city that offers both indoor and outdoor activities for travellers.

If you only have a few days in Linz, try focusing on the old town, eating some Linzer torte, stopping for a coffee at one of the many coffeehouses, and gaining insights into the fascinating world of biotechnology, the human brain, and prototyping. You can also visit the Pöstlingberg. If you’re on foot, these attractions should keep you busy for an entire day.

 

 

 

Hungry? Looking for dining options to refuel your energy before you venture out to explore Linz? Die Donauwirtinnen is just across the river from the Old Town in Urfahr district. They use mostly organic and local ingredients. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see several vegan options, including tasty homemade vegetable soups, pesto, a tofu, lavender and potato stew with homemade sourdough bread, a savoury tart with carrot cream, as well as braised vegetables.

The Linz historic city centre is incredibly beautiful and if you only have a short time in Linz, consider staying in the city centre within easy reach of the main attractions as well as restaurants. Those seeking comfort and value might like the boutique hotel Star Inn Hotel Linz Promenadengalerien.


Linz main square with pedestrians walking and sitting
Linz main square

Vienna

Recommended by James from Travel Collecting

Vienna, the capital of Austria, was historically one of Europe’s leading cities and today it is full of magnificent buildings, museums and gardens.

The historic and cultural heart of the city is centred around the Ring Road, and you can find many of its main institutions on this road or in the circle created by it.

I stayed at the Grand Ferdinand Hotel which is right on the Ring Road, so it was in the middle of everything. It has a wonderful Grande Etage top floor with views over the city and a fantastic schnitzel restaurant Meissl and Schadn. Have the classic schnitzel with cranberries and truffle fries! They even have schnitzel and strudel-making classes in the restaurant.

 

 

 

The other classic Viennese dish is sacher torte cake and you must try it at the five-star Sacher Hotel’s cafe where it originated. It’s a chocolate cake with apricot jam and chocolate ganache. Have it with an alcoholic chocolate cocktail and an afternoon can go quickly by!

Architectural highlights include the incredibly beautiful Vienna State Opera house, the huge medieval neo-gothic St. Stephens Cathedral and the lovely Karlkirche (Karl’s Church) at Karlspatz.

There are plenty of palaces too, including the baroque Hoffburg with wonderful museums, the over-the-top interiors of the Schonbrunn Palace and the Belvedere Garden and Castle.


Sacher torte at the Sacher Hotel Cafe in Vienna
Sacher torte at the Sacher Hotel Cafe

Small towns in Austria to visit

Austria almost has too many small towns to choose from. Many of them are active ski resorts in winter, perfect for fans of skiing and snowboarding.

But don’t rule out visiting in the summer, either. In the warmer months, these towns turn into outdoor havens, with endless hiking trails to enjoy.

Here are some of the best Austrian towns to visit – whatever the time of year.
 

 

 

Gmunden

Recommended by Elizabeth from The Fearless Foreigner

Gmunden is one of the many small towns surrounded by lakes and mountains within the Salzkammergut region. It is the perfect lakeside town to visit between Salzburg and Vienna because it is easily accessible by train and there is a lot to do in a small area.

Gmunden is a quaint Austrian town with a bustling town centre and stunning town square. Follow the signs around the town to learn about the historical significance of different streets, plazas and buildings.

There are several cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops along Lake Traunsee. You can enjoy your food while taking in the views of the lake.

The best way to take advantage of Lake Traunsee is by getting right on the water. There are several different boat cruises, including full circuit trips of the lake that take almost four hours. A cruise on the Gisela, one of the oldest paddle steamboats in the world, is one of the most popular options. You can also go kayaking on the lake and explore at your leisure.

 

 

 

There’s a pathway around the lake if you prefer to explore the lake from land. You can walk to Toscana Park and see the 11th century castle, Schloss Ort.

The area around Gmunden is full of hiking paths. Whether you want to hike in the Grunberg mountain range or simply enjoy the views from 1000m above sea level, take the Grunberg Cable Car up the mountain.

Hotel Magerl is a lovely hotel on the outskirts of town. The hotel combines an old-world charm with modern amenities. It is a great base to enjoy all Gmunden and the surrounding area has to offer.


A fountain with red flowers around it in Gmunden Austria


Kitzbuehel

Recommended by Phil from Capturing Wanderlust 

Kitzbuehel is probably best known as a paradise for winter sports. But don’t dismiss it as a summer destination.

With lakes to swim, mountain bike trails to ride and over one thousand kilometres of hiking paths, it’s a beautiful Tyrollean town not to miss during your visit to Austria, regardless of the season.

Even for those less avid outdoor enthusiasts, Kitzbuehel itself dates all the way back to the middle ages and boasts some stunning architecture, renowned restaurants and even a Sunday farmers market with fresh local produce.

 

 

 

For a unique experience, we highly recommend staying at the guest house, Unterlietenhof. It’s a family farm located on the warmer south-facing slopes to the north of Kitzbühel with a stunning view of the town below. Your stay includes breakfast, and everything on the table is either from their farm itself or locally sourced.

Kitzbuehel is packed with fantastic traditional Tyrollean restaurants leaving you with the difficult decision on where to eat. If you appreciate a little modern twist on your meals, try the restaurant “Mocking”. We loved their artistic and slightly quirky touch on local seasonal dishes. It ended up becoming our favourite culinary experience on our stay in Kitzbuehel.


A view looking down onto the green mountainside of Kitzbuehel, with cows in the foreground


Saalbach-Hinterglemm

Saalbach-Hinterglemm is a small ski resort about 1.5 hours’ drive from Salzburg. It’s right on the German border, and is so close that you’ll probably need to pass through Germany to reach it!

Despite its remote location, this mountain town is anything but sleepy. In fact, it’s full of action!

During the winter months, it’s a thriving ski resorts with some of the best slopes in the country. And during the summer, there’s just as much reason to get out into nature with numerous hiking trails, zipline parks and other adventure waiting.

 

 

 

Saalbach-Hinterglemm is famous for its mountain biking trails. If you’re an experienced rider, prepare to be challenged on some of the trails here! And, if you’re a complete beginner, why not give it a try? It’s one of the best ways to experience the Austrian Alps, and you can take a beginner lesson at Bike’n Soul before you head off.

If you prefer to take things at a slower, there are also lots of easier walks and a small land train that will take you up into the mountains.

One of the best things about Saalbach-Hinterglemm is that it’s full of surprises. The accommodation is a great example of just how charming this quirky town can be. Check out LALA arthotel to sleep in a living piece of art, with each room decorated in a different theme.


Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria


Zell am See

Recommended by Carolyn from Holidays to Europe

One of my favourite Austrian towns to visit is the beautiful lakeside town of Zell am See.  Less than 90 minutes by car from Salzburg, Zell am See is located at the foot of the Schmittenhohe and close to the Kitzsteinhorn.  Both are amongst Austria’s most popular winter ski destinations.

During the warmer months, water sports are a favourite pastime on Lake Zell, whose waters are said to be amongst the cleanest in Europe.  Swimming pools and a mini golf course, which are located alongside the lake, are great fun for all ages.

 

 

 

Other things to do in Zell am See and surrounds include hiking, summer toboggan rides, golf, visiting waterfalls and thermal spas.  The famous Gross Glockner High Alpine Road is just a short drive away, too.

The town itself boasts a pretty cobblestoned Old Town and it’s here that you’ll find many of the best places to eat.  As well as typical Tyrolean fare there’s a good range of international cuisines on offer.

You can’t visit Zell am See without noticing the Grand Hotel which sits on its own peninsula jutting into the lake.  This majestic hotel dates back to 1876 and has the best location in Zell am See. It’s certainly worth splurging to spend a night or two here.


A yacht on the lake in Zell am See with mountains behind it


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TOWNS AND CITIES IN AUSTRIA