My Favourite Small Towns in Austria - Part I

The small, historic town of Retz in Lower Austria is famous for its wine culture

In a super-touristy country like Austria, you will have a hard time finding scenic spots that are not crowded, especially in the summer. However, international visitors usually hang out only in a few of the major cities, the Salzkammergut and maybe one or two small towns in the Alps.

Main Square of Ried in Upper AustriaThey miss out on the wealth of small towns with rural appeal that Austria has to offer. Little gems with lots of history that just wait to be discovered. This article contains a list with small towns that I would recommend to visit using your own mean of transport. I think they would make a great theme for a motorcycle or other road trip.

I will arrange them by federal province, in the same manner as I have done in other articles on Starting with Vorarlberg in the West and moving eastwards.

Historic Small Towns of Austria

1.) Hohenems: A small town in Austria′s very Western province Vorarlberg. Has some unexpected (for Western Austria) Jewish history. The local Jewish cemetery was recently refurbished, the surroundings are nice for hiking and there is some sightseeing to do.

2.) Reutte: Expect dramatic surroundings from Reutte, a classic small town of Tyrol. Hiking opportunities and folk culture with the local Tyrolian variation. Well-preserved 19th century flavour. Note also the nearby village of Ehrwald.

3.) Alpbach: Second home to Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger, Alpbach is famous for its annual forum, which unites decision makers from business, politics and academia. Beyond that, it is a really pretty village in the midst of the Tyrolian Alps.

4.) Seefeld: Austria′s hiking capital also has a historic core - as well as several golf courses alongside with a golf school.

5.) Kufstein: A Tyrolian town with Bavarian heritage, a massive fortress and enchanting alleys in a historic town centre. Might be quite touristy in the summer, though.

6.) Zell am See: A mix of Alpine flair, fin de siecle spirit and contemporary tourism. Offers a range of things to do: Sightseeing, swimming in the local lake or skiing all year round on the nearby glacier.

7.) Hallein: Pretty Baroque town that was widely refurbished in recent years with two important attractions: The Keltenmuseum (Museum of Celts) and the ancient salt mines alongside with a reconstructed Celtic village.

8.) Oberndorf: A town on the border to Bavaria with a historic centre and - most importantly - the site where "Silent Night" was written in the early 19th century.

9.) St Gilgen: One of the prettiest places in the Salzkammergut and thus, one of the most touristy ones. Villas, lakes and mountains - all you expect from your quintessential Salzkammergut place.

10.) Mondsee: Once home to a mighty monastery, Mondsee is still the ‘urban′ centre for the Western part of the Salzkammergut, a pretty town and a place that offers great vistas on the Northern Calciferous Alps.

11.) Gmunden: Famous for ceramics, scenery and three castles that it has to offer - most importantly the twin-castles of Schloss Orth. Great place for hiking, too.

12.) Bad Ischl: A spa town that was once a fashionable holiday destination among Vienna′s aristocracy and still a good spot for accessing the rest of the Salzkammergut.

13.) Hallstatt: The cradle of Austrian civilisation lies on a peninsula by a lake. Famous for its charnel house, city centre and the ancient salt mines, an absolute "must go" for every respectable visitor of Austria.

14.) Braunau: Struggling with a bit of a PR problem, Hitler′s birthplace has a very pretty city centre and makes a great starting point for a tour along the Upper Austrian / Bavarian border.

15.) Schärding: A Baroque main square and a strong Bavarian influence shaped this remarkably pretty town in the heart of the Innviertel.

16.) Ried: The town where I was born is not dissimilar from the one above - loads of Baroque burgher houses, a pretty town centre and a strong Bavarian influence, including a local brewery.

Continue with "Historic Small Towns - Part II"

back to "tours & trips" or "sightseeing"

Maps of Austrian Provinces

Vorarlberg - Tyrol - Salzburg - Upper Austria  - Lower Austria - Vienna - Carinthia - Styria - Burgenland - Salzkammergut

Further Reading

links to be added soon