11 of the most beautiful places in Austria

CNN  — 

With its stunning Alpine peaks and placid crystal clear lakes, Austria is the epitome of idyllic.

Positioned right in the middle of Europe, the German-speaking country boasts some of the most beautiful train journeys around, while its capital, Vienna, has been ranked as the most livable city on the planet.

Here are 11 stunning spots in Austria that are reason enough to travel here:


Elegance and decadence go hand in hand in the former center of one of a once-mighty European empire.

With its eclectic mix of architectural grandeur and cosmopolitanism, Vienna appeals to both history buffs and music lovers.

The city, which topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 ranking of the world’s most liveable destinations, is bursting with unmissable art, opera houses and palaces.

The Belvedere Palace, which consists of two Baroque palaces, showcases the brilliance of the past and is home to the world´s largest collection of Gustav Klimt paintings, including “The Kiss.”

The Schönbrunn Palace, a former summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, is one of the top attractions in Austria thanks to its picturesque imperial gardens.

Meanwhile the symmetrical streets of Innere Stadt are another highlight due to obligatory sights like the grandiose St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the spectacular Hofburg Palace and the iconic Vienna State Opera building.

Ringstrasse, the famous circle encompassing Vienna’s Old Town, is best enjoyed on board the tram, preferably after a cup of Einspänner (Viennese coffee with whipped cream on top).

For an alternative experience, there’s the Hundertwasserhaus, a quirky expressionist apartment complex that defies rules and architectural common sense.

As it’s still a residential building, the interior is out of reach. But travelers can visit the Kunst Haus Wien, which is devoted to Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the artist behind it all.

One of Vienna’s lesser-known side trips, Kahlenberg, a surprising green hill overlooking the Austrian capital is also worth a visit.

Visitors can grab a glass of locally produced wine at Mayer am Nussberg, an open-air restaurant set literally among the vineyards that offers a magnificent bird’s eye view of the city.

Kunst Haus Wien, Untere Weißgerberstraße 13, 1030 Vienna, Austria; +431 7120491


Dubbed the "friendly alien,"  the Kunsthaus Graz is one of this Austrian city's most interesting sights.

Featuring red rooftops, castle hills and cozy promenades, Graz looks like a quintessential Central European city at first glance.

That’s until you notice a certain giant structure resembling a spaceship, dubbed the “friendly alien,” among the elegant Baroque houses.

The spectacular Kunsthaus Graz, a museum of contemporary art, was built when Graz became the European Capital of Culture in 2003 and remains one of the most intriguing sights in the city.

Murinsel, an artificial island in the form of a futuristic shell that divides the local Mur river, is another architectural marvel.

These are just two examples of the ways in which the capital of Austria’s Styria region effortlessly mixes its wonderful UNESCO-protected Old Town with contemporary explosions of creativity.

Nicknamed the “City of Design,” it’s also home to the UNESCO-protected Eggenberg Palace, a stunning Baroque beauty located on the outskirts of Graz with splendid halls full of gold and arts.

Travelers can also visit the house where bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor-turned-popular-culture-icon Arnold Schwarzenegger lived until age 19.

Schwarzenegger was born in a small village of Thal just near Graz and his childhood home is now the Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum.

Frequented by the “Terminator” star himself, it features an informative and fun exhibition about his life, with lots of cool memorabilia.

Eggenberg Palace, Eggenberg 1, 4655 Vorchdorf, Austria; +43 761463450

Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum, Linakstraße 9, 8051 Thal, Austria; +43 316571947


Salzburg is most known for providing the setting for "The Sound of Music."

Two types of people come to Salzburg, those who’ve seen “The Sound of Music” and those who haven’t.

The Oscar-winning musical starring Julie Andrews singing in Alpine meadows has cemented Salzburg’s status as one of the prettiest European towns.

With horse carriages roaming its colorful streets, numerous Baroque churches, an imposing castle and the shadow of Mozart on every corner – the composer was born here – it really is a fairytale destination.

Of the many locations from the 1965 film, the village of St. Gilgen is the most picturesque. Set next to the Lake Wolfgangsee with the mighty Alps towering above, it’s a pastoral feast for the eyes.

“The Sound of Music” fans may remember it from the film’s famous opening.

While it’s claimed that Mozart didn’t like Salzburg much, his name defines this destination.

Travelers can visit Mozart’s Birthplace, a Baroque townhouse featuring a museum, Mozarts Wohnhaus, the famous composer’s former home, Mozarteum Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the musician’s legacy and the Mozart Monument, which is situated in Mozartplatz Square.

Just don’t forget to prepare a special Mozart play list for the occasion.

Mozart’s Birthplace, Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg, Austria; +43 662 844313


Swarovski Crystal Worlds, one of Austria's most visited attractions, is based near Innsbruck.

Surrounded by snowy mountains, the proud capital of the Tyrol region makes a stunning first impression.

This city of Olympic glory serves as a skiing and winter sports hot spot, offering plenty of top class resorts.

Before hitting the slopes, visitors should be sure to explore the elaborate facades of its historic core.

In the heart of the picturesque Old Town, the 2,657 copper tiles that cover the Golden Roof, an iconic part of the Habsburg residence, are a highlight, while the medieval City Tower offers the best views of its surrounding landscapes.

The most convenient way to witness the breathtaking vistas of the Alps is on a cable car – and one of the main stations for the Nordkette Cable Car just happens to be close to the city center in the Hungerburg district of Innsbruck.

The sparkling Swarovski Crystal Worlds complex on the outskirts of Innsbruck is another top attraction, with crystals of all shapes and forms inhabiting its numerous interactive halls.

Its center piece is the Giant, an enormous head-shaped green hill waterfall screaming out to be photographed.

Nordkette Cable Car, Rennweg 3, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria; +43 5122 93344

Swarovski Crystal Worlds, Kristallweltenstraße 1, 6112 Wattens, Austria; +43 5224 51080


Tiny Alpine village Hallstatt is an idyllic destination.

Everything is photogenic in this tiny Alpine village.

Based in the district of Gmunden, its mountains, tranquil waters and beautiful architecture make Hallstatt a postcard-perfect destination that lures millions of tourists yearly.

While it may look like a location from a Disney animation, Hallstatt is actually an ancient UNESCO-protected settlement born from the salt mining industry.

The Hallstatt Salt Mine, considered the world’s oldest, offers a guided tour through centuries of local mining, resulting in a Skywalk viewpoint featuring spectacular views over Lake Hallstatt.

However, it’s the Five Fingers viewing platform that showcases what may well be the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see in your life.

The panorama of the glorious Salzkammergut region is guaranteed to take make anyone gasp in wonder.

As for imposing buildings, Schloss Ort is one of the best European examples of a lakeside castle.

With the Alps in the background, sun rays reflecting from the surface of Lake Traunsee and a narrow wooden pathway, this unique fortress is one of the most romantic sights in Austria.

5 Fingers, 4831 Obertraun, Austria; +4350140

Schloss Ort, Ort 1, 4810 Gmunden, Austria


While the mighty Danube is an essential part of the panorama of many European capitals, it’s at its most charming in the smaller towns.

Positioned in the Krems-Land district, Dürnstein is the ideal spot to witness this phenomenon.

With its beautiful vineyards, colorful Old Town and towering castle ruins, this UNESCO-protected small town is something of a hidden gem.

Whether you’re walking around its narrow pathways, drinking at one of the local wineries or admiring the flamboyant Baroque architecture of its former Augustinian monastery, there’s plenty to marvel at in Dürnstein.

Another highlight is the grandiose Melk Abbey, a UNESCO-protected complex that mesmerizes visitors with its countless decorated halls, spectacular old library and elaborate staircases.

Weinhaus Nigl, Kirchenberg 1, 3541 Senftenberg, Austria; +4 32719 2609

Melk Abbey, Abt-Berthold-Dietmayr-Straße 1, 3390 Melk, Austria; +43 2752 5550