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A Travel Guide to Austria

Updated on February 4, 2013

Achensee, Austria

Achensee, Austria
Achensee, Austria

Austria Guide Introduction

Austria is a country with rich traditions, music and contrasts, from the Alps in the west to the Danube basin in the east. Johann Strauss and Mozart’s country can be remarked by its historical buildings, world class museums and the breathtaking alpine landscape. In the cafés, churches or in the ball saloons inside the castles, the Austrians seem to have some of the Italians’ charm and romanticism, combined with the Germans’ discipline. Austria’s glorious architectural treasures have been inherited from the powerful Habsburgs, who had dominated the center of Europe for several centuries. The Opera building and the imperial Hofburg in Vienna are magnificent. Among the other places dipped in history you can find Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace, with Baroque churches and Innsbruck, in the center of the Alps.

Austria has produced and inspired a large variety of artists. In the 17th and 18th centuries Vienna had become the central place for the cultural Renaissance. Besides the great Mozart, Austria gave the world other artists, like Klimt and Schiele, the composers Mahler and Schubert, the psychologists Freud and Rank and philosophers like Husserl and Wittgenstein.

The most part of the tourists go to Austria because they are attracted by the winter sports. The modern alpine skiing has developed around the year 1900, when many sky clubs were founded. The legendary skier Hannes Schneider began his career as sky instructor in 1907 and by 1930 the trans-alpine sky tradition had already developed. In some areas the sky season begins in the end of November, but more often on Christmas. It lasts until April but in the past few years this period of time varied a lot due to the global warming and unusual meteorological phenomena. In glacial areas you can sky throughout the year, but during the summer time it’s more expensive.

The main sky areas are located all over the Alps. The resorts are rather distributed based on skiers’ experience level. Lech resort in Voralberg is more suitable for beginners, and also the areas in Tyrol, east of Innbruck (Otztal Alps, Alpbach, Niederau and Obergurgl), most areas in Salzburg (Neukirchen, Skiwelt Amade), as well as Styria and Carinthia (Bad Kleinkirchheim). In all this areas you won’t find just easier slopes but also facilities for families with children.

Salzburg Fortress

Salzburg Fortress
Salzburg Fortress

Austrian Cuisine

Vienna can brag with some of the most famous culinary traditions in the whole world. The diverse yet balanced range of dishes reflects the mixture of nationalities and cultures that took place during the centuries and inspires visitors from all over the world. Examples of the most famous Viennese specialties are Wiener Schnitzel, Erdapfel Salad (a delicious side dish made of potatoes), Tafelspitz (meat with a side dish), Kaiserschmarrn (the legend tells that this desert made out of sponge cake and fruits was specially created for emperor Franz Joseph), Apfelstrudel, Salzburger Nockerln, Sachertorte (a cake that has a secret recipe) and Vanillekipferl (a cake made of walnuts and hazelnuts).

Austrian Tourist Attractions

  • Admire the Vienna’s Baroque elegance, especially in the First District, Innerstadt. The Habsburgs’ Residence was in Hofburg, where the Imperial Chambers contained the Crown Jewels. The summer imperial palace Schloss Schonbrunn is the Viennese version of Versailles palace in Paris. Inside the palace’s park you can find the oldest botanical garden.
  • Visit the renowned galleries Akademie der bildenden Kunste and the other art galleries in Vienna. In this city you can also find over 50 museums, like the Natural History Museum, the ModernArt Museum and the Muzeum Perimeter.
  • Visit the Riesenrad Ferris wheel in Vienna from the Prater amusement park, St Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg Chapel and VotiveChurch.
  • Explore the city of Graz by foot. The attractions include Landesmuseum Johanneum, the gothic paintings from the Alte Galerie, Neue Galerie from the HerbenstreinPalace, Emperor’s Ferdinand II Mausoleum, the OldCity, Schlossberg and Glockenturm.
  • Watch the famous Lipizzan horses, performing training stances on Viennese music.
  • Conquer Austria’s mountains – the highest is Grossglockner (3.798m) in Carinthia. The Hohe TauernNational Park is one of the last great mountain parks in Europe.
  • Admire the crystal lakes’ landscape in Austria - Worthersee, Wolfgangsee, Traunsee, Hallstattersee and Mondsee, one of the hottest lakes in Salzkammergut.
  • Explore the mountainous region of Tyrol, with forests, pastures, valleys, mountain lakes, alpine villages, churches and castles. In Innsbruck, the capital of this region, you can find many historical buildings, with also a castle from the 12th century. For spectacular views take the cableway up to Hungerburg, then the gondola to Hafelekar which is located at 2.334 meters.
  • Visit the birthplace of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the city of Salzburg. In this city you can admire the gorgeous Baroque architecture. In the historical center you’ll find the Hohensalzburg fortress. Other attractions include the PeterskircheChurch, Domkirche and Alter Markt.
  • Salzburg Festival offers a great variety of programs, singers, orchestras and opera.
  • Visit Eisriesenwelt in Werfen – ice caves hidden deep within the mountains that guard the valley south of Salzburg.
  • Admire Austria’s traditional customs at the annual festival Lederhosen held in Windischgarsten, where clothing is optional, but the large amounts of beer and cheering Miss Lederhose are mandatory.
  • Visit the medieval city of Retz that can brag with dens filled with quality wine, the restored old city walls, windmills and a Dominican church.
  • Visit the last protected area of tropical forest in Europe, in the Donau-AuenNational Park, an area that houses a vast range of fauna and vegatation.
  • The city of Linz was declared Cultural Capital of Europe for the year 2009.

Eagle's Nest, Tyrol

Eagle's Nest, Tyrol
Eagle's Nest, Tyrol

Austrian History

The present Republic of Austria is a small state but its origins go way back in history. Inhabited since ancient times, Austria’s location in the heart of Europe has resulted in a resemblance between the country’s and the continent’s development. Austria has evolved from a frontier region to a powerful empire and a multiracial state that collapsed in the end of the First World War.

In 1918 the new formed republic of Austria had to adapt to the new conditions, but today it is a state that plays a decisive and major role in Europe. Even though Vienna isn’t the capital city of a multiethnic empire anymore, the city still keeps its international style. Thousand of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe and Middle East have made their home here.

Useful Info

The best period for visiting Austria depends on what you want. For skiing the best time is on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, as well as from the end of January to the end of March. This is the season’s peak, when the prices are higher. The pleasant summer months are from May to September, and if you are lucky you’ll also have some sunny days in April and October. Generally it’s best to have different kinds of clothing – the alpine area can be very cold, even in summer.

The Austrians have a tendency to show a formal style in society and business. Presentations are made using the family name, but after the first meeting the interlocutors often thee and thou one another (“Du” means “you” – singular form and “sie” means “you” – plural form). For ladies the formula is “Frau”, for example Frau Osterreich, and for gents “Herr”. It’s considered a lack of respect to enter a restaurant or a shop and to miss saying “Guten Tag” or “Gruss Gott”, or to leave without saying “Auf Wiedersehen”. Austria is a lucky country, where if the train is late for 5 minutes you’ll get excuses from its staff. Punctuality is usually a highly appreciated and respected thing. For a dinner, a 5 to 10 minutes delay is tolerable, but if you arrive after 15 minutes the host might get upset. The church has an important role and is highly respected in the Austrian society. German is the official language but there are also dialects specific to every region. The local hour is GMT+1 and GMT+2, summer time, and electricity is 220V.


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