One of the most stunning European travel destinations, Austria, has been wooing visitors for hundreds of years. You’ll never run out of things to do in Austria, and while there's a lot to experience, some things simply can't be missed. With its breathtaking Alpine scenery, tasty local cuisine, and intriguing history, Austria is a place that everyone should explore. From picturesque mountain villages to creepy crypts, this is a country with something for everyone. For a unique travel experience, skip the top tourist destinations and delve into the lesser-known Austria.
The first place you’ll want to see when you arrive in Austria is Vienna. This city is an absolute stunner, and you definitely need to spend a good few days exploring it. Start by taking a walking tour of the Ring Road to see the historic Inner Town. You’ll pass the Vienna State Opera, the Parliament Building, and the neo-Gothic Votivkirche, to name a few. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to any coffee house to sample the most delicious coffee and pastries you'll ever have if you want something a little more substantial, head to a street food stand, known locally as a Würstelstand, to sample a selection of Vienna’s world-famous sausages. After lunch, you absolutely need to tour the Belvedere Museum. With two palaces, an impressive art collection, and an expanse of lush gardens, the museum is every history and art lover's dream come true.
One of the most famous Austrian institutions, the Spanish Riding School, is a must-see while in Vienna. The Spanish Riding School is a unique display of classical dressage featuring incredibly well-trained Lipizzaner horses. During the show, the horses seem to dance along with the live music, and the harmony between the rider and the horse is truly unbelievable. The daily morning exercises are free and open to the public, so you can watch them train before catching a live show. Even if you’re not a big horse fan, this is worth checking out just for its cultural importance.
The Treppe ins Nichts directly translates as the stairway to nothingness, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. If you want a unique - and totally Instagrammable - Austrian experience, this is it. The destination is located just a little outside of Salzburg, and it provides some of the best views of the region. The stairway consists of 14 steps that lead to a glass platform hanging over a pretty serious drop. Don't worry, though, the beauty of your surroundings greatly surpasses the fear of feeling like you're not standing on solid ground!
Underneath the Capuchin Church in Vienna lies the final resting place of over 100 members of Habsburg royalty. The crypt contains the remains of 12 emperors and 19 empresses, all of which were honored with a variety of elaborate sarcophagi, relief carvings, and sculptures. To make things even weirder, there is an entire room called the Heart Room, where - yup, you guessed it- they preserved the hearts of the deceased royals. This is a seriously unique, albeit macabre, Austrian destination.
The Swarovski Crystal Worlds was designed for the glass crystal moguls, Swarovski. The attraction is home to a park, an art museum, a few shops, and a restaurant. The description alone doesn’t sound like much, but the place is like a bizarre and surrealist theme park. The park alone seems like one big art installation, complete with a huge giant’s head. Covered in grass and foliage, the giant’s head has a wide-eyed stare, and a picturesque waterfall cascades from its open mouth. Underneath the waterfall, there are dozens of chambers full of sparkling crystals for you to explore - if you dare!
The summer residence and hunting lodge of the Habsburgs, Schönbrunn Palace, is a short trip just outside of central Vienna. The Palace itself is an opulent reminder of the wealth and power of the Habsburgs, but the gardens are particularly stunning. Spend an afternoon strolling through the gardens, snapping pictures, and enjoying a picnic. Try finding your way through the maze and check out the labyrinth while you’re there. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a calming break from the busy streets of Vienna.
Just a stone’s throw away from the stairway to nothingness, you’ll find the Dachstein suspension bridge. This is the highest suspension bridge in Austria, and it offers some truly spectacular views. Once on the bridge, you’ll be surrounded by Austria’s highest peaks. If you’re feeling a little too scared when you approach the bridge, just take a deep breath and remember that all-important mantra: YOLO! Afterward, you’ll be able to scroll through your awesome pictures in a cozy Salzburg bar.
Located in Austria’s Tyrol region, the picturesque Alpine town of Kitzbühel is a must-see. The town is popular for Austrians and tourists alike for its beautiful hiking opportunities in the summer and perfect skiing conditions in the winter. The town itself is a dream, complete with a medieval town center, upscale boutiques, and some of the best restaurants in the region. When you need a break from the great outdoors, check out the Museum Kitzbühel to learn more about the town, see some beautiful art, and enjoy the views from the museum’s rooftop.
Driving is usually something you do to get somewhere cool, but in this case, the drive is what it’s all about! The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is the highest mountain road in Austria, and it meanders through some incredibly beautiful Alpine scenery. The curved roads lead to one stunning mountain after another, and it will easily be one of the highlights of your trip. Rent a car, charge your camera, and be ready to have the most magical road trip ever. You will almost certainly stop the car every 10 minutes to take in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has one of the best-preserved city centers in the country. The birthplace of Mozart and countless other musicians and artists, the city is a historical and cultural powerhouse! Spend a few days here taking in Baroque architecture and breathtaking views while visiting some of Austria’s most important cultural sites.