Austria is a breath of fresh air - lungfuls of it. From the jaw-dropping Alps to the glistening Danube valley and from fertile vineyards to exhilarating ski slopes, nowhere does the great outdoors with such aplomb. But there’s more to Austria than the landscapes. Think Habsburg-empire architecture, fascinating museums, galleries and jewel-box palaces revered the world over, and a cultural heritage which few countries can compare to; the birthplace of Mozart, Schubert and Sigmund Freud offers endless possibilities to the enlightened traveller.
Austria is bordered by Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy.
The classical composers Hadyn, Mozart, Schubert, Liszt, Strauss, Mahler and Bruckner were all born in Austria.
Austria’s highest mountain is Grossglockner, found in the Hohe Tauern range, and measures a massive 3,798m.
Schonbrunn Palace, the summer home of the Habsburgs has 1,440 rooms.
Almost half of Austria is covered in forests.
What to see
A magnificent mash-up of influences await in Vienna; it’s at turns both achingly hip and charmingly traditional. Head to the MuseumsQuartier cultural district, where you’ll find inspirational contemporary museums juxtaposed with baroque-facades and the historic Spanish riding stables.
Salzburg boats a wonderfully dramatic setting, straddling the river Salzach and ringed by snow-covered peaks. It’s the birthplace of Mozart (and the setting of the Sound of Music) so has, as you would expect, a wonderfully vibrant classical and contemporary music scene. The city hosts some 4,000 cultural events throughout the year, many of which are musical, the most important of which is The Salzburg Music Festival
The Tirol is one of Austria’s most beautiful provinces, filled with lakes, mountains, valleys and secret villages. Its capital, Innsbruck, is home to a 12-century castle and numerous heritage buildings, while one of the most thrilling vistas on the planet can be found on the cable car journey from Hungerburg to Hafelekar.
One of Austria’s most popular ski resorts, Saalbach-Hintergemm is just a short drive from Salzburg and is home to one of the largest ski slopes in the country. Off-piste this twin resort offers plenty to explore, whether you prefer the quaint cobbled streets of the surprisingly vibrant Saalbach or the more laid-back charms of Hinterglemm.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
Coffee shop culture
Immerse yourself in Austria’s café-culture society with a coffee and cake pit-stop at a kaffeehaus – there’s no better way to people watch than by indulging in this culinary national institution.
Visit the Eiriesenwelt ice caves in Werfen, just south of Salzburg, for twinkling year-round ice sculptures submerged deep beneath the mountains.
Ride the Schafburgbahn, an authentic 19th-century steam train, past quintessentially Austrian countryside and villages.
With almost 150 courses, Austria is a fast-growing favourite for keen golfers thanks to its range of breathtaking backdrops and inspirational settings. The Millstättersee course in the central eastern Alps is of particular note, and has attracted the likes of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.
Show your respects to Salzburg’s most celebrated son, Mozart, at his birthplace (Mozart Geburtshaus) in the Getreidegasse and at the Mozart family home (Mozart Wohnhaus), found on the main market square. Both of these are now museums.
The Third Man
Take a tour of the sets immortalised in the film The Third Man in Vienna, including the iconic Ferris Wheel found in the Prater amusement park.
When to go
Weather and Seasons: Austria enjoys a moderate climate with warm summer days that turn cool as night falls, and snowy yet sunny winters. December to March is the best time to visit if you’re planning on hitting the slopes.
Important Dates and Festivals: Annual musical highlights include The Salzburg Festival in July and the Vienna Jazz Festival, held in June. Summerscene and Im Puls Tanz dance festivals are held in June, while November and December sees Christmas markets spring up in most major cities and towns.
Getting there / around
Flights: Innsbruck is around 2 hours from London, with Vienna clocking in at 2 hours 10 minutes and Salzburg just 1 hour 45 minutes away. Cheap flights can be found throughout the year; however prices tend to increase dramatically during winter.
Rail: You can get the Eurostar from St Pancras International and be in Paris or Brussels in around 2 hours. From Paris it’s a 15 hour journey by train to Vienna, or 13 hours if you’re travelling from Brussels.
Metro: The best way to tour Vienna is to use the extensive metro, light railway or tram services and you can buy multi-journey tickets and passes at most stations. For a weekend trip it’s worth buying the Vienna Card, which provides 72 hours of unlimited travel within a four day period.
Bus: Most towns and cities have excellent and affordable bus services, plus you’ll find tramways in Graz, Linz and Innsbruck.
Carriage: The traditional way to travel is by horse drawn carriage – however make sure you agree your fare in advance with your driver.
Short Trips: In a week you should have plenty of time to combine a few day’s skiing with city sightseeing. Spend a time exloring in Salzburg before hitting the slopes at one of the many nearby resorts including Saalbach-Hintergemm, Zell Am See or Kaprun.
City Break: At around two hours away, Innsbruck, Vienna and Salzburg are all excellent destinations for a weekend city break.
Longer Trips: In a month you can really get to know this fascinating country. Starting in Vienna, take an internal flight west to Liz or Salzburg, before heading southwest to Innsbruck and then onto the Bavarian Alps.
Hearty peasant food is prevalent, with distinct southeast European influences from Hungary, Serbia and Romania. Austrian specialities to try include wiener schnitzel (bread crumbed and fried veal escalope) , apfelstrudel (apple strudel) and any one of the 60 varieties of mehlspeisen (the collective term for cakes, tortes and desserts). Keep a lookout for affordable and excellent local wines, including Riesling and Veltliner and traditional Austrian Obstler (schnapps).
You can expect a fusion of traditional charm and 21st century chic when it comes to entertainment. Austria is renowned for its lively arts, music and literary scene – during summer a visit to the St Martinstrum opera, in Bregenz, with its huge floating stage is an absolute must. Nightclubs tend to be hip and laid back. Try Rhiz in Vienna for the latest electronica, or Volksgarten and Passage for the city’s most upmarket hangouts.
Three-month visa-free stays are available to EU citizens.
No particular vaccinations are recommended.
Safety, FO travel advice
Useful Telephone Numbers
Austrian country representatives can be found
in the UK at18 Belgrave Mews West,Belgravia, London. SW1X 8HU. Tel:- 020 7235 3731
and in the US at3524 International Court N.W. D.C. 20008-3035 Washington. Tel:- 202 895 6700.
There is a tourist board
in the UK at9/11 Richmond Buildings, London. W1D 3HF. Tel:- 020 7440 3830.
For more information visit: www.bmeia.gv.at, www.austria.info.
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