It might be known the world over for its mountains, schnitzel, and The Sound of Music but there’s more to Austria than you would expect and some of the best European city breaks can be found in the small, centrally located country. But with so many different, must-see cities to choose from, knowing which cities to visit in Austria might not be so obvious… so here’s our list of the top 10 cities to visit in Austria – in alphabetical order to make it fair!
1. Bregenz, Vorarlberg
Situated along the shores of Lake Constance (German: Bodensee), one of the nicest lakes in Austria – also shared with Germany and Switzerland – Bregenz offers everything from romantic lake-side dining to exhilarating mountain climbing. The city itself was founded almost 3,000 years ago and is one of the best cities in western Austria and perfect if you’re looking for things to do in the Alps in summer. There’s a largely preserved city wall from the 13th-century that can be followed and makes for some great Instagram pictures, and along the way you’ll come across major attractions such as the old city hall dating back to 1662, and the Vorarlberg Museum, which documents the history of the smallest and richest state in Austria.
Our recommendation: Hiking up the Pfänder
Of course you could always take the cable car because it’s only six minutes, but after hiking for around three hours, you’re greeted with an amazing panoramic view of the summer sun shimmering over Lake Constance and the three countries that share it; there’s not many other places in the world where you’ll find that – and if that doesn’t make Bregenz one of the best cities to visit in Austria, we don’t know what will!
2. Graz, Styria
Austria’s second city might linger in the shadows of the capital, but that just makes it even better and one of the real hidden gems in Europe, and definitely one of the coolest cities to visit near Vienna! Situated in the southeast of Austria, Graz has a historic old town which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, consisting of countless narrow streets, walkways and cute boutiques, not too dissimilar to cities along the Adriatic coast such as Venice and Split, which makes for one of the best city breaks in Austria. However, the best way to see the old town is undeniably from above. In the centre of the old town is Castle Hill (German: Schloßberg), a hill completely covered in beautiful green trees with a fortress at the top and is the sight of the famous and picturesque Clock Tower (German: Uhrturm), the perfect location for a relaxing summer picnic!
Our recommendation: Visit Eggenberg Palace
Located in the western outskirts of the city, Eggenberg Palace is a 17th-century building showcasing the wealth and history of the former Eggenberg family, all contained within an amazing baroque-style palace. The grounds of the palace are perfect for strolling through during the warmer months with magnificent views around and lots of plants and greenery, making it one of the best places to visit in Austria in summer.
3. Hallstatt, Upper Austria
What list on the most beautiful places in Austria can be taken seriously without Hallstatt, the location which inspired the world’s first cloned city in China? Considered by many to be one of the prettiest cities in Europe, as well as the oldest still-inhabited city, Hallstatt has its own museum detailing the history of the city, reaching as far back as 7,000 years ago. Many restaurants in the village use local produce in their dishes, including fish taken straight from Lake Hallstatt – you can’t get fresher than that! If you want a great look over the lake, you should check out the World Heritage Skywalk, a platform over 350 metres above the village which offers an amazing panoramic view over what can only be described as one of the best places to visit in the Alps in summer, and without a doubt makes perfect day trips from Salzburg.
Our Recommendation: Hallstatt Salt World
In a period where we take technology for granted it can be incredible to see how feats of engineering were achieved in the past and there’s no better place to do that than Hallstatt Salt World, with tours down deep shafts mined out almost 3,000 years ago in search for the so-called “white gold” the city is so famous for.
4. Innsbruck, Tyrol
Occasionally known by its nickname of “the capital of the Alps”, Innsbruck is nestled between high peaks on all sides, creating some of the most incredible landscape and scenery that Austria has to offer. It’s perhaps unsurprising that Innsbruck is one of the top cities to visit in Austria for a winter city trip, but the Tyrolean capital is just as awe-inspiring in the summer months too! It’s also no surprise that you’ll be able to get great views of the city from all kinds of locations in the city – if you’re looking for somewhere to eat whilst enjoying the view, then the Adler’s Hotel by the central station has a rooftop bar and restaurant on the 12th floor, which is open to the public, and if you’re willing to travel out of the city a little bit then there’s also the Bergisel Ski Jump (German: Bergiselschanze); a ski slope which also houses a restaurant and spectacular views over one of the best cities in Austria. Innsbruck was also the host of the Winter Olympics in both 1964 and 1976, and remnants of this can be found at Bergisel Ski Jump, where you can still stand underneath the city rings and Olympic torch!
Our recommendation: Go swimming at Baggersee
When the weather is great and the sun is out, thousands of Tyroleans flock to the Baggersee, also known as the Rossau Swimming Lake (German: Badesee Roßau), to jump in one of the most beautiful lakes in Austria with, like most places in Innsbruck, an incredible view of the Nordkette mountains behind – something which truly makes Innsbruck one of the most beautiful cities in Austria. There’s plenty of stuff to do at the lake other than swimming as well, ranging from beach volleyball to surfing!
5. Klagenfurt, Carinthia
Both the capital and largest city in Carinthia, Klagenfurt is a bustling student city surrounded by both mountains and lakes in southern Austria. For those looking for world-famous attractions, in the western part of the city you can find one of the best things to see in Austria – Minimundus, a park with over 150 miniature replicas of monuments and buildings from all over the world, allowing you to truly explore the planet in just one day! Just next to Minimundus is the Europapark and Lake Wörther (German: Wörthersee), one of the most beautiful places in Austria and the perfect place to relax in the summer when the weather is good. There’s so many things that you can do on the banks of the lake, such as beach volleyball, or you can get on the lake and take part in something completely new – stand up paddling!
Our recommendation: Learn about the solar system at the Klagenfurt Planetarium
With a different show every hour, the Klagenfurt Planetarium offers the opportunity for guests to learn about a wide range of topics relating to planets in the solar system, to the Big Bang and how our universe all came to be formed in the first place. If you’re visiting Minimundus then the planetarium is quite literally just around the corner, and with most other attractions in walking distance, we think Klagenfurt is definitely one of the best small cities in Austria!
6. Kufstein, Tyrol
Innsbruck may be the crown jewel of Tyrol, but that doesn’t mean it has to take all of the spotlight – and the second largest Tyrolean city of Kufstein certainly packs a punch too, and is one of the top cities to visit in Austria, especially if you’re looking for less gruelling hikes than what you would expect from a region covered in mountains. Overlooked by a fortress built in the 13th century which is open for visitors, Kufstein lies directly on the border with Germany and is surrounded by plenty of hiking trails and lakes, many of which are protected nature reserves, making it great for Tyrol summer holidays. For those of us who enjoy a drink, there’s several cute cafes and bars in the town square and along the historic street of Römerhofgasse which runs directly below the base of the mountain which the fortress is built on. One bar, Stollen 1930, is actually built into this mountain and holds a Guinness World Record for the largest variety of gin on offer in a bar!
Our Recommendation: Hiking up to Hechtsee
The hike is perfect for beginners and isn’t too stressful, and you’re rewarded along the way with incredible views over the Tyrolean town. Most importantly, however, once you reach the end of the hike you’re greeted by the Hechtsee, one of the most serene lakes in Austria with a picturesque backdrop of mountains and perfect for a summer swim – absolutely perfect for day trips from Innsbruck!
7. Rattenberg, Tyrol
Tucked away in the valleys of Tyrol, the tiny city of Rattenberg is one of the best cities in Austria to visit if you’re interested in the history of the area, and is another small town that makes perfect day trips from Innsbruck, reachable by train in roughly 40 minutes. Home to a mere 400 residents in an area of only 10 hectares, it’s the smallest city in Austria, built in the shadows over the overarching Rat mountain where the remains of an old castle can still be found and explored today, offering breathtaking views over both the city of Rattenberg and the surrounding valley. The city also has a monastery which houses the Augustiner Museum, a collection of Tyrolean religious art, spanning a time period of 900 years, a perfect day out for those who want to know about how Tyrol has changed in the last millennium.
Our Recommendation: Restaurant Malerwinkel
Restaurant Malerwinkel is a hidden gem, set deep underground in a medieval building, and is one of the best places to go in Austria for trying out some hearty, Tyrolean food.
8. Salzburg, Salzburg
A stone’s throw away from the border with Germany lies Salzburg, probably best known for being the setting of The Sound Of Music, and for any fans of the musical Salzburg is not only one of the absolute must-see cities in Austria, but also one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with numerous chances to go on guided tours of all the specific filming locations – but the city is extremely walkable so it’s possible to visit them all by yourself in your preferred order. The musical history of the city extends further back than that, however, with Salzburg also being famous for the city in which the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and grew up in. Tourists in Salzburg have the opportunity to visit both the house which he was born in and the house in which he lived in, as both have now been converted into museums detailing his life.
Our recommendation: Visit Hellbrunn Palace (German: Schloss Hellbrunn)
On the outskirts of the city is Hellbrunn Palace, once the former summer abode of the Archbishops of Salzburg, it’s now open to the general public and one of the largest tourist attractions in the city, famous for its trick fountains which amaze visitors year on year. Within the grounds there’s also a zoo, alongside a pool for a quick dip and beautiful greenery – it makes Salzburg an easy choice if you’re not sure where to go in Austria!
9. Vienna, Vienna
A top 10 cities in Austria list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Vienna, the capital and most famous city in the whole of Austria, and well known across the continent for being one of the best European city breaks! There’s so many instagrammable sights in the city centre, but there’s nowhere with a greater aesthetic than Café Central, a café with roots as far back as 1876 and part of the wider Viennese coffee house culture, with institutions all over the city serving a large variety of coffee in magnificent buildings acting as focal meeting points within the city. Café Central, in particular, had many famous patrons, including Sigmund Freud, Josef Stalin, Leon Trotsky, and even Adolf Hitler! Many of the famous coffee houses can be found along the Ring Road (German: Ringstraße), a 5.3-kilometre road that was once the boundary of the old city wall. Along this road, you can see all of the most famous Viennese monuments, such as the Austrian parliament building and the Vienna State Opera. It goes without saying, but Vienna truly is one of the must-see cities in Austria!
Our recommendation: Head down to Danube Island
Danube Island (German: Donauinsel) is an artificial island in the middle of the Danube River which offers a wide selection of recreational activities in the summer, especially when the weather is good, ranging from jumping into the fresh water of the Danube, to enjoying the world’s largest trampoline park!
10. Zell am See, Salzburg
Zell am See, Salzburg
Much like nearby Hallstatt, Zell am See is one of the best small cities in Austria and is built around another one of the most stunning lakes in Austria, and offers numerous activities during the summer, most of which revolve around Lake Zell (German: Zeller See). Of course, you can just jump straight in the lake and have, undoubtedly, the most refreshing swim of your life, but there’s also opportunities for other activities including, but by no means limited to, fishing, sailing, surfing and kayaking. The town itself also has over 100 restaurants – which is a LOT for a small area – with cuisines hailing from all over the world, so you’re pretty spoiled for choice! Since you’re in Austria though, it’d be worth your while to go to a traditional guest house (German: Berghütte) and order some Schnitzel after taking on one of the best hikes in Austria… or taking a gondola!
Our recommendation: Stay at Woferlgut
Gustocamp Camping Woferlgut is one of the most luxurious holiday parks in Austria, with exclusive deluxe rooms and some of the most exquisite wellness facilities that any holiday park in Europe has to offer. Why not treat yourself to a relaxing massage with an incredible view of the Alps and see for yourself why it’s one of the best summer alpine resorts and another strong contender that’s perfect for day trips from Salzburg!
Don’t Know Where to Stay in Austria in Summer?
Not to worry! We have a great selection of holiday parks on our website in some of the best cities in Austria! At HolidayparkSpecials we offer the best deals for holiday parks in Europe!
Did we miss out any of your favourite cities in Austria? Let us know in the comments!