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Christmas Markets of Germany, Switzerland & Austria14 days from $2,259 (USD)
Uncover the stunning scenery and seasonal traditions of three countries.
Wines of Eastern Europe: Vienna, Budapest & Prague11 days from $2,559 (USD)
Get a taste of Eastern Europe’s most dynamic cities.
Equal parts quaint, grand, and charming, landlocked Austria is a gorgeous addition to any Central European itinerary. Each of its nine federal states offers distinct scenery, tradition, and attractions, making a thorough exploration quite desirable. Austria is known for its wedding-cake castles and cathedrals, its extraordinary artistic heritage, and its heartbreakingly lovely landscapes. Divine inspiration is on display at every turn—between the humbling breadth of human magnificence on display in the museums and theaters and the inimicable majesty of nature all around, one can’t help but feel a tug at the spirit.
There are two main sides to Austria, and they pull neck-to-neck at the hearts of visitors. There is the elegant Imperial beauty of the capital and historic cities, which are filled with storybook palaces, elaborate gardens, and towering shrines to art. This place puts one in mind of the vain, proud Habsburgs that once called Vienna home, leaving gilded reminders of royal life behind. On the other hand, there is the wild, breathtaking splendor of Austria’s Alpine reaches, which beckon tourists with an intoxicating mixture of glorious natural beauty and plenteous pulse-pounding winter sports. The mountain slopes and pine-scented air of Bavaria are nothing short of enchanting. We say, why choose? The perfect Austrian tour is one that explores all facets of this unforgettable nation.
Top Austria Attractions
Austria’s capital is a jewel of Europe, long on history and lovingly preserved like the treasure it is. The city’s ridiculously long laundry list of attractions can be overwhelming, so make sure you see the highlights. The Hofburg Imperial Palace is the current home of Austria’s president, and the former winter abode of the Habsburgs, as well as the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor for centuries. Larger is Schonbrunn Palace, the size and grandeur of which has drawn comparison to Versaille. With outstanding gardens and labyrinthine corridors of gilded rooms, it will take your breath away. You must take in a performance at the Vienna Opera House, arguably the most prominent theater in Europe. Grand, visually-arresting, and centrally located, it is quite possibly the most impressive place you’ll ever take in ballet or the opera. Don’t forget to stop in on one of the city’s ornate little coffeehouses for a steaming mug and some cake—it may be among the smallest of Vienna’s claims to fame, but it’s by far the most delicious!
Salzburg technically takes a second-place seat to Vienna when it comes to sheer numbers of tourists, but figuring the number of visitors per square mile, it rivals European hotspots like Venice or Florence! Almost two centuries after his death, Salzburg is as yet the city of Mozart. The classical prodigy was potentially the world’s first musical superstar, and the three-bedroom apartment where he was born is one of the country’s most-frequented museums. You also won’t want to miss the Salzburger Dom, the breathtaking Baroque cathedral at the city’s center, the unrivaled views from Salzburg Castle, shopping the Getreidegasse, or strolling the ethereal gardens of Mirabell Palace. Although Salzburg is steeped deeply in its history, this is a place that inspires dreams even today.
The dazzling Christmas Markets of Central Europe are always a feast for the senses, and the markets of Vienna are no exception! December turns Austria into a winter wonderland straight out of the carols, and the twinkling lights of the seasonal festival will flood your heart with warmth. Sample the best of local cuisine, check out local handicrafts and artwork, and pick up as many gifts and souvenirs as your bag can carry! If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in town over the holidays, rest assured that Austrians go all out making merry. You won’t want for cheer around these parts.
The capital of the icy Tirol invites you to a winter playground nonpareil. Odds are that you will come here in the winter to ski the Alpine slopes, and you’ve made a good choice—this is one of the world’s hotspots for cold-weather sporting. Hiking, climbing, and sledding are all outstanding choices. After all that chilly fun, you can let your hair down and head into town to experience the red-hot nightlife. The Gothic and Baroque buildings of the city invite one to explore! The medieval Altstadt, at the city’s core, dwarfs one with its size and dazzles with its close alleys of outstanding shopping and dining, all nestled against the soaring backdrop of the Alps. Don’t miss the shimmering gilded copper tiles of the Golden Roof, the home built for Maximilian I.
Linz is the capital of Upper Austria, and known for its connection between the worlds of historic and modern art. The culture here is diverse and thrilling, bridging—again—the old world and the 21st century. The Lentos Museum of Art qualifies as a masterpiece all by itself, with striking glass-and-steel construction. The museums and theaters here are world-class. And then there’s the hilly Altstadt, or old quarter, which is best-appreciated via walking tour. The blue Danube runs through Linz, and there’s no better way to catch the sights and sounds of the region than with a slow, romantic cruise of the river. Naturally, you must cap your visit with a world-famous Linzer torte!
|Primary Airports: Vienna International Airport (VIE), Salzburg Airport (SZG), Innsbruck Airport (INN)|
|Government: Federal Parliamentary Republic|
|Currency: Euro (EUR)|
|Population: 8,474,000 (2013 est.)|
|Electricity: 230V/50Hz (Euro)|
|Time Zone: UTC +1|
Austria Travel Reviews
Visit Austria For Mountain Views And Friendly People
When venturing to Europe one summer for the first time, I used American Express tours to travel to England, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and France. They offer a personalized guide with renowned expertise. Our bus dropped from Munich into Austria, and along the way we were amazed at the magnificent mountain views while driving through verdant forest. My top Austrian city was Innsbruck, the crowning experience. While we stopped there, the friendliness of the people and their rich culture through the centuries made a deep impression. We began touring the Hofburg, an Imperial palace where we were treated as if 18th century guests, completed with a rich meal at the Stiftskeller afterwards to savor the experience. To gain perspective, we braved the Hungerburg Funicular high over the valley, which offers a spectacular view in summer or winter. Finally, we closed our time visiting the Innsbruck Cathedral, a Baroque vision in white stone set against the Karwendel Alps. Its interior sweeps the visitor's eye upwards to the frescoed dome, past gilded statues and stunning white marble columns. We loved this city and its people, and would return to Austria. Next time it would be fun seeing Innsbruck in winter's snow.
My Last Time in Vienna
My girlfriend and I rode into Vienna on my motorcycle from the west on the Salzburg–Linz–St Pölten highway, Bundestrasse 1, which became the Mariahilferstrasse when we reached the city. It was mid-afternoon in midsummer so we stopped off at Schönbrunn, the ornate 18th Century baroque palace, an Austrian version of Versailles once the summer residence of the Hapsburg imperial family, and then continued into town to locate a quaint, colorful, clean, and comfortable Gasthaus Zum Adler, Guesthouse at the Eagle, as our lodging and base of operations during our sojourn near the gothic medieval St Stephen's Cathedral within the Ringstrasse in the oldest and most picturesque part of the city.
Every meal we had in Vienna was an adventure and a delight. We had Wiener Schnitzel, breaded veal cutlet, of course, a city specialty; Rehrücke, saddle of venison, with assorted vegetables; and Bauernschmaus, sauerkraut garnished with pork, bacon, and sausage, the traditional farmers feast, at The Eagle, which serves excellent morning coffee with a light but tasty continental breakfast.
Limited time permitted only a few activities but we very much enjoyed our visits to the nearby Hofburg complex of the principal imperial royal palace, the Burgtheater, the museums of natural history and art history, and the Spanish Riding School; to the Belvedere palace complex of Prince Eugene of Savoy, the great 17th/18th Century statesman of the Holy Roman Empire and the Archduchy of Austria and a redoubtable military commander of European history; and to the Prater, Vienna's large public amusement park on the island formed by the Danube Canal with the river.
As we rode out of town towards Wiener Neustadt, Bruck, Villach, and through the Alps to points south, we talked about how soon we would return and what we then would do in that wonderful capital of German culture.
Our Springtime Tour of Austria
Ever since watching the movie ‘The Sound of Music’ when I was a child, I had always wanted to visit Austria. The quaint little mountain towns and beautiful, scenic landscapes have always enthralled me. We decided to book a coach tour from the UK with Leger Holidays, as we knew that this would be the best way of seeing as much of the area as possible.
We stayed at The Gasthof Ascherwirt – our hotel in the beautiful little Tyrol town of Brandenburg. The hotel was warm, inviting and everything you would expect from a traditional mountain hotel. I would thoroughly recommend it as a quiet and relaxing place to stay.
We explored the wonderful city of Salzburg. You could quite happily spend a few days exploring here, although we only had one day. If you are a fan of ‘The Sound of Music’, you have to visit The Mirabell Palace and Gardens, where some of the most famous scenes in the movie were filmed. Another must-see attraction within Salzburg is the birthplace of the city’s most famous resident – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Our favorite location was the amazing mountain resort of Zell Am See. During the winter months, this area is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders. However, we visited in the spring when the weather was just starting to warm up. Featuring some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen, the whole area is covered with lakes and mountains. There is so much to do and explore in this beautiful country. We would love to go back again soon.
Late Season Skiing in Solden, Austria
While on business in southern Germany, a friend and I decided to take advantage of a few vacation days and head to the Innsbruck area for some late season skiing. The trip was an all-encompassing cultural experience accentuated by the no speed limit feature on parts of the autobahn as well as the spectacular views as we crossed the Alps. Our decision to opt for accommodations in a family-run gasthaus in Solden was a good one. The cozy home-like atmosphere made the trip all the more enjoyable as we got to know our innkeepers personally. This came in handy when they gave us directions that helped avoid traffic as we navigated to points of interest for the two days that the Wildspitze was socked in with fog. We spent the time exploring the sights in the Alstadt of Innsbruck. Be sure to try the Tiroler Grostl at the Goldener Adler for a true taste of the local cuisine. Strolling around the city and being able to sample a variety of Austrian and German beers gives a completely new meaning to the term pub crawl. Due to the time of year, the lift lines were quick. While snow was almost non-existent, the extended glacier runs from the top of the mountain were still well worth the trip. I even received a few tips from members of the Austrian National Ski Team. Whether you want skiing, cultural attractions or a combination, the Innsbruck area is well worth a look.
Salzburg is a Great Stop for Music-Loving Tourists
As part of our extended European trip, we stayed in Salzburg for 4 days. This city is famous because it's where Mozart was born, and there are many opportunities for cultural experiences for tourists interested in his music and legacy. We went to a dinner concert that featured a six-piece string ensemble that accompanied two singers as they performed highlights from some of Mozart's most beloved operas. Among my favorites were selections from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" and the "Pa-pa-pa" duet from "The Magic Flute."
Another music-related highlight of this part of our trip was enjoying some of the breathtaking Alpine scenery around Mondsee during the (more than somewhat cheesy) "The Sound of Music" tour which includes stops at places featured in the Julie Andrews movie.
While staying in Austria, we also took a side trip a few miles across the border into Germany to see the town of Berchtesgaden, where history buffs can visit Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" retreat and tour the Salt mines. This mine tour would be an activity that might be fun for families with school-aged children. It's called the Salzwerk Berchtesgaden and you take an underground tour and even get to enjoy some slides.
So, if you're considering including Austria in your European vacation plans, I'd recommend taking a hike in the picturesque lake district above Salzburg and make sure you eat some strudel and coffee!