Culture Call: Five Little-Known Destinations in Austria We Love

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, tightly bound by ribbon-like mountain paths. Yes, we're heading for the hills - not those Salzburg plains made famous by the Sound of Music (too obvious), but the lesser-trodden hamlets and villages often lost amid the peaks and troughs of Austria's rambunctious, tin-foil mountains.

Head for the hills in these off-the-beaten-path Austrian escapes

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 outdoors kit is on point. We're packing this sustainable World of Bamboo cutlery set, ready for picnics out on the meadows.

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 twee painted 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.

Where we're staying: Seevilla

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

Krems

Why we can't wait to go back again: It's commonly known as one of Austria's oldest cities. The country's first national coin was struck here in 1130 and, back in the day, the ruling Babenbergs chose this spot to establish their grand dukedom. It's perfectly pocket-sized but loaded with cultural goings-on. We'll sink our teeth into their Arts 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.

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 Salzburg's city buzz. Given its position in the lower region of the Maria Alm, the climate's cool enough to explore on foot and bike. Still restless? The bright lights of Salzburg glimmer in the distance. Our guide is packed with all of the city's best bits.

Where we're staying: Boutique Hotel Wachtelhof

Before you go: Learn the lingo by enrolling in a one-on-one language course with Quintessentially Education.

Bad Gastein

Why we can't wait to go back again: We miss nosing about the town's glut of lavish belle époque-style villas; there's a reason this spa town is 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 slow-cooking in the hot springs at Felsentherme spa while ogling the Hohe Tauern mountains in the near-distance.

Where we're staying: Hotel Miramonte

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

The Lowdown

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