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14 Best Cities in Austria to Visit Before Everyone Else Does

by Or Amir

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Looking for the best cities in Austria to visit beyond Vienna? You’ve come to the right place.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Vienna, but I’m always looking for new magical corners to explore, especially beautiful cities and towns. Luckily, I’ve had some help from a few other bloggers that had visited some amazing places, so without further ado, here is our awesome roundup of 14 must-see cities in Austria.

Good to know: Apart from Vienna, many of the places on this list are quite small and can be explored in a day or less. You can visit them as a part of a road trip, a trip across the country by public transportation, or a day trip from bigger cities (not necessarily in Austria).

Looking for a travel guide of places to visit in Austria? Here's are 14 of the best cities in Austria to visit, including Vienna, Graz, Linz and more!


BEST CITIES IN AUSTRIA’S NORTHERN AND EASTERN STATES

VIENNA

Well, I have to start with the obvious, and what can I do? Vienna really is one of the top cities in Austria. It’s a perfect European destination for architecture, history, and culture lovers thanks to its elegant buildings, impressive landmarks, and countless museums (more than a hundred to be exact).

Some of my favorite spots in the city are the Schönbrunn Palace, the Museum of Art History, and the quirky Hundertwasser House, but the list goes on and on.

hundertwasser house
Hundertwasser House

Another aspect to love about this city is the coffee culture. Some Viennese coffee houses are cultural institutions, and who can say no to a cup of exquisite coffee accompanied by a slice of heavenly cakes and strudels while sitting at a cafe that looks like a palace?

Last but not least, Vienna is also one of the best winter breaks in Europe. I know spring, summer, and fall offer much better weather, but Vienna in winter in pure magic with all the Christmas markets and decorated streets.

Want some help with planning your trip? Check out my 4-day Vienna itinerary and my roundup of the best places to stay in Vienna.

Vienna city center
Vienna

Looking for more European city break inspiration? Here are the best cities to visit in Hungary and Poland!

SALZBURG

By Alanna from Periodic Adventures

Located in Northwest Austria near the border of Germany sits Salzburg, a fantastic city to visit for travelers looking for a perfect blend of history, architecture, culture, and outdoor activities!

To get there by plane, you can fly in directly to the Salzburg Airport or the Vienna airport and take a car or public transportation to Salzburg. It only takes 3 hours to travel between cities, with A1 being the primary route.

In Salzburg, the top things to do are explore the 11th-century fortress called Fortress Hohensalzburg that you can see from everywhere in Salzburg. It is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and sits atop a hill overlooking the city. Enjoy the historical museum, the Marionette Museum, and the Prince’s chambers!

salzburg fortress
Fortress Hohensalzburg. Photo: Periodic Adventures

Mirabell Palace is another great way to spend your day by strolling through the gorgeous gardens, which served as a filming location for the Sound of Music!

If you are a music fan, Salzburg is also the birthplace of Mozart. Visit the museum, established in 1880, and walk through history as you tour the apartment filled with authentic 18th-century furniture and items.

Lastly, for the best outdoor activity, tour Eisriesenwelt, an ice cave located 40 km south of Salzburg. Hike up to the cave entrance and then put on your coat, because it’s freezing in there!

Salzburg from above
Salzburg from above. Photo: Periodic Adventures

LINZ

By Lauren from The Planet Edit

Linz is the capital city of Upper Austria, straddling the beautiful Danube River between Salzburg and Vienna. It’s the third-largest city in Austria, although it’s often overlooked in favor of better-known neighboring cities.

That being said, Linz is definitely worth a visit. On arrival, you’ll be greeted with ornate, baroque architecture. The Old Town Hall and the Old Cathedral are particularly striking, while the beautiful town square, Hauptplatz, is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee with a slice of traditional Linzer tart. 

Take a stroll down Landstraße, Linz’s main shopping street. This is one of the busiest streets in all of Austria – you’ll find a large selection of boutique stores and have the chance to appreciate the traditional yet modern and lively character of the city.

Linz
Linz. Photo: The Planet Edit

Be sure to take a tram up to Pöstlingberg, a 540-meter hill with a viewing platform over the city. There’s a cafe at Pöstlingberg called Jindrak Cafe, which offers sensational views over Linz and a range of delicious pastries and sweet treats. 

Not only this, but the Danube river flows through Linz, so be sure to take a stroll along the bank. Or, hire a bicycle and cycle along part of the famous EuroVelo 6 or Donauradweg bike paths, which run alongside the river.

Linz is easy to access as it’s situated on a large number of main transportation lines. For example, it’s just an hour and a half away on the train from Vienna or Salzburg.

Linz square
Photo: Pixabay

STEYR

By Alina from World of Lina

The romantic city Steyr is the third-largest city in the federal state of Upper Austria. It’s located at the estuary of the two rivers Enns and Steyr. Although almost 40,000 people are living in this city, it doesn’t feel that big at all. Steyr has a special small-town charm that makes it such a nice and relaxed place to visit!

The best way to reach Steyr is by taking the train from Linz. The ride is only one hour and is the perfect option if you don’t have a car available. Once there, head to the city center where you’ll find all the shops and some really lovely cafés. Moreover, there’s also the beautiful light pink Marienkirche church.

Another place to check out in Steyr is the Schloss Lamberg – a historical landmark situated on a small hill overlooking the city. Only a few steps from Schloss Lamberg, you’ll find the lush city park featuring an orangery and a pond with a beautiful weeping willow. It’s the perfect place to take an extensive stroll, and during Christmas, it hosts a lovely Christmas market!

If you’re getting tired, head to the café Das Ufer to recharge your batteries with the best cup of coffee in Steyr!

Steyr
One of the best cities to see in Austria – Steyr. Photo: World of Lina

ST. PÖLTEN

By Steve from Austria Direct

The Viennese can – and often do – look down their noses at St. Pölten, but the city is the oldest documented in Austria. Named after St. Hippolytus (that’s right, there is no Pölten), it has a compact and accessible small-town feel with a mixture of historic buildings from the Baroque era and more modern architecture.

The city center, much of it pedestrianized, houses most of the older buildings. Rathausplatz is the central meeting point, an open square which offers terrace bars and restaurants as well as the tourist office, the town hall, and a theatre.

The other main attraction in the center of the city is the extensive cathedral complex. Originally a Benedictine monastery, the current building is also from the Baroque era of architecture.

Over by the Traisen river, the modern Landhausviertel was built to house the new provincial government and administration. The Festival Hall, the Museum of Lower Austria, and the Klangturm tower with its views over the city can all be found here too.

Transport connections for St. Pölten are excellent, with good rail links to the rest of Austria and the Vienna-Linz motorway running just south of the city. Nearby sights include the popular Wachau region of the Danube river only a short drive away.

st poelten
St. Pölten. Photo: Austria Direct

EISENSTADT

By Mustafa and Gunjan from Wide World Trips

Eisenstadt is the capital of the Burgenland state of Austria. The town has great historical significance as it used to be the throne of the Esterhazy Hungarian Noble Family under the reign of Habsburg’s Empire. 

The most popular place to visit in Eisenstadt is the Esterhazy Palace, which was the royal seat of the noble family. The palace is known among the finest expression of Baroque architecture. It also hosts the Haydn Festival, dedicated to the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn, who was under the patronage of Esterhazy nobility.

If you wish to learn more about his life and work, you can visit the Haydn Museum. What was once his residence, now exhibits personal belongings and musical exploits of the legendary composer. People usually combine a visit to Esterhazy Palace and Haydn Museum as the experience of one seems incomplete without the other.

Besides these two tourist attractions, Eisenstadt is known for the church of Bergkirche, built in the 18th century by Paul Esterhazy. It is known for the premiere of Mass in C by Ludwig van Beethoven under the commission of Prince Nikolaus of Esterhazy II. It is also Haydn’s final resting place.

You can also explore a few other places to visit in Eisenstadt like St. Martin’s Church, Burgenland Museum, Schloss Park, Neufedler See Lake, and Wine Museum. Though you won’t find as many tourist attractions as in major Austrian cities, Eisenstadt is still worth at least a one-day visit.

Eisenstadt
Eisenstadt. Photo: Wide World Trips

KREMS AN DER DONAU

Situated in the scenic Wachau Valley, this tiny city is a part of one of the oldest wine regions in Austria – Kremstal. So if you’re a wine lover (and even if you’re not), you have to visit at least a few of the dozens of wineries in the area. Many are located within a 5-km radius (about 3 miles) and are reachable by public transportation, so there’s no reason to skip out on such a fun activity.

In the city itself, you must wander around the adorable old town and admire its beautiful buildings, relax at one of its cozy cafes, stroll alongside the Danube River, and visit some museums like the Kunsthalle Krems modern art museum, the Karikaturmuseum, and the city history Museumkrems.

Krems
Krems. Photo: Pixabay

BADEN BEI WIEN

If you’re looking for an easy day trip or even a weekend getaway from Vienna, the charming Baden is for you. Although it’s mostly known as a spa destination (which it has been since Roman times), there are quite a few other things to do in this city. From a colorful city center filled with beautiful buildings to two 12th-century castle ruins to lively parks and gardens to unique museums, Baden is a gem.

If you love castles and palaces (well, who doesn’t?) and are traveling by car, a relatively short drive can lead you to gorgeous places like Schloss Kottingbrunn, Schlosspark Laxenburg, and Burg Liechtenstein.



BEST CITIES TO VISIT IN AUSTRIA’S CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN STATES

GRAZ

By Nicholas from Rambling Feet

Vienna is rightly Austria’s crown jewel, but Graz is also quite a gem. It’s the country’s second-largest city and the capital of the mountainous state of Styria. The railway between the two utilizes the Semmeringbahn, the oldest standard-gauge mountain track in Europe. Buses are available, but if you take the train, it’s a much more scenic ride.

Most months of the year, Graz is filled with university students (Hurrah! Affordable food! Nightlife!). The tram that runs around the Innere Stadt is free, so use it and save your legs for the climb up Schlossberg, the castle on the hill that overlooks the UNESCO-listed old town. You’ll also find the iconic Uhmtur (clock tower) there.

Most beautiful cities in Austria - Graz
On of the top cities to visit in Austria – Graz. Photo: Pixabay

Around the old town, the more keen-eyed visitor will notice Italian and Balkan influences in the medieval buildings. On the Mur River itself and the other bank, the architecture gets more interesting: the Kunsthaus is a head-turning “friendly alien” with dancing lights on its facade, while the Mursinsel is ideally-placed for photos (or selfies) with Schlossberg and the Uhmtur.

Also, a trip to the baroque Schloss Eggenberg is worth the bus ticket from the old town, and the gardens are especially pretty. As for souvenirs, pumpkin kernel oil is a thing in this region, so if you like how it tastes as a dressing, it’s not difficult to find.

Graz river
Graz. Photo: Rambling Feet

KLAGENFURT

By Mustafa and Gunjan from Wide World Trips

Klagenfurt is the capital of Carinthia province of Austria. It got its name from the tale of a dragon who occupied the region and was slayed by the villagers. There is also a beautiful dragon fountain dedicated to this folklore located at Neuer Platz.

Klagenfurt sits close to the southern border of Austria at the eastern bank of Wothersee lake, which is also one of the biggest attractions for tourists and locals alike. The coast of Wothersee is the closest thing you have to a beach in Carinthia, and it is deeply cherished by all those who visit Klagenfurt. You can enjoy almost every water sport and leisure activity here.

Besides the lake, Klagenfurt is known for the Hochosterwitz Castle. The medieval castle is perched atop a hill about 21 km (about 13 miles) away from the city. Its location makes it look straight out of a medieval knights tale. You will find the regal aura continue as you explore it from within. There are numerous historical artifacts exhibited all across the castle for you to feel transported back in time.

Some of the most interesting places to visit within Klagenfurt are the Minimundus Museum of miniatures, Pilgrimage Church of Maria Saal, Landhaus Building, Altes Rathaus, Regional Museum of Carinthia, Duke’s Chair, and Drawing Castle. It is a colorful and picturesque city with stone-paved roads and quintessential renaissance style buildings you would enjoy exploring on foot.

Klagenfurt
Klagenfurt. Photo: Wide World Trips


WESTERN CITIES IN AUSTRIA TO VISIT

INNSBRUCK

By Nadine from Le Long Weekend

The capital of Tyrol, Innsbruck is an alpine city with an adventurous spirit. The surrounding mountains provide entertainment in all seasons, but there’s more than mountaineering and skiing to this Austrian town.

Famous for its architecture, the city combines a medley of styles, from gothic to imperial to modern. Stroll through the streets to appreciate the unique and colorful combination.

In the old town, you’ll find one of the most famous landmarks, the Golden Roof. Completed in 1500 to commemorate the union between Emperor Maximilian I and Bianca Maria Sforza, it is adorned with over 2600 shimmering copper tiles.

After you’ve worked up an appetite walking around town, settle into one of the restaurants to feast on Tyrolean dumplings. If you visit in winter, you’re in for a real treat. First in December with the festive Christmas markets and Austrian advent traditions, but January in Innsbruck is typically when the city is dusted with snow and becomes a true winter wonderland.

Take the Nordkette Cable Car right from town to the top of the mountain, where you’ll be rewarded with unbeatable views and an igloo bar. Or, if you dare, jump on the Hafelekar gondola to the “Top of Innsbruck” – just be sure to watch your step! Back down on terra firma, don’t miss a trip to the home of Swarovski Crystals, which is a truly memorable experience.

You can fly directly to Innsbruck, or take the train from Munich, Salzburg, or Vienna.

Top cities in Austria - Innsbruck
One of the prettiest cities in Austria – Innsbruck. Photo: Le Long Weekend

BREGENZ

By Steve from Austria Direct

With around 30,000 inhabitants, Bregenz is only the third-largest settlement in its home province. But the capital of Vorarlberg is famous way beyond the borders of Austria for its annual cultural event: the Bregenz Festival.

The Bregenzer Festspiele is held in July and August of each year and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city on the south-eastern shore of Lake Constance. The popular operas performed in the open air on a specially designed floating stage in the lake are a big draw.

But Bregenz has plenty more to attract the visitor. Being an Austrian city, it naturally has mountains close at hand. The Pfänder cable car leaves from the center and rises to just over 1000 meters, with views of the lake and the city below.

Meanwhile, down on the water, ferries from Bregenz cross the border into Germany to the historic towns of Konstanz, Meersburg, and Lindau. The northern shore of Lake Constance is known for its wine-producing villages, while much of the southern side belongs to Switzerland.

Bregenz can trace its origins back to the Bronze Age, and this strategic location was fortified by the Romans, who called it Brigantium. You can see the city walls and buildings from the Middle Ages in the upper town.

Bregenz is also an important rail connection, with services to Vienna, Zurich, and Munich. A motorway just outside the city crosses the German border, with the other direction leading to the Arlberg tunnel and the rest of Austria.

Constance Lake
Constance Lake. Photo: Austria Direct

FELDKIRCH

Bordering both Liechtenstein and Switzerland, Feldkirch is a small medieval city that’s worth a few hours of your time. It can be a stop on an Austrian road trip or a day trip by train/bus from either Innsbruck, Bregenz, Vaduz (Liechtenstein’s capital), or Zurich.

Beyond strolling through its utterly charming streets, there isn’t much sightseeing to do, but if there’s one place you shouldn’t miss, it’s the 12th-century Schattenburg Castle. It was the residence of the Duke of Montfort, who founded the city, and later on, it was sold to the Habsburgs. Today, it houses a museum and a restaurant, and since it sits on a hilltop, you can also get some nice views of the city.

Other points of interest in Feldkirch include the Radio Museum, Saint-Jean church, and the Wildpark Feldkirch.

Feldkirch
Feldfirch. Photo: Pixabay

DORNBIRN

Situated about 25 km (15.5 miles) north of Feldkirch, Dornbirn offers an interesting mix of things to do and see. Although it’s small, it’s still one of the most beautiful cities in Austria.

You’ll surely fall in love with the main square (Marktplatz) and its surrounding streets, especially because of gorgeous buildings like the Red House and St. Martin Church. The area is filled with shops, restaurants, and cafes, and the square also hosts a market every Wednesday and Saturday morning.

You can also visit a few museums like the City Museum, a natural history museum, a beer museum, and even a Christmas tree decoration museum (one of only three in Europe!).

Only a few minutes away from the city center, you’ll find the Dornbirn Cable Car that will take you to a scenic lookout point over the entire valley. If you’re in for a little adventure, hire a car for a day, and after an extremely short drive, you’ll get to the Rolls-Royce Museum and the beautiful Rappenlochschlucht park, which is a perfect place to go for a hike.

Best cities to visit in Austria - Dornbirn
Dornbirn. Photo: Pixabay

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4 comments

Stephanie Fox October 11, 2020 - 12:41 pm

Would love to see more of Austria, Ive only been to Salzburg not even Vienna. Saving this for when we can travel again!

Reply
Or Amir October 12, 2020 - 10:23 am

I can’t wait to travel back to Austria too! Hopefully, it’ll be sooner than later 🙂

Reply
Ruth October 10, 2020 - 7:24 pm

I am so thrilled about this post! I want to see more of Austria for sure! One of my best travel memories is the drive from Vienna to Cesky Krumlov (mostly thru Austria). I saw so many beautiful landscapes. I want to rent a car and drive around the country.

Reply
Or Amir October 12, 2020 - 10:22 am

I’m with you! I love city breaks, but sometimes, there’s nothing like a good old road trip 🙂

Reply