What images come to mind when you hear the word Austria? If you’re not Austrian, it’s probably hills that are alive with the sound of music (with or without Julie Andrews 😆 ). There’s no denying that The Sound of Music did a fair deal to put Austria on the world tourism map. But is there more to this country in the heart of Europe? Can these pictures of Austria prove that? Warning: look away if you don’t want to catch wanderlust fever.
1. The original Hallstatt
Believe it or not, the Chinese built an exact replica of Hallstatt as an upper-class housing development. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), they couldn’t replicate the view over Lake Hallstatt. You’d be much better off visiting the real Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut UNESCO World Heritage Region to find out why there are more than 600 painted skulls in a Gothic chapel overlooking the lake. No collection of pictures of Austria will be complete without one of Hallstatt, especially one that includes both the lake and the town.
Read more: Hallstatt is a perfect destination for a day trip from Salzburg
2. If it inspired Mozart, why not you?
Long before Salzburg was put on the map by the Sound of Music, the city was known as the birthplace of one of the greatest composers of all times. Mozart was born in No. 9 Getreidegasse in the old city of Salzburg, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, on 27 January 1756. Within a 1 km radius of this famous address, you can see a medieval fortress, the magnificent Salzburg cathedral, and the Mirabell Gardens.
Read more: How to make the best of your Salzburg Card when visiting the city of Mozart.
3. You can easily stand on an Alpine peak
Is enjoying the views from an Alpine peak without having to actually climb the mountain even possible? In Austria it is. That’s why you see so many pictures of Austria with people standing on top of a mountain. How did they get there? A cable car of course. There are thousands of them to take people to ski runs in winter and hiking trails and viewpoints in summer. The view in the picture above can be enjoyed at Schlick 2000 in the Stubai Valley. It’s an easy 10-minute walk from the cable car station.
Read more: A practical guide to the Innsbruck cable car
4. No-one does Christmas like the Austrians
It starts as early as mid-November. First, there are the fairytale lights – in city streets and outside village homes – to brighten the mood after sunset. Then the Christmas markets start when you can experience the Advent period in its authentic form – from the daily markets in Vienna, Innsbruck, and Salzburg to the even more traditional ones in the villages over weekends. Watch out for the Krampus who accompanies Santa and wrap your hands around a warm mug of Glühwein. If you’re really lucky, the snow will be in time for a white Christmas in the mountains.
Read more: Your guide to the Innsbruck Christmas markets
5. Nature and architecture are in harmony
In Austrian towns and villages, architecture and nature blend together in perfect harmony. Whether it’s this row of colourful houses along the Inn River with the Nordkette Mountains as a backdrop or a centuries-old farmhouse surrounded by Alpine meadows. In Vienna, there’s the Danube and in Salzburg the Salzach. Not to mention all the beautiful palace gardens, such as those at Schönbrunn and Mirabell. These are the pictures of Austria that people remember.
6. Magical mountains in winter
Pictures of Austria in winter undoubtedly include some of snow-capped mountains. They are a playground for young and old – whether you’re a beginner or advanced skier, snowboarder or ski tourer. Snowshoe hiking is becoming increasingly popular and tobogganing provides hours of fun. You can also just find yourself a sunny spot above the clouds and enjoy the winter panoramas from the comfort of a lounge chair.
Read more: Why the Schlick 2000 ski resort is great for families and beginners
7. Hiking trails to make you yodel
Whether you’re 5 or 85 – there’s a hiking trail for you in Austria. From the high Alpine trails to the valleys, no-one has an excuse not to put on their hiking boots and go a wandering. The scenery will make you want to yodel (or otherwise burst out in a Julie Andrews song). The great thing about Austrian hiking trails? Most of them have traditional mountain hut restaurants along the way where you can stop for refreshments. You can even sleep in some of the huts. My best pictures of Austria must include a hiking trail.
Read more: Discover waterfalls, cows, goats and traditional mountain huts on the wild water trail in the Stubai Alps
8. Even the cows dress up
Austrian cows who spend the summer months in mountain pastures are welcomed back to their stables for winter in royal fashion. This tradition of making beautiful head-dresses with which the animals are paraded through village streets is meant to give thanks for their safe homecoming. It’s called an Almabtrieb and celebrated throughout Austria but especially in Tyrol.
Read more: How the residents of Reith im Alpbachtal turn an Almabtrieb into a village festival
9. And make hikes unforgettable
I like to call them the ladies of the Alps. You’ll encounter cows on almost every hike in Austria, with the echoing of their bells betraying their presence. They are the real artists making the hills come alive with music. Some ignore you, some come closer to be stroked (proceed at own risk), and others force you to take a detour by blocking the path. The Tyrolean mountains won’t be the same without them. Neither would a compilation of pictures of Austria.
Watch: The cows we encountered on our hikes in 2017
10. Austria is the perfect backdrop for adventure sports
Mountain biking, paragliding, mountain climbing, hiking to summits, freeride skiing or snowboarding. You name it, if there’s an adventure sport, it’s probably practiced in the Austrian Alps. Alone the province of Salzburger Land has an incredible 4,000 km of mountain bike trails for all levels of experience. In Tyrol, you can drive up almost any valley to find paragliding or hang-gliding operators. And with more than 400 ski resorts, there is more than enough choice for freeriders. Additional safety tip when practicing adventure sports in Austria: stop to enjoy the surrounding scenery rather than get distracted while on the move and finding yourself tumbling rather than riding down the mountain.
Read more: Hiking the wild water trail in the Stubai Alps
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