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Austria’s Picture-Perfect Towns for Photographers

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Austria changes its face constantly throughout the year. Whether rooftops are sprinkled with snowflakes or wildflowers are blooming on verdant hillsides above shimmering lakes, it’s always a picture-postcard country to visit. If you’re a keen hiker, skier, photographer or simply love being outdoors and at one with nature, you’ll love our guide to the most charming towns of Austria.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt is one of Austria’s most photographed scenic towns. It sits resplendently aside Lake Hallstatt, shrouded by towering peaks and lush vegetation. There are many attractions to excite photographers including romantic Kalvarienberg Church. This colorful Baroque masterpiece dating to the early 1700s sits atop a hill overlooking Hallstatt, giving you incredible views of the town and lake. In the centre, the bustling Market Square is lined with chalet-style hotels, shops and restaurants serving traditional Austrian fare. Homes are sprinkled with window boxes overflowing with brightly coloured flowers and there are wooden balconies from where you can soak up the atmosphere with an afternoon glass of wine. One location in Hallstatt not to be overlooked is The Charnel House in St. Michael’s Chapel. The chapel has been here since the 12th century and contains over 1200 painted skulls with names of previous Hallstatt residents!

How to get to Hallstatt: You can reach Hallstatt by car, rail or bus from Salzburg. The quickest way is via car, taking an hour and 15 minutes, but if you wish to relax and enjoy the scenery you have other options, although the journey time is longer.

Where to Stay: Seehotel Grüner Baum on the shores of Lake Hallstatt offers deluxe, characterful accommodation inside a charming boutique hotel. Lunch and dinner can be enjoyed on the lakeside terrace with the restaurant’s speciality - freshly caught fish from the lake paired with Austrian wines.

Krems an der Donau

Nestled in one of the prettiest parts of the Danube Valley, Krems an der Donau lies just over an hour west of Vienna. It’s the oldest town in Lower Austria and has several interesting sites for photographers. The charming town centre boasts a plethora of shops and outdoor cafes where you can relax and enjoy a coffee as you listen to musicians and watch street performers. The town is famous for its wine production and has been crafting Chardonnay, Yellow Muscatel and Pinot Blanc since the late 1930s. Take a winery tour, gain insta-worthy vine pics and sample a few glasses of the sweet nectar for yourself. To gain some of the best vistas over the countryside, head for Aggstein Castle. Overlooking the River Danube, the castle has existed since the 1200s and displays several permanent exhibitions and a restaurant as well as incredible views of the Austrian landscape. Boat tours also operate from Krems, transporting you along the River Danube to enchanting Melk with several pretty stops along the way.

How to get to Krems an der Donau: Krems an der Donau is just an hour’s drive from Austrian capital Vienna and can also be reached by rail in approximately 1.5 hours.

Where to Stay: Steigenberger Hotel & Spa has everything you desire for a relaxing stay. The 4-star superior hotel boasts a large spa, arranged over 3 levels, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a panoramic terrace where summer meals are served. 

St. Gilgen

On the scenic north-western shores of Lake Wolfgang, charming St. Gilgen is bursting with character, showcasing Rococo and Baroque architecture at every turn. Colourful streets are punctuated with cute cafes, frescoed dwellings and gift shops, and most roads lead to the iconic onion-domed church. Some of the best views can be discovered if you jump on the cable car to Zwölferhorn Mountain. The peak offers superb vantage points, giving you breath-taking views all over the Salzkammergut region. There are several walking trails and you can even go paragliding if you’re feeling super adventurous! Another great way to gain fabulous photos is via a trip on the Schafberg Railway from neighbouring St. Wolfgang. This, the steepest cog railway in the country passes through glorious verdant countryside for 40 minutes before reaching the mountaintop.

How to get to St. Gilgen: St. Gilgen lies just 30 minutes east of Salzburg by car on the shores of Wolfgangsee. Hikers can walk to the quaint town on the lake from Salzburg in around 6-7 hours, but if you wish to arrive faster, rent a car.

Where to Stay: Hotel Gastof zur Post has hosted artists, writers and politicians over the decades and it’s easy to see why they choose here. Guest rooms are charmingly decorated with a blend of contemporary and antique pieces and each room boasts vistas of St. Gilgen or Zwölferhorn mountain. The hotel’s exclusive wine cellar allows you to sample delicious Austrian wines before feasting on mouth-watering regional dishes or enjoying a luxurious spa treatment at the wellness centre.

Alpbach

Photographers will adore Alpbach with its lush meadows, timber houses and beautiful floral decorations. It has been named Austria’s most beautiful village and has much to occupy visitors whatever time of year you travel. Summer months attract hikers and cyclists from all over Europe and during winter, you can enjoy world-class skiing, tobogganing and traverse over 20 kilometres of cross-country ski routes. As the sun catches meadow flowers or shimmering blankets of snow, you are guaranteed some amazing nature photographs and outdoor adventures should you choose to visit Alpbach.

How to get to Alpbach: Alpbach is just under 2 hours’ drive from Salzburg and a 3-hour train and bus ride. However, if you’re staying in Innsbruck, you can reach Alpbach by car in around 45 minutes.

Where to Stay: Beautiful boutique Hotel Alpbacherin offers chic chalet-style accommodation, and outdoor pool, fitness centre and sauna. It’s perfectly placed to explore the cultural highlights of Alpbach, plus hiking trails and skiing is easily accessible.

Bad Gastein

The upscale spa town of Bad Gastein is situated in the Hohe Tauern mountain range of Austria and is known for its beautiful belle-époque era architecture. This pretty town is famed for, its curative waters - said to heal a variety of ailments, and there are several luxury hotels in the town with spas where you can test the theory for yourself. Bad Gastein may exude a more urban vibe than its picturesque, rustic neighbours but it’s no less appealing to pleasure seekers and photographers. Flanked by dense forests, snow-capped peaks, babbling creeks and gushing waterfalls, you’re guaranteed some pretty awesome pictures, especially if you venture off the beaten track. It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit the town either, Bad Gastein is also a popular winter resort offering abundant skiing and snowboarding activities.

How to get to Bad Gastein: The spa town of Bad Gastein can be reached in 1.5 hours by car or train from Salzburg.

Where to Stay: Surrounded by the Hohe Tauern Mountains and next to a golf course, CESTA GRAND Aktivhotel & Spa is a luxurious retreat with gourmet cuisine, spacious, elegant rooms and a 1,800m2 spa with indoor pool and thermal waters. The hotel offers a variety of outdoor activities such as mountain biking, tennis, hiking and skiing.

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