Glacial lakes constitute a substantial part of the legacy of vanishing mountain glaciation and act as water storage, sediment traps and sources of both natural hazards and leisure activities. For these reasons, they receive growing attention by scientists and society. However, while the evolution of glacial lakes has been studied intensively over timescales tied to remote sensing-based approaches, the longer-term perspective has been omitted due a lack of suitable data sources. We mapped and analyzed the spatial distribution of glacial lakes in the Austrian Alps. We trace the development of number and area of glacial lakes in the Austrian Alps since the Little Ice Age (LIA) based on a unique combination of a lake inventory and an extensive record of glacier retreat. We find that bedrock-dammed lakes are the dominant lake type in the inventory. Bedrock- and moraine-dammed lakes populate the highest landscape domains located in cirques and hanging valleys. We observe lakes embedded in glacial deposits at lower locations on average below 2000 m a.s.l. In general, the distribution of glacial lakes over elevation reflects glacier erosional and depositional dynamics rather than the distribution of total area. The rate of formation of new glacial lakes (number, area) has continuously accelerated over time with present rates showing an eight-fold increase since LIA. At the same time the total glacier area decreased by two-thirds. This development coincides with a long-term trend of rising temperatures and a significant stepping up of this trend within the last 20 years in the Austrian Alps.