A FEW FACTS: Austria has a population of 8.9 million. The entire country is roughly the size of Maine. And it offers nearly 750 museums. Simply put, this is a country devoted to culture. A walk around the country’s best-known cities, such as Vienna, Salzburg, and Graz, proves the point, but so does journeying to its often undersung rural villages. From the birthplace of Alpine skiing to a Porsche museum, a palace filled with Diego Velázquez masterpieces to the home of Sigmund Freud, we uncovered nine boutique institutions — and locales — that are worth a visit.
FOR WINE CONNOISSEURS
While Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, and Blaufränkisch are standard pours today, Austria’s 2000-year history in winemaking is less celebrated. Enter Loisium Weinwelt, a wine world set in the hills of the country’s vineyards, with tours of ancient wine vault systems, insights from famed vintners, and tastings in their vinothèque. Make it a day trip (it’s an hour northwest of Vienna by car) or explore the nearby Loisium complex and stay at the Steven Holl–designed Loisium Wine & Spa Hotel Langenlois.
This renaissance palace has something for every design-phile — spectacular architecture, Peter Paul Rubens and Velázquez paintings, historic portraits, rare armors, musical instruments, even lush gardens. It’s the brainchild of Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria, who rebelled against the intermarrying strategy of House of Habsburg and wed a rich commoner named Philippine Welser in 1557. He built Ambras Castle both as a refuge for his family and a museum to show his renowned collection.
FOR PSYCHOLOGY FOLLOWERS
With his wife and six children, Freud called Berggasse 19 in Vienna home for over 47 years. Today, the Freud Museum occupies the address known as the birthplace of psychoanalysis. Renovated in 2020, the museum now allows visitors to wander through all of the family’s private and practice rooms. The space also holds Europe’s largest library devoted to psychoanalysis — 40,000 volumes — including several first editions of Freud’s work.
FOR WINTER ENTHUSIASTS
A picturesque centuries-old village, Kitzbühel notably hosts the Hahnenkamm Races for World Cup skiers. Its local museum outlines that history and more, with rotating art exhibits and a can’t-miss permanent collection of Alfons Walde (1891–1958) expressionist paintings. Called the “Painter of Snow,” Walde’s depictions of alpine landscapes are so iconic that today’s locals describe ideal weather as “A day with Walde-snow and Walde-sky!”. He also curated the town’s colorful architecture as its building commissioner.
FOR SKI FANS
A village atop the western Austrian Alps, St. Anton is considered the Cradle of Alpine Skiing. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the sport’s innovators — think Hannes Schneider — developed the “stem turn” on its slopes, the foundation for modern Alpine skiing. Set in the Kandahar Home, a Tyrolean-style hunting lodge and architectural gem from 1912, the Arlberg Museum unpacks this history and has a charmingly decorated restaurant serving fresh Austrian fusion fare.
FOR AUTO LOVERS
In the 1940s, Ferry Porsche invented the first Porsche in Gmünd, approximately one and a half hours southeast of Salzburg. 30 years later, Helmut Pfeifhofer, a local devotee of the brand, founded the world’s only private institution dedicated to the coveted automobile. Visit his extensive collection, then drive 45 minutes to Velden along Lake Wörth, an alpine lake that reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.
FOR FEMINISTS AND ALLIES
Austria’s first and only women’s museum, Frauenmuseum Hittisau shines a light on regional and global women’s stories through interactive exhibits on topics ranging from medieval crucifixions to women’s rights. Founded in 2000 by local art historian and curator Elisabeth Stöckler, the museum also employs women of varying ages and backgrounds as “Cultural Narrators,” experts who provide illuminating insight into their respective topics. After your visit, explore the surrounding rural area and join the Umgang Bregenzerwald, curated walks through 12 villages.
FOR THE MUSIC OBSESSED
Listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem” is moving. Experiencing it is life-changing. Set in the composer’s final home, Mythos Mozart serves up the latter via sensorial multimedia installations that bring “A Little Night Music,” “Magic Flute,” the aforementioned “Requiem,” and more to life. The visionary’s music provides the soundtrack to 360-degree panoramas of the Vienna corners that captivated him 250 years ago.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS
500 years ago, Hall — an Alpine town 15 minutes east of Innsbruck — became home to the world's first coin minting machine. Now, an exact replica of it stands in its place at the Hall Mint Museum, where you can reminisce about pre-NFT days and inspect thalers (the root of the word “dollar”) with a magnifying glass, mint your own coin on today’s only functional coin-embossing machine, then climb 186 steps up the Mint Tower for breathtaking views of the Inntal valley.
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