I know many travelers visit Austria for its natural landscapes, but there’s no doubt that its manmade sights are worth seeing too. From palaces and castles to abbeys and other beautiful buildings, the most famous Austrian landmarks are a true celebration of architecture and history. Here are 20 beautiful spots for your bucket list.
*Please consult the constantly-changing local restrictions and safety guidelines before making any travel plans. Note that not all sites and services operate as normal, so check the latest updates on their correspondent websites.
*This post may contain affiliate links from which I earn a commission at no extra cost to you (for more info, read my disclosure). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
FAMOUS AUSTRIAN LANDMARKS: PALACES AND CASTLES
By Alice from Adventures of Alice
The Belvedere Palace is a beautiful historic building located on the northwest side of Vienna, Austria.
It was originally built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy from 1697 onwards, according to plans designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. It also houses the Belvedere Museum, which is one of the leading museums worldwide.
The main highlight of this palace is to see the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt paintings. He was a famous Austrian painter, known not just for paintings but also murals, sketches, and other art.
Another reason to visit the palace is to stroll along with the fantastic, world-class baroque gardens. The gardens contain beautifully sculpted hedges, fountains, and statues, which give the place a relaxing and therapeutic sort of vibe. It’s a great place to simply stop and take in all your surroundings.
The number one landmark that should be on your Vienna itinerary is the Schönbrunn Palace. This 17th-century rococo & baroque masterpiece is the former summer residence of the Habsburg emperors and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While you can take a tour inside the palace and marvel at its luxurious rooms, make enough time for all the other attractions the complex has to offer.
If you’re traveling to Vienna in winter, be sure to check out the palace’s Christmas market or enjoy a classic concert at the Schönbrunn Orangery.
By Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster
Salzburg may not be the country’s capital, but it is known as Austria’s most beautiful city, and it is easy to see why.
Sat on the border with Germany, Salzburg is surrounded by some of the most breathtaking mountains in Europe and has perhaps one of the best-preserved city centers.
Full of Baroque architecture, old-world-style buildings, and a magnificent castle, the Hohensalzburg, the city is a delight to explore on foot and can be easily seen in just 2 or 3 days.
Its top sight, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, is a must-see for anyone visiting the city. As one of the most famous landmarks in Austria, it offers its visitors an opportunity not only to learn about the history of the castle and the city but also one of the best views of Salzburg.
With the Salzkammergut Mountains sitting peacefully behind it, it has the most idyllic backdrop any city could wish for.
By Anca from Vienna, Book, and Travel
Any list of the best sightseeing tours of Vienna will mention a day trip to Burg Liechtenstein. The Liechtenstein Castle is one of the most famous attractions in the Vienna Woods.
Privately owned, the castle is open to the public and can be visited to admire not only its Romanesque architecture dating back to 1130, but also a collection of furniture, weapons, and beautifully made-up castle rooms.
Visitors are invited to explore the 900-year-old history of the Princely House of Liechtenstein that the castle is testimony to, and while you are at it, there is a beautiful park surrounding it.
It continues on to hiking paths in the Vienna Woods that lead to other noteworthy attractions such as the Seegrotte Hinterbrühl or the Black Tower ruins overlooking the spa town of Baden.
By Emma from Emma’s Roadmap
Burg Hohenwerfen is one of the most impressive castles in Austria. Located high on a rock, it has a very enchanting view of the surrounding region.
The castle has already existed for over 900 years and can now be visited through a guided tour with an audio guide.
During this tour, you’ll get to know everything about the history of the castle and how it was run back in its glory days. The highlight of the tour is without a doubt climbing up to the tower bell and letting it ring while enjoying the incredible view!
But you don’t only get to visit the inside of the castle. After your tour, you can enjoy a falconry show in the castle garden and some temporary exhibitions. Did you know that the castle has also been the scene for some very impressive movies (including Where Eagles Dare)?
By Steve from Ski-Austria
Ambras Castle is among the oldest museums in Europe and is one of the major historical sights in the Innsbruck area.
It is located just to the south of the DEZ shopping center on the eastern edge of the city and can be reached on foot or via the tram line that runs to the mountain resort of Igls.
The castle dates back to the Renaissance era and was built in the 16th century by Ferdinand II, one of the rulers of the Tyrol, as a present to his unrecognized wife Philippine Welser.
It was used as a residence for Ferdinand and Philippine, a commoner who he had married in secrecy, as well as a location for Ferdinand to house his collection of armor and oddities from around the world. The Spanish Hall is one of the prime examples of Renaissance decoration in the Germanic region.
If you’re visiting Innsbruck, get your castle entrance tickets in advance.
By Roxanne from Far Away Worlds
Perched in the hills above the town of Durnstein in Austria’s Wachau Valley are the ruins of Durnstein Castle. Built in the 12th Century, the castle is famous for being the prison of the King of England, Richard the Lionheart.
After the Crusades, King Richard refused to share the spoils of war with the Duke of Austria, Leopold V. The Duke imprisoned him until a ransom of 150,000 silver marks was paid.
The medieval castle was ransacked in the 15th and 16th centuries and now is in ruins. It is connected to the town by a wall, and the ruins are free to visit. They also offer spectacular views of the surrounding valley – a UNESCO cultural heritage site.
By Steve from Vienna Direct
The Schlosspark Laxenburg is a complex of Imperial residences and formal gardens in the countryside south of Vienna.
The area was used by the Habsburg rulers as a hunting retreat from the 14th century onwards and was slowly developed into a complex of castles and landscaped gardens over the centuries.
The two former residential castles are now used for other purposes: the older Alte Schloss in the gardens houses the Austrian Film Archive, and the newer Blauer Hof at the entrance is a scientific research center.
For many people, the highlight is the Franzensburg, a romantic castle reconstruction from the 19th century in front of an artificial lake, which was used by the Imperial family as a museum and display room.
The Laxenburg castles can be reached by bus or train from the main Vienna railway station.
One of the largest palace complexes in the world, the 13th-century Hofburg Palace is the former principal residence of the Habsburgs and the current seat of the President of Austria.
Comprising more than 10 different buildings, it’s easy to get confused about whether you’re still wandering through the complex or the rest of Vienna’s city center.
Hofburg also houses quite a few important museums like the Imperial Treasury and the Sisi Museum, and you can even visit the Imperial Apartments – the chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth.
By Petra from Erratic Engineeress
Hochosterwitz Castle is ranked among the world’s largest and best-preserved medieval castles.
It’s also considered one of Austria’s most beautiful castles and has 14 unique defensive gates that you must pass on the way up to reach it, so it’s a place you absolutely should not skip when planning your Austrian trip itinerary.
The castle dates back to the 11th century and still has an active traditional honor guard with an intriguing black and yellow coat of arms. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to witness one of their ceremonies in the castle courtyard, but even if not, the museum inside is well worth a visit.
You might also like:
FAMOUS LANDMARKS OF AUSTRIA: CATHEDRALS AND MONASTERIES
By Anca from Vienna, Book, and Travel
One of the most famous Benedictine abbeys in the world, Melk Abbey (Stift Melk) is remarkably situated on a rocky cliff overlooking the Danube river.
Between Melk and Krems an der Donau, the Danube winds peacefully among vineyards, picturesque villages, apricot orchards, and romantic ruins.
This valley, called the Wachau Valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so if you plan to visit Melk Abbey, consider making it a day trip and take the 36 kilometers boat ride to Krems.
But it is not only its outstanding location that makes Melk Abbey famous. It was first built in 1089 and has been in continuous functioning ever since. While the current constructions date back to the 18th century and are in an elegant Baroque style, the abbey has seen a richer history.
It houses the remains of several members of the House of Babenberg, Austria’s first ruling dynasty, as well as a world-famous library with priceless medieval manuscripts.
While visiting the abbey is a unique experience which we wholeheartedly recommend, we also advise you to reserve enough time to explore the outstanding gardens that surround it. You will not be disappointed.
ST. STEPHEN’S CATHEDRAL
In the heart of Vienna’s city center, you’ll find the beautiful and historically significant St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Dating back to the 12th-15th centuries, it has hosted several royal weddings, and it is the burial place of many emperors.
Looking at the cathedral, it’s impossible not to be in awe of its gorgeous Gothic exteriors and colorful roof, covered by more than 200,000 tiles depicting the symbols of the coat of arms of Vienna and the House of Habsburg.
If you love European legends and myths, the cathedral also provides quite a few of those, including one about the iron rooster sitting on top of it involving the devil.
Another must-see religious building in Vienna is Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles). Built in the 18th-century by the order of Emperor Charles VI, it was the last work of baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.
What’s extra special about it is the lift that allows you to take a much closer look at the dome’s impressive frescoes. It also hosts classical music concerts almost every day, which you can book here.
By Steve from Austria Direct
Göttweig Abbey is a Benedictine religious center at the eastern end of the Wachau region in Lower Austria. Along with the better-known Melk Abbey, it is part of the UNESCO-listed Wachau Cultural Landscape.
The abbey is located in a spectacular position on a hilltop overlooking the Danube river and the surrounding vineyards, which has led to it being termed the ‘Monte Cassino of Austria.’
The abbey was built in the 11th century, but it is known for its Baroque architecture created following a major fire in the early 18th century. The abbey itself is best visited by car, although it is possible to reach it on public transport from the town of Krems on the Danube river.
If you’re visiting Linz, you cannot miss the Mariendom (or the New Cathedral), the largest church in Austria. While it might not seem like it from the outside, it can accommodate up to 20,000 people.
The beautiful church was built in the 19th-20th centuries in neo-Gothic style, and the colorful stained-glass windows are one of its most notable features.
According to a legend, it was also supposed to be the tallest church in Austria, but at that time, buildings were not allowed to be higher than the southern tower of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Read more about Vienna:
OTHER FAMOUS LANDMARKS IN AUSTRIA
GRAZ CLOCK TOWER
By Martina from PlacesofJuma
The Graz Clock Tower is definitely one of the most beautiful landmarks in Austria!
It is located in Styria in the provincial capital of Graz and situated in a magnificent location on the Schlossberg hill. This attraction is the absolute centerpiece of the old town, and a visit is at the top of any list of the best things to do in Graz.
The attraction is about 28 meters high and is, until today, the city’s top landmark. You can find its motif on every postcard, and thanks to its imposing location, the tower can be spotted already from far away.
Built in the 13th century, it has had its current appearance since the refortification in the 16th century. A special feature of this landmark is the clock face: don’t be surprised – here, the minute and hour hands on the tower clock have been swapped.
By Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
The Mirabell Gardens are not only one of the most incredible historical sites in Austria but also a famous filming location for the classic movie The Sound of Music.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of fans of the movie visit Salzburg to walk in the steps of the film’s main characters, the Von Trapp family. That journey inevitably takes them to Mirabell Palace and the surrounding Mirabell Gardens.
The public gardens are free to visit and include six distinct areas of interest – the Pegasus Fountain, Grand Fountain, Hedge Theater, Dwarf Garden, Rose Garden, and Orangery.
If visiting Salzburg with kids, the Dwarf Garden will likely be of most interest to little ones. Dating back to the early 1700s, the wooded area is home to 15 dwarf statues that line a shaded walking path. Each dwarf statue is unique and quirky, making it one of the most memorable areas of the adjoining pristine gardens.
Give yourself at least an hour to roam the beautiful baroque gardens and enjoy the meticulously landscaped greenspace.
By Nadine from Le Long Weekend
A traditional salt mining town poised on the edge of a shimmering lake, Hallstatt is famous for being one of the most beautiful villages in Austria.
With a picture-perfect setting backed by pine-clad mountains, and with charming pastel-colored houses stacked haphazardly on the slopes, it’s a true ‘chocolate box’ town.
While attractions within the small village are limited to a few museums, shops, and admiring the impossibly pretty streets, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the surrounding areas.
Visiting Hallstatt in winter is particularly enchanting when the pitched roofs are dusted with snow, and the resident swans look like they’ve been plucked right out of a fairytale.
It’s so whimsical, it was rumored to be the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen movie, but while that has proven to be untrue, one Chinese province decided to create an entire life-sized replica of the village so they could live in the fantasy year round!
VIENNA STATE OPERA
Not only is the Vienna State Opera the opera house with the world’s largest repertoire, but the building itself is an unmissable Austrian landmark constructed in the 19th century by order of Emperor Franz Joseph (who also attended its opening).
Built in Neo-Renaissance style, your eyes are immediately drawn to it as you walk along Vienna’s famous Ring Road. Even if you’re not going to a concert, you can take a tour to also enjoy its stunning interiors that resemble a palace.
The architecture across Austria is so elegant and classic that you can’t say no to seeing such a unique building like the Hundertwasserhaus. Although it is just a residential house, nothing about it is ordinary.
Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser in an expressionist style, the building’s quirkiness might remind you of Antoni Gaudi’s unusual modernist creations (which are mostly found in Barcelona).
Right next to it, you’ll find the Hundertwasser Village, a tiny yet charming colorful space with a few shops and a cafe.
A few minutes away, you can also visit the Kunst Haus, another building designed by Hundertwasser that houses a museum dedicated to him and a lovely cafe.
Were you inspired by these must-visit sights in Austria? Pin this post for later using the share icon on the right bottom corner!