Where to Go in Austria (When You’ve Done Vienna and Salzburg)

Forget moping about with Mozart in Salzburg and fawning over fine art in Vienna. We’re heading into the hills to explore Austria’s little-explored alpine offering

If you're itching for a full-throttle city break that will test your purse and your nerves, you've come to the wrong place. Our favourite spots in Austria gurgle with fresh spa water and are fat with natural bounty; they come wrapped in sheets of undulating greenery, autumn hues, and tightly bound by ribbon-like mountain paths. Before the snow arrives, we're heading for the hills, just not those Salzburg plains made famous by the Sound of Music (too obvious). Instead, we're adjusting our compasses for the lesser-trodden hamlets and villages lost amid the peaks and troughs of Austria's rambunctious mountains.

Off-the-beaten-path Austrian escapes to explore

The valley town of Grossarl in Austria

Grossarl

Why we can't wait to go back again: Grossarl is one of those places where e-bikes are not only tolerated but widely adopted, such is the tumult of the surrounding Hohe Tauern National Park. With more than 40 serviced alpine huts dotted among its cluster of flower-fringed mountain paths, this sprawling mountainscape has got it right; no walking or cycling trip is worthy of the name if not peppered by regular refreshment breaks. We look forward to ranking each of the apple strudel variants sampled along the way.

Where we're staying: Grossarler Hof

Before you go: Make sure your outdoor attire is on point - we're coveting this sleek Arcteryx trail running top.

A historic door in Krems, Austria
Photo credit: Mehdi33300 / Shutterstock.com

Krems

Why we can't wait to go back again: Krems, one of Austria's oldest cities, is where Austria's first ruling dynasty, the Babenbergs, chose to establish their grand dukedom. It's perfectly pocket-sized but loaded with cultural events and an array of characterful cafés, restaurants and independent shops. We'll sink our teeth into its Art Mile - a stretch of contemporary galleries and cavernous old museums that spans the town centre.

Where we're staying: Steigenberger Hotel & Spa

Before you go: If you're a history buff, leaf through Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday, a memoir he penned in 1934, not long before Austria's annexation to Nazi Germany.

The lake at Wolfgangsee, Austria

Wolfgangsee

Why we can't wait to go back again: Wolfgangsee is glorious, and doesn't she know it. Of course, we'll dip in and out of the lake's opalescent, shallower pools over the duration of our stay, but there are plenty of other things that demand our attention. There's the St Wolfgang im Salzkammergut church - an ancient edifice cushioned by chocolate-box alpine houses - the Schafberg Railway, which chugs up to 1,783m above sea level, and the creepy but fascinating Puppenmuseum, which is full to bursting with glass-eyed dolls from the past century or so. This area only gets more beautiful as winter arrives. Bookmark it for a late autumn adventure.

Where we're staying: Seevilla

Before you go: Watch Liebe Lügen (Love(ly) Lies) for a glimpse of alpine beauty, as seen through the lens of Swiss director Martin Walz.

Hinterthal

Why we can't wait to go back again: We know we said we weren't going to mention the Sound of Music, but Hinterthal is the place for those who want it all - both gabled-house mountain charm and nearby city buzz. Given its position in the lower region of the Maria Alm, the climate's cool enough to explore on foot and bike - and we promise we won't mention any spontaneous yodelling that occurs if you don't. Still restless? The bright lights of Salzburg glimmer in the distance.

Where we're staying: Boutique Hotel Wachtelhof

Before you go: Invest in some good hiking boots - we've got our eye on a pair of Salomon's X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex - so you're ready to take on hikes such as the 6.6km trail over the Filzensattel to the Hochmaisalm and back.

Bad Gastein

Why we can't wait to go back again: We miss nosing about this spa town's glut of lavish villas: not without good reason is it known as the Monte Carlo of the Alps. If all goes well, we'll be hopping back in September - while the valleys are still lush, and before skiers descend en masse - for a full-on weekend of aimless mountain rambles and rip-roaring cycle rides. Who are we kidding? For the most part, you'll find us bobbing around in the hot springs at Felsentherme spa while ogling the Hohe Tauern mountains in the near distance.

Where we're staying: Hotel Miramonti

Before you go: Follow Roman Konigshofer on Instagram for inspiring adventure shots snapped in the Austrian mountains and beyond.

This article was updated 2 October 2023.

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