When asked about Austria travel opportunities, most people think of the beautiful landscapes featured in the “Sound of Music”, of Viennese waltzes and the opulent castles of the Habsburg Empire as well as the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And, of course, Austria has all of that and much more. Let us take you on a brief tour of this small country that is located in the heart of Europe.
Vienna, the capital, is the first stop of our virtual tour of Austria. Vienna has some magnificent historic architecture, from the imperial Hofburg, Schönbrunn and Belvedere Palaces, the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the neo-Gothic City Hall, the Prater amusement park with the late 19 th century giant ferris wheel and the city’s various performance venues such as the Vienna State Opera, the Burgtheater and many historic churches. A tour of the opulent Ringstrasse, a circular boulevard surrounding the center of the city, will expose you to some of the Habsburg empire’s most outstanding architectural jewels.
Vienna also has outstanding Art Nouveau architecture by famous architects such as Otto Wagner, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Josef Hoffmann. Among the attractions in Austria’s capital are a great selection of museums such as the Museum of Art History, the Museum of Natural History, and the Albertina. You go can go shopping in the old city centre, on the famous Mariahilfer Strasse or in one of the many outdoor markets or, at the right time of the year, in Vienna’s popular Christmas markets. Enjoy a glass of wine and some hearty food in a “Heurigen”, one of the family-run cozy wine bars on the outskirts of the city. Or you might want to sip a coffee in one of the city’s storied cafes and enjoy Viennese coffee culture. For the more actively inclined, you can enjoy the city’s well-developed bicycle network or do water sports on the Danube.
Our Austria travel itinerary now takes us to other famous parts of the country. Salzburg is the second most well-known destination, and the birthplace of Mozart. The city is surrounded by hills, and one of these is capped by the medieval fortress of Hohensalzburg, which offers breathtaking views of Salzburg’s baroque cityscape and the snow-covered peaks of the Alps. Mozart’s birthplace is one of the main attractions and Getreidegasse is a narrow long street with many quaint shops. Since 1920, the Salzburg Festival has provided music and drama during its yearly five week run which is highlighted by an annual performance of Everyman (“Jedermann”) by Hugo von Hoffmansthal.
Surrounding the city of Salzburg are some phenomenal travel destinations in the Austrian Alps. The Salzkammergut, a region shared by the three Austrian states of Upper Austria, Salzburg, and Styria, is a picture-perfect lake district made famous by the classic movie “Sound of Music”. The area is dotted with countless scenic small towns and villages, many of which have been vacation destinations since the Habsburg times. Locations such as Hallstatt, Bad Ischl, Gmunden, Bad Aussee, St. Wolfgang and many more will enchant you with their historic ambience and scenic locations.
Innsbruck is another well-known Austria travel destination, primarily as the location of the 1964 and 1976 Olympic Winter Games. Innsbruck’s most famous sight is the “Golden Roof” (Goldenes Dachl), a landmark building from the 1500s that indeed features a balcony with a golden roof. Surrounding Innsbruck is the state of Tyrol, a very mountainous region with excellent outdoor adventure activities for hikers, mountaineers and skiers. Farther west is the Austrian State of Vorarlberg whose most well- known tourist destination is Lake Constance, which is shared with Switzerland and Germany.
Graz is Austria’s second largest city and its well-preserved medieval and Renaissance core is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beautiful views open up from the Schlossberg, a hill in the heart of the city, and the Grazer Uhrturm (clock tower), has been the city’s landmark for many centuries. The city has many interesting sights, including an emperor’s mausoleum, the world’s largest medieval armory, Eggenberg Castle – a lavish baroque estate, the Opera House, the Modern Art Museum and much more. The surrounding province of Styria also offers an amazing array of travel opportunities: from thermal spas in the south, to fortresses and castles in the east, a picturesque wine growing region in the west and towering mountains in the north, Styria offers diverse travel opportunities for all sorts of travelers.
Linz is Austria’s third largest city and also has an attractive old town. Linz is very famous for its avant- garde art festivals, such as the annual Ars Electronic Festival as well as the “Klangwolke” (“cloud of sound”), a huge open air light show that is accompanied by traditional and modern music. Linz is also the capital of Upper Austria, a state with beautiful lakes, high Alpine peaks, rolling hills, granitic highlands and the Danube River. Several baroque abbeys and monasteries also punctuate the Upper Austrian landscape.
In the south of Austria we find the state of Carinthia which also has outstanding Alpine landscapes with several large picturesque lakes. The Wörthersee is Austria’s biggest lake and has an almost Mediterranean climate. The Grossglockner High Alpine Road connects the states of Salzburg and Carinthia and features outstanding views of Austria’s highest mountain and the Pasterze Glacier. The state’s capital is Klagenfurt, whose most famous landmark is the “Lindwurm”, a 16 th century fountain featuring a snake or dragon-like creature. Carinthia is known for its mild weather and for being a phenomenal skiing and hiking destination.
Moving eastwards again, we come across Burgenland (“land of castles”), Austria’s easternmost and least populous state. The capital, Eisenstadt, was the long-time residence of composer Joseph Haydn. The main attraction in the state is Lake Neusiedl, at the Austrian-Hungarian border. Due to its relatively flat landscapes, Burgendland is a great region for cycling and a well known wine-growing region. Given its historic border function, the state also has many well-preserved medieval fortresses and castles.
Returning back towards Vienna, we visit the state of Lower Austria on the northeastern side of the country. Surrounding Vienna, this state’s capital is actually St. Pölten, with a population of about 50,000 people. Lower Austria has some amazing landscapes, in particular the Wachau, a beautiful wine growing region along the banks of the Danube River. The state has four different regions: the Mostviertel (“cider district”), the Weinviertel (“wine district”), the Waldviertel (“forest district”) and the more industrialized area south of Vienna. All of these regions have their own unique appeal.
Austria is a tiny country, yet presents a treasure trove of experiences that will delight history buffs, music lovers, culinary enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. Go and explore it beyond the well- known tourist centres and you will not be disappointed.