Small, landlocked Austria offers alpine scenery, world-class museums, cobbled quaintness, and Wiener schnitzel. Unlike Germany, its industrious neighbor to the northwest, Austria is content to bask in its good living and elegant, opulent past as the former head of one of Europe's grandest empires. Austrians tend to be relaxed, gregarious people who love the outdoors as much as a good cup of coffee in a café.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Vienna Austria's regal capital city, rich with swirling architecture and world-class museums; impressive Habsburg sights (Schönbrunn Palace, in-city royal apartments, treasury, crypt, and Lipizzaner stallions); massive St. Stephen's Cathedral; and a grand classical-music tradition, from its renowned Opera house to its famous Boys' Choir.
▲▲▲ Western Tirol and Southern Bavaria (Germany) Pair of Alps-straddling regions boasting the fairy-tale castles of Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Linderhof; inviting villages such as the Austrian retreat of Reutte and German towns of Füssen and Oberammergau; the towering Zugspitze and its high-altitude lifts; and hiking, luge, and other mountain activities.
▲▲ Salzburg Austrian musical mecca for fans of Mozart and The Sound of Music, offering a dramatic castle, Baroque churches, near-nightly concerts, and an old town full of winding lanes.
▲▲ Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut Scenic lake district, home to the halcyon village of Hallstatt, with its medieval town center, fun salt mine, plentiful hiking opportunities, and placid swan-filled lake.
▲ Heart of Tirol Austria's panhandle region and mountain-sports capital, centering around the distinctive city of Innsbruck and little neighboring Hall, with its quaint and colorful old town.
▲ Danube Valley Romantic, bikeable valley west of Vienna, dotted with ruined castles, adorable villages and vineyards, and highlighted by the glorious Melk Abbey and somber Mauthausen concentration-camp memorial.
▲ Bratislava (Slovakia) Once-depressed communist town, now a thriving capital city, less than an hour from Vienna and bursting with colorfully restored buildings; a quirky traffic-free old town; and a people-friendly Danube riverfront area.
Berchtesgaden (Germany) Alpine town across the border from Salzburg, famous for incredible views, a pristine lake — and as the site of Hitler's mountaintop retreat.