Each of Austria’s provinces has its own charms and attractions. Here is a map and a short overview to help you find your way.
Austria is divided into nine federal regions (Bundesländer)
- Vorarlberg - capital: Bregenz, pop. 29,139
- Tirol - capital: Innsbruck, pop. 130,894
- Salzburg - capital: Salzburg, pop. 150,887
- Upper Austria - capital: Linz, pop. 200,841
- Lower Austria - capital St. Pölten, pop. 53,445
- Vienna - Austria's capital, pop. 1,840,573
- Styria - capital: Graz, pop. 280,200
- Carinthia - capital: Klagenfurt, pop. 99,110
- Burgenland - capital: Eisenstadt, pop. 14,241
Austria's capital is one of the grandest cities in the world. The seat of the Habsburg Empire for six centuries and a UN city since 1957, Vienna is a city where cultures have converged for untold generations - a tradition that is alive and well. Vienna's legendary 1st District (Innere Stadt) is surrounded by the Ringstrasse Boulevard and location of St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Hofburg, City Hall, Kärntnerstrasse, the Graben, the Vienna State Opera, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Albertina, and much more. The magnificent Belvedere and Schönbrunn Palaces lie to the west and southwest of the 1st district, respectively. Heurigens (wine taverns), concentrated in Grinzing, are to the northwest. The Danube River skirts the city but is very much a part of it.
Salzburg and SalzburgerLand
When you think of Maria singing on an alpine pasture in The Sound of Music, it is Salzburg province you are picturing. As the name suggests, the rich salt mines are central to Salzburg's identity, since they allowed it to remain an independent state for quite a long time. Salzburg, the capital, is the place for cultural glories, but the countryside has an enjoyable bucolic charm all its own. Check out the lovely lake resort Zell am See or the breathtaking gorge and waterfall at Liechtensteinklamm.
Lower Austria is less mountainous than western Austria; its charms come in the form of fertile valleys and plains, which make it a perfect getaway for those seeking a more authentic, rustic feel. The stretch of Danube River Valley between Melk and Krems, the Wachau Valley, is a Unesco World Heritage Site featuring glorious wines and lots of formidable castles, abbeys, and medieval villages. Check out the walled town of Drosendorf and the beautiful Baroque abbey in Melk.
The best known region in Upper Austria is the part that belongs to what is referred to as Salzburg Lake District to the east of the city. However, Upper Austria is also marked by rolling hills, transitioning from the plains of Lower Austria to the mountainous regions further west. The capital, Linz, is an alternative to the cozy pomp of Vienna or Salzburg, which has allowed it to experiment with technology and modern design more freely, as with the impressive Ars Electronica Center, a stone's throw from the astounding Abbey of St. Florian.
Located to the east of Vienna, this is one of Austria's best wine-producing regions - its Heurigens are especially worth visiting. Bird lovers will love Lake Neusiedel and affiliated Seewinkel National Park, especially its storks. Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt, long associated with Joseph Haydn, is another lovely destination. Rust, an authentic medieval town, has a charming church dedicated to fishermen.
Also dubbed the great “green” heart of Austria, this province has an Italian feel; its southern sections with its vineyards and rolling hills are known as "Styrian Tuscany" - even though Styria actually borders Hungary and Slovenia. Charming Graz is Austria's second largest city with an Old Town that is a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site. Once a major Catholic pilgrimage center, Mariazell is now prized for its excellent bike trails. The Dachstein mountain to the north has impressive glaciers.
Hundreds of splendid lakes speckle a landscape marked by high peaks and gouged valleys, most notably the Grossglockner, Austria's largest mountain. The nearby Pasterze Glacier can be reached by funicular railway. Many villages host summer festivals, complete with folk music and performers from nearby Italy and Slovenia. The walled villages of Friesach and Gmund are a treat, as is the impressive hilltop fortress in Hochosterwitz.
This province is entirely covered by mountains and its culture reflects the harsh natural surroundings as much as its breathtaking beauty. Innsbruck, Tirol's capital, and Kufstein are gems, overshadowed by frosty mountains and complete with precipitous castles and medieval alleys. This is one of the great skiing centers of the world, as evidenced by the legendary ski resorts Kitzbühel, Mayrhofen, and St. Anton.
Austria's westernmost province features tranquil lakes, thundering rivers, foresty hills, wintry crags, castles, and lots of cheese. The Bregenzerwald is a bedeviling land of velvety hills, granite spires, and villages studded with dairies. Nudging up against woodsy farmhouses are the Bauhaus offspring, modernist houses with pale wood, glass walls, and curiously appropriate straight edges. Bregenz and its legendary lake stage on Lake Constance are a glorious Austrian example of combining the old and the new.