With glorious Alpine scenery, monumental Habsburg architecture, some of Europe’s most varied museums, and contemporary architecture, Austria has it all. The attractive and sophisticated cities whose bars, cafés, and clubs combine contemporary cool with elegant tradition. Austria is perfect to visit any time of year and any outdoor lover's dream. Although Austria is known as the winter sports capital of Europe, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the Alps.
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AUSTRIA QUICK FACTS
Currency: Austria has the Euro (€) as its sole currency along with the 24 other eurozone countries. One Euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official Euro member issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone. All coins are legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
Electricity: 230V AC electricity. Power outlets are round two-prong sockets (type F which also accepts type C and type E). Be sure to carry a universal travel adaptor so you can still use all your electronic devices. If you are from a country with 110V as a standard be aware that you will need a voltage converter.
Visa: Traveling to Austria is easy if you are from the European Union (EU). All other nationals are required to obtain an Austrian Schengen Visa in order to visit Austria. To stay longer than 90 days, all non-EU visitors will need either a long-stay visa (valid for up to 6 months) or a residence permit. Be sure to check online for the latest visa requirements. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your entry and that you have an available completely blank page in your passport.
Safety: Austria is one of the safest countries in the world with violent crime rarity. Small towns and even uninhabited areas such as forests are incredibly safe at any time of the day. Beware of pickpockets in crowded places. Bicycle theft can be a problem in bigger cities but is virtually absent in smaller towns. Whatever you do, don’t travel without travel insurance! We would suggest checking out World Nomads, for travel insurance as they have the best coverage for active travellers.
Language: English is widely spoken, and the only area most tourists have linguistic problems with is in translating menus. In rural places, however, older people often don't speak any English and it will help to learn a few basic German phrases if travelling to such places.
Transportation: Rural or sparsely populated regions in Austria are easier to explore by car as bus services can be infrequent. Many popular activity spots in the mountains are really accessible only by car or on foot. Renting a car for a couple of days is a good way to go off the beaten track. If you will be driving on Austrian motorways you will be liable to pay toll fees - which are done in the form of a Vignette toll pass, which should be purchased in advance at any petrol station at the border, or online.
Intercity trains are punctual and with a comprehensive network, it covers most of Austria. Unless you are doing a lot of intercity travelling in 3 days, individual tickets are actually cheaper than the one-country pass. Comfortable and moderately priced, these trains connect major cities and many towns. Buses serve less significant towns and lakes and these two forms of transport are integrated and designed to complement each other - intercity coaches exist but don't provide anywhere near the level of intercity rail service.
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AUSTRIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
6 January, Epiphany
1 May, Labour Day
15 August, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
26 October, National Day
1 November, All Saints Day
8 December, Immaculate Conception
Also, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Pentecost (Whit Sunday), Whit Monday, and Corpus Christi.
FESTIVALS IN AUSTRIA
Many visitors come to experience Austria's rich musical heritage with especially Salzburg and Vienna offering world-renowned opera, classical music, and jazz. For some festivals, it is necessary to book tickets to events or shows well in advance. That said, outside of these locations you will still find plenty of smaller local festivals well worth experiencing.
Schubertiade: This festival is dedicated to the music of Franz Schubert and is widely regarded as the most important Schubert music festival in the world. The festival takes place every year in Hohenems during April and October and prides itself in keeping its venues small and intimate which hugely adds to its popularity.
Salzburg Festival: The Salzburger Festspiele (held annually from July to September) dates back to 1920 and is the most famous event in Austria. This festival offers both musical and theatrical performances held throughout the city of Salzburg. The festival primarily celebrates the life of Wolfgang Mozart, who was born in Salzburg.
Vienna Weihnachtsmarkt: If you find yourself in Austria during November and December, you absolutely should not miss the famous Weichnachtsmarket (Christmas Market), in Vienna. Christmas in Austria is not quite as commercial as it is in the US, but families still enjoy typical Christmas eats and drinks, such as glühwein (hot wine) and lebkuchen (gingerbread).
Donauinselfest: The Donauinselfest is an annual open-air free music festival usually held in mid-June in Vienna. This annual outdoor festival lasts for three days and is Europe's biggest open-air event and hosts top Austrian bands as well as internationally recognised musicians.
Snowbombing: This popular week-long winter sports and music festival is held annually during the spring at the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen. What started as a DJ and electronic dance music event now also has a host of live acts - reflecting the popularity and resurgence of indie-rock music. Winter sport is the prime focus and the event combines popular activities (of which snowboarding seems to lead the charge) with music performances and themed parties in unusual locations.
Bregenz Festival: With a history going back 60 years, the Bregenzer Festspiele attracts opera lovers from all over the world. Spectacular, open-air operatic performances are held on a lake in the old town of Feldkirch during the summer period of July to August. Floating barges are constructed on the lake with the surrounding area transformed into a giant outdoor stage.
BEST TIME TO VISIT AUSTRIA
Peak tourist season in Austria is actually split between summer and winter and choosing the best time to visit Austria might entirely depend on your reasons for visiting and what you plan on doing during your stay.
July & August - Alpine hiking in Tyrol, lake swimming in Salzkammergut, and lots of summer festivals.
September & October - New wine in vineyards near Vienna, golden forest strolls, and few crowds.
December & January - Christmas markets, skiing in the Alps and Vienna waltzing into the New Year.
Generally, winter is busier than summer when hordes of skiers and snowboarders seek out the powdery slopes over the Christmas and New Year periods. The best time to visit Vienna and Salzberg is during spring and autumn as the weather is pleasant and you might avoid the peak tourist months of August and September when these popular cities burst at their seams. During this time most of the major music and art festivals take place and you will find limited options for accommodation and very full restaurants.
During summer months the mountain regions are very pleasant in between the odd summer shower and especially in the Alpine region, evenings can be cool.
AUSTRIA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Austria can be divided into three climatic zones: the eastern part shows a continental Pannonian climate (mean July temperature >19°C, annual rainfall < 800 mm), while the central Alpine region has the characteristic features of the Alpine Climate (high precipitation, short summers, long winters). The remaining part of the country belongs to the transitional central European climatic zone, which is characterised by a wet and temperate climate (mean July temperature o f14–19°C, annual precipitation of 700–2000 mm).
AUSTRIA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN AUSTRIA
The snow sports season in Austria starts in December and lasts until the end of March. The busiest period is from mid-December through to February, with the lesser crowded times at the beginning of December and March. However, if you chose the shoulder periods, be sure to also choose higher elevations to ensure sufficient snowfall.
HIKING & CYCLING IN AUSTRIA
The best time for outdoor activities in Austria is from May to September. In most regions, April and October are also feasible, but the temperatures can be rather low and the days are also shorter.
BEACH OPTIONS IN AUSTRIA
It may surprise you that Austria has several "beaches" on the shores of its mountain lakes, such as Strandbad and the Pipeline (Bregenz), Alvierbad Brand (Brandnertal), Esplanade Altmuster, Seebad Illmitz, Faaker Lake, Wolfgangsee (Salzburg), Klopeiner See Beach, Fuschl Lake and Unterach (Salzkammergut).
SURFING IN AUSTRIA
While Austria may not have coastal waves, they do have something called "River Surfing" on the Mur River in Graz as well as in the Alm Canal near Salzburg.
KITESURF IN AUSTRIA
Strong Northerly winds tend to blow most afternoons from May to September, making for good windsurfing conditions at the following lake destinations: The Amazing Lake Achensee, Lake Neusiedlersee, The Shore of Lake Wolfgansee, Lake Reschensee, Lake Walchsee & Silz. Kitesurfing begins from June at Lake Achensee (also known as the Tyrolean Sea) in Tyrol.
For more details on kite surfing in Austria expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN AUSTRIA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
AUSTRIA TRAVEL COSTS
Travel costs in Austria are comparable to elsewhere in Western Europe, although they are slightly higher than those you might find in the United States. Restaurants can be quite expensive, particularly during dinner hours and to save some money, consider cooking a few of your own meals and eating out a little less. Consider visiting Austria during the shoulder season as prices are generally higher during the winter months when people head to the Alps for skiing. They're also higher during the summer months when many families travel here on vacation. You're likely to find the best deals during the spring or fall months when tourist crowds are at a minimum and demand is at its lowest. Do not forget to consider the entry fees for museums and historical buildings in your budget as these can prove to be fairly expensive!
You should plan to spend around $120 per day on your vacation in Austria. On average, expect to spend $30 on meals for one day and $20 on local transportation. Hotels are plentiful throughout the country. Expect to pay about $50 - $60 for a simple double room outside of the touristy areas, and up to $70-$130 in the busier towns.
AUSTRIA TRAVEL TIPS
There are hundreds of hostels around Austria if you're a budget traveller and camping is available throughout the country. You will find facilities to be top-notch, with many places offering laundry services, shops and snack bars.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF AUSTRIA
Austria is probably as famous as a tourist destination for the beautiful Alps as it is for its history of music and opera. Mountains cover three-quarters of the country, with the remaining one quarter filled with vineyards, rolling hills, and river gorges. Most visitors come to see the mountains, and they will not be disappointed. If you're not interested in winter sports, head to the area during the summer months when the hiking is at its best. The stunning Alps make a unique backdrop for exploring charming villages as well as the historic cities.
Vienna - Discover opulent Habsburg palaces, coffee houses and cutting-edge galleries.
Salzburg - Survey the baroque cityscape from the giddy height of 900-year-old Festung Hohensalzburg.
Kitzbühel - Send your spirits soaring from peak to peak hiking and skiing.
Grossglockner Road - Buckle up for a rollercoaster ride of Alps and glaciers on one of Austria's greatest drives.
Salzkammergut - Dive into the crystal-clear lakes of Austria's summer playground.
Innsbruck - Whiz up to the Tyrolean Alps in Zaha Hadid's space-age funicular.
Danube Valley - Explore the romantic Wachau and technology trailblazer Linz.
Make the most of Vienna, spend your first day visiting the Habsburg palaces and Stephansdom before cozying up in a Kaffeehäus (coffee house). At night, check out the lively bar scene.
Plan for two long and lovely days in Vienna, plus another day exploring the Wachau (Danube Valley) wine region, a day each in Salzburg and Innsbruck, a day in St Anton am Arlberg or Kitzbühel hiking or skiing, and then a final day exploring the Salzkammergut lakes.
The capital, Vienna, possessing a unique and distinct identity, is characterised by its rich architecture and famous river, the Danube. Along with its charming old town centre, Saint Etienne Cathedral, Donaupark, the pedestrian road of Kärtner Strasse, the Imperial Palace, and the Opera House to name just a few there is no shortage of interesting sights. Slowing down to sample the famous Viennese café culture will be a highlight of your visit.
Watch the magnificent Lipizzan horses perform at the Spanish Riding School. With a history of over 440 years, the school is the best place in the country to witness riders in their impeccable outfits, personifying the height of classical riding and horsemanship. Watching the daily morning exercise is a beautiful and peaceful experience, and one of the most authentic attractions in Austria.
The incredible Schönbrunn Palace is considered to be one of the most important architectural structures in Austria. The palace dates back to the 16th century and although the building itself is incredibly beautiful, the gardens are considered to be just as impressive. Try to find a way through the incredible hedge maze, visit the botanical garden, or explore the Roman ruins.
For many people, "The Sound of Music" springs to mind when they think of Austria. The city of Salzburg, the setting place for the movie, is lovely to visit and explore. If you're an aficionado of this well-known film there's even a themed tour that focuses on points of interest from the movie. This wondrous city has many treasures; from baroque churches, squares, fountains to various places dedicated to Mozart who was born in this town. The International Festival (from July to August), is a great celebration of music and should not be missed.
Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves in Werfen (30-minute drive south of Salzburg) is considered to be one of the largest ice cave complexes in the world and even during the hot summer months, can be cold inside the underground lair. Using headlamps, visitors are taken into the depths of the caves to the sight of amazing ice structures which creates a wonderfully unique atmosphere.
Explore Salzwelten - one of the oldest salt caves in the world in Hallein (30-minute drive south of Salzburg). A tour of the will take visitors underground and includes a train ride, a boat ride and a trek. A small train takes visitors to the depth of the mine who then have to go down a long wooden slide, just like miners did in the old days to learn about how salt has been mined for over 7,000 years. Once underground, the tour takes visitors actually across the border into Germany!
Ski (or Learn to Ski)
What makes skiing in Austria unique when compared to other Alpine ski areas? The hotels are mainly small and family-run, the food is wholesome, the locals are friendly, the snow condition is gorgeous, with fresh powder to ski on pretty much every day. Skiing enthusiasts are sure to find themselves at home in Austria.
Cycle the Danube River
The cycle path alongside the Danube in Austria is arguably the most famous cycle route in Europe. Most of its 'traffic' moves along with the flow of the river (downstream), usually starting in or near Passau and ending in Vienna. Some cyclists go even further to Bratislava (Slovakia) as it is only another 56 kilometres further downstream.
If you prefer travelling with a group tour, we highly recommend G Adventures. They are a super reputable company and have been running tours around the world offering loads of different tour types that cater to all travellers such as well as wellness tours, tours for 18-30-year-olds. If you like the idea of travelling in a group and make new friends, check out the variety of tours that G Adventures has and the details and dates of each trip. Use the filters in the sidebar to help you find a tour that fits your travel dates and travel style.
WHAT TO PACK FOR AUSTRIA
WHAT TO EAT IN AUSTRIA
Austrian food may not be internationally renowned, but it is hearty and tasty and you will find plenty of regional delicacies to try. Typical local favourites include schnitzel (breaded and shallow-fried pork) and kaiserschmarn (a lightly caramelized pancake). Prices tend to be reasonable throughout, and even small restaurants serve decent meals. In the major cities, there is no lack of cuisine choices, from ethnic to international. Great eats can also easily be had from street vendors, as well as from simple sausage shops, many of which have small windows where freshly grilled sausages and brötchen (crusty bread rolls) are served. A beer or a glass of wine goes perfectly with almost every Austrian meal.
One of Austria's national dishes, Wiener Schnitzel is certainly its most successful export. Traditionally pounded very thin, breaded, crisply pan-fried, and typically garnished with lemon and fresh parsley, it's often served with a simple salad with vinaigrette, Austrian potato salad, steamed potatoes, or French fries.
The Sachertorte is a proud symbol of the Austrian capital. It's a dense, chocolate sponge cake made with thin layers of apricot jam that's topped with a semi-firm chocolate icing. Although some say the Café Sacher in Vienna is over-rated, sampling a slice of the famous and scrumptious cake along with a cup of Viennese coffee is an absolute must. The recipe is a closely held secret, and this is the only place where you supposedly can eat the 'original' Sachertorte.
Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
An Austrian delicacy loved all around the world, you will find it sold in bakeries, cafes, and restaurants around Vienna. Apfelstrudel gained in popularity around Eastern Europe under the influence of the Habsburg empire and is a delicate counterpoint to the slightly heavier (and generally sweeter) American apple pie.
Melange (Viennese Coffee)
The famed Viennese melange, similar to a cappuccino but usually without cocoa powder, is topped with half hot milk and half foamed milk. Cappuccinos in Austria are generally topped with whipped cream, rather than milk. If you're looking for an Americano, ask for a Verlängerter (literally, "longer"); plain coffee with cream is a Brauner, and espresso or double espresso is referred to as a Schwartzer.
Wiener Wurstel (Viennese Sausages)
Made from both beef and pork, encased in sheeps' intestine these well-known sausages are usually served with sharp mustard and is perfectly accompanied with Austrian potato salad, radishes, and spring asparagus. Many people will enjoy the simplicity and value of procuring a Wiener Wurstel from a street vendor, slathering it with mustard and gobbling it down right there on the spot.
LGBTQ IN AUSTRIA
Same-sex marriage in Austria has been legal since 1 January 2019, following a decision of the Constitutional Court on 4 December 2017. The country has, however, allowed registered partnerships since 1 January 2010. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Austria have advanced significantly in the 21st century.