When most people think of Austria, they think of Julie Andrews twirling on green mountain sides belting out “the hills are alive, with the sound of music!”
In fact, this representation of Austria isn’t that inaccurate – with lush forests, snow-capped mountains and crystal clear lakes, Austria undoubtedly has some of Europe’s most breathtaking landscapes. Plus, Austrian culture is as rich as it is fascinating, with its cities and towns having plenty to offer the curious explorer.
In this article, we run down five of the most beautiful locations in Austria.
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OK – forgive us for being obvious, but this countdown wouldn’t be complete without the Austrian capital, Vienna. Recently voted the city with the best quality of life in the world, Vienna is filled to the brim with culture and history. The place that gave the world Mozart is a haven of ballets, operas, theatre, art galleries and museums, all housed in stunning Gothic palaces and imposing imperial mansions. However, if the present day is more your thing, the city is also home to some impressive modern architecture, including the futuristic Mumok contemporary art museum.
2. Lake Schiederweiher
Every year, the Austrian public vote on what they think is the most beautiful place in Austria. Last year, Lake Schiederweiher took the crown. Located in the Stodertal Valley in Upper Austria, interestingly, this remarkably picturesque lake is man-made. Referred to as the pearl of the valley, the lake’s crystal waters are home to vast numbers of beautiful silvery fish. Framed by astonishing snowy mountains, the area can be explored via a number of hiking routes all year round.
3. Styrian Wine Country
Have you ever tried any Austrian wine? The most famous variety is Grüner Veltliner, which combines zesty, herbaceous fruit flavours to create one of the most interesting wines Europe has to offer. Equally interesting is Austrian wine country, where these unusual blends are created. Less than an hour from the city of Graz are the rolling hills of Styrian wine country, where you can try some of Austria’s finest wines. A local favourite is Schilcher, which is served either sparkling or as a spicy, complex rosé. Best enjoyed with a smorgasbord of smoked meats and cheeses, Styrian wine country offers something truly unexpected to oenophiles.
Next up in our list is a place that’s frequently cited as one of the most beautiful places in all of Europe, nevermind Austria. Hallstatt is an incredibly picturesque town perched on the shore of a lake of the same name. This cluster of beautiful mountain chalets is as interesting as it is scenic, with plenty of intriguing attractions such as the Beinhaus, which displays a spooky selection of human remains. Furthermore, if you enjoy outdoor pursuits, the town is surrounded by hiking trails, rock climbing courses, caves and opportunities to float around on Hallstatt lake’s tranquil waters.
5. Krimml Waterfalls
Nestled deep in the Hohe Tauren National Park are the Krimml Waterfalls. These majestic cascades are the tallest in Central Europe, with a total height of 1,247 feet. Witnessing their power and beauty is quite the adventure, making the hike from the village of Krimml a must-do. At the beginning of the journey, hikers encounter the Krimmler Ache, an ancient glacial creek that flows over three levels. Next walkers progress to the Middle Falls where they can take a welcome break at a local restaurant, before ascending to the top of this mighty network of falls.
As a destination, Austria is very underrated. It’s one of those places that most people haven’t been to, but they really should (and if you’d like some more ideas for lesser-visited countries, check out The Secret Traveller’s guide). With everything from stunning architecture, to fascinating culture, and some of Europe’s most breathtaking landscapes, Austria should certainly make a surprise appearance on your travel destination bucket list.
This article is contributed by Wayne Anthony.