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Austria Travel Guide

There are many ways to experience Austria: skiing and hiking in the alps, touring wine regions, seeing operas, dancing at balls, visiting palaces and abbeys, and eating lots of cake.

And, you absolutely should do all of those things. However, what makes Austria so special and dear to our hearts is the Austrian approach to life.

Austrians cherish Gemütlichkeit, which means comfort and coziness. You’ll find that Austrians experience life more slowly and comfortably.

In the mountains, there are cozy mountain huts, which serve food and drinks throughout the day to day visitors and overnight guests.

In the wine regions, there are family-friendly Heurigen (wine taverns) that offer comfortable spaces for drinking and socializing.

Across Austria, there are elaborate thermal spas that invite visitors to soak in thermal water, sweat in saunas, and rest in relaxation spaces. 

So, what we’re trying to say is that Austria has mastered an elevated style of slow living, which is especially enviable if you’re coming from a workaholic culture. Even in the capital city, Vienna, life is unhurried and relaxed.

Wachau Valley, Austria

Austria Travel Map

In the map below, we’ve marked must-visit cities, towns, river valleys, hiking destinations, mountain huts, and hotels in Austria. For a curated list of top places to visit, read Best Places to Visit in Austria. If you’re traveling to Austria in summer, read Summer in Austria and if you’re traveling to Austria in autumn, read Autumn in Austria.

AUSTRIAN STATES

Vorarlberg

Tyrol

Salzburg

Carinthia

Styria

Upper Austria

Lower Austria

Vienna

Burgenland

Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria

Best Things to Do in Austria

Weinhandwerk Heuriger, Vienna, Austria

Drink Wine in a Heurigen

Heurigen (Heuriger) is a wine tavern in Eastern Austria. More specifically, it’s where a local winemaker serves their new wine under a special license during the growing season.

The name is a reference to the year’s young wine, which can be purchased by the glass or in bottles. In the fall, when grapes are being harvested, fresh grape juice (Traubensaft) as well as fermented grape juice (Sturm) are also served.

The history of the Heurigen goes back to 1784 when Emperor Joseph II issued an ordinance that allowed everybody to sell homemade food, wine, and juice without having to apply for a permit. 

Heurigen are usually rustic and charming, offer indoor and outdoor seating, and are frequented by Austrians of all ages. In the traditional Heurigen, only cold snacks are offered (e.g. belegtes Brot, sliced bread with toppings).

Depending on what region you’re in, you might also see Buschenschänke, which are very similar to Heurigen, but even more rustic. They’re only allowed to serve cold foods and their opening times are far more limited. The name “Buschenschank” refers to a “Buschen,” which is a bundle of twigs that are found at the entrance of the establishment.  If the bundle is visible, it means that the Buschenschank is open and you are welcome to come in. You’ll see lots of these in the Wachau Valley in Lower Austria and South Styria.

Venediger High Trail, Venediger Group, Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

Visit Hohe Tauern National Park

Hohe Tauern National Park is the largest protected area in the Alps.

Stretching across the federal states of Salzburg, Tyrol (East Tyrol) and Carinthia, this massive area can be accessed from many different towns and valleys across Austria. You can experience Hohe Tauern in a single day, or over the course of weeks. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

If you love scenic roads, we recommend driving the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

If you love glaciers, hike the Innergschlöss Glacier Trail.

And, if you enjoy multi-day hikes, why not hike the Venediger High Trail.

Tobelsee Lake, Schruns-Tschagguns, Montafon Valley, Vorarlberg, Austria

Hike Hut to Hut in the Austrian Alps

The Austrian Alps are a playground for hikers and mountaineers. One of the best experiences you can have in Austria is hiking from one mountain hut (Hütte) to another. Huts offer meals, beds, and refreshments. So as you relish the alpine beauty of your surroundings, you can also indulge in heartwarming Austrian cuisine.

For those that love food as much as the outdoors, we can’t recommend hut to hut hiking in Austria enough.

Read Trekking Austria – Best Treks and Long Distance Hikes for an overview of the most spectacular hut hikes in Austria. 

Recommended hut to hut hikes:

Recommended self-guided hut hikes

Aqua Dome, Tirol, Austria

Relax at a Therme: Austrian Thermal Spa

A Therme is a thermal spa complex that houses thermal pools, various saunas, relaxation rooms, and restaurants. Austrians spend hours at Thermen, rotating between resting, sweating, rinsing, swimming, and eating.

Most Thermen are for all age groups, though the sauna area is designated for adults only. Bathing suits aren’t permitted in saunas for hygienic reasons, so be prepared to take it off and rock your birthday suit. Depending on the Therme, the saunas are either separated by gender or integrated. 

Prices | Prices vary based on duration of stay and what facilities you want access to (e.g. sauna complex). 

Standout Thermal Spa Hotels:

Read Next: How to Visit an Austrian Therme

Mayrhofen Almabtrieb cattle drive, Alps Festival

Savor Alm Culture in the Austrian Alps

An Alm is a high alpine pasture where livestock graze freely in the summer months. 

During the hiking season, mountain pasture huts (Almhütten) welcome guests with their hearty and regional specialties and make for excellent lunch breaks. As you nibble on delectable Kaiserschmarrn, you’ll likely hear cowbells and cheerful Austrian music.

The State of Salzburg has the highest density of alpine pastures of all the Austrian states. In Summer, 550 huts welcome hikers with their fresh and local cuisine. There are countless alpine pastures to hike to, including the charming Sulzenalmen, which we wrote about in Salzburg Hiking Trails.

Alpine Pasture Hikes | Lake Tappenkarsee Hike in Salzburg, Mühlbach High Trail in Salzburg, Bachlalm to Neustadtalm Circuit Hike in Salzburg and Styria, Hofpürgl Hut to Sulzenalm Circuit Hike in Salzburg, Ursprungalm in Styria, and the 5 Huts Trail in Styria.

To learn more about mountain pastures, including safety tips, read Alps in Summer: Things to Know Before Visiting.

At the end of the summer grazing season (September, early October), farmers herd their animals from the mountains back down to their winter stables in the valley. Across the Austrian Alps, the downard cattle drive is a festive occasion. Locals celebrate the safe return of the animals with a homecoming parade, music, food, dance, and general merriment. Learn more about the Almabtrieb cattle drive tradition.

Wachau in Autumn, Austria

Explore the Wachau River Valley

The Wachau is a romantic river valley region in Lower Austria between the towns of Melk and Krems. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can explore both sides of the Danube river by bike, car, or foot along the Wachau World Heritage Trail. Keen walkers should check out stage 1 from Dürnstein to Krems.

There are villages, castle ruins, Heurigen and Buschenschänke (wine taverns), monasteries and vineyards on both sides of the Danube. The Wachau is a wine-growing and apricot-growing region. In the summer and fall, you’ll see homemade apricot products (jam, nectar, schnaps) being sold on the sides of the road. In Autumn, you’ll also see winemakers and families harvesting their grapes.

Notable landmarks in the Wachau include the Melk Abbey, Schönbühel Castle, Aggstein, and the Dürnstein Castle Ruins, where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned in 1193.

Learn more about the Wachau Valley:

Wachau Day Trips from Vienna:

Krampus Run in Salzburg, Austria

Experience Advent Festivities: Christmas Markets and Krampus Runs 

In the Christian tradition, the Advent season refers to the four-week season of remembering and celebrating the arrival, or birth of Jesus. It’s the countdown to Christmas. 

If you visit Austria in early winter, you can experience Austria’s world-famous Christmas Markets as well as the hair-raising Krampuslauf tradition. 

A Krampuslauf, or “Krampus Run,” is a dramatic spectacle wherein elaborately costumed Krampus figures take part in a procession, led by Saint Nicholas. Read our guide to Krampus Runs to find out what they are and how to see one. 

Learn more: Salzburg in December and Vienna in December

Stephansdom, Vienna, Austria

Fall in Love with Vienna, Capital of Austria

With impressive and varied architecture and immaculate streets, Vienna is one of the most attractive cities in the world.

Prior to WWI, Austria was a vast empire that encompassed much of Northern Italy and Eastern Europe (e.g. Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, etc…).

The grandeur of the former Austro-Hungarian empire can be felt throughout Central and Eastern Europe, but nowhere more keenly than in Austria’s capital.

You’ll be wowed by the city’s many palaces, museums, concert halls, opera houses, coffee houses, restaurants, hidden gems, and nearby hiking trails.

Learn More: Vienna Travel Guide

Wiener Schnitzel lunch, Nidum Casual Luxury Hotel, Tyrol, Austria

What to Eat and Drink in Austria


Austrian Etiquette

Prost (Cheers).  In Austrian culture, it’s really important to make purposeful eye contact when you toast.  Say “Prost” or “Zum Wohl.” You should tap glasses with everyone within reach. There’s only one exception to the rule. When you drink Sturm, an early wine, you should say “Mahlzeit” not “Prost.”

Mahlzeit (Bon appetite). You say Mahlzeit right before anyone at your table begins to eat. It means “enjoy your meal.”


Austrian Cuisine

Eierschwammerlgulasch is chanterelle mushroom goulash. This vegetarian dish is usually served with dumplings.

Tiroler Gröstl is pan-fried potatoes combined with beef, pork, and onions. A fried egg is served on top. This hearty meal is really popular in Tyrol.

Käsespätzle is cheesy egg noodles. Across the Austrian Alps, spätzle is sautéed with a variety of pungent mountain cheeses and garnished with fried onions and chives.

Kaspressknödelsuppe is cheese dumpling soup. One or two large flat-pressed dumplings, made with bread, eggs and cheese, are served in a clear broth soup.

Wiener Schnitzel is thin, breaded and pan fried cutlets of veal. Squeeze a slice of lemon on this quintessential Viennese dish before digging in. Traditional Wiener Schnitzel is always made with veal. Many restaurants also offer Schnitzel vom Schwein (pork), Schnitzel von der Pute (turkey), and Schnitzel vom Huhn (chicken). Schnitzel is typically served with an Austrian potato salad, or mixed salad.

Tafelspitz is boiled beef. This Viennese specialty was actually Emperor Franz Joseph’s favorite dish. The tender beef is served in a pot of broth with bone marrow. The dish is accompanied by sides of fried potato rosti, vegetables (spinach, string beans), horseradish and apple sauces.


Austrian Desserts

Kaiserschmarrn is shredded pancakes topped with powdered sugar and sometimes rum-soaked raisins. If you don’t want the raisins say, “Bitte ohne Rosinen.” Traditionally, it’s served with a side of plum sauce. 

Marillenknödel are apricot dumplings covered in powdered sugar, best sampled in the Wachau region of Lower Austria. 


Austrian Wine

If you want to order a glass of wine, you should say “ein Achtel” (an eighth of a liter), which is the common serving size.

Weisswein gespritzt is white wine mixed with sparkling water. If you like sweeter alcoholic drinks, order a Kaiserspritzer in Vienna, which is a Weisswein gespritzt with Holunderblütersirup (elderflower syrup).

Sturm is an early, sweet wine that is only served in early autumn. Unlike all other alcoholic beverages, you don’t say Prost (Cheers) before drinking. Instead, you say Mahlzeit. If you make the mistake of saying Prost, there’s an unwritten rule that says you’re obliged to pay for this round of drinks.


Non-Alcoholic Austrian Beverages

Soda Zitrone is sparkling water with lemon juice

Johannisbeersaft gespritzt is  black currant juice mixed with sparkling water

Marillensaft gespritzt is apricot juice mixed with sparkling water

Almdudler is a carbonated lemonade (soda) flavored with alpine herbs.

Krampuslauf, Krampus Run in Salzburg, Austria

Getting around Austria


Public Transit

Austria has an excellent public transportation system, which you should absolutely take advantage of. Here are your options:

The ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) is the #1 train transit system in Austria. 

WESTbahn is a train transit system that connects Vienna with western Austria. It’s an alternative to ÖBB. 

Wiener Linien (subway, trams, and buses) and the ÖBB (S-Bahn = trains) provide a very extensive public transportation system in Vienna.


Car

We recommend renting a car if you want to explore the Austrian Alps. Use these 3 road trip itineraries for inspiration:

We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals in Europe. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.

Tip: If you can only drive automatic transmission cars, as opposed to manual transmission cars (stick shift), book your car rental as early as possible.

Check car rental rates here

Important | If you’re driving into Austria from a neighboring country, you must purchase a vignette, a toll sticker.

A vignette allows you to drive on the Austrian autobahn (highways). Learn more about purchasing a digital toll sticker here.

You can purchase a 10-day vignette (11.50 EUR), a 2-month vignette (29 EUR), or a 1-year vignette (96.40 EUR). See current pricing here.


Bus

The most inexpensive way to travel through Austria is with Flixbus. These buses are punctual, clean, and provide wifi. 

Karwendel Mountains, Austria

Austria Facts 

Official Name |  Republik Österreich (Republic of Austria)

Capital | Wien (Vienna)

Government |  Federal Republic

Regions | Austria is divided into 9 states: (1) Vienna (Wien), (2) Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), (3) Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), (4) Styria (Steiermark), (5) Tyrol (Tirol), (6) Carinthia (Kärnten), (7) Salzburg, (8) Vorarlberg, and (9) Burgenland.

Population | 9 Million

Language | German. In specific regions, Croatian, Slovenian and Hungarian are recognized.

Currency | Euro

Tipping Etiquette | 5-10%, Cash Only.

Water Quality | Excellent

Something Interesting | The bodies of the Hapsburg Emperors are buried in three different burial sites in Vienna. Their intestines are stored in urns in St. Stephan’s Cathedral, their bodies are buried in the Kapuzinerkirche (Capuchin Church), and their hearts are buried in Augustinerkirche (Church of the Augustinians).

Austrian Saying | Nur net hudln. Don’t Rush. Take Your Time.

Lechtal Alps, Austria

Moon & Honey Travel is an independent blog created by two passionate hikers. We are able to provide free content to you, because of ads and affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy travels and happy trails,

Sabrina & Kati