Travel to Austria, a landlocked country in Central Europe. The Czech Republic and Germany surround it to the north. Slovenia and Italy are both to the south. Switzerland and Liechtenstein are to the west, Hungary and Slovakia are to the east.
The Austrian Alps make up the majority of the country’s land area. The Grossglockner serves as Europe‘s second-highest peak. Also, the Krimml Falls in Salzburg is Europe’s tallest waterfall, with a height of 380 meters.
As of July 2015, there are more than 8 million inhabitants here. Vienna is the capital city. It accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s population.
The tourism industry is a significant part of Austria’s economy. In fact, the number of tourists coming to Austria doesn’t even depend on the season. If during the winter months ski resorts of western Austria attract the major amount of visitors, in the summer Vienna becomes the number one tourist destination in the country.
The other places, popular with tourists, are Innsbruck, surrounded by the Alps, Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, and the Danube Valley, famous for its vineyards.
This country is home to some of the world’s most imaginative minds. Travel here to find inspiration. Immerse yourself in a creative culture that also has a rich history.
Places to See in Austria
The three most visited tourist spots in Austria are Schönbrunn Palace, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, and Mariazell Basilica. When in Vienna, don’t miss its Cathedral, Heurigens (wine pubs) and famous Vienna Opera House.
If you are into skiing, hiking or mountaineering, Austria offers many family-friendly winter resorts. The most popular are Sölden, Ischgl, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Sankt Anton am Arlberg and Obertauern.
Of course, you can’t miss one of the most visited cities in the world. The former capital of the Empire still preserves its charm and baroque elegance.
Go dancing in the Hofburg Palace, listen to a performance in the world-famous Vienna Opera House or explore the architecture and the beauty of the First District (the Innere Stadt).
Read more: Vienna Travel Guide
Here is another must-see place in Austria, perfect for tourists, who love on-foot tours. When exploring the city, don’t miss the Neue Galerie in the Herbenstrein Palace, the Landesmuseum Johanneum with the Alte Galerie, the Cathedral, the Old Quarter, the Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II, the Castle Hill (Schlossberg) with a clock tower and the bell tower.
Birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the city attracts thousands of tourists every year. Getreidegasse is the main city’s shopping street and a place, where Mozart Geburthaus, now a museum, is situated. Also, his family house, Mozart Wohnhaus, located on the market square offers a permanent exhibition, as well as numerous concerts and lectures.
The Salzburg Festival offers a rich program, which includes singers, actors, opera and all kinds of orchestras. The city also boasts of the Hohensalzburg fortress, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, of course, the Old Town is just fascinating!
Opera is a big part of Austrian culture. Besides numerous performances in major cities of the country, there are also many other opportunities to enjoy opera. For example, Bregenz would be a great travel experience for you.
The Upper City is home to St. Martin’s Tower, the largest floating stage in the world. During the summer season, numerous performances are held here.
Top National Parks
Donau-Auen National Park. Just in a short car ride from Vienna, there is one of the major European wetlands situated. The Donau-Auen National Park offers a vast diversity of plants and animals.
This would be a perfect getaway from the city into the rich natural greenery, divided into two parts by the Danube River. You can even take a canoe trip and enjoy the waters closely.
High Mountain National Park. Situated in the Zimmertal Alps, the park offers peaks up to 3476m, narrow gorges, and steep cliffs.
National Park Thayatal. The park combines majestic valley landscapes with beautiful castles and gorgeous fortress ruins.
Neusiedler See National Park. A must-visit natural site in the easternmost province of the country.
Austria has a growing wine production, particularly in such regions as Lower Austria and Southern Styria. A tour of the country’s vineyards would be a great and tasteful experience. Most wines produced are white: Sauvignon blanc, the Burgenland, and Riesling. However, there are also some good reds from the regions of Baden and Burgenland.
However, the Alps are not only great for winter sports. Once the snow melts, the mountains become perfect destinations for hiking and trekking. The landscapes vary from thick forests to green slopes and from glaciers to sheer rocks.
You can choose an area, depending on your preferences and past hiking experience. For example, the Vorarlberg will offer some gentle walks for new hikers. And the Hohe Tauern National Park is a must-visit for more demanding ones.
Also, if you are willing to take a more long-distance trip, head to the Lech River. Holzgau suspension bridge offers some really breathtaking sceneries.
The Alps are one of the most popular winter destinations in Europe. Winter sports enthusiasts from all over the continent flow here to enjoy great skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, curling, sleigh riding and skating facilities.
However, you need to be really brave to experience Harakiri, Austria’s steepest ski slope, which is located at Mayrhofen and leans at a vertigo of 78%.
The most mountainous province in Austria, Tirol offers its visitors a vast variety of landscapes. Here, you will enjoy forests, valleys, pastures, mountain lakes, churches, castles, and alpine villages.
The capital of the region is Innsbruck, one more highly popular Austrian destination, which boasts numerous historic buildings and a 12th-century castle.
If you are looking for a spectacular view, take a funicular to Hungerburg and then a cable car to Hafelekar. This place is located 2334m above the sea level and the scenery is fantastic!
Eisriesenwelt in Werfen
These ice caves, which host ice sculptures all year round, are a real must-visit. They are located to the south of Salzburg, deep beneath the mountain wall, and are easily accessible by cable car.
Austria is rich in lakes. Wörthersee, Wolfgangsee, Traunsee, Hallstattersee, and Mondsee, which is known as one of the warmest lakes in the region, all offer beautiful sceneries and an opportunity to bathe in warm relaxing waters.
The average temperature of the Carinthia’s Lakes, known as “Austria’s Riveria” is 28oC (82oF). They have even won several awards for the quality of their water.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road
If you search for the most gorgeous panoramic views, this is a must-visit place for you.
The traditional Austrian ball is a must-visit during the Christmas holidays and a tribute to imperial traditions. Dance your troubles away in a tour of waltz, wearing a nice black tie or a fabulous evening dress. Completed by the fine dinner and a midnight concert, the evening has a chance to become the most unforgettable memory of the whole year.
Austria has a rich coffee shop culture. There are over 60 different kinds of cakes and puddings, which you can enjoy without any guilt, when visiting the country, because it is the part of the culture as much, as waltz and opera.
Spending an hour alone in a coffee shop with a book, or watching the life outside the window passing by, would a perfect relaxation after a day of sightseeing, both in winter and during the summer.
Old Steam Railway
If you want to have a unique travel experience and enjoy some very picturesque landscapes, take a 19th-century steam train ride. Its route starts at the magnificent St. Wolfgang village in Salzkammergut and goes to the top of Schafberg Mountain.
Lederhosen Festival in Windischgarsten
This festival is a major event, celebrating Austrian customs and traditions. Enjoy wood-chopping races, accordion playing, traditional dances, good beer and the “Miss Lederhose” election. Wearing a leather costume is optional, but we suggest you do it, to enjoy the celebration like a local.
Things to Do in Austria
Austria is famous all over the world for its ski resorts. Most of them are not as luxurious as Swiss and French, but they are cozier, less prone to mass tourism and cheaper.
The landscapes along the large rivers of Austria are just scenic. They are great for exploring by bicycle. Although the country is predominantly mountainous, the cycling routes along the rivers are mostly flat, suitable for casual cyclists, although the hills happen sometimes.
The most famous route is the Danube cycle path from Passau to Vienna. Large crowds of cyclists come here from all over the world each summer. Other popular routes go along the rivers Inn, Drau, Moell, and Mur. Most routes are well-suited for children as well.
Austria is not only famous for ski resorts. Many visitors also come here for musical heritage. Salzburg and Vienna offer great opera performances, classical music concerts, jazz, and other festivals. Actually, dozens of music festivals are held in Austria every summer, Salzburg Festival being the most famous.
However, Austrian musical heritage is not only limited to classical music. Austrian folk music is rather popular in rural areas. In the Alps, almost every village has its own choir or brass band. And groups of friends can easily be seen in pubs singing Lieder.
The traditional musical instruments of rural areas are accordion and zither. And in Vienna, live violin concerts in restaurants and Heurigen are common.
The Austrian Alps are perfect for hiking and relatively safe. There is a vast network of marked trails and mountain shelters. However, you should be careful not to join the sad statistics of several lethal incidents, which happen every year.
Hikers must not stray off the trails, hike during the bad weather, or use the unsuitable equipment. It is advised to check with the local tourist office, before setting off. And don’t forget to check the weather forecast.
Most trails and mountain huts are run by the Austrian Alpine Club. Those hubs are supposed to be shelters, not hotels. Although they are generally clean and well-equipped, the standards of food and accommodation are only basic. And you shouldn’t expect a high level of customer service either.
Nevertheless, during the high season, it is highly recommended to book in advance. Prices usually vary between 10 and 20 Euro per night, but drinks and food are rather expensive. Hot shower is usually available for additional fee.
When to Go
Austria is a popular destination all-year-round. The time of your visit should depend on your purpose. Sightseeing would be best during late spring and early autumn. On the other hand, November through March is a great time for winter sports.
What to Wear
For cities and sites, you will need regular clothing, according to the season. However, for winter activities in the mountains, alpine wear would be a great decision. And don’t forget about the adequate footwear if you are going hiking.
The official language is Austrian German. English is widely understood.
The official currency is Euro. Foreign currencies and traveler’s cheques exchange facilities are available at all banks, savings banks, and exchange counters at airports and railway stations. All major credit cards are acceptable in large cities. ATMs are available widely throughout the country.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
Local SIM card is easy to purchase in a phone shop for as little as 15 Euro. Usually, it comes with a 10 Euro credit. However, you will need an unlocked phone to be able to use it.
There are plenty of Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the country. The number of cafes and bars, which offer free Wi-Fi, is also quickly increasing. And, of course, most accommodations provide their guests with free Internet connection. Some will even offer you a computer, either for free or for a small charge.
Internet cafes are available in major cities, and prices vary from 4 to 8 Euro per hour. You can also use data on your phone if you buy a local SIM card.
Austria has a rich culture concerning music, arts, and architecture. Cinema, theater, and literature are also celebrated here. Some of the most revered musicians originated here, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Strauss Sr., and Johann Strauss Jr.
Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Hans Makart, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Rudolf von Alt, and Carl Moll are all famous artists and architects born in Austria.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Keep in mind, that the Church plays an important role in Austrian social life. Austrians are rather formal in both business and social relations. First names are rarely used when introducing each other. However, after the first meeting, they are used more often. The common form of greeting is shaking hands.
If you enter a shop or a restaurant without saying Guten Tag (Good Afternoon), you will be considered impolite. The same implies to leaving without saying Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye). If you are invited to dinner at someone’s house, it is advised to bring flowers for the hostess.
Austrian cuisine experiences much influence from its neighbors, particularly Hungary, Serbia, Romania, and Dalmatia.
Top Dishes to Try
- Wiener Schnitzel – fried veal escalope
- Tafelspitz – boile beef topside with potatoes and horseradish
- Tiroler Speckknodel – fried bacon and bread dumpling
- Palatschinken – thin pancakes with savory or sweet filling
- Liptauer – paprika-infused creamy spread produced from sheep’s milk cheese
The main meal of the day is lunch. Austria is famous for its coffee and desserts. In multiple coffee houses in Vienna, the process of drinking coffee has been raised to a high art.
- Apfelstrudel – a dessert with layers of crisp pastry, apples, and raisins
- Salzburger Nockerln – a baked vanilla soufflé
- Sachertorte – a chocolate cake with a layer of apricot preserve
- Manner Schnitten – Viennese specialty
- Eszterházy – Austrian torte
- Malakhoff – delicate cake
- Milchrahmstrudel – milk and curd cheese strudel, served warm
- Powidl – savory prune jam with alcohol, another Viennese specialty
- Mehlspeisenis – national word for cakes and puddings in general. There are over 60 kinds of those, commonly served with coffee.
- Stroh – spiced rum, the best known Austrian spirit
- Wine, mostly white – can be drunk pure or mixed with mineral water
- Gluhwein – mulled wine with spices
- Obstler – fruit schnapps
- Eiswein – dessert wine, produced from frozen grapes
- Schnaps – fruit brandy, most usually made of pear, apricot, and raspberry
- Beer – not really widespread in Austria, but still available
The minimal drinking age is 16 for beer and wine, while 18 is for spirits. The service charge of 10% – 15% is usually included. However, it is common to leave additional 5%.
The national airline is Austrian Airlines. Domestic flights are also operated by Austrian Arrows, Intersky, Niki, and Welcome Air. It’s not difficult to get around by plane, although it’s quite costly and you’ll miss most of the country’s beauty.
A return ticket for a domestic flight usually costs around 300-500 Euro, although sometimes you may be lucky to get one for 99 Euro if you book in advance. Keep in mind, that the country is small and, most probably, you won’t save a lot of time, if you prefer a plane to a car or a train.
The most common way of traveling around the country is by rail. Trains in Austria are really comfortable and reasonably priced. They connect major cities, as well as small towns. Combined with buses, these two means of transportation create an efficient way to get around.
Most trains are operated by the state-owned company ÖBB. Its only competitor is WestBahn, which operates rides on the Salzburg-Linz-Vienna route. The price of the ticket depends on the distance. The ticket can be purchased online, but you should print it beforehand. There are also ticket machines at the stations and on board some regional trains.
A car is a perfect way of transportation if you want to visit remote areas of the country, as the bus system is not always reliable. In fact, many popular mountain spots are accessible by car only.
Driving in Austria is quite pleasant. The country has an excellent network of roads. However, you should watch out for careless drivers. Although Austrians are very law-abiding in everyday life, for some reason, this doesn’t relate to driving. And keep in mind, as most European countries, Austria experiences a major parking problem in large cities.
Renting vs. Bus, Train, Taxi
Car hire is easy in Austria, as major international companies have their offices in cities, at the airports and railway stations. The minimal driving age and other car hire conditions depend on a particular company. It is advised to find out this information beforehand, especially if you are coming outside of the EU.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the right side of the road here.
Austria Trip Cost
Like most European countries, Austria is not the cheapest destination. A budget double room will cost around 25 Euro. In a more high-standard hotel, a room price will be around 60-90 Euro. And for a suite in a big city, you won’t pay less, than 200 Euro. A bed in a hostel dormitory is cheaper, however.
A self-catering lunch costs approximately 6 – 12 Euro. A meal, consisting of two courses and a glass of wine, is around 30 Euro. And for dinner in a fine restaurant be prepared to pay a minimum of 70 Euro.
As for entertainment, a minimum price for a museum ticket in Austria is 4 Euro. Entrance into a more popular museum will cost not less, than 12 Euro. Also, if you want to have a relaxing day in a spa, be prepared to spend from 40 to 100 Euro, depending on the facility.
Electricity & Plug Type
Austria uses types C and F sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 230 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
How to Reach
The main airline is Austrian Airlines. British Airways, EasyJet, and Germanwings also operate flights to Austria. There are six international airports in the country: Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, and Salzburg. You can also use the Munich airport nearby. A flight from New York to Vienna takes around 8, 5 hours, from London – 2 hours.
Bus travel may be the best option for tourists coming from the East, particularly Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. When booking your ticket in advance, you can get a very good deal (as little as 4 Euro from Warsaw to Vienna). Eurolines Austria is the largest bus company in the country, but many routes are not included in their schedule. So, you might consider searching for smaller coach operators, which are plentiful in Europe.
Since Austria is a part of Schengen area, there is no border control. However, if you have a foreign car number, you may still be stopped by the police and checked. Keep in mind, that on summer weekends, huge traffic jams are possible between Germany and Austria.
Where to Stay
There is a wide choice of hotels in the country. The prices vary from budget guest houses to luxury facilities. Anyway, you won’t be homeless in Austria.
Hostels are also multiple throughout the country. Prices are lower than in hotels, although the facilities are simpler. On the other hand, if you are on a limited budget, a hostel will be the perfect decision.
There are around 500 campsites in Austria. Approximately 160 of them are suitable for winter camping. If want to camp in the private grounds, however, you will need a permission from the police, landowner, and municipal council.
How Safe is Austria
In general, Austria has a low crime rate. Of course, you should still take sensible precautions and be aware of your own safety. Be particularly attentive in public transport, crowded tourist places, and city parks after dark. When on a train, be aware of your luggage. Be careful at railway stations and airports as well.
Food and water in Austria are safe. Keep in mind, medical care is not cheap, so full travel insurance is highly recommended. The country doesn’t have any wide-spread disease, so you should only get vaccinations against tetanus and, sometimes, rabies.
If you are planning on visiting the forest during the summer, be aware of ticks. Their bites can cause not only major discomfort but, sometimes, even transfer infections. Tick-borne encephalitis is endemic, so contact a doctor immediately after being bitten. Maybe, you will have to take a course of injections.
July 18, 2016 12:00 am 3 Comments
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