10 Top Tourist Attractions in Kitzbühel & Easy Day Trips
Kitzbühel, one of the largest and best-known winter sports resorts in Austria, lies in a lovely valley at the foot of the Kitzbüheler Horn. After rising to prosperity in the 16th century thanks to its copper and silver mines, Kitzbühel - nicknamed "Kitz" by those in the know - has since become a fashionable resort catering to an international clientele drawn by its excellent skiing and winter sports events, along with summer activities such as hiking and golf. The old core of the town, built on a long ridge of hills, consists of two streets - the Vorderstadt and the Hinterstadt - with handsome old gabled houses, many of them built in the style typical of the Lower Inn valley. It's also an excellent place from which to explore some of the most stunning alpine scenery in Austria, particularly around the Kitzbühel Alps.
1 Kitzbüheler Horn
The 1,998-meter-tall Kitzbüheler Horn to the northeast of Kitzbühel is another popular Austrian mountain peak. Summit highlights include the picturesque house called Gipfelhaus, a chapel, and a restaurant, all easily reached by cable car via the 1,273-meter Pletzeralm or a four-hour climb from the town center. Glorious views await on the summit: to the south you can see from the Radstädter Tauern to the Ötztal Alps; to the north, the nearby Kaisergebirge; to the west, the Lechtal Alps; and to the east, the Hochkönig. South of Kitzbüheler Horn rises the equally impressive 1,772-meter Hornköpfli, also reached by cableway. During the ski season, the mountains in the immediate vicinity of Kitzbühel are thronged with skiers from around the world, all catered to by numerous cableways and ski lifts on the slopes of the Kitzbüheler Horn, the Hahnenkamm, and the Steinbergkogel.
Address: Kitzbüheler Horn, Kitzbühel
2 The Hahnenkamm
The 1,655-meter-tall peak of the Hahnenkamm rises high above Kitzbühel and offers some of Austria's cleanest mountain air, its most beautiful walking country, and superlative skiing terrain. Accessible by numerous chairlifts and cable cars, this spectacular mountain affords some of the best valley views to be found anywhere in Europe. On the northern side rises the 1,206-meter Seidl-Alm, just a one-hour-and-15-minute climb from Kitzbühel. There's also an attractive 30-minute walk from the upper station of the cableway to the Ehrenbachhöhe (1,805 meters), and from here, it's another half an hour to the 1,960-meter Steinbergkogel, also reached by chairlift from the Ehrenbachgraben, or one-and-a-half hours to the 1,940-meter Pengelstein. The three-and-a-half kilometer Hahnenkamm Ski Run is one of the most famous in the world, and in summer becomes a popular destination for walkers, hikers, and mountain bikers.
3 St. Andreas Parish Church
At the northern end of Old Town Kitzbühel stands picturesque St. Andreas Parish Church (Pfarrkirche St. Andreas). Built between 1435 and 1506 and later remodeled in Baroque style, this massive building with its low tower and dome is equally attractive inside, boasting beautiful stucco work, ceiling paintings, and 15th-century frescos. Adjoining the choir is the Rosakapelle with its fine tracery windows and a ceiling painting of St. Rosa from 1750. Also of note is the fine 17th-century high altar, a work by Kitzbühel sculptor SB Faistenbergerth. Another must-see church is the Bernhard-Kapelle, a simple structure high above Kitzbühel on the slopes of the Hahnenkamm. It serves as a picturesque backdrop much favored by photographers.
Address: A-6370 Kitzbühel, Pfarrau 2
4 The Alpine Flower Garden
Said to be the most attractive mountain garden in Europe, the lovely Alpine Flower Garden lies on the Kitzbüheler Horn at an altitude of 1,880 meters, just minutes away from the summit and the Gipfelhaus. This attraction covers more than 20,000 square meters of mountainside and is home to more than 300 different species of plants from across the globe. Clearly labeled with details of their original habitats, specimens include rarities from the local area as well as the Caucuses, the Pyrenees, and the Himalayas. Guided tours and English language guidebooks are available.
Address: Kitzbüheler Horn, Kitzbühel
5 Town Museum Kitzbühel
An excellent local museum in the town's old granary, Museum Kitzbühel (Museum der Stadt Kitzbühel) is well worth a visit. With a focus on the region's rich history, including its popularity as a leading ski destination, its many displays include items of Tyrolese folk art and finds from ancient mines. Its substantial art collection includes more than 60 paintings and 100 drawings, many of them with a winter sports theme and produced by the likes of Alfons Walde, whose colorful images of the mountains helped attract the rich and famous from around the world to the region's slopes. Also worth seeing are numerous sports-related artifacts, including an iron bobsled, ancient skis, and displays of star athletes connected to the area.
Address: Hinterstadt 32, 6370 Kitzbühel
6 Hiking and Biking
During warmer weather, the slopes around Kitzbühel are transformed from a winter wonderland to a hikers' paradise. All told, the area boasts more than 1,000 kilometers of trails, from pleasant strolls through colorful valleys and meadows to more challenging climbs leading up to the region's many peaks. Whatever your pace, these well-maintained trails offer superb alpine views as well as countless reasons to stop and admire the scenery, including the fun mountain huts set up as rest and refreshment stations, some of which can be used for overnight stays. One of the most popular of the area's many hiking trails is the well-marked 15-kilometer Kaiser Trail with its wonderful views over the jagged Kaisergebirge massif. Mountain bikers, too, are well catered to, with a popular route being the 1,000-kilometer Bike Trail Tyrol based around Kitzbühel. Broken into 32-stages, the route can be picked up at numerous locations with many fine stopovers along the way. (Maps and trail information are available from area tourist centers, hotels, and attractions.)
7 The Schwarzsee
Those who enjoy a slower pace should visit the Schwarzsee, a picturesque little lake located just three kilometers northwest of Kitzbühel. Popular for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and people-powered boating such as canoeing and kayaking, this 15-acre tree-lined lake is well-known for having some of the warmest waters in the Alps. It's also included on many of the region's walking trails, and makes a great place to stop for a lakeside picnic.
Just north of Kitzbühel Parish Church is another interesting place of worship, the small two-story Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche). Notable for its large square tower, the lower church was built in 1373, while the upper church is known for its fine ceiling painting from 1739 showing the Crowning of the Virgin. Other notable features are its splendid Rococo lattice-screen from 1781, its fine organ, and its large bell dating from 1518. Another church worth visiting is the Gothic St. Catherine's Church (Katharinenkirche) built in the 14th century and now a war memorial. Interior highlights include a box window on the south wall, a carved figure of Our Lady from the 15th century, and a winged altarpiece from 1520.
Address: Josef-Pirchl Strasse, 6370 Kitzbühel
9 St. Johann in Tyrol
Some 20 kilometers north of Kitzbühel is the small community of St. Johann in Tyrol, a popular summer and winter sports resort noted for its many picturesque old houses. Highlights include the parish church of Maria Himmelfahrt completed in 1728 with its fine stuccowork and ceiling paintings, and a fresco in the dome from 1803. Another church worth visiting is the Spitalkirche in der Weitau, notable for its 18th-century Rococo interior and fine 15th-century stained glass window. St. Johann is also a great place from which to explore the surrounding mountains, with a number of cableways ascending the Kitzbüheler Horn to the south. Come winter, it's a skier's paradise; its usually less-crowded slopes are perfect for beginners and intermediates.
10 The Town of Fieberbrunn
Approximately 22 kilometers east of Kitzbühel, in the valley of the Pillersee-Ache, lies the popular spa and winter resort of Fieberbrunn. Although a less busy ski destination than Kitzbühel, Fieberbrunn offers a number of great opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts. Its most popular slopes include the 1,660-meter Lärchfilzkogel, well served by a number of chairlifts (in summer, it's a rewarding four-and-a-half-hour climb from the town center). Another peak worth visiting during winter or summer is Lärchfilz-Hochalm (1,364 meters). A short drive north of Fieberbrunn, on the road to Waidring, is the pretty Pillersee, a mountain lake at the foot of the Loferer Steinberge noted for its superb setting and trails.
Day Trips from Kitzbühel
Sankt Martin bei Lofer
A pleasant 38 kilometers drive east of Kitzbühel is the picturesque village of Sankt Martin bei Lofer, home to Maria Kirchental, Austria's most important pilgrimage church. Nestled at the foot of thick forested slopes, this lovely little church was completed in 1701 and is as popular among hikers and climbers as it is for pilgrims due to its stunning scenery and location as the starting place of numerous trails heading up to the Great Ox Horn mountain. Highlights of the church's interior are a wooden statue of St. Mary and the baby Jesus (she's holding a scepter, while he's holding a goldfinch, a reference to his sacrifice) and the mid-19th-century organ.
The Sea of Stone: Steinernes Meer
Straddling the border between Austria and Germany, 46 kilometers east of Kitzbühel, is the magnificent Steinernes Meer, the Sea of Stone. This high karstone plateau and nature reserve is a huge draw for sightseers, climbers, and hikers alike, all here for the spectacular peaks towering high above: the 2,463-meter Selbhorn, the pyramid-shaped Schönfeldspitze at 2,653 meters, the gently sloping 2,504-meter Breithorn, and the Hundstod at 2,594 meters. On the western edge of the plateau, on the Ramsheider Scharte, stands the Riemannhaus at 2,177 meters with its old inn (further climbs, such as up the Selbhorn, should only be made with an experienced guide). The area is also extremely popular with skiers.
The Kitzbühel Alps: Grosser Galtenberg and Salzachgeier
The Kitzbühel Alps, adjoining the Tux foothills and separated from Hohe Tauern by the Pinzgau, a valley of the River Salzach, is a magnificent mountain area to explore and is only an hour's drive from Kitzbühel itself. The largest range of schist mountains in Austria, they extend in a series of gently-rounded ridges for some 100 kilometers, with treeless or sparsely wooded Alpine meadows sloping down from the summits into numerous longitudinal and transverse valleys, ensuring their popularity among skiers. The highest summits and most strikingly formed massifs in the Kitzbühel Alps are to be found at the western end of the range, part of a ridge running eastward from the 2,558-meter Kreuzjoch, near Gerlos, and around a desolate lake-filled hollow to the 2,495-meter Torhelm before bearing northward by way of various lesser peaks to the 2,425-meter Grosser Galtenberg near Alpbach and in the Salzachgeier at 2,470 meters.
Wildseeloder and the House on the Hill
Another peak in the Kitzbühel Alps worth exploring is Wildseeloder with its superb views of the eastern section of this spectacular mountain range. At 2,177 meters, Wildseeloder isn't the tallest of the area's peaks, but it's very popular due to its relatively easy hikes (at least compared to some of the higher peaks), including the summit ascent from the village of Fieberbrunn by way of the Wildseeloderhaus. Built in 1892, this old climbing hut is a fine waypoint on your journey, offering a chance for a breather along with excellent views of the peaks in all directions. Best of all, it can be reached by cable car to the Lärchfilzkogel, followed by an hour or so walk.
East Tyrol and the Old Town of Lienz
The mountainous region of East Tyrol, approximately 90 kilometers south of Kitzbühel, takes in the uppermost reaches of the Drau and Isel valleys and the area around the source of the River Gail. Ringed by a series of lofty peaks, including the Hohe Tauern, the Schober, and Riesenferner groups, as well as the Carnic Alps and the Lienz Dolomites, it's an area steeped in history, with the ruins of Aguntum bearing witness to Roman occupation. It's also an area rich in traditions and is famous for its woodcarving, as well as being the home of artists like Albin Egger-Lienz, known for his stark paintings of local peasants. Be sure to explore Lienz, chief town of East Tyrol and gateway to the valleys of the Tauern, and home to a lovely 13th-century castle, Schloss Bruck. Another small community worth visiting is the little market town of Matrei in Osttirol, a popular health, winter sports, and tourist resort nestled below the south side of the Hohe Tauern.