Austria — Overview
The mention of Austria conjures up images of snow-capped peaks of the Alps and crystal blue lakes surrounded by thatched roof houses. While this picture of natural beauty is accurate, Austria is also steeped in imperial history and wildly famous for its classical music and performing arts. Age old handicrafts continue to be an important part of Austria’s culture and make popular souvenirs. There is plenty to be explored and enjoyed in this small land-locked country in Europe.
Summer or winter, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of Austria. During the summer months, exploring the many lakes and mountains, especially in the Salzkammergut Lake Region, is a must. The picturesque towns have resisted the pressures of modernization and have remained almost unchanged for centuries. During the winter months, some of the best skiing in Europe can be found in the Austrian Alps. Whether it’s skiing at the Arlberg Mountains or in Kitzbühl, visitors will find a nice combination of beautifully-groomed runs and exciting backcountry options.
It is not only Austria’s natural beauty that visitors seek out, but also its history, cuisine, culture, and arts. From the timeless city of Innsbruck with its famous Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl), to the musical capital of Salzburg, and the famous sacher cake (sacher torte) in Vienna, there is much to see and experience in Austria. Known for their hospitality and kind demeanor, visitors who don’t speak German will get along here just fine, as most Austrians speak some, if not fluent, English.
Austria offers a wide range of accommodations, from luxury to affordable. Cities offer large international hotel chains, whereas in the smaller Alpine towns, it is nice to stay at a pension – a family-run bed and breakfast. These well-maintained, clean, and affordable lodgings offer tourists the chance to enjoy real Austrian hospitality and great home-cooked meals. In fact, if visiting remote villages, staying at a pension may be the only accommodation option available.
There are some really exciting excursions and numerous festivals that can be enjoyed in Austria throughout the year. Exploring the spectacular Eisriesenwelt ice caves ― the largest in the world of their kind ― can be a truly amazing experience. Or how about taking a ride down an Olympic bob sledding track in Igls? Famous festivals in Austria include the Salzburg Festival (Salzbuger Festspiele) July to September, the Musikfest Grafenegg August to September, and the Bregenz Festival (Bregenzer Festspiele) July to August, just to name a few.
Most international visitors arrive in Austria via one of the country’s many international airports. However, those who are already traveling around Europe can easily access Austria by train. The country is well-connected to the European railway network, as well as the region’s motorway network. Traveling inside Austria can easily be done using the efficient train system, but some of the remote Alpine areas are best accessed by car. Self-driving is easy on the highways of Austria, which are well-maintained and well-signposted. However, care needs to be taken while driving on winding Alpine roads, especially in winter.
- Sample sacher torte (chocolate cake) at Café Sacher in Vienna
- Ride the ultra-modern Hungerburg Funicular railway in Innsbruck
- Enjoy a glühwein (mulled wine), while skiing down the Arlberg
- Take a postcard-worthy picture of Hallstatt, the oldest village in Austria
- Visit the sparkling Swarovski Kristallwelten museum outside Innsbruck
- Enjoy a concert in Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace
- Spend a day at the Rococo-style Schönbrunn Palace outside Vienna
- Watch the magnificent Lipizzan horses perform at the Spanish Riding School