This landlocked country situated to the south and east of Germany, the neighbour to which its political history has most closely been linked, was once the centre of power for the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire, its culture still being influenced from several sides. It has emerged from the turmoil of the World Wars of the 20 th Century as a federal republic and a member of the European Union since 1995. Austrians know how to have a good time, have one of the highest standards of living in the world, and warmly welcome visitors to their affluent and beautiful country. Here, the traveller can enjoy a variety of diverse landscapes and settings, from the opulence and nostalgia of Vienna’s café culture as well as its contemporary chic and cool, to the mountainous provinces of Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Styria, Upper Austria and Carinthia. The eastern provinces of Lower Austria and Burgenland have more in common geographically with the neighbouring Czech Republic and Hungary, being mainly flat, wine-producing regions.
Outside Vienna, Graz is a delightful city, Austria’s second largest, with an idyllic setting in a valley surrounded by mountains, with the river Mur flowing through its centre. Its medieval Old Town or ‘Altstadt’, is a World Heritage Site, its charms apparent in the wonderful Schlossberg, the quaint Kälbernes Viertel and the City Park. Its thriving University ensures that the weight of its Biedermeier and baroque heritage never stifles the young crowd, and trendy night spots as well as great restaurants are easy to find.
Salzburg, too, offers the traveller a fascinating itinerary through its own UNESCO-recognised Altstadt, including the Residenzplatz, the Residenz itself and the Hohensalzburg Fortress as well as the Kollegienkirche, Mirabell Palace, Mozart’s birth house and the Getreidegasse in another part of town.
Beyond these towns, rural Austria provides an ideal playground for travel and tourism, whether for the keen hiker, cyclist or motorist. Accommodation is plentiful and of an excellent standard, food is healthy, with an emphasis on nutritious and hearty local and often organic products, and the views are stunning. There are many regions worth further exploration, the emphasis often being on Austria’s gastronomic delights. Tours of its major wine-producing regions will take you along the Danube valley to the Wachau, or to Burgenland and Styria, where top artisanal food producers offer visitors the opportunity to sample mouth-watering air-cured hams, gourmet chocolate, balsamic vinegar and the famous pumpkin-seed oil. While en route, it should be possible to experience Austria’s outstanding musical heritage. Salzburg and Vienna offer world renowned opera, classical music and jazz at moderate prices but performances of a high standard are available throughout. You can hear the most avant-garde works at the prestigious Salzburger Festspiele every year, but an evening of traditional folk music in a country inn featuring brass instruments, accordion and zither or the melancholic violin ‘Schrammelmusik’ of the Vienna region could be equally entertaining.
Winter transforms Austria into one of the world’s skiing capitals, whose facilities are amazing and diverse. Here, you will find both eco-friendly and pure fun winter breaks. There are many incredible spa hotels such as the Warmbäderhof in Villach, an overwhelming choice of ski resorts such as Bad Gastein, Bregenzerwald and Ischgl, and places to get a real adrenaline kick such as the Vans Penken Park in Mayrhofen, the Tannheimertal ice tower, Kitzbühel for snowmobiling and St Anton to challenge even the advanced skier. While in Tyrol, visit the delightful city of Innsbruck, a great base for exploration with its historic centre, and the location of some of the world’s finest winter sports facilities having played host regularly to the Winter Olympics since 1964.
Ice skating rinks
Tourist Information Office