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Historic small towns in Austria

There are a lot of well-preserved historic small towns in Austria. The country has a very conscious relationship with its culture and history. Therefore, Austria offers a wealth of beautiful historic towns and cities.

The country’s architecture and culture has benefitted from Austria’s location in the middle of Europe. As well as developing a unique style, Austria has also drawn inspiration from different neighbouring countries. Many of the country’s towns have grown up along important trade routes and been important for Austria’s nation-building. You will still find a multitude of cities and towns that have buildings dating back to the 16th century and where history is still firmly embedded in the walls.

The Middle Ages

By the turn of the millennium (1000 AD), the population in Europe and also in Austria began to increase sharply. This led to an increased urbanization. However, this period was also characterized by many conflicts and self-governed medieval towns often protected themselves by city walls and fortifications. As the town grew up, newer districts emerged around the city walls, and in many places the historic town centres were preserved. Good examples of such towns in Austria are; Freistadt in Upper Austria, Hall in Tyrol and Oberwölz in Styria.

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All over Austria

Not only are the old historic city centres in large cities such as Vienna, Salzburg or Innsbruck retained their historical architecture. Spread all over Austria, from Feldkirch (Vorarlberg) to the west, Freistadt (Upper Austria) to the north, Bad Radkersburg (Styria) to the south and Rust (Burgenland) to the east, you will find well-preserved historic cities and towns. If you are travelling by car or maybe on a motorcycle, the small distances in Austria are perfect for visiting some of these picturesque small historic towns. Some, like Hall in Tyrol are easy reachable by public transport. Along the way, you can add everything from the spectacular Alps to a wonderful cultural landscape, to your trip.

Thriving small towns

The history is not only preserved as an open-air museum for tourists. These cities and towns are thriving and have become popular places to live in. Often you find a rich selection of shops, restaurants and public offices. Strict rules for conservation combined with the desire to preserve history, have meant that a lot of resources have been spent on maintaining and reconstructing old architecture. This applies not only to the larger cities, but also to many smaller historic towns.

Some of these historic small towns (15) in Austria are cooperating and promoting their historic towns online: Small historic towns in Austria

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Here are some of the small historic towns in Austria we have visited so far:

  • UNESCO World heritage site Hallstatt, Upper Austria, Austria

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    World heritage site Hallstatt

    The village occupies a strip of land at the water’s edge, and the houses hang on the steep rock face. Hallstatt is small, and exploring even the back alleys will not require more than a couple of hours including a cake and cup of coffee. World heritage Hall is an old word for salt, thus […]

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  • Mauterndorf, Salzburgerland, Austria

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    Nature meets history in Mauterndorf

    “Off the beaten track” has over the years become somewhat of a cliché since there are less a less such places. In Europe anyway. Mauterndorf, however, is not completely run over by large hordes of tourists as many other places in Austria are. Not because of a lack of things to do or see. There […]

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  • Hall, Tyrol, Austria

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    Historic ramble around Hall in Tyrol

    A little in the shadow of Innsbruck, which is only 10 kilometres further west, Hall does not receive visits to countless busloads with tourists. Something that we appreciated when we strolled around in picturesque Hall. We just love these small historic cities in Austria. The hustle and bustle of daily life, makes Hall much more […]

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    Frohnleiten – The beauty queen on the river Mur

    For once, we visited an Austrian town, not because they have well-known tourist sights or famous architecture, but simply because it’s a lovely town. Frohnleiten has been able to modernize the city and, in particular the main square (Hauptplatz), without destroying its historical charm. The square is the lifeblood of the local community and where […]

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  • Steyr, Upper Austria, Austria

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    Autumn walk in historic Steyr

    The lovely town at the foot of the Alps has one of Austria’s best preserved historic centres in the country. Located where the rivers Steyr and Enns meet, the market town celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 1980. North of the city, the almost flat landscapes of the Danube Valley unfold, while to the south the […]

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  • Dürnstein, Lower Austria, Austria

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    Dürnstein – a fairy-tale town by the Danube

    Dürnstein is as taken out of a medieval novel. Dürnstein clings on narrow strip on the north bank of the Danube in Lower Austria. The small town has taken its name from the castle which occupies the cliffs above. The town is luckily much better preserved than the castle, which today only consist of a […]

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Written by Arnold Weisz

Arnold Weisz

Globetrotting multilingual communications specialist born in Vienna, Austria – with passion for scuba diving, golf and culinary delights! 15 years of experience as a scuba- and travel reporter for among others: X-Ray Dive Magazine and Dykking.