Austria has always held a special place in my heart since my very first visit but whilst I'd visited Salzburg a couple of times previously, it wasn't until I did a self-guided cycling tour of the Austrian Lakes that I explored the lovely villages in the pretty Salzkammergut region.
The former salt mining town of Altaussee (on the lake of the same name) is much quieter and less touristy than some of the other lakeside towns in Austria that I have visited.
Its location at the end of a road about five kilometres from Bad Aussee means it’s free of passing traffic. There are few shops but that's part of the charm - it's a great place for a peaceful getaway.
Situated on: Altaussee
Seewalchen is ideally situated at the northern end of Attersee, the largest of the Austrian Lakes. Both Seewalchen and its ‘twin-town’ of Schorfling are popular summer resorts offering heaps of lakeside activities.
At Kammer, a few kilometres from Seewalchen, art lovers can visit the Gustav Klimt Gallery (built in honour of the artist’s love of Attersee) and there’s also a bronze bust of the artist on the lake shore.
Situated on: Attersee
Gmunden is a reasonably large town at the northern end of Traunsee. It features a long lakeside promenade which comes alive in Summer with ice cream sellers and souvenir vendors.
Lakeside cafes are popular, as is the large lido (lake swimming pool).
From Gmunden boats sail to Ebensee at the other end of lake from where you can catch a train to Bad Ischl.
Situated on: Traunsee
Much-photographed, Hallstatt is a postcard-perfect village on the edge of Hallstattersee (Lake Hallstatt). For a small village there are plenty of highlights which include the colourful houses and buildings, the lovely town square and of course the stunning water views.
With easy access from Hallstatt to the nearby salt mine, ice caves and Dachstein mountain, it’s a great place to spend a few days. Even better is the fact that you’ll (almost) have the town to yourself after the thousands of day trippers have left for the day.
Situated on: Hallstattersee
Mondsee’s most famous sight is perhaps St. Michael’s Basilica, the chuch that was the setting for the wedding in the movie “The Sound of Music”.
Mondsee is an old market town and the historic centre, with its colourful buildings and cobbled streets, is the perfect place to sit and take in the beauty of the Basilica.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the old town is the sparkling lake where’ll you find plenty of water activities to keep you occupied, a large swimming area and numerous cafes and restaurants.
Situated on: Mondsee
The small village of St. Gilgen, on Wolfgangsee, was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s mother. Her home, which features a lovely frescoed wall, can be visited during the summer.
Close to the house is a statue of the famous composer and a fountain featuring his mother.
Situated on: Wolfgangsee
Possibly one of the most popular resort towns in all of the Austrian lakes, St. Wolfgang offers something for everyone. The busy town is home to a great variety of shops, restaurants, cafes and hotels.
The spire of the Pilgrimage Church can be seen from afar and with its famous Pacher Altar, it’s a regular haunt of the many tourists that visit St. Wolfgang. Quaint cobbled streets lined with frescoed buildings add to the town’s charm.
A regular ferry service operates in summer between St. Wolfgang and the other villages around Wolfgangsee.
For great views of Wolfgangsee, Mondsee and Attersee, you can’t go past a ride on the cog wheel railway to the Schafberg (Sheep Mountain). The steam train operates daily from late April to late October.
Situated on: St. Wolfgangsee
The Austrian Lakes region is particularly popular for its numerous hiking and cycling options. Well-marked walking trails and bike paths can be found throughout the region. I have previously written about my 8 day self-guided cycling tour of the Austrian Lakes.
There are around 50 lakes in the Salzkammergut region and the above towns are just six of the gorgeous villages you'll find amongst them.
Strobl, another village on Wolfgangsee, is also worthy of a mention, and whilst I only passed through Fuschl (on Fuschlsee) on the Post Bus to and from Salzburg, it's a town I'd love to go back and explore further.
Need to Know about the Austrian Lakes
The Austrian Lakes are located to the east of Salzburg. Most, if not all, of the towns mentioned above are accessible by public transport.
Larger towns generally have railway stations but those that don’t are often serviced by Post Bus, the public bus service. Timetables can be found on the Austrian Railways website.
If arriving by car, I suggest making a base at one of the lakes and visiting the other lakes on day trips. All of the lakes are within an easy drive of each other.