A vista-overload resort area of mountains, lakes and charming towns just east of Salzburg. In the summer it offers walks and water sports, in winter skiing. Key towns are Bad Ischl (fashionable spa resort), St. Wolfgang (on Wolfgangsee Lake) and Hallstatt.
If you have wheels and it’s May-November then this stunning 50km mountain/glacier route will really honk your horn. Start the tortuous tour from Zell am See.
*** Innsbruck (Tyrol)
A lovely, partly medieval city surrounded by spectacular peaks, it functions perfectly as a summer resort or winter sports base, though it doesn’t have immediate access to slopes.
Nearby is Seefeld, a prime ski resort that offers more than just slopes and Mutters, ‘the most beautiful village in Tyrol’ and romantic in any weather.
**St Anton am Arlsberg (Tyrol)
Near Switzerland this is another picturesque Tyrolean town with some of Europe’s best skiing at reasonable prices.
The Alps in summertime offer a zillion stunning, well-marked walking routes, open along with the spring flowers in late May. The Zillertal Alps are particularly scenic and leg friendly, and Zell am Ziller is a good starting point. Lifts help the less fit.
Plenty of challenging climbs available, with northern Tyrol being especially popular.
With all those mountains and snow Austria is a great downhill and cross-country ski destination, tho’ not cheap. Tyrol and Vorarlberg are most popular.
Hangliding & paragliding
Due to the excess of high places and affluence of the country, gliding is commonplace and kit can be rented easily from ski resorts.
Land Salzburg (Salzburg Alps) has superb locations for watersports from quiet canoeing to wild white water rafting. Speed boats are restricted.
This country is extremely bike friendly, with rental machines available from most railway stations and dedicated tracks everywhere.
The best long route is the Lower Danube Cycle Track, running beside the river from Vienna to Naarn and passing many gorgeous medieval towns on the way.
Lengthy and a bit slow on sights. If your time is limited don’t bother with the Danube other than a day-trip river cruise package up the Wachau Valley to Krems and Melk Abbey from Vienna. This cruise is considered the most scenic on the Danube river, winding past vineyards, hamlets and mountains.
Austria is culturally more about classical music than techno raves, tho’ the natives do know how to have a good time.
A Strauss memorial in Vienna, music capital of Europe
mid May- June: Vienna Festival – wide range of arts, especially music, naturally, but also dance and theatre, sometimes challenging pieces, all set in magnificent buildings.
mid July-August: ImPulsTanz – a dynamic and diverse dance festival across the whole of lovely Vienna.
August: Salzburg Festival – opera and concerts. ‘Europe’s most prestigious summer musical event. ‘ Very large, very expensive. Every year in Mozart’s pretty home town.
Dec 31st, Kaiserball – waltzing into Vienna’s glamorous ball season is this, the ultimate in smart dances, set in the magnificent Hofburg Palace. No expense spared.
For some precise dates, more suggestions and information see European Festivals or Arts Festivals
European citizens and nationals of USA, Australia and New Zealand do not need visas for visits up to 90 days.
German is the native language but most Austrians under 50 speak excellent English.
The currency is the Euro and prices are fairly high. ATMs are plentiful.
Electric sockets are 230v and take 2 round pin plugs.
Crime is rare and more likely to be opportunistic theft by transient East Europeans rather than locals.
This is not good weight-loss country. National dishes tend to be heavy, saucy and meat oriented – hardly surprising for a place with no coastline – while local cheeses, pastries, beers and wines are excellent and too tempting by half.
Street snacks are usually of the sausage, pickles and chunky bread variety.
About the only thing that will not pile on the pounds is the superb coffee.
The green Danube passing sluggishly through Vienna. Photo by Herbert Ortner.
Adolf Hitler was born in Austria, moving to Germany when he was 3 years old. According to Wikipedia like many Austrian-Germans Hitler began to develop German nationalist ideas from a young age and expressed loyalty only to Germany, despising Austria-Hungary’s declining Habsburg Monarchy and its rule over an ethnically diverse empire.
Vienna was substantially damaged by air raids during WWII but not to the extent of Germany’s Berlin and major structures were rebuilt in identical style and at some expense so the city still maintains an ancient, well-kept patina.