Austria. Tourism

Austria, along with neighbouring Switzerland, is the winter sports centre of Europe. However, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the Alps. Austrians generally like to define themselves merely by what they are not. Tourists often make the mistake of classifying Austrians as Germans, which despite a common language (well at least on paper), they are not. Arguably, Southern Germany, especially Bavaria, is a close cultural relative of Austria in many ways.

Contrary to popular perceptions, Austria is not all about mountains. This diverse mix of landscapes is packed into a relatively small area of size. Glaciers, meadows, alpine valleys, wooded foothills, gently rolling farmland, vineyards, river gorges, plains and even semi-arid steppes can be found in Austria.



Visits to Austria mostly include trips to Vienna with its St. Stephen’s Cathedral (map). Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart, Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol surrounded by the Alps, Linz, capital of Upper Austria with the largest Cathedral of Austria and modern cultural highlights, and the *Danube valley with its vineyards, for example the *Wachau (map) or *Dunkelsteinerwald (map), which are between *Melk (map) and Krems (map).

In the western part of the country the province Vorarlberg (map) reaches the Lake Constance (map), in the eastern part Neusiedler See (*Lake Neusiedl). The three most visited landmarks in Austria are Schönbrunn Palace (map), Tiergarten Schönbrunn (map) and Mariazell Basilica (map).

In the winter season, a number of winter sport resorts in western Austria overtake Salzburg in the number of tourist overnight stays: Sölden (map), Saalbach-Hinterglemm (map), Ischgl (map), St Anton am Arlberg (map), and Obertauern (map).

Austria is well known for its scenic cycle routes along its largest rivers. Though Austria is a mountainous country, cycle routes along rivers are flat or gently downhill, and therefore suitable even for casual cyclists.

It is normally safe to hike without a guide in the Austrian Alps, as there is a dense network of marked trails and mountain shelters. However, a few lethal incidents do happen every year as a result of carelessness. Walkers are strongly advised not to stray off the trails and not to hike in bad weather or without suitable equipment. Before setting off, always check with the local tourist office whether the trail corresponds to your abilities.

If you really want to show respect, pick up any litter you happen to see in your path and dispose of it at the end of your hike (it’s a bit of an unwritten rule). Long-distance trails are marked with the Austrian flag (red-white-red horizontal stripes) painted onto rocks and tree trunks.

Most trails and mountain huts are maintained by the Austrian Alpine Club. Some are run by other equivalent organizations, such as the German, Dutch and Italian Alpine Clubs. Mountain huts are meant to be shelters, not hotels.

Regions & Sities

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Summer and winter, large flocks of tourists are drawn to Austria’s mighty mountainous scenery. With no less than 62% of the country at an altitude of 500m or more, it’s hard to miss the stunning snow-covered peaks and green valleys.

Highlights include for example the High Mountain National Park in the Zimmertal Alps (map), with peaks up to 3476m, narrow gorges and steep cliffs. National Park Thayatal (map) combines beautiful valley landscapes with a variety of castles and ruined fortresses. The country’s highest peak is called Grossglockner (map) and is located on the border between Carinthia and the East Tyrol. To get a good view, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, with its gorgeous panorama’s comes highly recommended.

Salzkammergut – a stunning cultural landscape among mountains and lakes. If you ever visit the city of Salzburg and don’t see this glorious lake region just half an hour by car east of the city then you have truly missed out on the most beautiful part of Austria. The region is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as “Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape“.

Cartinthia is a very mountainous area sandwiched by the Alps in the north, and the Karawanken in the south. It shares a border with both Italy and Slovenia. Lower Austria, Wachau — inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000 with the towns *Melk, *Spitz, *Dürnstein and Krems.

Salzburg (state) – the most important forms of income are tourism and agriculture. The arts are an important part of the Salzburger tradition. Salzburg state also shares much of its rural regional culture with neighboring Bavaria and Tyrol. This makes it a wonderful place to experience both the high culture of the Mozart era and the true alpine Austrian culture at its purest.

Tyrol – is a multi-national historical region in the heart of the Alps. It consists of North, East and South Tyrol. North and East Tyrol lie in Austria and together make up the Austrian federal-state of Tyrol with its capital in Innsbruck.

South Tyrol, despite its German-speaking majority, has been part of Italy since the end of World War I. It makes up the northern portion of the alpine Italian autonomous province Trentino-Alto Adige with its capital in Bolzano / Bozen.

Vorarlberg – the state is almost entirely mountainous and enjoys one of the highest standards of living and income levels in Austria due to its proximity to Switzerland. It is also is home to an Alemanic alpine culture, quite different to the rest of Austria making it a special place in the country even to other Austrians.

Public transport

Eurolines Austria – is the largest operator and organizer of bus travel in Austria though many services are not included in their schedules.

Flixbus – the biggest fish in the German Intercity Bus pond and now a major player in most of Europe serves a couple of international routes through and into Austria.

There are six airports in Austria with scheduled flights. The most important international airport is Vienna airport.

Austria has plenty of connections with all its neighbours daily. Every neighbouring country (even Liechtenstein) has trains to and from Austria at least hourly. Vienna is the largest railway hub but day and night trains from most Central European countries travel to many stops across Austria. Day trains are normally much quicker than night trains. Tickets can be purchased from certain locations to Austria via the ÖBB website. The only competitor to ÖBB is WestBahn on the Salzburg-Linz-Vienna line (the company shares the name of the line it runs on).

+ Rail travel in Europe (wikivoyage)

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