It’s no secret that Austria is home to beautiful nature and a colourful culture. And lucky for us, these natural and cultural wonders are never too far from each other...
Let’s go on a journey to enjoy some of the country’s highest peaks at the Arlberg, learn about the nation’s past in Innsbruck, walk in the footsteps of Mozart in Salzburg, and visit some picture-perfect villages in the Salzkammergut Region, before indulging in the foodie heaven of Graz.
The Arlberg massif sits between Vorarlberg and Tyrol, and we think the highlight here is the region’s tallest peak, the Valluga. To get there, hop off the train at St. Anton, then hop on the cable car to ascend the 2,809m of rock. Once on the 360-degree platform at the top, you’ll be mesmerised by the breathtaking views that reach as far as Italy, Switzerland & Germany.
Tip: One of the Arlberg’s newest highlights is the Skyspace by American artist James Turrell. The circular structure sits above the last houses of Oberlech and opens up to the sky. During sunrise and sunset, the changing light conditions create a spectacle of color inside the domed building. It’s pretty special!
The capital of the Alps, Innsbruck is where the past and future meet. The Habsburgs made Innsbruck their home around the 1500s, and there’s still plenty of Imperial relics that you’ll spot around the inner city. Visit the Imperial Palace for a quick trip back in time before heading to the Triumphal arch, a stone arch built by Archduke Leopold that rises tall against the city’s southern mountains and serves as a weighty reminder of the city’s political and economic history.
You’ll also notice a stark contrast in landscape with Dominique Perrault’s Rathausgalerie and the late Zaha Hadid’s Bergisel Ski Jump and Hungerburgbahn sitting against the city’s older architecture.
Then for some sparkle and dazzle, the Swarovski Crystal Worlds in the middle of the Tirolean mountains, just 20 minutes outside the city, awaits!
Once home to the real Trapp family, Salzburg was also the setting for The Sound of Music. Famous as it may be thanks to the movie, the city is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and home of the Salzburg Festival of classical music. Clearly, music runs through the veins of this city. Music aside, the stunning baroque architecture you see everywhere also has Salzburg known as “Rome of the North”.
Tip: The world’s largest ice cave, the ‘World of Ice Giants’, in the city’s south isn’t far, so head over to enjoy the aquamarine-coloured ice caverns filled with natural ice sculptures and formations!
The Salzkammergut is Austria’s 10th state. Famous for its dramatic landscapes of rugged mountain ranges, lush meadows and forests and crystal-clear lakes, this was where salt was once considered white gold thanks to its numerous salt mines. It is also here that the fairy-tale-like Hallstatt is located. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its numerous abbeys, monasteries and castles.
Tip: The best way to get a spectacular view of the village and escape the crowds is to take the ferry across the lake.
The foodie in you will feel right at home in Graz. From local specialities to modern takes on traditional dishes, this is where you’ll sample the best of Austrian cuisine, such as the Styrian fried chicken (Steirisches Backhendl) and runner bean salad with the famous pumpkin seed oil. The slow pace of the city will inevitably help you to relax while you taste your way around. If you’re not around for their foodie events like the week-long Graz Food Festival, a visit to the farmers’ market at Kaiser-Josef-Platz will give you an idea of the types of local produce used.
Tip: Enjoy impressive views over Graz at Aiola Upstairs, located behind the city’s clock tower. And for some modern art, the Kunsthaus, aka the friendly alien, is an absolute must.
Now, go and enjoy these secret beauties of Austria. Just don’t forget your Austria Pass or Eurail Global Pass before you leave home.