What Winter in Austria Is All About, From Thermal Springs to Tobogganing!

From Thermal Springs to Tobogganing: A List of Winter Activities in Austria & Where to Find Them

Forget the snowman. Do you want to build an igloo?

Image credit: Aqua Dome

After being cooped up in our homes for more than a year, things are finally looking up in time to welcome the Yuletide season. What better way to celebrate it than to experience winter in all its magical glory? You deserve a winter escape that isn’t riddled with frost bites and lonely cold evenings. If there’s one place to keep your winter itinerary warm and exciting, it’s Austria — a country where you can ski, hop into thermal baths, build igloos, go on sleigh rides, and so much more. Each region and city has something promising to offer and we’re here to paint you a picture of what winter in Austria is all about!

1. Explore glowing Christmas Markets dotting Austria

Image credit: OEW, Sonja Burtscher

Nothing brings the holiday spirit like a nostalgic yet cheerful Christmas market, and Austria brims with them. In Vienna, the Viennese Dream Christmas Market is situated right in front of the City Hall with a huge Christmas tree in the centre. After sunset, the City Hall’s tall windows light aglow, making it the perfect backdrop for photos. Drink mulled wine as delicious pastry aromas waft through the air. Don’t leave your little ones out — there are areas where children can learn how to make Christmas cookies and candles too!

Image credit: OEW, Harald-Eisenberger

The Christmas Village in Belvedere Palace stuns in the evening as the palace’s baroque architecture sets the mood for a romantic walk around the market. You’ll find charming handicrafts made by the locals, Christmas decorations, and drool-inducing culinary delights spread throughout the market’s 40 stalls.

Image credit: OEW, Bryan Reinhart

Now, let’s head to Salzburg, whose Christmas Market in the city centre has been recorded since the 15th century. This historical site is located near the venerable Cathedral of Salzburg. Hence, this is the city’s premiere festive spot for those looking for choral singing of Christmas carols, and those who want to see nativity exhibits in the Residenz courtyard. It’s a musical experience, to say the least, but that’s exactly what you’d expect from the City of Mozart.

Image credit: Innsbruck Tourismus, Christof Lackner

Innsbruck’s Old Town Christmas Market isn’t far behind the magical experience, as it’s festooned with colourful stalls nestled between medieval buildings and the Golden Roof. Every year, the Old Town Christmas Market sells handicrafts, woollen goods, and souvenirs to both locals and travellers who want to take part in the city’s enchanting celebrations. The highlight in December is Kiebachgasse, a street that transforms into a fairy tale lane, with characters from famous fables coming to life on windows and gables. 

2. Try thermal springs to keep your winter in Austria toasty

Image credit: Zell am See Kaprun

Austrian winter isn’t all about the snow — it’s about wellness and relaxation too. When you find that the chilly air is too much to bear, hang your hat and lift the burden from your shoulders in Austria’s world-class thermal baths and springs. These hot springs will soothe your mind and body, while the fresh Alpine air and mountain views will rejuvenate your soul. 


Image credit: Aqua Dome

Look to the thermal springs of Tirol, a state with a rich spa history where relaxing therapies meet picture-perfect landscapes. Its Aqua Dome thermal springs go as far back as the 16th century, and it is now the state’s largest thermal spa.

You can’t miss it; the facility is embraced by Alpine mountains and appointed with unique architecture of gigantic flying saucers. The three tempting pools also contain healing properties like salt, sulphur, and massage features. After relaxing in the spring, soothe your muscles in the spa village decked with a loft sauna, canyon sauna, and an ice-cold grotto among other available features during winter in Austria. 


Image credit: Rogner Bad Blumau

The thermal springs of the state of Styria are equally remarkable in that they take advantage of the region’s natural assets. Thermal water, herbs, peat, and salt all make for an organic dip in the spring; matched with a massage administered with fragrant oils, this experience will take your worries away in a jiffy. If you’re up for more, visit the Healing Thermal Baths Bad Waltersdorf, where you’ll find warmth not only in the hot springs but also the open fireplace and relaxation oasis. 

On the other hand, the thermal bath Rogner Bad Blumau flaunts the eccentric designs of the famous architect Hundertwasser; plus, its colourful architecture is present throughout the facility, from impressive columns to rooftop gardens. But amidst these creative marvels, the two hot springs, Melchior and Vulkania, are bucket list experiences you shouldn’t miss. Don’t forget to pamper yourself with exotic treatments like sound meditation before you leave. 

3. Ski, winter hike, and go snowshoeing in destinations made for the whole family

The Arlberg

Image credit: Lech Zürs Tourismus, Josef Mallaun

Did you know that Austria holds the fifth-largest ski destination in the world? This incredible place is called the Arlberg region, known for having 190 miles of slopes and 125 miles of deep snow freeride runs. On top of that, the Arlberg is composed of skiing villages, which also make it the largest ski destination in Austria. You don’t have to ask what you can do in this winter wonderland, because all the staple winter activities are available, from skiing and snowboarding to winter hiking and ice skating. And there’s no better place to indulge in them than in Lech Zurs am Arlberg

Image credit: OEW, thecreatingclick.com

Lech Zurs has a health-promoting and high-altitude region of fun winter activities for the family. This is complemented by the fresh breeze, and the scenic mountain ranges you just have to take pictures with. Skiers can enjoy the different views first and foremost by skiing, riding a lift pass, then ordering a warm meal like Kaesespaetzle and Apfelstrudel in a wooden ski hut!

Also read: These Stunning Mountain Villages are Paradise for All Travellers — Discover Austria’s Arlberg Region!

Not interested in skiing? Consider stretching your legs by following hiking trails. Lech Zurs’ winter landscapes lead through enchanting snowy forests and the partially frozen Lech river. The trails are well-maintained, especially with a 40-kilometre network of paths well-appointed with cosy sun terraces and rustic inns. Here, you can grab a cup of coffee and take your time as you admire the mountain region’s natural beauty.  


Image credit: Österreich Werbung Popp Hackner

The Dachstein-Salzkammergut region is another winter gem for you to widen your horizons. Think glittering ice crystals, snow-covered hills, mountains, and pine forests to name a few magical sights. But if you really want your jaw to drop, head to the village of Hallstatt. This is an iconic town in Austria known for being nestled against the mountains facing Lake Hallstatt. No matter what the season, the vibrant medieval houses juxtaposed with the cool blue lake creates a fairytale scene unlike any other in Europe. 

In winter, witness the landscape high above Hallstatt on the Skywalk. You can get there by riding a Salzberg (salt mountain) cable car, which in itself, is already an experience considering the views that come with the lift. When you reach the top after a brief hike, you’ll be rewarded with a vast viewing deck and panoramic scenes of the southern shore of Lake Hallstatt. The view’s definitely distracting but don’t forget to take a photo for remembrance!

Image credit: Andreas Roebl

In case you want a more action-packed winter activity, you can always go snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is considered the “silent means of transportation” through snow, and the Dachstein mountains are the perfect avenue for you to practice this. Its snowshoe trails lead to the viewing platforms Welterbespirale, 5fingers, and Dachstein Shark that all offer stunning winter vistas.

No prior knowledge about this sport is needed; it’s just like walking with gears on. Plus, the equipment for rent is made with sophisticated technology, such as movable bindings and crampons. It’s a fun yet an unconventional way to enjoy winter in Austria!

Also read: Dachstein Salzkammergut: Top Activities for an Immersive Austrian Holiday

4. Toboggan down snowy hills for the time of your life

Image credit: OEW, Peter-Burgstaller

Before anything else, let’s discuss the elephant in the room: What is tobogganing? It’s simple. Tobogganing is a leisure sport of sliding down a hill on a sled called a toboggan. Sounds fun, right? Let’s proceed. 

You must have figured out by now that Austria is a winter destination of superlatives. One of the reasons for that is Wildkogel Arena, which boasts the longest toboggan run in the world. Found in Neukirchen Bramberg, Salzburg, this arena features a snowy runway of 14 kilometres dropping 1,300 metres from Wildkogel to Bramberg

Image credit: Innsbruck Tourismus, Anton Klocker

If you’re not the nimble type, you can smoothly toboggan down the path for as long as 30 to 50 minutes. What’s more, Wildkogel is officially the world’s longest illuminated run because it’s open until 9.30 in the evening. Isn’t this glowing experience something you’d like to check off your Austrian winter bucket list? 

Image credit: Neukirchen-Bramberg

Other notable destinations for tobogganing include the postcard-worthy village of Pettneu in Tirol, which has a two-kilometre toboggan run, and the St. Anton ski resort in the Arlberg region, boasting a four-kilometre toboggan run. Trust us, this experience is worth it, no matter what time of day it is. 

5. Hop on sleigh rides and make furry friends

Image credit: Photo-Austria.at

Admit it — going on sleigh rides, whether horse-drawn or dogsledding, has been one of your dreams since you were a kid. You can finally see that dream come to fruition as you experience winter in Austria in destinations like Styria, Tirol, SalzburgerLand, and Carintha. 

So, what’s a horse-drawn sleigh ride like in real life? Well, it’s pretty romantic and we highly recommend it for couples. As the coachman steers his magnificent horses, you get to sit and snuggle at the back under a thick warm blanket with your loved one or family, depending on the size of the sled you want to rent. Horse-drawn sleigh rides take you through pine forests where rays of sunshine penetrate between snow-covered branches — undoubtedly peaceful and beautiful moments to capture on camera.

While you’re enjoying the view of Austria’s countryside, you can even sit beside the coachman. The coachmen are known to be storytellers, and they regale their passengers with history lessons about the region and of course, stories about the horses under their care!

Image credit: Peter Maier

Dog lovers, how do you like the sound of being pulled by a pack of huskies through bright snowy fields? To us, it sounds like heaven and a whole lot of furry fun. To start this Austrian winter adventure, you can go to places like the Sledge Dog Camp and Race in Tirol, where you will be exposed to dog sled training that educates both adults and kids. Not only will you embark on your own husky joyride and bond with the dogs, but you’ll also enjoy bonfires with them in the evening. 

On the other hand, husky ranches in Lower Austria like the Altnagelberg husky farm will also show you how the dogs are trained and cared for. In Gailtal Valley, Carintha, you can even book birthday parties for kids with huskies, or go on husky trekking and musher training. Really, what more could dog lovers ask for?

6. Learn how to make igloos for the first time in your life

Image credit: B. Linder

In the winter season, everybody seems to be obsessed with building a snowman. But why don’t you take it a step farther and build an igloo? This will surely be something both parents and kids will enjoy.

Igloo-building workshops are available in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena, Tirol, where you’ll witness firsthand how the interiors of igloos maintain a warm temperature even on very cold days. Amidst the cosy and faux fur-clad furniture, your packed clothes and sleeping bags also stay dry the whole time. And yes, you can opt to stay overnight in an igloo village!

Image credit: Tirol Werbung

While you’re in Tirol, check out Austria’s very first igloo village, Schneedorf, where you can book packaged winter activities like a torch walk, sledging, snowshoe hikes, a trip to the Aqua Dome Spa, and of course, an igloo-building workshop. You could say that Tirol is a one-stop destination for a complete Austrian winter. But hey, don’t let that stop you from exploring other winter destinations in Austria. 

Also read: 7 Reasons Why We Always Look Forward to Austria & Why You Should Too!

As you can see, winter in Austria has a lot of heart, in the sense that all its winter activities provide a rich bonding experience for you and your loved ones. Want to experience the Yuletide spirit? Go to the Christmas markets. Is the season too cold for your family? Take a trip to Austria’s thermal springs. Searching for that adrenaline rush? Go sledging with furry friends.

Everything you’d want in a winter wonderland is in Austria. And guess what? Austria’s ready to welcome you with open arms once again!

Brought to you by the Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO).

About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.