Winter View of Hallstatt, a traditional Austrian wood village, UNESCO world culture heritage site in the Austrian Alps

Things to do in  Austrian Alps

Land of big peaks and palaces

The hills are alive in the Austrian Alps, a particularly scenic corner of the globe. These peaks—with their razor-sharp summits piercing the skies above emerald valleys—beg to be explored on foot, by bike, or skis. In fact, exploring them is a favorite Alpine pastime. But the Austrian Alps offer more than outdoor adventure. You can visit gothic castles and abbeys, marvel at ornate Hapsburg palaces and cathedrals, delve into the chocolate-box cities of Innsbruck and Salzburg, and applaud works by Mozart and Strauss at the Salzburg Festival and Bregenzer Festspiele.

Top 15 attractions in Austrian Alps

Mirabell Palace and Gardens (Schloss Mirabell und Mirabellgarten)

Part of Salzburg’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed historic center, Mirabell Palace (Schloss Mirabell) enjoys a rich royal history, as well as a place in movie legend: it was one of the filming sites forThe Sound of Music. Built by Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich in 1606, the palace is most famous for its magnificent baroque gardens.More

Salzburg Cathedral (Dom zu Salzburg)

For a touch of classic Italian baroque in Austria, head to Salzburg Cathedral, known locally as the Dom. The cathedral’s twin towers and a facade made of Untersberg marble, along with its light-filled interior and huge dome, are sure to impress.More

Salzburg Old Town (Salzburger Altstadt)

Salzburg’s Old Town (Salzburger Altstadt or Altstadt Salzburg) is the historical and navigational heart of the city, a maze of medieval streets stretching along the banks of the Salzach River. The birthplace of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg’s atmospheric Altstadt is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site and overlooked by the hilltop Hohensalzburg Fortress.More

Eagle's Nest (Kehlsteinhaus)

Just an hour’s drive outside of Salzburg lies the alpine town of Berchtesgaden and the historic Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus), Adolf Hitler’s mountaintop chalet and the former southern headquarters of the Nazi party. Perched atop Mt. Kehlstein, Eagle’s Nest offers a dark history and panoramic views of Germany’s Bavarian Alps.More

Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrunn)

Built in the early 17th century, Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrunn) served as a summer retreat for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Its baroque exterior conceals an exuberant interior made for entertaining, though the real draws are the whimsical trick fountains (Wasserspiele) in the gardens, which spew water from unexpected places.More

Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg)

Built in 1077, Austria’s Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg) is one of the largest fully-preserved castles in Central Europe. Here you can enjoy incredible countryside views and guided tours of the baroque state rooms, lookout towers, and museum collections.More


Getreidegasse is the heart of Salzburg’s old town, and the street where Mozart was born in 1756. With its charming cafés and cozy inns, as well as top fashion brands, it's perennially popular with visitors. More

Swarovski Crystal Worlds (Swarovski Kristallwelten)

Themed around one of Austria’s best-known exports, Swarovski Crystal Worlds (Swarovski Kristallwelten) is a dazzling attraction devoted to sparkling crystals. Twinkling exhibitions created by contemporary artists and designers, together with a playground, play tower, and hand-shaped hedge maze, make for a family-friendly day out.More

Nonnberg Abbey (Stift Nonnberg)

Best-known for being the home of troublesome novice nun Maria in The Sound of Music, Nonnberg Abbey (Stift Nonnberg was founded in the eighth century and is the oldest constantly-inhabited convent in Europe. The complex encompasses Gothic, Romanesque, and baroque styles, and features gorgeous chapels, churches, and cloisters.More

Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozarts Geburtshaus)

The house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756, Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozart’s Geburtshaus) stands on Getreidegasse, the main shopping street in Salzburg’s Old Town (Altstadt). One of Austria’s most beloved museums, this ocher-painted town house is a must for first-time visitors to the city.More

Imperial Palace (Hofburg)

Dating back to the 15th century, the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) was among the lavish imperial residences of the Hapsburg dynasty. Redesigned by Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century, it’s a feast of baroque and rococo style, adorned with gleaming marble, glittering gold, and elaborate frescoes.More

Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl)

Amid the brightly painted buildings and historic monuments of Innsbruck’s Old Town, one landmark shines brighter than all the others. Standing proud over Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse, the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) is the dramatic focal point of the 15th-century New Court (Neuhof) building and glitters with 2,657 gilded copper tiles.More

Hafelekar Mountain (Hafelekarspitze)

Framing the northern horizon of Innsbruck, the jagged peaks of the North Chain (Nordkette) range are a natural playground for hikers, climbers, and adventurers. The central Hafelekar Mountain (Hafelekarspitze), accessible by cable car, is the gateway to the mountains, with views that expand over the Innsbruck valley and the surrounding Austrian Alps.More

St. Peter's Abbey (Stift Sankt Peter)

Situated in Salzburg’s Old Town, St. Peter’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastery comprising an abbey, church, and cemetery. Founded in AD 696 and renovated during the 1600s and 1700s, its church draws visitors for its gilded baroque decoration and as the setting for the debut performance of Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor in 1783.More

Graz Schlossberg

The Graz Schlossberg is a public park on a hill in the center of the city of Graz that has been home to fortifications as far back as the 10th century. A fortress stood on the hill from the middle of the 16th century to the 19th century, with only the clock tower and bell tower spared by an invading Napoleon. The remains of the castle became a public park in 1839 including the two towers, a cistern and a couple bastions from the destroyed castle.A great walking tour of the Schlossberg starts at the bottom of the hill at Schlossbergplatz, from where visitors can take the 19th century Schlossbergbahn funicular or the newer Schlossberg lift to reach the top of the hill. Once at the top, check out the bell tower, climb to the top of the clock tower for scenic views of the Old Town and relax at one of the several cafes. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch a concert in what was once the cellar of one of the old bastions. Head back down to the Schlossbergplatz via one of several footpaths or staircases and then check out the extensive system of tunnels underneath the Schlossberg that was created during World War II.More

Top activities in Austrian Alps

Sound of Music / Hallstatt Tour

Sound of Music / Hallstatt Tour

Private Full-Day Tour of Hallstatt and Salzkammergut from Salzburg with Options
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Austrian Apple Strudel Cooking Class including Lunch in Salzburg
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Private Full-Day Tour of Neuschwanstein Castle from Innsbruck
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Original Sound of Music Private Tour Salzburg

Original Sound of Music Private Tour Salzburg

per group
Hallstatt from Salzburg - 6-hour private Tour
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Sound of MusicTour by minivan

Sound of MusicTour by minivan

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All about Austrian Alps

When to visit

The Austrian Alps are a year-round destination. Skiers and boarders flock to these superb slopes in winter when the Alpine towns seem like holiday cards come to life under a dusting of snow. With the arrival of spring, skis are switched for hiking boots as outdoor enthusiasts hit the trails to admire flower-strewn meadows and verdant valleys, which also offer a high-altitude escape from summer heat.

Getting around

Austria has an excellent rail network, allowing you to reach the cities and larger towns via some scenic routes. Consider a rail pass if you plan on traveling by train. To reach remote Alpine villages, you’ll need to rent a car, take a bus, or hike or bike the trails (bicycles are available for rent at many rail stations). Cable cars linking the valleys with the summits transport skiers in winter and hikers in summer.

Traveler tips

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the Austrian Alps, but there are a few things to know. There is no universal trail-marking system in Austria, but routes with blue signage are generally the easiest, red trail markings indicate medium difficulty, and black trails are the most difficult. Only attempt routes with signs warning “Nur für Geübte” (only for experienced hikers), if you are a seasoned mountain hiker with adequate gear.

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People Also Ask

Do the Alps go through Austria?

Yes, this mountain chain runs through Austria, as well as six other European countries: France, Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Germany, and Slovenia. The highest and most famous Austrian peak is Grossglockner, which soars about 12,000 feet (3,800 meters) above sea level and offers vistas over hundreds of surrounding summits.

What Austrian city is near the Alps?

The two main Austrian cities near the Alps are Salzburg and Innsbruck. Salzburg is one of Austria's most attractive cities, with a UNESCO-listed old town stuffed with baroque architecture. It's also the birthplace of Mozart. Innsbruck, set high in the Alps, is a popular jumping-off point for hikers and skiers.

Is Austria as beautiful as Switzerland?

Yes, Austria’s stunning scenery holds its own against the more famous peaks in Switzerland, although Switzerland is often the first choice for lovers of high-octane winter sports. Austria offers similar landscapes but more affordable lodging and dining, plus a more authentic vibe than the chic Swiss slopes and cities.

Where do you fly into to reach the Austrian Alps?

Innsbruck’s Kranebitten Airport and Salzburg Airport are the two closest airports to the Austrian Alps. Both are about an hour away from the top ski resorts and hiking hubs. Other options for reaching the peaks include the airports in Linz and Graz, both about two hours from the Austrian Alps.

What is the prettiest part of Austria?

The Austrian Alps are often ranked among the most beautiful parts of Austria, with the historic cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck and the peaks of Grossglockner and Wildspitze. Other postcard-perfect spots include the lakeside village of Hallstatt, the Alpine town of Alpbach, and Bad Gastein spa retreat.

What is Austria's most famous food?

The ubiquitous Wiener schnitzel is Austria’s national dish. This thin, breaded veal cutlet is fried until it’s golden and crispy and served with potato or cucumber salad and washed down with Märzen-style beer. Follow your schnitzel with apple strudel, a traditional strudel pastry filled with apples, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar.

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