Austria holidays

Experience Austria

Best Places to Visit

Austria has been a favourite European destination for many years, mostly due to the fantastic winter activities on offer and stunning scenic views of snowy mountain slopes, which attract sports enthusiasts from far and wide. Summer, on the other hand, sees visitors who come to admire Austria's great outdoors and beautiful historic cities.

Vienna is well worth spending time in. It’s rich history can be enjoyed by attending many of its elegant balls, and immersing yourself in its timeless cultural scene. Taking a scenic canal or river tour, attending a classical music performance or participating in the capital's annual film festival are among the best ways to experience this exciting and lively city.

Heading south, Graz offers visitors one of the best preserved old towns in Europe. Cathedrals, palaces and museums are the main attractions of this city.

Visitors to Salzburg will immediately learn of the city's proudest son. Classical music prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in this beautiful city by the Salzach River, while the widely popular Hollywood film, ‘The Sound of Music’ was set here.

For a taste of Austria’s great outdoors, visitors can head to the capital of Tyrol, Innsbruck. This scenic city is set in a valley at the foot of perhaps the most well-known European mountains: the Alps. Skiing in winter and mountain climbing in summer are what most people come here for. While in Innsbruck, visitors may want to see Hofkirche, a Gothic church which houses a memorial dedicated to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.

Further in the west of Tyrol is Sankt Anton am Arlberg, another famous ski resort town that consistently ranks as a top global ski destination.

The the picturesque city of Bregenz, set along the shores of Lake Constance and at the foot of Pfaender, a mountain in the German Alps, is another tourist hot spot. Swimming and cruises, as well as hiking, are naturally the top tourist activities here. Whatever the time of year, Austria has a rich variety of activities to offer, from summertime river cruises and hiking to winter sports on the snowy slopes. Meanwhile, its cities arguably offer some of Europe's most treasured cultural heritage, particularly for classical music lovers, as Mozart is just one of many celebrated composers that are born in Austria.

Top Landmarks

Austria lies right in the heart of Western Europe. It has had a long history dating back to pre-Roman times, with each of its ruling civilisations having left their mark on the country.

The historic city centre of Vienna, called Innerstadt, in all its Baroque elegance, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It features beautifully carved fountains, walking streets and ornate architecture, as seen in the Rathaus (City Hall), the Hofburg Palace and the Austrian Parliament.

Another UNESCO World Heritage old quarter is found in the city of Graz. The jewel in Graz’s crown is the Clock Tower, found on top of Schlossberg, a castle located on top of a hill overlooking the city. The Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II and right next to it, the Cathedral of Graz, are two landmarks not to be missed here.

The tourist city of Salzburg became famous partly because of classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born here. Naturally, his birthplace, Mozart's Geburtshaus, now a museum, is a major tourist draw. It is located in the Getreidegasse, the city's old-style shopping destination. As with many old towns in Austria, Salzburg Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There is perhaps no other natural landmark in Austria more famous than the Alps, Europe's great mountain range spanning seven different countries.

Another famous natural landmark is Lake Constance. Located in the far west of Austria, it is the third largest lake in Europe and its shores are found not just in Austria, but also in German and Swiss territories.

Entertainment

Austria offers the best of all worlds when it comes to entertainment. Music, history, films, arts and dance in their classical and contemporary forms can be enjoyed in this country. One night, visitors can find themselves all dressed up dancing in an elegant ball in Hofburg Palace, Vienna. The next night, they can be listening to a punk band in a trendy part of the city. Vienna is especially popular for its modern and exciting nightlife. There are cafés, restaurants, bars and dance venues, as well as casinos.

Music takes a special place in Austrian culture, with the nation having produced some of the best-known classical composers the world has ever known. Salzburg Festival happens in late July and spans five weeks. People in attendance are treated to classical music of the highest regard. In the lakeside city of Bregenz, opera and music performances take place on a floating stage in a form of night-time entertainment that is distinctly Austrian.

Drinking becomes especially enjoyable in summer as throughout Austria, especially in the wine growing regions close to Vienna such as Grinzing, there are outdoor beer and wine gardens. Most of these venues provide some form of musical entertainment, perhaps a violinist or an accordionist, on any given night.

In the Alpine towns and ski resorts, nightlife or apres-ski comes in the form of trendy clubs, lively bars and laid-back taverns. Innsbruck's drinking venues fill with local students at night, so the environment is young and lively. Two well-known local favourites are Limerick Bill's Irish Pub and Zappa Music Bar.

Dining Out

Austrian cuisine is distinct yet at the same time, influenced by the many countries with which it shares its borders, namely Germany, Hungary, Romania and Serbia. Much of its cuisine features hearty meat dishes that are usual accompanied by dumplings and potatoes.

The de facto national dish is the well-known Wiener schnitzel, veal escalope wrapped in breadcrumbs and deep fried – a must for any meat lover. Another national dish is tafelspitz, a boiled hunk of beef infused with spices and distinct flavours, usually eaten with potatoes as a side dish and horseradish or sour cream as condiments.

Dining out to get a taste of traditional Austrian food often involves visitors heading to a gasthaus or gasthof. Lunch is the best time to go to one of these traditional eateries which offer set menus for reasonable prices.

No visit to Austria would be complete without getting into the country's café culture. Coffee drinking is an art in Austria. Cafés are everywhere and at 16:00, people head to one to have a jause, or a late afternoon coffee break, usually involving an eclectic mix of pastries. A brauner is coffee with milk, while kaffee mit schlagobers is coffee with whipped cream – both of which are delicious.

Parks

Austria is well-known for its great outdoors. Its national parks are especially popular in the summer with holiday makers from all over the world, who come to see the unspoilt Austrian wilderness. The forests of Donau-Auen National Park, near Vienna, are a good place to start to see the nation's diverse flora and fauna. The Alps are popular with serious hikers, many of who head for Hohe Tauern National Park.

Romance

Honeymooners or couples on holiday will discover that the ornate architecture and scenic waterways of the capital of Vienna lend the city an old-world romance that is hard to capture any place else. A daytrip to the Danube Valley and a wine-tasting tour to the vineyards right outside Vienna are good activities for couples. To cap off the night, couples can dress up and dance at a traditional Austrian ball.

Family

Families will find many sights to see and things to do in Austria. The many fairytale-like castles and old towns of the country bring a sense of magic and wonder to children who have only seen these structures in books and films. Tyrol is especially beautiful as the many castles here are set amid the mountains and hills which the region is most famous for.

Adventure

If adventure is on the table, then it does not get any better than a winter holiday in Austria's many ski resorts. Innsbruck is a perfect winter destination as it is easy to reach and home to many ski resorts. Sankt Anton am Arlberg is a premier ski resort in western Austria which is ranked among the best ski resorts in the world. The slopes of Zell am See in Central Austria are also popular with skiers from all over.

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Need to know

Language

The primary language spoken in Austria is Standard Austrian German. It is identical to Standard German, with only subtle differences in vocabulary and pronunciation. The native language of most locals, however, is Austro-Bavarian, also a Germanic language but only partly understood by German speakers. English is widely spoken around these parts, especially by those working in the tourism industry. If your German is a little rusty, you might have difficulty being understood here.

Currency

Austria is part of the 23 countries that officially use the euro (EUR). ATMs, locally called bankomat, are widely available throughout the country, even in rural areas. Travellers' cheques are accepted by many establishments but travellers are advised to carry them in major currencies such as euro, US dollars or pound sterling. Currency exchange outlets are available in banks, train stations and airports. Major credit cards such as MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club and American Express are widely accepted, and prepaid foreign currency cards offer an alternative if you want to spend on plastic without running up international exchange fees.

Visas

Austria is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, this means British nationals may enter Austria with only a valid passport for an indefinite stay. Likewise, EU nationals may enter with a valid passport (or national identity card) for a period of any length.

Nationals from the US, Canada and Australia can enter visa-free and stay for up to 90 days but passports must be valid for three months beyond intended date of exit. Allow a few days beyond your intended return travel date before your documents expire, in case of unexpected delays.

Climate

Austria experiences a moderate continental climate with more variation than most European coastal countries. It can get cold in winter (December to March), with temperatures sometimes dropping to -10°C. It is warm in the summer (May to September), with temperatures of around 26°C during the day. There is a host of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in each season; summer is perfect for mountain hikes while winter sees hordes of skiers hit the slopes.

Main Airports

There are many airports from which tourists can begin exploring Austria. The most important gateway is Vienna International Airport, located in eastern Austria and servicing the capital, Vienna. It has a lot of connections to flight hubs within Europe and the Middle East, as well as with South, Southeast and East Asia.

Flight Options

The main carrier in Austria is national carrier Austrian Airlines, which connects Vienna to destinations within Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The London to Vienna route is popular, and Austrian Airlines, as well as British Airways, have direct flights to London-Heathrow, while EasyJet flies to Vienna from London-Gatwick. A direct flight from London to Vienna usually takes around 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Travel Advice

Travellers heading to the Alps for winter holidays can fly directly to Innsbruck Airport. There are many charters and seasonal airlines that fly direct from London-Gatwick as well as Bristol, Liverpool and other UK locations to Innsbruck.

Other Transport Options

Austria's railway network is well connected to the European railway network, with several services running daily. The Eurostar runs from London to Paris, from where overnight trains run to Munich. From here, there are connections to major Austrian locations. It is also possible to fly to the southern German city of Munich or even to Frankfurt, which both receive more flights than Austria's main airports, and continue to Austria via a connecting flight or overland transport.

Getting Around

Flights within Austria can be expensive but are a fast way to get around the country. Trains are king in Austria. Services are frequent and the facilities are excellent. Buses are the way to go when heading to destinations not covered by the railway network.

Bus

There are still many towns and villages which lie a significant distance from any train station. This is where buses come in, with schedules most often coordinated with train departures and arrivals. Bundesbus System and some private operators also run bus services throughout Austria.

Train

The national railway operator is the Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen or ÖBB), running 3,540 miles of train track within its network. Trains frequently run from Vienna to Salzburg, Graz, Klagenfurt and Innsbruck.

Air

Vienna International Airport is located in eastern Austria while the main regional airports are in Innsbruck in the West, Salzburg and Linz in the north, and Graz and Klagenfurt in the south. The main domestic carriers are Austrian Arrows, Niki, Intersky and Welcome Air.

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FACTS

  1. Austria's list of composers includes Mozart and Beethoven, along with Haydn, Schubert and Strauss - in many cases the same surname was shared by several composers, such as the two Johann Strausses.
  2. Austria's name means 'eastern realm' and dates back to the time when the Danube, which passes through the country, was the eastern limit of the German population.
  3. The country was affected greatly during the two World Wars of the early 20th century, and was governed by the Allied nations until 1955, when it regained full independence and declared that it would remain neutral in the future.

FACTS

  1. Austria's list of composers includes Mozart and Beethoven, along with Haydn, Schubert and Strauss - in many cases the same surname was shared by several composers, such as the two Johann Strausses.
  2. Austria's name means 'eastern realm' and dates back to the time when the Danube, which passes through the country, was the eastern limit of the German population.
  3. The country was affected greatly during the two World Wars of the early 20th century, and was governed by the Allied nations until 1955, when it regained full independence and declared that it would remain neutral in the future.

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