14 Charming Villages in Austria to Explore Off the Beaten Path
While Vienna may waltz and Salzburg sing, the quaint villages in Austria are no less enchanting. Here are 14 of our favorites to slow travel!
Austria is undoubtedly known for everything Viennese, from the Imperial Habsburg Emperors and scrumptious pastry to the world’s most elegant dance, the Vienna waltz.
But there’s more to Austria for travelers looking to explore off the beaten path — the small towns and charming villages of Austria where you’ll find a slower pace and authenticity that’s hard to find in the bustling cities.
Unfortunately, for many Americans at least who continue to be captivated by The Sound of Music that stole our collective hearts in 1965, Austria may forever remain a fictional movie that symbolized a return to a more beautiful world after the ravages of war 20 years earlier.
No matter how much time has passed or how colored your glasses, one thing is crystal clear — Austria is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And the more of it we see, the more beautiful it becomes — and oddly those memories of well-behaved children singing goodnight (cu-CKOO, cu-CKOO) don’t seem as fictional or faraway.
Small Towns in Austria
If you’re a slow traveler and love exploring the lesser-known European bucket list destinations filled with old-world charm and incredible scenic beauty, rural Austria has so much to offer.
These are more often the places you’ll learn about the local culture and history from residents with deep roots, willing to share their stories, local food, and the hidden gems only they know.
This list of villages in Austria contains some real gems scattered throughout the country. Auf Wiedersehen!
To get the lay of the land, check out this map of Austria’s 9 states (or regions) below. Vienna is the capital of Austria, but it is also its own state.
From Vorarlberg to Burgenland, Lower Austria to Carinthia, this selection of 13 beautiful villages in Austria is the place to start crafting your own self-guided itinerary.
14 Must-See Villages in Austria
The charming Austrian village of Ehrenhausen in South Styria is a popular spring-to-harvest tourist destination for Austrians and Europeans looking for wine — which is good news to US travelers also looking for wine as it’s still off the radar of many Americans.
The small town of a few thousand is just an hour day trip from Graz and a starting point for the South Styria Wine Road, one of the best ways to enjoy all that wine. Along the way, you’ll fall in love with the pretty rural towns and wine taverns (or buschenschanks) that beg you stop for a glass of wine, a charcuterie platter and a warm bed.
Overlooking the town square is Ehrenhausen Castle which dates from the 12th century and there’s a beautiful little parish church with the typical Austrian style to see as well.
If you’re visiting around harvest time or the Christmas holidays, stop and get a cone of fresh roasted chestnuts from the street vendor and stroll the town for Instagram-worthy shots.
Where to Stay in Erhenhausen
How is this for charm? Gasthof zur Goldenen Krone (below) in the town center is central to everything with a delicious pub too.
Dürnstein, Lower Austria
Traveling oenophiles should put Dürnstein at the top of their list. This tiny town in the heart of Austrian wine country is one of the most beautiful villages in Austria, and is widely considered the jewel of the Wachau Valley, though that may be because it gets so much attention from river cruisers!
The town is a popular stop along the scenic Danube for those slow-moving river cruises that look so inviting, though it’s equally fun watching them as they pass by from your perch in a local cafe with a pint of stürm at the ready.
With narrow cobblestone stone streets, quaint cafes and shops to browse, it makes a great day trip from Linz or Vienna — even from across the border in the Czech Republic. But stay a few days longer to hike the surrounding hills, and see the ruins of the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. It overlooks the town and the river valley for stunning panoramic views.
You can also spend your days biking from wine tasting to wine tour, and never hit the same place twice. The Austrian wines are light and crisp, and seem to pair so well with the clean crisp air of Lower Austria.
History lovers should visit Dürnstein Abbey, a former 15th-century Augustine monastery, or go just a bit further down the road to Melk Abbey in the town of Melk on the other side of the Danube from Dürnstein.
Where to Stay in Dürnstein
We loved our stay at Winzerhof Gästehaus Stöger and the breakfast was amazing. Great hospitality all around!
Located west of Graz, the landscape turns to rolling green hills dotted with tiny towns and bucolic scenes. As you approach the small village of Piber in summer, you might also catch a glimpse of their most important residents grazing in the fields off in the distance. You see, Piber is home to the world-famous Lipizzaner stallion stud farm, and a visit here is a real treat.
Originally based in Lipica (Slovenia), the stud farm was moved to Piber when Slovenia was annexed after WWI. Every year, around 40 to 50 foals are born at the farm, but the training regimen at the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule) in Vienna is rigorous, and only a fraction of those (usually 4 or 5) will have what it takes to be sent.
If you visit in the summer, plan on taking a self-guided tour. The audio guides are super helpful and offer lots of information about the horses, farm, and the village itself. Be sure and step inside the village church — it’s magnificent.
Also nearby and worth a visit are the colorful and unconventional Church of St. Barbara in the town of Bärnbach, created by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. And after a day of village hopping, don’t miss the Terme Nova Spa in the town of Köflach. The huge warm indoor/outdoor pool draws its mineral water from the Barbara Spring and averages a very pleasant 36.5° C (96° F). There are plenty of lounge chairs, fun for the kids, and a very good restaurant.
Where to Stay Near Piber
The Hotel & Spa at Terme NOVA is just down the road from Piber and offers one of the finest European spa facilities in Austria. Great for kids and families with lots of pools and outdoor activities.
Brand in Vorarlberg, Austria’s second smallest and westernmost province, has only a little over 700 inhabitants. The village is located in Brandnertal valley close to the border with Switzerland.
The main draw is the picturesque glacial lake Lünersee, which serves as a hydro power plant. It’s located just a short ride out of Brand and a steep cable car ride up. In a hut on the turquoise lake’s shore, you can taste trout caught in the lake.
The high number of operational cable cars suggests Brandnertal is great for hiking. There are over 400km of hiking trails of all levels. Even a ride on a cable car is a superb activity, especially on Panoramabahn — a panoramic cable car offering unbeatable views of the valley.
Among other outdoor activities you can engage in Brand and Brandnertal are mountain biking, golfing, climbing including Via Ferrata, horse riding, and in warmer months also swimming in a nature pool.
The area is popular among local tourists, so the best time of year to visit is as soon as summer winds down in September. Most cable cars and amenities close down towards the end of October.
You can get to Brand from the closest airport in Zurich, Switzerland. Taking a train to nearby Bludenz and then a bus to Brand takes only about 2 hours.
Contributed by Veronika from TravelGeekery
Where to Stay in Brand
Surrounded by the Austrian Alps, Bellavista is 300 feet from the Bergbahnen Brandnertal Ski Area and on the doorstep of hiking and cycling routes.
Hallstatt, Upper Austria
The fairytale village of Hallstatt almost needs no introduction — it’s seriously one of the most beautiful places in Austria. With rumors circulating that it inspired the backdrop from the Disney movie Frozen (spoiler alert, it didn't), and the Chinese Province of Guangdong creating their own replica Hallstatt village, it's hardly Austria's best-kept secret.
However, the reason everyone is so enamored with the village is its magical appearance, and it's sure to win you over from first sight.
Situated on the banks of the Hallstätter See, it's a tiny town with a cluster of streets snaking along the waterfront, before haphazardly climbing into the hills. The timber frame homes resemble gingerbread houses with their pitched roofs and colorful facades.
The warmer months mean partaking in lakeside activities, but visiting Hallstatt in Winter offers a special blend of magic. If you're lucky, the surrounding mountains will be dusted with snow, and the streets will be adorned with festive lights.
While you're there, be sure to make your way up to the Skywalk for unforgettable views, visit the Altaussee Salt Mine for a tour through the town's history, and peek inside the eerie Bone House at St Michael’s Church.
There are cafes aplenty to keep you nourished, but be sure to also sample the legendary Austrian pastry Schaumrollen sold at the bakery with the same name, Ofenfrische Schaumrollen.
Getting to Hallstatt is a breeze by car, or you can take the train from Vienna or Salzburg. Both cities also offer day trips to Hallstatt by organized tour.
Contributed by Nadine of LeLong Weekend
Where to Stay in Hallstatt
Just 500 feet from scenic Lake Hallstatt sits the pretty Haus Höll Herta — a perfect little stay in Hallstatt!
Götzens is a beautiful town in Austria, near Innsbruck. You can visit this town year round. Winter however gives the snowy landscapes, where Austria is famous for and you could watch it for hours.
In winter there are several winter walks in Götzens to undertake to see the surrounding landscape and towns and to enjoy the snow. Götzens has a ski lift which takes you higher up the mountain for skiing, snowboarding or snow shoe walking. Ice skating is possible in the ice sport indoor center at the edge of town. At last you can go rodeling down a mountain.
The village has farms dating from the 17th and 18th century, which are called Mittertennhöfe with beautifully decorated facades. So strolling through town is worth it to see these beautiful buildings and the St. Peter and Paul Church in Rococo style.
In Summer the village serves as a base for hiking in the surrounding mountains or for mountain biking. And be sure and stock up at Der Bäcker Ruetz — they have the most delicious bread, buns and local delicacies.
Götzens is situated 7 kilometers south of Innsbruck, perfectly reachable by car. Innsbruck is reachable by train or plane and from Innsbruck it’s one bus ride to Götzens.
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels
Where to Stay in Götzens
Located on a sunny plateau in the Western Mittelgebirge mountains, Alp Art Hotel Götzens is close to the skiing and hiking areas of the Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck.
St. Wolfgang, Upper Austria
One of the most charming villages in Austria to visit is certainly St. Wolfgang at the beautiful Lake Wolfgangsee in the Salzkammergut. On a trip, you can expect an enchanting little town directly at the crystal clear blue lake, surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery and green nature. It's best to visit this enchanting town in the summer, but you can also put this gem on your Austria budget list in the winter!
There is much to discover on a tour of St. Wolfgang. Beautiful here are the old alleys, where colorful village houses decorated with flowers conjure up a fabulous backdrop. Local restaurants and good cafes invite you to linger and enjoy a piece of apple strudel.
Also the world-famous hotel "Im Weissen Rössl" is located directly in St. Wolfgang! It is known from film and stage and has a long tradition. If you want to spoil yourself then spend the night here, or treat yourself to at least one drink in the lovely restaurant overlooking the lake.
Another highlight is a boat trip on the Wolfgangsee! This nostalgic steamer stops directly in St. Wolfgang, travels across the lake and connects the beautiful resorts with each other. During the trip, you can enjoy an insane view of the village, and discover at once other beautiful villages along the lake.
Impressive and absolutely recommended is a ride up the Schafberg with the Schafbergbahn. This quaint locomotive starts in St. Wolfgang and goes up a mountain of about 1734 meters, from where you can experience a magnificent view. All in all, St. Wolfgang is really lovely and a real highlight among the most beautiful villages in Austria!
Contributed by Martina of Places of Juma
Where to Stay in St. Wolfgang
The lovely and recently renovated Altroiterhof sits peacefully on Lake Wolfgang and offers a great selection of rooms, deluxe rooms and apartments.
St Gilgen, Salzburg
St Gilgen is one of the most beautiful villages close to Salzburg. Located just 20 minutes’ drive away, the village sits on the shore of Wolfgangsee Lake and at the foothills of Zwölferhorn mountain. You can either arrive by car and park in the large off-road parking lot just after the cable car station or take the local bus from Salzburg.
Even if the village is quite small, there are plenty of things to do in St Gilgen. The main attraction in the village is the cable car going up the mountain. Once you are there, you can follow one of the many trails around the top.
On the way there are some cute alpine restaurants where you can try the famous Austrian spaetzle noodle, with a view. The local spaetzle noodle are made with plenty of cheese and crispy fried onions, making it a hearty and delicious meal which you need after hiking for a couple of hours.
The top of the mountain is also a popular paragliding spot, so you will see many people jumping off from next to the cable car station.
Other things you can do in the village, besides enjoying the cute architecture, is rent an electric boat and sail on the lake. If you fancy a dip in the cold, mountain water, you will be happy to know that there is an organising swimming place and a small beach in the north of the village.
Contributed by Joanna of The World in My Pocket
Where to Stay in St Gilgen
Just 492 feet from Lake Wolfgang, Gästehaus Kloibergütl has a private beach with deck chairs and free bicycles for guests!
Maria Wörth, Carinthia
Best known for its scenic peninsula at the southern shore of the crystal-clear Wörthersee, the fairytale village of Maria Wörth is postcard picturesque.
The town is situated in Southern Austria, close to the borders with Slovenia and Italy, and just a short drive from Triglav National Park. It’s worth a side trip from South Styria or northern Slovenia just to experience its charms.
The town has two historic churches that appear to hover near the water and there are miles of hiking trails through forests and meadows surrounding the lake.
The main Gothic church which dates to around 875 is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and sits on the highest plateau of the island. Lit up at night, the scene casts a beautiful glow all around the lake.
Where to Stay in Maria Wörth
When you’re slow traveling Maria Wörth, there’s really no other choice for where to stay than the Hotel Linde (below). Can it possibly get any better?
Another pretty village to visit in Austria is Mayrhofen, located in the Zillertal Valley around 1 hour from Innsbruck by car (or 1hr 30 by train).
In the winter, the village is a ski resort, however visiting Mayrhofen in summer is perfect for those that enjoy hiking and the outdoors.
Mayrhofen has lots of typical alpine style buildings with lots of cafes and little shops. Right in the centre of the village are two cable car stations, the Penkenbahn and the Ahornbahn. These allow visitors to get up into the mountains on either side of the valley. At the top of the Ahornbahn is Lake Ahorn, a mountain top lake at 2000m!
The Alpendomizil Hotel Neuhaus is a good place to stay in Mayrhofen. The hotel has beautiful gardens with an outdoor swimming pool and various types of sun loungers, to relax and soak in the mountain views.
Mayrhofen is a great base for exploring the Zillertal Valley. You can take a steam train to Zell am Ziller which has the awesome ‘Arena Coaster’ alpine toboggan. Alternatively jump on a bus further into the valley and visit the Hintertux Glacier where it’s possible to go skiing 365 days of the year! There’s also an ice cave at 3250m which is open for tours.
Contributed by Kylie from Between England and Iowa
Where to Stay in Mayrhofen
Just a short walk from the train station and bus stops, Hotel Glockenstuhl has a great location in the center of beautiful Mayrhofen.
Bad Gastein, Salzburg
The spa and ski town of Bad Gastein is picture perfect, nestled into the green Gastein valley anchored by the requisite grand hotel and alpine church with the steeple that stretches toward the sky so high as if to stand out from the beauty of its surrounding panorama.
A train runs directly into the village with regular service from Salzberg so getting here is not quick at just 2 hours, but quite a ride as well — with mesmerizing scenery that will make the time fly.
In town, be sure and book time at the Felsentherme spa, complete with heated indoor and outdoor thermal baths. It’s the kind of utilitarian European style spa that could be more luxurious but doesn’t really need to when it’s more than effective and fed directly from over a dozen springs at the base of Bad Gastein.
Ski bums will have plenty of powder at over 100 miles of downhill runs, and the town has more than its share of comfortable lodging from grand hotels and chalet-style B&Bs to luxury villas.
Where to Stay in Bad Gastein
With panoramic views of Bad Gastein and the mountains, the MONDI Bellevue Alm Gastein is ideally located near the Stubnerkogel skiing and hiking area.
Seefeld in Tirol is a mountain village on a high plateau north of Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol.
Seefeld has long been a destination for winter tourism and, although the downhill skiing here is more suited to families and beginners, the network of cross-country skiing trails linking the five villages on the plateau have helped to make it a world-class centre for the sport.
The five villages of Seefeld in Tirol, Leutasch, Scharnitz, Reith and Mösern form the Olympiaregion Seefeld, a legally careful nod to the resort’s history of hosting Winter Olympic events on two occasions.
But Seefeld does not just rely in winter tourism. The village is on the edge of the Naturpark Karwendel (one of the biggest nature reserves in the eastern Alps) and the summer months attract hikers and mountain bikers to the woods and mountain meadows as well as the tougher alpine hiking routes.
There are plenty of traditional mountain huts dotted along the trails where a quick snack of Tyrolean cured ham or a hearty cheese dumpling soup will help refresh the energy reserves.
Seefeld itself grew up as a stop on a trade route between Innsbruck and Munich and still has good rail and road connections to both cities.
Contributed by Steve of AustriaDirect
Where to Stay in Seefeld
Löwen Chalets is a great stay, with lovely garden views and free private parking, and just 1,640 feet from Casino Seefeld.
Another one of the prettiest villages in Austria can be found on the western shore of Lake Neusiedl in the state of Burgenland: Rust. With less than 2000 inhabitants, the entire place only consists of the old town, small shops and numerous wine taverns.
Exactly like many other towns and villages in Burgenland, Rust is home to endless small, privately-owned wine taverns. Those wine taverns are typical for that region in Austria. Most of them look more or less the same from the outside. The actual tavern where you can sit — usually an inner courtyard — is hidden behind a gate. If the wine tavern is open, the gate will be so too and a sign will invite you to come in.
Enjoying a glass of lovely wine in those traditional taverns is definitely a thing you shouldn’t miss in Rust. Besides wine taverns, Rust has another really awesome and unique attraction to offer — storks!
If you want to relax and enjoy watching those birds, head to Café Kaiser. It’s located on the main square and while sitting on the terrace, you have a great view of all the nests.The easiest way to get to Rust is by renting a car, however, you can also take a train from Vienna or Eisenstadt.
Contributed by Alina of World of Lina
Where to Stay in Rust
Located on the town square of Rust just steps from Lake Neusiedl, the historic Unser Rosa Haus für Sie has a wonderful restaurant, comfortable rooms, and a lovely outdoor terrace to take in the views.
Zell am See, Salzburg
We couldn’t let this list of pretty villages in Austria go by without mentioning the snowy lakeside town of Zell am See. It may be known for its skiing (there’s over 80 miles of slopes) as well as the après-ski scene in town, but there’s more than snow to enjoy here.
Located just south of Salzburg, there’s a beautiful medieval town center that’s worth a visit. Check out the Romanesque St. Hippolyte’s Church and the Salzburg residence-style Schloss Rosenberg Town Hall.
In the warmer months, life revolves around Lake Zell and makes a great destination for families looking for relaxation, from sailing and fishing to paddling and paddleboarding.
Where to Stay in Zell am See
The modern TWO TIMEZ - Boutique Hotel in the heart of Zell am See has everything you could want in a comfy stay, including an luxury sauna!