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Discover Austria: Six off-the-beaten-track towns to visit

Discover Austria: Six off-the-beaten-track towns to visit
A large inflatable beer balloon floats by the Wilder Kaiser mountain in the Tyrolean alps, near Saint Johann. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Summer’s not over yet, so for anyone still hesitant about international travel, these off the beaten track locations in Austria could be worth exploring.

Anyone living in Austria will be familiar with the must-see destinations – Vienna, Salzburg, Hallstatt and the Großglockner

But Austria is more than just the main cities and famous mountain towns.

In fact, there are plenty of other gems to discover across the country – you just have to know where to look.

Just keep in mind that some coronavirus restrictions are still in place across Austria, such as the 3G rule (tested, vaccinated or recovered) for entering restaurants, hotels and cafes. You can find the current rules here.

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Here are six towns off the beaten track in Austria and why you should add them to your travel list.

Zell am See

With luxury hotels and lifts leading to the ski slopes on Schmittenhöhe mountain, Zell am See can seem like a fancy lakeside ski resort town at first glance.

But with the Grossglockener, Kitzsteinhorn Glacier and Hohe Tauern National Park all within easy reach, Zell am See offers more than just high-end pampering and winter sports.

It can also serve as a convenient base for adventure and getting a taste of Austrian mountain culture.

Plus, Zell and See is just 90 minutes from Salzburg by car, making it very accessible for anyone visiting the home of Mozart and looking for a detour.

The Grand Hotel. Von BestZeller – Eigenes Werk, Copyrighted free use.

St. Wolfgang

To experience a charming, Austrian lakeside village surrounded by mountains, look no further than St. Wolfgang.

Nestled in the Salzkammergut region of Upper Austria, St. Wolfgang is located on the steep banks of Schafberg Mountain and overlooks Lake Wolfgangsee.

It’s a peaceful place with ferries chugging across the lake and wooden boat houses dotted along the shore.

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Although St. Wolfgang can still get busy with tourists in the peak summer months, it’s not as high profile as places like Hallstadt, which makes visiting the town a more enjoyable experience.

St. Wolfgang is also less than an hour from Salzburg by car, making it an accessible day trip location for people still unsure about staying in hotels overnight during a pandemic.

Saint Wolfgang, one of Austria’s most charming villages. By Silverije – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

St. Johann 

St. Johann is an alpine market town in Tyrol, close to famous Kitzbühel. But location and skiing are the only things the two towns have in common.

While Kitzbühel is all glitz and glamour with high prices, St. Johann is more laidback – and more affordable.

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Think traditional pubs, cosy restaurants and independent shops with a weekly farmer’s market (in the summer) and a lively winter apres ski scene in the winter (in non-Covid times).

This is why St. Johann is well-worth considering as a base for exploring the Tyrolean Alps. 

And with the Kitzbüheler Horn, the Wilder Kaiser mountains, Hintersteiner See and Schwarzsee all on the town’s doorstep, there is something to do – whatever the season.

Eisenstadt

You won’t find Eisenstadt on many Austrian travel itineraries. 

But as the capital of Burgenland and home to the grand Esterházy Palace, it can be an impressive place to visit to learn more about Austria’s history and culture.

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For example, music by Classical composer Joseph Haydn can be heard at the beautiful Haydn Hall in Esterházy Palace, and Austrian wine can be sampled at the city’s wineries and bars.

So, if arts, culture and gastronomy are your thing, Eisenstadt offers a compact alternative to larger cities like Vienna, Salzburg and Graz.

The Schloss Esterhazy palace in Eisenstadt, Austria Photo: ROBERT JAEGER / APA / AFP

Neusiedl am See

Visiting Burgenland can feel like being in another country.

Not only does the eastern province enjoy a milder climate compared to the west of Austria, it’s also a prominent wine growing area.

This gives it an almost mediterranean vibe – at least in the summer. 

One of the many fun activities you can get up to in Neusiedl. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Neusiedl am See is a bustling town in Burgenland on Lake Neusiedl in the heart of Austria’s wine country.

It has a strong arts and culture scene, water sports on the lake, independent businesses and good transport connections with Vienna.

For a summer spot that is not too far off the beaten track, but far enough from the hustle and bustle of the capital, Neusiedl am See ticks all the right boxes.

Nockberge

Disclaimer: the Nockberge in Carinthia is not a town. 

In fact, it’s a region made up of mountains, small towns and villages, but it’s well-worth adding to the list of places to visit – especially for people trying to avoid crowds of people in coronavirus-times. 

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The Nockberge is tucked away in the south of the country and is less populated and developed than other mountain hot-spots in Austria, like Tyrol and Salzburg.

The Nockberge mountains in Austria. Von Johann Jaritz – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The region enjoys a mild climate and fresh mountain air with a range of activities to enjoy, like hiking and biking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

For those looking for a place to truly get away from it all without having to get on a plane, the Nockberge could be the answer.


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