A landscape view of the mountains at Zugspitze, Austria, with forest and a lake in the foreground on a blue sky day
Photo by morfar  –  Link

Austria

Europe

  German, Flemish Currency:  Euro

As the country that gave us Mozart and Schubert, provided the backdrop for The Sound of Music and is a firm favourite for European ski trips and hiking holidays, it's fair to say that Austria is best known for two things: high mountains and high culture. However, this small central European country is actually much more diverse than you might imagine, incorporating cosy picture-perfect cities such as Vienna and Salzburg, as well as glaciers and rolling meadows, fertile sloping vineyards and the flat plains of the Pannonian basin. Influenced heavily by its neighbouring countries - Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland - many of which once formed part of the mighty Austro-Hungarian empire, Austria seems to cherry pick the best of each country, and put its own unique spin on it too.

Urban romance

Austria's capital, Vienna recently dethroned Melbourne at the world's most liveable city and is the perfect destination for a long weekend city break, while its second city, Graz, oozes intellect, boasts a beautiful old town and is a former European Capital of Culture. And that's before we've even come to the colourful city of Innsbruck, or the beautiful Baroque buildings of mountain-framed Salzburg.

The smaller towns are no less dreamy either, with highlights including the quaint and waterside Millstatt and the healing waters of Bad Gastein. Hallstatt, which is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited village in Europe, is like something straight from a movie, with waterfront houses, a mountain backdrop and a church spire peaking above the village's roofs.

Outdoor action

Over 60% of Austria's land is covered by the Alps and so the rule when it comes to adventure sports is more or less that if you can dream it, you can probably do it. Popular throughout the year, during the winter the country offers top-level skiing in world-famous resorts such as St Anton and Kitzbuhel, unrivalled apres-ski in the "Ibiza of the Alps", Ischgl, and family-friendly rides in Zell am See. Once the snow melts, the lakes defrost and the rivers swell, it becomes a magnet for white-water rafters and open-water swimmers, while hikers, cyclists and even paragliders take to the rocky trails that criss-cross its vibrant green mountainsides.

What to eat in Austria?

When visiting Austria, there are certain foods that you just have to try, including the classic Wiener Schnitzel, the dumpling-like dish knödel, which can either be made sweet or savoury, and apfelstrudel, which as you might be able to guess, is apple strudel. Cake lovers will be able to stuff themselves silly in Vienna, and come December, it's almost compulsory to glug gluhwein at one of Austria's open air Christmas markets, no matter where in the country you are.

A well-connected country

For a country that is relatively small, Austria is incredibly well-connected to the rest of Europe, with six international airports internally (including Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck), as well bus links to airports in neighbouring countries, such as Zurich (Switzerland) and Munich (Germany), which are often used for ski transfers. There are also multiple trains daily to every country that shares a border with Austria, with Vienna being the central hub, as well as direct buses to Balkan countries leaving from every major city.