From country trails to snug wooden cabins nestled deep into Austrian countryside to soaring mountains for ski lovers there is something for everyone in Austria in Winter. Of course, we can’t forget the festive atmosphere of Christmas markets and rejuvenating thermal spas that Austria is world-famous for!
Austria is pretty in the summer months but it’s in Winter that its mountainous landscapes, traditional cities and historic towns really come to life! I’ve put together a list of Austria’s Top 10 Winter Destinations, so find which place suits you best and get ready to fly!
First on the list is breath-taking Salzburg! The Christmas markets are captivating and the city is surrounded by enchanting snow-capped Alps that provide a delightful backdrop for the Wintery vibe. Awesome sights such as Castle Mirabell, Fort Hohensalzburg and the cosy Old Town are just waiting to be explored and discovered. You’ll love wandering along the narrow streets and browsing through all the traditional shops. The Christmas market is sure to get you in a festive mood no matter what! It’s also your chance to get stuck into some Austrian specialities too. How about some delicious Sachertorte cake? Or do as the Austrians do and enjoy some Kaiserschmarrn with a Wiener Melange… Or in other words, shredded pancakes with icing sugar along with a cup of seriously lush Austrian coffee. With food as good as this, you’ll soon be forgetting about the cold weather outside. Here’s a little tip: if you want to bring back something typically local from Salzburg, then bring back some Mozartkugeln. These are little chocolate pralines containing marzipan or nougat, named after one of the city’s most famous residents, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Situated in Tyrol, Innsbruck is an intriguing city offering a unique mix of natural alpine landscapes and thriving city life. This gorgeous town really comes alive in winter, with Christmas markets, magical lights, and traditional food and drink in historic surroundings. Breathe in the warming spicy scents, hug your hands around a steaming mug of Glühwein, and allow yourself to soak up the festive spirit at one of Innsbruck’s Christmas markets. A really enjoyable family activity is taking the funicular via Nordkette to the Seegrube ski station at 2200 meters above sea level, where you can enjoy jaw-dropping vistas of the city!
Guru tip: One of the best and traditional Christmas markets can be found in front of the iconic Golden Roof!
Situated at the foothills of the Lienz Dolomites to the north and the Carnic Alps to the south, Kartitsch lies at an altitude of 1,356m in the Gailtal Valley and is very popular with walkers, hikers, and mountaineers alike. A fantastic winter activity is wrapping up warmly and exploring the Carnic Alps High Trail, a 155 km hiking path at over 2,000m altitude! Anyone who treks the mountain trail is rewarded with magnificent panoramas and a real sense of achievement as you conquer the beautiful peaks. The Obstanser Eishöhle ice cave is well worth a visit and I suggest gearing up to experience the thrilling climb 100 metres down into the earth! Winter sports fanatics will absolutely love the local ski area which encompasses challenging runs up to an altitude of 1,820 for advanced skiers but also easy slopes for beginners!
Zell am See
Sensational views, glacier skiing and a buzzing resort atmosphere make Zell am See a top destination to visit in Austria all year-round favourite. During the height of winter, the lake often freezes over, enabling you to walk from one side to the other – and even try some curling or skating! Thanks to its classic 19th-century architecture, idyllic lake and glistening mountain backdrop, there’s always a photo opportunity nearby. From the town centre, it’s easy to grab the CityXpress gondola up the Schmittenhöhe, where you’ll find a range of scenic pistes and plenty of mountain huts. Transport in this area is fantastic so you’ve always got free ski buses to whisk you around. I recommend taking the bus to the neighbouring glacier resort of Kaprun which home to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier and Salzburgburger Land’s highest mountain peak at 3023m! Zell am See is the perfect choice for a fun-filled ski holiday, and when you feel like taking a break from skiing you can try plenty of activities including snowshoeing, cross-country and Nordic walking.
This is a magical winter wonderland situated in the Tyrol region. Its beautiful location on a sunny plateau, around 1,000m above sea level, provides breathtaking views of the mountains. It’s an ideal resort for winter sports activities such as skiing and hiking. It has three ski lifts which take you to the Ski Juwel Alpbachtal Wildschönau ski area – one of the biggest ski resorts in Tyrol. It also offers 20 km of immaculate cross-country skiing trails in scenic surroundings, untracked powder slopes for ski touring and cleared winter hiking trails. Other popular winter activities include tobogganing and paragliding which make for a fantastic family ski holiday!
From enchanting Advent markets to fun in the snow in the nearby ski regions to unadulterated relaxation in the wellness facilities – everyone gets their money’s worth in the winter at the Wörthersee! In especially cold winters, it is not unknown for the Wörthersee to be transformed into Carinthia’s biggest outdoor skating rink. The areas around the lake are also excellent for hiking, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, and curling. The Gerlitz Alps ski region can be reached from the lake by car in only 15 minutes and offers superb conditions for a wonderful family ski holiday. The new Carinthia thermal baths are only half an hour away from the Wörthersee and a day spent here will certainly rejuvenate you and help any muscle tension disappear! The spa experience at the newly renovated and open to the public Werzer Badehaus (bathhouse) is magical and is ideal for couples seeking a romantic hideaway! It is especially intimate in the winter as you are treated to enviable views over the lake whilst you relax in warm 28 degrees Celsius water in the only heated lake pool in the Wörthersee region.
Commonly referred to as Austria’s ‘Green Heart’, Styria’s forests cover about half the country, grasslands and vineyards blanket another quarter. The country’s southeastern province stretches from the Alps to the hills and plains bordering Slovenia and Hungary. Grüner See (Green Lake) is surrounded by the soaring Hochschwab Mountains and luscious forests. The name “Green Lake” is derived from the emerald-green waters that glisten and entice hundreds of visitors every year. The clean and crystal-clear water comes from the snowmelt from the Karst mountains. Interesting areas to visit in Styria include Bad Gleichenberg, which is set amidst parks (perfect for a romantic stroll with your loved one) and Bad Aussee, a rustic market town oozing charm and old-world character. Let the romance flow with a journey on the funicular up to Schlossberg, a hill topped by the Uhrturm, a 16th-century clock tower, and look out at the panoramic views in front of you!
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the Austrian capital is blessed with a multitude of palaces and stately buildings such as the Hofburg Palace and the Opera House. Come winter time, the city is a delight to explore as the smell of mulled wine is in the air and the markets are in full swing. I mentioned coffee and cake before in the Salzburg section, but if you go to Vienna this is seriously one thing you cannot afford to miss. Imagine sitting in a beautiful café watching the world go by and the snowflakes slowly fluttering down… It’s these old traditions that really add to the city’s character and it combines with the festive atmosphere so well that you’ll find it difficult to want to get back on that flight home!
Nestled between the edge of Hallstätter See and the towering Dachstein mountains, Austria’s oldest and possibly most photographed village. Hallstatt is crowned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Upper Austria and is said to be one of the prettiest villages in the world. Dedicate time to promenading along Lake Hallstatt and relaxing in one of the boutique cafes that will serve up an irresistible winter warmer! Feel inspired as you wander past 16th-century Alpine houses and alleyways, and be sure to bring your camera to snap shots of the chalet-style houses built into the mountain, the glass-like lake, and the dramatic mountains in the background. Hikers and nature lovers alike should take a walk through the Echerntal trail and embark on a country trail that leads to the Echern Valley glacier garden with glacial potholes and Waldbachstrub Waterfall! I really recommend taking the funicular railway which connects Salzwelten (an ancient salt mine with a subterranean salt lake) to Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform which boasts enviable views of the pretty little village!
With gleaming Christmas markets, festive concerts, attractive exhibitions and specific handicraft courses, not only Graz but also its surroundings get in the Winter mood. The seasonal glow of a multitude of lights, atmospheric Christmas markets, a life-size nativity scene made of ice, a lit Advent calendar projected onto the town hall and a festively illuminated Christmas tree on Hauptplatz main square – that is Graz during the run-up to Christmas.