You’ve got to try these 10 under-the-radar experiences in Austria

Austria is a country that offers more than just stunning scenery and world-class skiing. It also has a rich cultural heritage, a vibrant culinary scene and some hidden gems that will surprise and delight you. Here are 10 under-the-radar experiences that you can have in Austria, from exploring medieval castles to channeling your inner James Bond.

Travel back in time in a medieval mountain-top fortress

Perched  high in the Austrian Alps, Hohenwerfen Fortress is a captivating journey into medieval Austria. Its blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture serves as a time capsule, transporting visitors to a bygone era. Ascend the fortress towers for breathtaking Alpine views, and witness the ancient art of falconry with the Falconry Experience. Unleash your inner archer against the backdrop of centuries-old history within the fortress walls. The Castle Museum brings the past to life with artifacts and exhibits, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of those who once called the fortress home. Fans of the war movie Where Eagles Dare might recognize the fortress as the setting for the fictional Schloss Adler.

Visit the picture-perfect village of Hallstatt

Hallstatt is one of the most beautiful villages in Europe, and also one of the most photographed. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is nestled on the shores of a lake, surrounded by mountains and forests. You can stroll along the cobbled streets, admire the colorful houses, visit the salt mines, or take a boat ride on the lake. Hallstatt is also known for its ossuary, a small chapel where over 1,200 skulls are displayed, some of them painted with flowers and names.

Walk among butterflies in Vienna

Vienna is famous for its imperial palaces, museums and cafes, but it also has a hidden oasis of nature in the heart of the city. The Schmetterlinghaus (Butterfly House) is a tropical greenhouse that houses hundreds of exotic butterflies. You can watch them flutter around you, landing on flowers and plants, or even on your shoulder. The Butterfly House is located next to the Hofburg Palace, so you can combine it with a visit to one of Vienna’s most iconic attractions.

Explore the world’s largest ice caves

Austria is home to the Eisriesenwelt (Ice Giants World), the largest ice caves in the world. These caves are located near Werfen, about an hour’s drive from Salzburg. You can take a cable car up to the entrance of the caves, then join a guided tour that will take you through an icy wonderland of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and sculptures. The caves are only open from May to October and you’ll need to dress warmly and wear sturdy shoes.

Jump off a ski ramp in Innsbruck

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try one of the most thrilling experiences in Austria: jumping off a ski ramp at Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck. This ski jump was designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid and hosted several Olympic events. You can take an elevator up to the top of the tower, where you’ll get a panoramic view of Innsbruck and the Alps. Then you’ll strap on a harness and slide down the ramp at speeds of up to 100 km/h. Don’t worry, you’ll be safely attached to a rail and land on an air cushion.

See Europe’s highest waterfalls

The Krimml Waterfalls are Europe’s highest waterfalls, with a total height of 380 meters. They are located in Hohe Tauern National Park, the largest national park in Austria. You can hike along a trail that follows the course of the waterfalls, stopping at various viewpoints and platforms. The hike takes about an hour and a half and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views and refreshing spray. The waterfalls are also said to have a positive effect on your health, as the fine mist contains negative ions that boost your immune system and mood.

Marvel at the world’s largest collection of historic weapons

The Styrian Armoury in Graz is the world’s largest collection of historic weapons and armour, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The armoury contains over 32,000 items, including swords, daggers, pistols, rifles, cannons, helmets and suits of armour. You can explore the four floors of the armoury on your own or join a guided tour that will explain the history and function of the weapons. The armoury is also a stunning example of baroque architecture, with a spiral staircase and a vaulted ceiling.

Ride a steam train to the top of a mountain

For a nostalgic and scenic journey, you can take the Schafbergbahn, a steam train that climbs up to the summit of Schafberg Mountain. The train departs from St. Wolfgang, a charming town on the shore of Wolfgangsee Lake. The ride takes about 40 minutes and covers a distance of 5.8 km, with an altitude difference of 1,190 meters. Along the way, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. At the top, you can visit the Schafbergspitze Hotel, the oldest mountain hotel in Austria, or hike along one of the trails.

Discover an underground lake in a former gypsum mine

The Seegrotte (Lake Cave) is a former gypsum mine that was flooded in 1912, creating an underground lake. The lake is located near Hinterbrühl, about 30 minutes from Vienna. You can take a guided tour that will take you through the tunnels and chambers of the mine, where you’ll learn about its history and see some mining equipment. The highlight of the tour is a boat ride on the lake, which is the largest subterranean lake in Europe. The lake was also used as a film set for The Three Musketeers in 1993.

Channel your inner James Bond at Schloss Leopoldskron

Schloss Leopoldskron is a rococo palace that was built in 1736 by Prince-Archbishop Leopold von Firmian. The palace is located on the outskirts of Salzburg, overlooking a lake and the Alps. It is now a luxury hotel that offers elegant rooms and suites, as well as access to the palace’s gardens and park. Schloss Leopoldskron was also featured in several movies, including The Sound of Music and Spectre. You can relive some of these scenes by taking a bike tour or a boat ride around the palace.

Hotels in Vienna, Austria

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