South Tyrol is Italy’s best kept secret! This region in the north has some of the most breathtaking landscapes, and you are going to love discovering every little secret corner!
I have compiled a list below of the best places to see and experience in South Tyrol. Plan a vacation the way you like it anytime of the year.
📍 Where is South Tyrol and what’s so special about it?
South Tyrol is a province located in northern Italy. It’s bordering Austria and Switzerland.
This is a mountainous area known for a milder alpine climate. The region is known for excellent wine, gorgeous mountain views and inviting friendly locals.
South Tyrol belonged to Austria over 100 years ago before it was annexed by Italy. Therefore, the region it is called Südtirol in German and Alto Adigo in Italian. Italy calls it also the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. Bolzano aka Bozen is the capital of the province.
Locals still speak Austrian-German and Italian in South Tyrol. That means, you will see names of places in two languages and you will hear people speak both languages.
South Tyrol should not be confused with North Tyrol or East Tyrol, which is one combined region located in Austria bordering South Tyrol.
In 1996, the euroregion of North, East, South Tyrol and Trentino was formed.
🏙 Cities and Towns
Here are the most important cities and towns that you shound’t miss.
Bolzano, also called Bozen, is the capital of the South Tyrol province. It’s located near Trentino.
The paved inner city is surrounded by colorful medieval buildings, and at its center lies the gothic cathedral of Bolzano.
Look out for the Franciscan monastery. The medieval portico, courtyard, and frescoes are worth exploring if you are interested in history.
Furthermore, the Dominican church build in the 13th century is a hidden germ located in the old town.
The well-preserved Castel Mareccio in the old town can be visited as well, and you will get a view from there too.
But the main attraction in Bozen is the Archeological Museum with the iceman body, known as Ötzi.
Bolzano is also surrounded by vineyards. Visit one and hang out with a glass of wine, looking down at the old town.
Merano is an insider tip and one of the last authentic old town in the alps.
Here also, the medieval architecture is central, with passageways resembling those in Innsbruck, Austria. The colorful buildings hold a wealth of history!
Look out for the old city gates, the cute city church and chapels.
Back in the day, Meran was a popular retreat for Scientists and famous people such as Franz Kafka. The Austro-Hungarian Empress Elisabeth was a frequent visitor to the Meran spa.
The Kurhause is a wonderful building in the Jugendstil style. Concerts take place there in summer. During Christmastime, you will find a Christmas market there.
Brixen is a cute town north of Bolzano. It’s not that well-known and often over-looked.
A 2500-year-old settlement was found below the town, making it the oldest town in the province.
The buildings are vibrant and in a beautiful shape, and the Baroque church with marble floors is a highlight in the center.
Brixen is known as a ski resort, but it also the place for wine lovers. This corner of South Tyrol will teach you to slow down and live in the moment.
Sterzing is located near the Brenner Pass and Austria.
This town has the vibe of a scene is the sound of music.
Buildings from another time and era and a granite clock tower, known as the Zwölferturm, complete the picture.
The Reifenstein castle is a well-preserved medieval castle, and you can visit it!
You can take a cable car to the Rosskopf mountain for a charming view of the old town.
Enjoy skiing on some of the best slopes in winter, or visit in summer with your family.
Bruneck is another insider tip. This town is located in the heart of the Dolomites.
The central walking path is lined with medieval buildings and shops. That’s why visiting during the weeks before Christmas and looking for unique gifts in Bruneck is an excellent idea! The atmosphere will enthrall you.
The Bruneck castle on the hill top will also bring about a fairy tale feeling.
The skiing slopes around the town are some of the best and most sought after too.
Bruneck is often overlooked, but a wonderful place to discover if you are looking for authentic vibes.
🗺 Places to Discover
Here you will find a few of the best places to visit. The list will help you to decide on how to make the most of your trip.
The village of Altgraun (also called Curon in Italan) was located right next to what used to be a natural lake. The Italian government transformed the lake into a dam project in 1950. Over 163 homes were flooded and people were forced to move.
What was left was the medieval church tower, which protrudes out of the lake. People from all over the world come to visit and see the lake Resia and the church tower in the lake.
The legends say that people can still hear the church bells ringing.
Lake Braies/ Pragser Wildsee
The lake Braies, aka lago di braies, is located in the Prags Dolomites, and it’s a natural-formed lake. It’s a popular Instagram spot for many, and it gained on popularity thanks to Italian shows.
Thanks to the perfect reflections of the naked raw mountains in the lake and the crystal clear water, this lake is a top place to visit if you are searching for a magical place in the Dolomites.
You can choose to drive up to the lake and park there, take a mountain bike up or hike up.
Taking a dip is allowed, but this high elevation mountain lake will be freezing cold.
To get a special view of the turquoise lake, climb the Seekofel or come early morning to experience a golden, unforgettable sunset.
The Dolomites are a long mountain range in the Italian alps
They are special because of the naked mountain peaks and the way they look compared to other mountain peaks in the alps.
This area is just beautiful and a must-see if you love mountains and nature. It doesn’t matter when you visited, every season will be magical in the Dolomites!
The val di funes is one of the valleys that we recommend you check out. Others include the val de pusteria and the val gardena.
The Dolomites are also the largest connected ski resort in the world with a whooping 1200 square miles. The 2026 Winter Olympics are planned in the Dolomites, Italy.
Castle and Fort Ruins
The two Tyrols, North Tyrol in Austria and South Tyrol in Italy, are known for countless medieval castle and fortification ruins.
Some of the many well-maintained castles (not ruined) that you can visit with your family include (they charge an entry fee):
- Tyrol Castle
- Castle Roncolo
- Trauttmansdorff Castle – they also have beautiful botanical gardens
- Taufers Castle
- Reifenstein Castle
- Prösels Castle
- Schloss Schenna
- Castle Mareccio
Most fort ruins, on the other hand, are freely accessible, and they are some of the most magical places you have ever seen!
Some villages use the ruins sometimes for special occasions, feasts and cultural activities such as live concerts or theater stages.
So, look out for organized events to experience a unique cultural experience on a castle ruin. They will transport you back in time.
You might also want to visit a ruin if you love medieval history or if you are looking to make some unique Instagram images.
Most ruins are located on an elevation, so get some good hiking shoes. The lookout view is always worth the climb up!
Here are some of the most amazing fort ruins that you should visit in South Tyrol. Just look them up on your maps.
- Mühlbacher Klause
- Castello di Montechiaro
- Neuhaus Maultasch
- Castello Boymont
🎯 Fun things to do
These are activities that you can do all year round in South Tyrol.
The thermal waters in Meran are known to have healing properties, and this one is accessible to the public.
That means you pay an entry to either the thermal bath section, the sauna section, or both.
The sauna section is always without swimsuits, and it’s suitable for children above the age of 14.
The thermal bath is totally family-friendly and kids love them too! The mineral rich waters will do your wellness good and are sure to make you fall in love with South Tyrol.
The annual Dolomiti Balloon festival is held in January in Toblach, val de Pustera. Balloon teams race against each other in the colorful hot air balloons in the crispy cold Italian sky.
It’s a wonderful spectacle that you can’t miss if you are in the area at that time.
Balloon rides are also a fun thing to do all year round. From the top down you will see the enchanted villages and majestic mountain landscape.
This is a dream come true for some and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Flights start at €290 with up to 4 people in the val de Pustera (Hochpustertal)
Paragliding is a fun experience for almost all ages. You run from a mountain top with an expert who controls the para glide and you gracefully and slowly glide towards the valley bottom.
From the top you can enjoy the best and unique views and just take a moment to absorb the feeling of freedom without a mobile, camera, or anything else that can distract you from the beauty of the Dolomites.
Paragliding crews are stationed all over the province. Just reach out to the nearest tourism office for guidance.
This activity can be done all year round, even in winter, as long as the wind conditions are good.
The province is known for its mountains and history, but won’t have to miss out on shopping when in South Tyrol!
World-famous fashion brands and lifestyle stores can be found in the old town of Bolzano, Merano, Sterzing, Brixen and Bruneck.
The thing that you can do is visit in the weeks before Christmas. The towns are beautifully decorated and add to the astonishing shopping feeling.
You will also find some designer stores and handmade regional specialties, which make for perfect gifts for your loved ones back home.
The Outlet Center Brenner at the Austrian border will give you the shopping mall feeling that you crave for. The building is new, and you will be able to stock up on your favorites, such as the world known Loacker wafer cookies from South Tyrol.
👪 Family-friendly Kids attractions
Families with children of all ages will have a fantastic time in South Tyrol. The area has so much to offer, your kids will have the time of their life!
Summer Toboggan Run and Alpine Coaster
Speedy, fun but save, that’s a summer toboggan!
There are several of those in South Tyrol, here are some of the best:
- Fun Bob – located in the East near Toblach, in this coaster you get to control the speed.
- Klausberg Flitzer – located in the east near the Austrian border, is a favorite among kids and adults and it’s budget friendly.
- Alpine Bob-Meran 2000 – is located next to Meran and is only reasonably priced at €5 per person.
Lama trekking tours for kids has been a popular new attraction in the mountains of Italy.
They offer a short and fun guided walk for children and adults. So, it’s not just a petting zoo.
The Pirchhof in Plaus near Bolzano and Pustertal Lama in the east of the Province, offer the best memorable experiences.
High Rope Courses, Adventure and Amusment parks
The best thing you can do with your kids in the summer in th alps, is to visit an action rich, but save, high rope park or adventure/mini amusement park.
There are a couple in South Tyrol that you might want to add to your itinerary for the love of your children:
- Dobbiaco Wood Wonder World – interactive play through the forest with wood as the main theme.
- Skytrek – it’s a high-rope course with amazing views.
- Col de Flam adventrue park – a mixed bag of attractions including high-ropes, trampolines and animal park
- Caldaro adventure park – South Tyrols largest high-rope course.
Kid friendly trails
These trails are children-friendly hiking trails in the mountains. Most aim to educate and to animate children with interactive things in nature.
Children of all ages love them, so add them to your list of things to do!
- Rodengo Bee Trail
- Talai Adventure Trail
- Funimal Forest
- Tesido Legend Path
- PanaRaida Adventure Trail
- Realm of the Giant Baranci
❄️ Things to do in Winter and Fall
South Tyrol is known for its winter festivities and countless winter sport resorts. Do not limit yourself, three province has so much more to offer in winter!
Törggelen is an age-old fall tradition in South Tyrol. People come together to sit and enjoy the fruits of the harvest.
Freshly made grape must called Siasser (meaning sweet one), young wine called Nuier (meaning new one) are served up at a Törggelen.
Chestnuts and other nuts are enjoyed with the wine. In older times, they would also serve heavier local farmer meals and sweet desserts such as, Speck, Sauerkraut, and dumplings and local filled donuts.
The Speckfest is in honor of Speck, which is cured bacon, in October.
It’s a fun local tradition, and you can join in the festivities.
It’s happening in Val de Funes/ Villnöss Valley at the beginning of October. That’s not all too far from Bolzano.
You will be able to stock up on some best cured Speck in the world for the coming winter months.
Meran Grape Festival
The historic grape festival is held every year in Merano in the third week of October.
It’s an old grape harvest celebration and a parade that you should not miss!
Colorful and unique horse-drawn floats await you with brass music and everyone wears local dirndl and Lederhosen pants.
The best thing is of course the wine!
The Krampus is an age-old tradition originating in the alps.
The legend says that on the 5th December, furry horned evil, and ugly demons come from the mountains down to the valleys to take the evil people.
Krampus groups with young boys and some girls take part in this tradition. Each person puts on animal furs, a unique wooden carved mask with horns and a gigantic bell which announces their coming.
They put up a show in the village with witches, crackers, and fire smoke effects. Naughty kids are taken and put into a wooden basket which they carry behind their backs.
Each village follows their tradition and a village may have more than one Pass (Krampus group) and they in turn will follow their theme. For example, some are just in white and others have their masks carved in a specific way.
The time before Christmas is known as Advent. People in South Tyrol celebrate this season almost the same way as they do in Austria.
Christmas markets small and big take place across the region in the 4 weeks before Christmas. South Tyroleans celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December.
Merano and Bolzano have the biggest Christmas markets in the region, but smaller towns and villages also have charming Christmas markets worth visiting.
Most happen on the weekends, so I recommend you ask about the Christmas markets in the local tourism office.
What will you get at a Christmas market? Hot spiced mulled wine called Glühwein, homemade cookies, dried fruits and sweets, almonds chestnuts and other nuts, Speck cured meat, beautiful little gifts and more.
Carnival in South Tyrol is the most fun street party in the year. People dress up, just the way you would dress up for Halloween.
Carnival is called Fasching or Fastnacht in South Tyrol.
Most towns and villages have a carnival party planned on that Tuesday in the village or town center. You can just join in, dressed up of course, and take part in the fun.
In the day it’s more children friendly, at night it’s an adult drinking party.
You get Krapfen, which are apricot jam filled donuts, on that day.
To experience the old Faschings customs, and I strongly recommend that you see those, you will have to go to a traditional Faschings parade in a village in the Puster valley, Val Gardena and Schnals on carnival day.
The weirdest creatures and fools walk the roads on this parade making growling sounds, jumping around with large bells and gibberish talks.
Skiing, Snowboarding Ski Touring
The val gardena is a valley in South Tyrol, and it’s the center for skiing sports.
Other top ski resorts include Alta Badia, Drei Zinnen, Kronplatz, Sulden, Obereggen and the Schnalstal glacier.
A day ski pass for skiing and snowboarding costs about €30 to €35 in the top skiing resorts, which is much cheaper compared to neighboring Switzerland and Austria.
Yet, the slopes are as good as the ones abroad and the snow fun is guaranteed.
Each ski resort has a ski instruction school too, and it’s easy to enroll, with an international skiing instructor speaking your language
The Dolomites are a paradise for ski tourers, with snow peaked mountains and breathtaking crystal clear views providing an unforgettable experience. Just make sure to organize a tour in the earlier morning hours to avoid the dangerous afternoon avalanche hours.
Snow Shoe Walk
Also called snowshoeing, snow shoe walks and hikes are a great way for everybody to go out and explore the snow-covered mountains and forests. Even kids and fit, elderly people can participate here!
Snowshoe walks take place in Vinschgau, Dolomites, Puster valley, Stubai valley, Sarntal alps, Villgraten mountains, vil di non, Bolzano and surroundings.
You can join a private snow shoe walk in the Dolomites. Those usually take about 6 hours with a local guide. They show you how to put on your snow shoes and teach you how to walk with them.
At the same time, you get to see the most beautiful winter wonderland in the mountains. It’s a unique experience!
Snow sledding is a fun activity for the whole family! It’s especially amusing in a group and something you should also try to do if you are traveling with friends.
Each sledge can take two people or one person, and you have to control the speed and directions with your legs. If that’s your first time, take it easy!
Special sledding runs that are kilometers long are prepared and maintained thought winter. Most are open in the day, but some also provide a night sledging option, which can also be fun.
Snow sleds can be hired at the base and sometimes also at the top of the slope. Best is to speak with someone in charge.
As a group activity, I recommend that you hire sleds at the base, where they provide a tractor pickup service. The’s sleds are fixed with a rope behind a tractor, you guys sit on them and the tractor drags you up the slopes to the top.
At the top you will usually be greeted by an inn, where you can warm up a bit before you go down the sledge run.
There are many sledding sloped in South Tyrol. Val gardena, Valli di Tures e Aurina, Obereggen and Passiria Plan are just a few.
Ice skating is a wonderful, often overlooked, winter sport, also with children.
South Tyrol is outdoor and indoor ice skating places. The most interesting ones are the frozen lakes that you can safely skate on in winter.
A few rentable winter sports stores at the lakes also offer a way to hire fitting ice skating shoes for small children to adult size.
The following lakes are suitable to skate on if the temperatures are right:
- Haider Lake
- Lake Wolfsgruben
The Christmas markets in the cities, Bolzano, Merano, Vipiteno, Bressanone offer a smaller ice skating rink right in the center of the city. Those are also great for kids.
Just imagine skating in the old medieval city center during Christmas time, surrounded by Christmas carols and the smell of freshly baked sweet Christmas goods.
Country Cross Skiing
South Tyrol offers countless country cross skiing trails and there is something for everyone. You can take a relaxed round or get fit on high altitude trails, the choice is all yours.
Most trails include a classic country cross skiing trail and a skating trail. The trails are always well maintained, and the trails will get you excited if you are into this winter sport.
The tours are breathtakingly beautiful! You will go through forests, pass frozen lakes, get to elevations with stunning views, all that while working out in nature.
Ice Climbing Experience
You are in for an adventure with ice climbing.
Frozen waterfalls for experts and artificially created ice towers for beginners, make it possible for visitors to ice climb in the winter.
Some of the best places to do so include the waterfall climb in Solda, the Tristenbach stream, Palla Bianca, Lappago ice park and the frozen waterfall in Val Martello.
Snowmobile Sledding Tour or Horse Sled Ride
If you are looking for a relaxed winter activity then a snowmobile sledding tour or a horse sled ride is your thing.
The snowmobile sledding tour is a new thing and definitely a must if you want to experience the Dolomites in comfort. It’s also a fun activity, which can be done with people of all ages.
You’;;see the great outdoors and get to places you wouldn’t otherwise in the mountains.
The horse sled ride is a classical romantic experience. It’s especially recommended if you intend to visit South Tyrol in December or on the 14th of February.
Horse sled options exist in most villages and town. I recommend asking the local tourist office or your hotel reception, they can help you to book a ride.
☀️ Things to do in Summer and Spring
Summers in the province are both relaxing and active rich. You will surely not get bored in the stunning Italian alps!
South Tyrol has deep traditions, tied to a tumultuous history, but the people succeeded to retain the authenticity of their homeland.
Outdoor Feasts and Music Events
Villages and towns organize feats, traditional music parades and concerts in the summer.
Most summers are very busy with something happening every day somewhere nearby.
Each village and town hosts a feast in honor of the local clubs in summer. They are usually set on a Saturday. You will find all the locals in their best mood there, live music, local cuisine and drink.
Other smaller themed feasts, such as cultural craftsmanship feasts and fort feasts, can also be part of the summer schedule.
Look out for live concerts and acts in towns and in beautiful locations.
The Musikkapelle is a traditional parade of musicians dressed in local Tracht (dress). They play Marsch and Polka tunes, while local girls from the parade offer Schnapps to the by passers.
The Almabtrieb is a yearly tradition in the alps. The cows are taken up to higher altitudes in the summer, known as Alms, where they stay for 2-3 months to feed on the nutritious mountain grass.
Mid to end of September they are brought back to the valleys and that’s the Almabtrieb (literally means pasture run).
The farmers decorate the cow heads with colorful flower wreaths. Each cow gets a bell on the neck and the farmers walk down the mountains through the villages back home. It’s a loud and vivid spectacle worth seeing!
Hiking and Trekking
South Tyrol was made for hiking and mountaineering lovers! If that is you, then you will have a wonderful time discovering some of the best trails in Europe.
You can go on an ever-changing landscape day tour or half-day tour, on multi day tours or high alpine treks.
Private day trekking tours with guides for newbies is highly recommended because local guides know the area well and will get you around safely.
Long distance trekking through the region is also an option, with huts serving as night over stations.
The pathways are well-marked and maintained. Various mobile apps can help you plan a tour in South Tyrol.
I recommend Bergfex, they have a good collection of maps and tours and filter each round by technique and fitness requirement.
Families with children are not left out either. You can walk up or take a cable car and hike the top of a mountain range. Smaller children-friendly tours are available in all districts in South Tyrol. I recommend checking with the tourism department on place.
Special Bonus: Look out for themed trails such as wine or chestnut hikes.
Climbing or Bouldering
South Tyrol is one of the prime locations in the world for climbing and bouldering.
There is something for everyone, even for kids. In fact, you can take a climbing/bouldering course where you learn everything you need to know for this sport.
If you are an avid climber, you can get on some natural rock climbing walls.
Bouldering can be done at Algund (that’s without ropes and only short distances), climbing on the other hand is much more common. Special climbing gardens such as at the lake Braies and the Prato Piazza are perfect for entry-level climbing.
Climbing walls Trodena and Montiggl are great for intermediary and more professional climbers.
Cycling and Biking
You have numerous options in the mountains. Either you hire a regular mountain bike to get around, or you get an e-bike to enjoy a relaxed round, or you bring along your race bike to practice long day tours.
Either way, all is possible in South Tyrol!
The area has well-maintained bike cycling passages and trails, it’s an intricate network. You can plan some of the most beautiful tours in the mountains.
Some are harder than others, many are children-friendly.
Discovering this special region in Europe by cycle is a good idea! You will come across small gems and precious places.
Every valley has a tourism department with a free booklet full of bike trails, that you can grab and take along on your trip.
Gorge walks are an adventure worth doing, even with kids.
The area is dotted with hidden mountain gorge walks. Many are easily accessible by road, too.
The best part of a gorge walk, are not just the powerful streams of water pressing through age-old rocks, but also the cool passage walk on a sunny hot summer day.
Some gorges are free of charge, others can be accessed with a fee to help maintain and keep the dangerously tight passages safe for everyone.
The most popular gorges are the Passer Gorge, Burkhard gorge, Rastenbach gorge, Gilfen and the gorges of San Felice.
🍲 Food and Drink
Food and drink will be some of your biggest reasons why you want to visit this beautiful province in Italy.
Local specialties and the highest quality of wines await you!
Vineyards and Wine
Growing Vine in South Tyrol has a long tradition. The favorable, mild climate and hill side are to thank for quality wines.
Those wines are also labeled as alto adige wines (after the Italian name) and you can get to a wine tasting directly at the vineyard.
Some of the vineyards that you may want to look up:
- Manincor – 400 year old wine estate
- Weingut Kornell – visitor’s favorite
- Weingut Lieselehof – you can book a stay there
- Wassererhof Weingut – Tasting wine in a very traditional setting with local food specialties
- Cantina Tramin – Try the Gewürztraminer!
- Weingut Loacker – known for organic BIO wines.
- Kettmeir – One of the biggest winemakers and they are open on Sundays.
Speck is cured bacon and it’s a local snack time treat or dinner snack in these parts of the world.
You also get it in Austria and Bavaria, but in Italy, you will only get Speck in South Tyrol.
They sell some of the best Speck in local markets and on fair days.
If you want to first try some, you can do so in an Alm, while on a hike in the mountains.
Speck and Cheese and often served together.
Schnapps is a distilled clear high percentage liquor prepared from regional fruits. You get Schnapps in all German-speaking countries and in South Tyrol.
Pears, plums and apricots are turned into a mash. This is then left to ferment and when it’s time, the mesh is distilled in a column or alembic still.
What comes out is a transparent, clean and fruity Schnapps.
Some places in the capital and alms in the mountains provide a schnapps tasting session, where you get to taste various flavors and qualities.
A fruit schnapps is usually sold in small elongated bottles, making it a perfect gift for family and friends at home.
The Schüttelbrot is a traditional flatbread that you will only find in this region. It’s made with rye and wheat flour, yeast, herbs, and spices.
The bread is typically rolled out thin and baked in the oven. The result is a crunchy, well seasoned bread.
Schüttelbrot goes really well with Speck and cheese!
Apples and Apricots
The South Tyrolean apple is registered as a “Protected Geographical Indication” in the European Union. That means only apples grown in the region in a traditional setting can be called that way.
The apples from the region have a long story that goes back to the Romans. Already back in medieval ages, the apples from South Tyrol were transported over the passes northwards.
Eleven apple types are grown under the PGI and exported all over Europe. The growing location is favorable and results in sweet and juicy apples.
The apricots from the Val Venosta are some of the best you will come across. The sweet, plump and perfectly ripened apricots are grown in smaller batches in the most traditional way possible.
The valleys are well situated, with plenty of sunshine making sure that the apricots get to turn out sweet and juicy.
Look out for apricots end of June and in July in South Tyrol.
Guided Food Tours
To eat what the locals eat, I recommend a guided food tour. That way, you will get around to the best food places and taste the different regional specialties that South Tyrol has to offer.
The price always includes every bite on your tour, and you can ask the local expert all your burning questions.
Perhaps, someone will be ready to share a recipe or two!
All seasons are beautiful, but I do recommend visiting in spring or autumn because the landscapes look just gorgeous in those months. Besides, some of the best festivities are held in autumn.
The nearest airports are Verona and Venice in Italy, and Innsbruck in Austria. The biggest Airport with the best connections is the Munich airport in Germany. You can get with an airport shuttle to South Tyrol.
As mentioned earlier, Italian and German are the official languages. The German is a dialect of German. Younger generations, especially in the cities, understand and speak English well enough.
The weather in the Italian alps tend to fall out milder compared to the coolness of the Austrian and Swiss alps. In summer, it can get hotter in the valleys.