By Briana Seftel
Ahhh, Austria...the crisp Alpine air, rolling green hills, old-world villages and Mozart. Smack dab in Europe and sharing its border with eight other countries, Austria was the first country to use the postcard, which is only fitting considering the country has countless postcard-worthy places. Pack your best lederhosen and dirndl and explore the eight essential places to visit in Austria!
Arguably the most picturesque city in Europe, Hallstatt is worth the trip to Austria alone. Situated on the edge of Hallstätter See and set against the backdrop of the Dachstein mountains, Hallstatt combines a stunning lakeside location with centuries of history. The oldest village in Austria dating back to prehistoric times, Hallstatt was known for its production of salt, and visitors can still see the ancient salt mine today.
The birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg is a city with music in its bones. Divided by the Salzach river, with the Old City (Altstadt) on one side and the New City (Neustadt) on the other, Salzburg was also the setting for "The Sound of Music." Get lost wandering around this baroque city and don't miss the city's hilltop icon, the 11th-century Hohensalzburg Castle.
Grossglockner Road is one of the ultimate drives in Europe. This scenic road leads you right into the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, with views of Austria’s largest mountain, the Grossglockner. Make sure you get an early start to see the sights in all of their pure, unfiltered glory.
What do Sigmund Freud, Pez candy and snow globes all have in common? They're all from the capital of Austria, Vienna! Europe's cultural capital is an elegant imperial city with an illustrious, music-filled past. Feel like royalty at Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburgs, museum-hop in the Museumsquartier, and oooo and ahhh at the State Opera. Take a break at one of Vienna's famous cafes, with an apple strudel, of course.
Wake up to the snow-capped Alps from Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol. Hosting the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck is internationally known as a winter sports hub with excellent skiing, snowboarding and more. Mixed in with the city's alpine flair is 800 years of history including the glittering Golden Roof and Imperial Palace.
An easy day trip from Vienna, the Wachau Valley is a beautiful 18-mile stretch alongside the Danube River. Home to numerous historic sites including Melk Abbey, Burg of Aggstein and the ruins of Dürnstein, Wachau Valley is perhaps most famous for its wine production. Taste the specialty of the region, Grüner Veltliner, in this beautiful UNESCO-protected valley.
Don't forget about Graz! Austria’s second-largest city, with its large student population and well-preserved Old Town, is the perfect blend of old and new. Head to Old Town with its medieval and Italian Renaissance buildings, then ascend to the 13th-century Clock Tower for stellar views of the Old Town below. Say hello to contemporary icons like the Murinsel, a hybrid theater-cafe-playground island in the middle of the Mur River.
Have breakfast in Austria, lunch in Liechtenstein and dinner in Switzerland! Straddling Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Lake Constance has the unique position of offering a three-country exploration in one gorgeous place. On the Austria side, see the beautiful town of Bregenz and take a gondola to Pfänder Mountain where you can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the Swiss Alps.