Last December, I had the chance to visit Vienna on a solo trip. I wanted to visit Austria during this time so I could see all the picturesque Christmas markets, Christmas decorations, and go ice skating. Even though I was traveling alone, I had the most magical time exploring Austria. While I was in Austria, I visited Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and Hallstatt. Austria impressed me so much that I decided that I definitely have to write a travel guide to Austria when I return home to share all of its beauty with you. This post includes all my must-know travel tips before visiting Austria. I’ll share with you some of the essential travel advice I picked up during my trip to Austria, to help you plan your adventure to this charming country.
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How many days should I spend in Austria?
Austria is a relatively small country but there are many sights to be seen there.
Doing a road trip across the country is one of the best ways to see them. That way you’ll be able to stop in all of the small villages whenever you like and fully immersive yourself in its culture. So, if you have enough time, I would suggest you spend at least two weeks properly exploring the country.
If you’re short on time I’d plan to stay for at least three nights in each of the cities you would like to visit in Austria. If you are just visiting for only 5-7 days, consider prioritizing Vienna and Salzburg as they’re simply a must-visit. If you have additional time then also enjoy Innsbruck and Hallstatt. These cities will amaze you with their beauty and will let you explore all of their main parts in only 1-2 days.
Even a short weekend break to Vienna for 3-4 days will be worth it.
What is the best time of the year to visit Austria?
The best time to visit Austria is during shoulder seasons, in spring and fall. You will enjoy better temperatures and fewer crowds during those seasons.
The highest tourist season is between June and August.
You can visit Austria all-year-round. No matter if you go there in winter or summer time, you’ll find exciting things to do at any time.
It’s also worth considering tying in your trip with some of the seasonal festivals and events that take place throughout the year. Here are a few of Austria’s calendar highlights:
- Christmas – as I mentioned I visited Austria in December and it’s one of the best times to visit the country. The decorations and markets are incredible, and if you are looking for the picture-perfect European Christmas, this is the time for you to visit!
- Viennale International Film Festival – Takes place in October across Vienna. This film festival premieres a wide range of movies in cinemas throughout the city. Many events, galas, and talks take place during the festival.
- Vienna Ball Season – Begins every year on the 11th of November. However, its peak time is in January and February. That’s the time when hundreds of magical balls take place around the most magnificent and historical locations in Vienna.
- Vienna Popfest – This four-day music festival takes place each July, and features many Austrian pop acts. It’s held in the Karlsplatz church, which is an incredible venue for this event.
- Danube Island Festival – attracting around three million visitors each June, this festival transforms Danube Island in Vienna into a party island. Musicians from around the world visit and there are plenty of great food and drink options on offer.
- International Art Fair – Each autumn, Vienna is home to this art event, which attracts artists from around the world. The Leopold Museum hosts a wide variety of art, so whether you enjoy modern or more classical art, this is the perfect time to visit.
Public holidays take place throughout the year, and during these days expect shops and banks to be closed, and attractions and museums may reduce their opening hours. These holidays are: January 1st and 6th, Easter Monday, May 1st, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Corpus Christi, August 15th, October 26th, November 1st, December 8th, and December 24th-26th.
How is the weather in Austria?
Another consideration to take into account before booking your trip is the weather in Austria.
Vienna has warm summers but quite cold and dry winters. Summers in Vienna can reach up to 80°F/27°C in July. Winters are cold and snowy, with January seeing temperatures below zero.
There is a little rain in spring and autumn, but these are still the best times to visit Austria if you want to avoid the extreme high or low temperatures.
The peak ski season in Austria is between December and March.
Exploring the cities – Are City Cards worth the money?
If you are planning to do a lot of exploring when visiting Austria, a City Card is a wise investment for your trip.
I bought it in Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck and it was worth every single euro! They may seem a bit pricey at first, but they save you a lot of money in the end, as they provide you with free entrance to dozens of museums, activities, and venues across each city. Therefore, if you love to see as many attractions as possible in a short visit, this would be a good option for you.
I go into more detail about every card in my itinerary posts!
Highlights of a trip to Austria
There are many amazing experiences and activities that you can do across Austria. From snowy ski slopes and lush green forests and mountains to luxury shopping and small towns full of history, Austria has something special for everyone.
These are only a few of my highlights from my most recent trip in December:
- Vienna – magical capital of Austria. Stroll through this gorgeous city and enjoy the art, culture, and food it has to offer.
- Salzburg – well-known for being Mozart’s birthplace, there are some great scenic hikes and modern cafes to enjoy here. Don’t miss visiting Hohensalzburg Castle and the city’s Old Town.
- Skiing – St. Anton is one of the best ski resorts in Europe, and for avid skiers, I’d highly recommend spending some or all of your trip on the slopes. The apres-ski options are fantastic here, with great dining and drinking venues.
- Innsbruck – the capital of Austria’s western state of Tyrol, a stunning town located in the Austrian Alps. The Court Church, the City Tower, and Nordkette are three of the most famous sights here.
- Hallstatt – is the most picture-perfect town of Austria. It’s probably the city that you’ve seen the most often on Instagram. It’s a perfect place for a day trip from Salzburg if you want to escape big cities and enjoy the more natural beauty.
Where to stay in Austria?
As with anywhere in the world, your accommodation options will depend on your budget.
Austria isn’t a particularly cheap country to visit, so hostels are a great bet if you are looking to save money. Hostels can be found in all the major cities, and you can choose between dorms or private rooms. Expect to pay between 15 – 25 Euros per night for a dorm room, depending on the hostel you choose and the time of year you are visiting. The platform that I always choose when looking for the best hostel is Hostelworld.
Of course, these cities also have many traditional hotel options to offer as well.
My go-to platform when booking a hotel anywhere in the world is hands-down Booking.
I personally also love to stay in Airbnb’s when I travel. It gives you extra space, privacy, and includes the kitchen most of the time as well. Airbnbs are available throughout the whole country, and there are plenty of great options on the site. You can stay in some fantastic modern apartments, and in winter there is a lot of cosy option for after a day outdoors in the cold.
If you are traveling in a large group, this is also a great way to save money, as you can rent a larger place and split the cost between you all.
The Airbnb list is endless and sometimes can make it a bit harder to find the best accommodation. That’s why I created this list for you of the best Airbnbs in Austria, suitable for any budget. Click here, to see all of the amazing accommodations!
Is Austria expensive to visit? Is it possible to explore Austria on a budget?
Traveling in Austria can be very expensive. After all, it’s one of the wealthiest countries in the world. However, with careful planning, there are still some things you can do to explore Austria on a budget.
Here are my top tips for saving money in Austria:
- Buy a City Card – as I mentioned above, this is a great option for anyone who loves sightseeing and they include all of the most popular attractions.
- Visit the Opera in Vienna for only 3 Euros – if you would like to visit the Wiener Staatsoper but don’t want to pay the high price tag, there is a way to save your money. The Opera offers 567 standing places, and they sell those tickets at an incredibly low price of just three or four Euros. You can buy them several hours in advance before the event starts. Don’t miss this amazing chance to see this cultural tradition for a bargain price.
- Download the Ivie app for your time in Vienna – this app from the Vienna Tourist Board will be your personal guide around the city. It will show you all of the main sites, and encourage you to explore many hidden treasures. With lots of photos and videos on the app, you’ll be able to plan your time in the city with ease.
- Student or Senior discounts – always ask about these discounts if they apply to you at museums. The ISIC card can save students a great deal of money.
- Most museums are free on the first Sunday of each month, so take advantage of this if you are visiting on that weekend.
- Free walking tours – most cities offer these now, and they are a great way to get oriented when you first arrive. It helps you learn about the history of the city and meet new people.
- Stay in a hostel or Airbnb – as I’ve discussed above these are two of the best options for a trip to Austria, and offer great choices to fit all budgets.
- If you are staying in an Airbnb, consider cooking your own meals. This will save a lot of money instead of dining out every night at expensive restaurants.
- Walk everywhere – most of the cities in Austria are very walkable, so enjoy seeing even more of the city as you go between places by foot.
- Stop at Tourist information centers when you first arrive in the city – I used to never visit tourist offices as nowadays you can find all of the necessary information online. However, tourist offices usually offer free maps and can give you a lot of valuable information about the city you’re visiting that you can’t find online.
Getting to Austria
Austria can easily be visited as a part of a trip around Europe and is bordered by seven other countries.
It has fantastic transportation connections with the rest of Europe, with Vienna being home to the international airport. You can also fly into the other regional airports, or even Bratislava in Slovakia, which is only a 75-minute bus journey from Vienna.
Trains and busses run between Vienna and other major cities in Europe including Bratislava, Budapest, and Prague, and it’s also easy to connect to Italy, Germany, and Croatia via train.
How to get around Austria?
There are many different options for getting around Austria. Consider renting a car and driving between cities if you like to explore on your own terms. Compare prices and book online before arriving to get the best deal on car rentals.
However, I’d highly recommend taking your trip via public transport. The bus and train systems in Austria are fantastic and extremely clean and pleasant to travel on. The trains are very efficient for getting between the major cities and better for the environment.
Here are the approximate journey times between the major destinations in Austria:
- Innsbruck to Salzburg – 1 hour 50 minutes
- Innsbruck to Vienna – 4 hours 15 minutes
- Salzburg to Vienna – 2 hours 30 minutes
- Hallstatt to Salzburg – 2 hours 15 minutes
It’s easy to create a circular route by train for your trip so that you can fly in and out of the airport in Vienna. I love traveling by train or by bus as it’s so relaxing and you get to see the varied scenery en route.
Pro Travel Tip: If you are looking to find the cheapest train or bus prices, always check prices online first and book in advance. The Omio app and the Obb app are great resources for finding the cheapest tickets and best travel times.
What to eat in Austria?
Here, I’m going to say only one thing: Don’t miss Austria’s national dish, Viennese Apfelstrudel, and Sacher Torte. They’re served in restaurants throughout the whole country, so it will be very easy to find them.
Tips are usually expected in sit-down restaurants, where a 10% tip or rounding up the bill by a few euros will usually be enough.
If you are visiting at Christmas time, make sure to enjoy all the food at the markets. I’ve tried some of the most delicious Austrian dishes that way.
More Tips when traveling in Austria:
• Whenever you have a drink at the Christmas markets, you will have to pay 5 Euros extra for the mug, which you can either take home with you as a souvenir or return it to get your deposit refunded.
• Shops in Austria are closed on Sundays. Even on the busy shopping streets, stores like Tiffany & Co and Cartier were closed. Including the larger supermarkets such as Lidl. So, make sure that if you are cooking for yourself you prepare in advance for this, so you aren’t caught short on Sunday night!
• Take a look at the pedestrian lights! It’s all about those small little things that bring true joy in life, and in Austria everything is picture-perfect.