Austria may be smaller than the state of Maine, but it packs a wallop when it comes to accommodations. There are Baroque palaces fit for a king, alpine villas surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery and spa hotels that bring an extra dimension of wellbeing to the travel experience. For families, a stay at a working farm could be a bonding adventure that’s talked about for years, while couples might relish the seclusion of a rustic mountain hut. There are many options for budget travelers, including inexpensive hotels and guesthouses, rooms for rent in private homes, and hostels in virtually every corner of the country.
No matter where you stay, you can expect accommodations to be tidy and neat in true Austrian fashion. Keep in mind, however, that because Austria is hugely popular among skiers in winter and hikers and nature lovers in summer, you’ll want to book well in advance for these peak seasons. If you’re a free spirit or you find yourself traveling on the spur of the moment, it’s useful to know that local tourist offices can usually book accommodations for free or a small charge.
Note that some properties have minimum stays of two days to a week, especially during peak times, and that those in rural areas are often best reached by car. Read on to learn where to stay in Austria.
Austrian hotels run the gamut from modest accommodations (one- and two-star hotels, sometimes with a shared bath down the hall) to grandiose luxury properties like Hotel Sacher Vienna, established in 1876 and awarded five stars for its fine dining, spa, concierge service and other amenities.
Some hotels are nondescript blocks, especially postwar constructions around major train stations, while others are strikingly contemporary, like the DO & CO Hotel Vienna across from St. Stephen’s Cathedral or the budget design hotel roomz Vienna. Many are bedecked with endearing Austrian flourishes, from stucco detailing and chandeliers in the breakfast room to deer antlers and antiques in the lobby. Efficiency and English-language proficiency are trademarks of Austrian hospitality.
There are many chains with properties throughout the country, including Austria Trend Hotels, which offers lodging in several price categories and levels of comfort. There are also many privately owned hotels with plenty of personalized service and charm, like Cityhotel Trumer Stube and Hotel Amadeus, both centrally located in Salzburg. In small towns and villages, family-run operations with a restaurant often have the word gasthaus or gasthof (guesthouse) attached to their name. Don’t be surprised to see staff dressed in national dress — the dirndl.
If you want to stay in a historical hotel with character, Romantik Hotels & Restaurants has 22 member properties in Austria, including Romantik Hotel Gmachl on the outskirts of Salzburg, in operation since 1334 and the oldest family-run business in the country.
For families, Kinderhotels offers about 40 properties in Austria ranging from luxury hotels with spas to alpine farmsteads, located mostly in resort and rural areas and offering English-speaking nannies, free childcare, and family-oriented programs and facilities.
At most hotels room rates include hearty Austrian breakfasts, usually featuring a buffet of cold meats, cheeses, breads, eggs, cereals, yogurt, coffee and juice. In rural areas, hotels may also offer room rates with halbpension (half board, with breakfast and dinner) and vollpension, which includes all three meals.
Austria Hotel Resources:
Austria Spa Hotels
Spa accommodations, which often come with the bonuses of high altitudes and fresh air, can be a great way to rejuvenate both mind and spirit. Spa hotels feature everything from treatments using ingredients found only in the Alps to guided Nordic walking tours.
Sporting one of the most whimsical settings is Rogner Bad Blumau, designed by the late renowned Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser and offering 11 different indoor and outdoor thermal pools. Krone in Au, combining traditional and modern architecture, has a rooftop spa with panoramic views in addition to weekly programs that might include guided tours through the village, nature hikes and winter lantern-lit walks.
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Austria Castle and Palace Hotels
With Austria’s long imperial history, it should come as no surprise to learn that many of its hilltop fortresses, lakeside manors and Baroque palaces have been turned into one-of-a-kind accommodations. Standouts include Hotel Schloss Duernstein, originally built in 1630 and occupying a lovely spot on the Danube River, and Vienna‘s famous Schonbrunn Palace, which offers one guest suite complete with two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchenette and views of the palace’s magnificent park.
Austria Castle and Palace Hotel Resources:
Austria Apartments, Vacation Homes, Cottages and Huts
Travelers who like thinking outside the hotel box or wish to stay put for a while will find a wide range of options in all sizes and prices, from old or renovated to completely new, with breathtaking alpine scenery often a bonus. Some are former villas, like the Chalet Villa Orania, built as a holiday getaway for a Dutch composer and now offering eight luxury apartments near a ski lift. Others are former farms or hunting retreats that have been repurposed for vacationers. Some are even rustic and secluded alpine huts where you fire up the wood stove yourself.
There are also vacation homes (called a ferienhaus) perfect for families or friends traveling together, with thousands of listings in cities and villages throughout the country. Fully equipped apartments are also very popular for extended stays, whether in Vienna or in villages like Krems.
There are multitudes of farms across Austria that welcome guests, each one reflecting the owners’ individual styles and preferences. These include farms that are oriented toward children (with chickens to feed and cows to milk), wineries, organic farms, herb farms and barrier-free farms. Some offer horses to take care of and ride, while others feature recreational and health opportunities from bike riding to steam baths. There are even farms without livestock for travelers with allergies or for those who like country living without the animals.
Austria Farmstay Resources:
Austria Budget Accommodations
Budget travelers should note that in popular tourist destinations like Salzburg and Innsbruck, the most affordable accommodations are often on the outskirts of town but usually well served by public transportation. In addition to the many lodging options described above, like one-star hotels and self-catering mountain huts, there are other money-saving options for bargain seekers. Foremost is the pension, usually a small, family-owned accommodation without a restaurant (but serving continental breakfast to overnight guests); rooms may or may not have private bathrooms.
In smaller towns, it’s also not unusual to see a sign that says “zimmer frei,” hung outside private homes to indicate they have a room to rent to travelers. These are virtually always with shared bathrooms down the hall and may or may not include breakfast; credit cards are generally not accepted. These can offer singular chances to get to know Austrians better.
There are also many hostels in Austria. Many are privately owned, especially in tourist destinations and in larger cities, like the Wombat’s City Hostel near Vienna’s famous Naschmarkt or the family-run Hostel Ruthensteiner Vienna near the Westbahnhof.
Dozens of hostels are members of the Austrian Youth Hostel Association, many with both dormitories and private rooms (which may even have a private bathroom). Some require membership, while others let you stay for an extra fee. There are three hostels in Vienna alone, but most of them are in villages close to recreational facilities, like the St. Gilgen on Lake Wolfgang and the Bad Gastein, near ski lifts, river rafting and a thermal spa.
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–written by Beth Reiber