Austria, one of Europe’s most beautiful countries, is a traveler’s dream destination. It’s a mixture of sophisticated historic cities, grand palaces, museums, and a vibrant cultural scene, and picturesque villages with onion domed churches in peaceful alpine valleys surrounded by crystal clear lakes and snowcapped mountains.
Austria is a charming blend of vibrant cities filled with history, old world architecture, wonderful museums and world class shopping as well as villages straight out of picture postcardsd all set within a stunning landscape of rolling hills, snowcapped mountains, green alpine valleys and crystal clear lakes. It’s a traveler’s dream destination for beautiful scenery, outdoor activities as well as outstanding cultural events in world famous cities. Austria is one of my favorite countries to visit, perhaps you will have the opportunity to visit one day.
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is located along the Danube River. Once the imperial home of the Habsburg Dynasty, it is filled with beautiful palaces, atmospheric cafes, galleries and boutiques and was voted one of the most livable cities in the world. For the first time visitor, I suggest visiting the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, a 1,440 room former summer palace of the Habsburgs, and the Belvedere Palace, which consists of two Baroque palaces and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. You might want to try to see a performance at the Vienna State Opera House or watch the Lipizzan stallions perform at Spanish Riding School at the Hofburg Palace.
When you need a break from all the walking, enjoy a delicious pastry at a traditional coffeehouse along with a cup of Viennese coffee with whipped cream on top. Once during your stay, plan to order Wiener schnitzel for your dinner and end your meal with a slice of Sachertorte or apple strudel.
Located right outside of Vienna, there is the wine growing village of Grinzing at the edge of the Vienna Woods. Its picturesque town center has more than 25 small, cozy wine taverns called Heuriger. They offer simple food such as cold cuts, cheese, salads and bread along with their own wine which can be purchased by the glass, carafe or bottle.
Sitting high above the beautiful city of Salzburg, the Hohensalzburg Fortress is the largest fully preserved castle in Central Europe. Salzburg is called the city of Mozart, so while exploring, be sure to visit the Geburtshaus, Mozart’s birthplace. Also stop by the Salzburger Dom Cathedral, the Residenz Castle, the Hellbrunn Palace and Mirabell Palace and its lovely gardens. Enjoy a horse carriage ride through some of its narrow streets or take an organized tour that includes Schloss Leopoldskron, one of the locations from the movie, “The Sound of Music”.
Salzburg is famous for its cultural events held throughout the year such as the world famous Salzburg Festival. Close to the Salzburg airport, Hanger 7 is an interesting museum owned by Red Bull filled with aircraft flown by the Flying Bulls and Formula One race cars. It is also home to Ikarus, an award winning restaurant where famous chefs from different countries cook for guests. Besides Ikarus, the city has many other fine dining choices as well as traditional restaurants serving simple Austrian meals.
For shopping, enjoy a stroll down the picturesque Getreidegasse with its international designer stores, boutiques and jewelry shops.. During the Advent season, the city of Salzburg is turned into a winter wonderland and is home to one of Europe’s best Christmas Markets.
Just ten minutes away from the historic center, nature lovers can enjoy hiking in the beautiful countryside surrounded by picturesque mountains. A number of wellness hotels are hidden away on the outskirts of the city that will certainly please leisure seekers. Whether staying in the heart of old town or in a wellness resort in a village on the outskirts, Salzburg has much to offer its visitors.
The Lake District
The wonderful Salzkammergut Lake District is a region made up of ten large and many smaller crystal clear lakes in the rolling foothills of the Alps located less than 20 miles outside of Salzburg. The region is one of the most popular travel destinations in Austria. The beautiful green pastures, hills and mountains in the opening scenes of the movie “The Sound of Music” were all filmed in the Lake District. The area is filled with picture postcard villages with onion domed churches and wonderful old farm houses with attached barns and cattle grazing in their fields and you will occasionally spot a castle ruin perched on a hilltop.
The lake known as Wolfgangsee has three charming towns, St. Gilgen, Strobl, and St. Wolfgang. St. Wolfgang is the largest town on the lake and has two famous landmarks, its pilgrim church and the Weisses Rössl, The White Horse Inn, which was the back drop in a famous operetta. St. Gilgen is the birthplace of Mozart’s mother and home of his sister after her marriage. Mondsee is one of the warmest lakes in the region and popular for swimming. The town of Mondsee, located at the water’s edge, is well known for the former Benedictine abbey, St. Michaels. The beautiful interior was used for the scene where Maria and Captain von Trapp exchanged their wedding vows in “The Sound of Music”. The small village of Hallstatt on the Hallstätter See may be the most photographed village in Austria and attracts millions of visitors each year.
The Tirol (Tyrol)
The Tirol, with its breathtaking alpine scenery, picture perfect towns and villages and clean mountain air, is often referred to as “the heart of the Alps.” The city of Innsbruck is the provincial capital and was ruled for years by the Hapsburg Empire. The Golden Roof, Innsbruck’s landmark, was built by Emperor Maximilian. The old town is filled with interesting museums, churches, boutiques, sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Surrounded by snowy mountains, the Olympic Bergisel ski jump towers over the city.
In winter, visitors flock to the region’s famous ski resorts like St. Anton, Lech or Kitzbühel for skiing and apres ski nightlife. Kitzbühel, a favorite of the rich and famous is especially fun at Christmas when the pedestrian center of old town holds an outdoor Christmas market. Some skiers prefer the Stubaital Valley, which is known for its glacial skiing most of the year.
In summer, adventurers are drawn to the Tirol for hiking, biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and paragliding high up in the skies. Other visitors love the beautiful lakeside resorts at Achenkirch am Achensee, Austria’s largest mountain lake or Zell am See. One of the most famous travel experiences in the region is the world’s highest and most famous 30 mile long alpine mountain road called the Grossglockner. With 36 hairpin bends, the road takes you into the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, which is Austria’s largest national park.
Whether you want to travel to Austria to experience the history of a city filled with splendid palaces and museums, enjoy an outdoor adventure in the marvelous countryside or relax at one of the country’s famous wellness resorts, Austria never disappoints visitors. I hope that I’ve inspired you to perhaps put this lovely country on you wish list of places to visit someday in the future. d