Austria may be small but it's also packed with variety, from grand Hapsburg palaces to mountain-framed alpine-green pastures. Stick to the cities to sip cream-smothered Viennese coffees in chandelier-lit cafes or trawl contemporary art galleries in fast developing Linz. Head for the great outdoors for lively apres-ski chalets or ski down Tyrol's snowy Alps.
From Graz to Linz on the River Danube, Austrian cities share a love of coffee houses, otherwise known as temples to sinful Sachertorte chocolate cake, and sacred Gemtlichkeit, literally cosiness. Trace the winding River Danube to Austria's cultural centre and capital city, Vienna, or visit Mozart's birthplace in beautiful Salzburg. Head west to the Vorarlberg and Tyrol regions to snuggle in wooden alpine chalets and nibble on farm-fresh cheese.
City breaks in Austria
Admire Vienna's vast Museums Quartier collection of museums. Or try local speciality Sachertorte cake in an elegant 19th-century coffee house. Take a stroll along the twinkling Ringstrasse boulevard that wraps itself around Vienna's centre. Climb Graz's medieval clock tower, looming above a jumble of red-roofed townhouses. Or head north to Linz, the pulse of modern-day Austria with cutting-edge art galleries and a vibrant nightlife scene.
Things to do in Austria
The Eastern Alps steal the limelight in the Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Salzburgerland areas. Fly to Innsbruckfor summertime rambles through edelweiss flower meadows. In the winter, stay in a popular ski resort like Kitzbühel or Mayrhofen. Gaze up at the Grossglockner or hear the crash of Krimml Falls waterfall in Hohe Tauern National Park. Moving east the scenery shifts to rolling woodland and shady apple orchards.
Skiing in Austria
Ski holidays in Austria offer high quality pistes, great modern lifts and world-class ski schools. This, alongside breathtaking scenery, quaint alpine villages and beautiful natural spas make for the ideal ski location. Also, get a taste of local culture – festivals, music and cuisine play a big part of life in the Austrian Alps.
Ellmau is an attractive alpine village connected to the huge Skiwelt area – a massive 280 kilometres of pistes and runs. Ellmau on its own has around 55km, so even if you wanted to stay local there are plenty of challenges. The local pistes are perfect for beginners and intermediates, but advanced skiers will have to travel a bit further to the Skiwelt. The village is great for après ski, with high-end restaurants and cosy cafes catering for the evening crowd. You will find traditional Austrian entertainment in Ellmau, a treat for all the family.
Known for its superb après ski, Ischgl is a great place for those looking for both quality skiing and a party atmosphere. The beginning, middle and end of the season are all marked by huge concerts by some big name bands and artists. There is a big German contingent and they love to party, so bring your beer drinking buddies. The skiing itself takes place in snow sure Paznaun Valley high up in the Silveretta mountains, with north facing slopes almost guaranteeing long seasons. From sloping blues to difficult blacks, Ischgl offers a challenging range.
The highest resort in Austria, Hochgurgl is the sister resort of Obergurgl. A ski-in ski-out village, you can ski straight to your door and as one of Europe’s highest resorts, the season is pretty snow-sure. The Obergurgl-Hochgurgl arena is superb, with lots of beginner slopes rising up to 3000 metres, a great snow park for snowboarders and advanced skiers, and 100 kilometres of fairly quiet mountain. Off the slopes you will find a lively après scene and some great restaurants serving Austrian classics. For a change, head over to Hotel Riml’s Putt-In-Bar to find a state-of-the-art golf simulator.
Sitting at the foot of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier, Kaprun is a wonderful resort both on and off the piste. The range of slopes are impressive, from gentle greens for the newcomers to a 63% gradient black – the ‘Black Mamba’ – which only the best skiers will be able to navigate safely. There is a lot to do after skiing too, with spas, ice skating and sledging on offer. Après ski is great too, from the quaint Austrian taverns to the more lively bars and clubs you’ll find something to suit your style.
Perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers, Katschberg is full of relaxing blue and shallow red runs. However, those who are more advanced will perhaps find the terrain too flat and tidy and should head off piste for more of a challenge. With only 16 lifts, it isn’t the biggest of resorts but it is a well-established resort and a family favourite of the locals of Salzburg (only 100km away). Being a small resort makes for a fun après ski scene, with thirsty skiers able to enjoy a few drinks in the quaint, traditional bars before the evening.
Home to the famous annual Hahnenkamm Race, Kitzbühel is a great resort for every level. From newcomers to experts there is a run for you, so expect to be sharing the pistes with some very good skiers. Wide slopes accommodate beginners, whilst steep red and black runs allow the more advanced to gain some real speed. It is said that skiing was ‘invented’ here, but what brings the international crowd is more than that. Great food, both traditional and modern, chic bars and high-end shops all create a sense of luxurious charm.
Mayrhofen is one of the most famous resorts in Austria, being great for both skiing and snowboarding, with fantastic snow parks and extraordinary off piste. You will find the steepest piste run in Austria in the Harikiri (meaning an honourable suicide in Japanese) black run, which at 78% gradient is not for the fainthearted. Off the slopes you can enjoy some fantastic bars and clubs, both traditional and contemporary cuisine and one of the most famous festivals of the winter season, ‘Snowbombing’. Add to this spas, sleigh rides and tobogganing and you have a resort to return to year after year.
Nestled in the beautiful Wildschönau valley, Niederau is part of the Ski Juwel area, alongside traditional resorts Alpbach and Oberau. This picturesque village is in the Tyrol region, famous for its charming villages, onion-domed churches and snow-sure conditions. With its wide nursery slopes Niederau is great for beginners, but advanced skiers may find it a bit too simple. Head on the bus to Auffach or take the lift link to Alpbach, to open up the whole of the Ski Juwel’s massive scope. Après ski is quiet, but good food and fun times can be found easily in this wonderful resort.
The bigger of the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl resorts, Obergurgl is the highest parish in Austria – and almost 1800 metres above sea level, the resort is one of the highest too. All the slopes are above tree level and range from subtle blues to difficult blacks, so even the most advanced skiers and snowboarders will be happy here. When you factor in the terrain park and 11 kilometres of night skiing, you have a superb resort. Obergurgl is a bigger resort than its counterpart, so offers much more in the way of après ski and night life.
Just a few kilometres from Niederau, the picturesque resort of Oberau fits your vision of an Austrian alpine village, with its onion-domed baroque church and rural charm. While the local slopes are not very extensive, you can take a free bus to Auffach to connect with the brilliant Ski Juwel area. Everyone from beginners to experts can enjoy the 145 kilometres of pistes on offer, including subtle blue runs and exciting reds. Tyrolean culture is in plain view in Oberau, with great traditional food, quaint festivals throughout the season and a quiet, but firmly established, après ski scene.
Saalbach and Hinterglemm are two resorts only four kilometres apart, and both offer superb skiing and snowboarding. In 2015, they were connected to Fieberbrunn to create the Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang Ski Circus, which covers 270km of pistes, making it one of the largest ski areas in Austria. And with five snow parks and even a boarder cross course, this is also a brilliant area for snowboarders and freestyle skiers. Saalbach has some amazing modern restaurants, and Hinterglemm’s après ski finds enthusiastic skiers dancing on tables, so watch your fingers and toes.
Seefeld has twice been the venue for the Winter Olympics, probably because it is close to the Tyrolean capital Innsbruck, has a selection of quality hotels and great snow-sure conditions. There are also world-class cross country skiing tracks all around Seefeld, alongside the beginner-friendly pistes of steady blues and simple reds. After the day’s skiing, you will find some brilliant restaurants, memorable après ski and even a casino. Spend the evening in style at the Bräukeller, an underground grotto serving delicious Tyrolean specialities and homemade Klosterbräu beer.
Sölden is the largest resort in the Ötztal valley, great for skiing but even better for après ski. Attracting a young and lively crowd, there are more than 80 bars in the town centre and between 3-8pm you’ll see many a reveller dancing atop the tables. The skiing is also excellent as the two glaciers make for snow-sure conditions early in the season, so you are often able to ski from October until April. The range of pistes will suit all abilities, from shallow learner slopes to exciting red runs and even a few super-steep blacks.
Whilst it might not be the highest resort in Austria, Söll is surely one of the best connected, being part of the massive SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental circuit. As Austria’s biggest skiing area, you will find something for you, whether you are brand new to skiing or if you are old hat. Höhe Salve has some impressively steep blacks, so if you have the skill and the nerve, try and take these on. Off the slopes, the delightful centre of Söll is full of quaint taverns and gastronomic treats.
Renowned for its challenging piste skiing and legendary off-piste runs, St Anton is thought of as one of the best high-alpine resorts in the world. Part of the Ski Arlberg area, you’ll have 340 kilometres of pistes and 200 km of off piste. Not really for the beginner – they have no green runs – but they have an amazing array of difficult reds and death-defying black pistes. St Anton is also one of the most sophisticated resorts in Europe. So after the day skiing, perhaps go to the spa, eat at a gourmet bistro, or head down for some serious après ski in a stylish bar.
This beautiful lakeside town is idyllic, traditionally Tyrolean, but is also a modern ski resort with high-tech, fast-moving lifts up to 3000 metres. Zell am See itself is a large town, with fantastic bars, great shopping and high-end hotels, making it a good destination for a luxury ski holiday. The pistes are perfect for beginners, with some long wide blue runs together with spectacular views of the lake below. There are also some brilliant red runs for the more advanced skiers, and even a few steep blacks for the courageous. Afterwards, head down into town for some well-deserved après ski beers.