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

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


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

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


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


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
(Love(ly) Lies) for a glimpse of alpine beauty, as seen
through the lens of Swiss director Martin Walz.


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

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

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

This article was updated 2 October 2023.

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