Although charming and fascinating in every season, Austria transforms during winter into true fairytale land, where every city and town becomes the scene of an enchanting story.
From November to March, the country experiences generous snowfall, which means that there are plenty of places to visit in Austria in winter where you can enjoy the best of the season, including Christmas markets, winter sports and activities, picturesque towns decorated in twinkling lights, and impressive landscape.
Austria winter holidays have an authentic atmosphere that will certainly captivate you.
10 Places to visit in Austria in winter
A trip to Austria during winter cannot exclude the grand Austrian capital Vienna, which is famously known for its festive attire during the holidays.
The city’s pretty squares host some of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe, where visitors can happily indulge in traditional food and drinks and warm up with some mulled wine while exploring the impressive range of stalls selling everything from handicraft items to chocolate treats and local products.
Choral performances add a new dimension to the magical atmosphere of the city during the winter holidays. Besides the gorgeous Christmas markets, Vienna offers plenty of other exciting seasonal opportunities, such as ice-skating.
Ice rinks abound in the city throughout the winter, many of them set up in impressive locations, such as the Gardens of the Wilhelminenberg Palace or the esplanade in front of the Vienna Konzerthaus.
Visiting Vienna in winter is a chance to discover the city with its grand architecture and abundance of museums, galleries, and palaces in a new, atmospheric light.
You might be interested in my 3- day Vienna itinerary.
Among the many things to do in Austria in winter, skiing is probably the first thing that comes to people’s minds, which is why Wildschönau is one of the most popular attractions in the country. Sitting at around 1,000 meters above sea level, in the heart of Tirol, Wildschönau is a remote Alpine valley in the Kitzbühel Alps.
Home to three charming villages, Oberau, Auffach, and Thierbach, and plenty of charming farmhouses and mountain huts, the area provides an excellent infrastructure for winter sports. Alpbachtal Wildschönau is one of the most popular ski resorts in all of Tirol, and it’s easy to reach with a cable car from the village of Auffach.
The resort welcomes visitors with 109 kilometers of slopes of various degrees of difficulty, tens of lifts, rustic ski huts where people can unwind after ski or snowboard sessions and, last but not least, breathtaking views of the Alps. In addition, there are tens of kilometers of cross-country tracks and scenic winter walking paths to explore. Another attraction in the area is the Schaubergwerk Lehenlahn, a former silver mine dating from the Middle Ages.
Due to its position beneath the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is one of the most picturesque places in Europe. During winter, the Old Town with its incredible medieval Gothic architecture and maze of narrow streets turns into a fairytale under the spell of the snow, especially with the opening of the traditional Christmas markets.
Set in the heart of the Old Town, the Altstadt Christmas market is where most people gather to enjoy some hot mulled wine and check out the numerous stalls with ornaments, candles, pastries, and local handicraft products that showcase the wealth of local traditions.
Exploring the colorful city, decorated with twinkling holiday lights and lit-up Christmas trees, is an adventure in itself and presents plenty of opportunities to taste delicious snacks and apple strudels and soak up the cozy winter atmosphere.
The Innsbruck larger area is also home to the amazing Olympia Ski World, a ski area of nine resorts, all easily accessible from the city with a free ski bus shuttle.
You might want to check out: Things to do in Innsbruck in winter.
Although it’s just a tiny village, it’s incredible how photogenic Hallstatt can be. In fact, tourists from all over the world gush over this small but spectacularly scenic village. A UNESCO World Heritage site with only nine hundred inhabitants, Hallstatt becomes even more beautiful in winter, when its small wooden houses get covered in snow.
Situated on the shore of a glittering lake, with snow-capped mountains in the background, Hallstatt is the true definition of a magical place, especially during the holidays, when it’s lighted by Christmas decorations. Even though many attractions may be closed, winter is still a wonderful time to visit because of the irresistible atmosphere of the village.
Plus, there is no shortage of things to do. A visit to the World Heritage Museum of Hallstatt, the 12th -century Catholic Church, or to the Altaussee Salt Mine, the oldest salt mine in the world, is well worth it. In the vicinity of the village, you can also engage in various outdoor activities, such as skiing or dogsledding.
The host of some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, Salzburg is a city that truly shines during winter. With a tradition of over 500 years, Salzburg’s main Christmas market is also one of the oldest on the continent. Held each year on the front steps of the Salzburg Cathedral, Christkindlmarkt is a feast to the senses.
The gorgeous ornament stands, huge Christmas trees, and gleaming lights create a wonderful atmosphere. The wooden stalls offer steaming mulled wine, gingerbread biscuits, punch, and many other tasty treats, along with other local wintery products. Tucked away in pretty squares throughout the city, there are other smaller markets with cheaper prices.
Smaller than Vienna, Salzburg has a much cozier look, especially when dressed in Christmas lights and blanketed by snow. With its colorful architecture, beautiful clock towers, and snow-covered roofs, the city delivers the most authentic Christmas atmosphere, and the range of delightful winter activities available here is impressive.
The city is the birthplace of classical composer Mozart and honors him and his music with plenty of winter concerts held in stunning venues. In Mozart Square, a huge ice skating rink is set up during winter.
You might be interested in: Things to do in Salzburg in one day.
As the most famous sports town in the Alps, Kitzbühel is, no doubt, one of the best winter destinations in Austria. Located in Tirol, the charming town offers a magnificent blend of Alpine landscapes, sporting tradition, and modern facilities such as great mountain restaurants and inns or shopping venues.
The skiing season lasts over 200 days in the region, and everyone from beginners to advanced skiers can find fabulous conditions to practice the sport since Kitzbühel is home to a wide range of terrain that can easily accommodate both amateurs and experts.
The skiing area has a truly impressive size, with 68 ski runs and 215 kilometers of slopes of various difficulties. Away from the slopes, visitors can explore the panoramic beauty of the mountains through winter hiking, cross-country skiing, or horse-drawn sleigh riding.
Kitzbühel is also famous for the Streif, the home to the most spectacular downhill race track in the world, the Hahnenkamm ski race.
7. Zell am See-Kaprun
Winter lovers who want to explore the best of Austria will find Zell am See-Kaprun an ideal destination. The area covers several quaint Alpine towns, and during the winter, it totally transforms into a winter sports hotspot with slopes able to accommodate everyone from the most experienced skiers and snowboarders to enthusiastic beginners.
There are also several reputable ski schools with expert ski instructors eager to introduce you to this fantastic sport if you’re a beginner. The impressive altitudes of up to 3,000 meters above sea level mean that the range of spectacular landscapes is hard to match.
Besides the offer of intense outdoor activities, the area is also home to the Ice Camp, a series of igloos with breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains, where guests can have a drink or a snack while socializing or listening to music.
Another relaxing way to spend time here is going to Tauern Spa, one of the best wellness resorts in the country with 11 pools, 10 saunas, steam baths, and many interesting facilities, including a glass skyline pool with views of the Alps.
8. Ötztal Valley: Solden and Obergurgl-Hochgurgl
As the home of Tirol’s highest mountain and tallest waterfall, and of one the largest glacier ski resorts in the Alps, the Ötztal Valley sums up the best of the region in a compact area. In winter, the two peaceful and quiet villages, Obergurgl and Hochgurgl, located at the far end of the valley, become a popular ski area, serving as a base for a wide range of sports and winter activities.
For many, the Ötztal Valley is a true winter wonderland where they can have an active holiday in a magnificent setting. In fact, the Obergurgl- Hochgurgl area is known as the “Diamond of the Alps” due to its superb views of the mountains, impressive sports facilities, top quality skiing, great restaurants, and outstanding Austrian hospitality.
Right at the heart of Ötztal Valley is the Alpine resort Sölden, renowned as a top winter sports center, surrounded by high mountains of over 3,000 meters, glaciers, and meadows. The number of slopes and lifts is greater than anyone could even explore in a week-long holiday.
The best thing to do away from the slopes is going to Aqua Dome Therme Längenfeld, a superbly designed spa with outdoor and indoor pools and several saunas.
9. Lake Wörthersee
Located in the region of Carinthia, Lake Wörthersee is a massively popular attraction during the summer, and it is well worth exploring during winter as well, when it transforms into a huge outdoor skating rink. Due to its location, it is surrounded by areas that provide excellent opportunities for other outdoor activities, such as winter hiking, cross-country skiing, curling, or tobogganing.
Only 15 minutes away is the Gerlitz Alps ski area, which is another Austrian hotspot for a ski holiday. Another major attraction in the area is the Carinthia thermal baths, where guest can relax after a strenuous ski session. The Werzer Badenhaus is a historic spa recently reopened to the public, which offers an intimate, cozy setting in the winter with gorgeous views over the lake.
The spa includes the only heated lake pool around Wörthersee. The tradition of bathhouses is well established in Carinthia, and many can be found right on the shore, offering panoramic views over the lake and the surrounding mountains.
The capital of the Styria region, Graz is the second largest city in Austria, and it is known for its stunning blend of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. The Old Town has a unique charm and is an overwhelming testament of the city’s rich history and culture.
Without having the aura of Vienna or Salzburg, Graz is a beautiful city whose qualities shine through during winter. With Christmas markets lavishly taking over the squares, the historic Old Town turns into a magical place, where the smell of mulled wine, peppermint tea, and Christmas sweets attract people into the streets.
Christmas lights and colorful crystal decorations emphasize the beauty of the architecture and the scenic setting of the city, which means that walking around will be a rewarding experience. Graz is also a gastronomic heaven, and Christmas markets are the best place to sample some of the region’s most popular staples.
Check out: The best Christmas Markets in Austria.
Although Christmas markets and winter festivities and activities abound in Europe, everything seems to have a much more authentic feel in Austria. Although relatively small, the country has everything from grand imperial architecture to cozy mountains huts to satisfy every kind of winter fantasy.