Introducing Dornbirn

Set against an alpine backdrop, Dornbirn is Vorarlberg’s largest city. While its sights can’t rival those in Bregenz, there’s a refreshing lack of tourists. Wandering around the Marktplatz, you’ll spot the crooked, 17th-century Rotes Haus (red house), which owes its beautiful blush to an unappetising mix of ox blood and bile. Next door, the slender Doric columns and free-standing Gothic belfry of Pfarrkirche St Martin catch your eye.

Dornbirn’s biggest draw, though, are the creepy-crawlies at Inatura (05572-232 35; www.inatura.at; Jahngasse 9; adult/child/family €9.50/4.80/11.40; 10am-6pm). This hands-on museum is a great place for kids, who can pet (stuffed) foxes and handle (real) spiders, peer into bee and hornet nests, ogle at snakes and fish from behind glass and generally interact with nature. There’s also a climbing wall and 3-D cinema.

Just 4km southeast of Dornbirn is the Rappenlochschlucht (Rappenloch Gorge), a dramatic ravine gouged out by the thundering Dornbirner Ache. Wooden walkways lead up to a viewpoint (10 minutes) and the turquoise Staufensee (30 minutes). If you’re into posh motors, nip into the world’s biggest Rolls-Royce Museum (05572-526 52; adult/child €8/4; 10am-6pm Apr-Oct, 10am-5pm Nov-Mar), situated at the bottom of the gorge. The hall of fame showcases royal Rollers that once belonged to the likes of Queen Elizabeth and George V.

Hohenems, 6km south of Dornbirn, was a haven for a large community of Jews in the 17th century. Their numbers dwindled in the 1860s, when Jews were eligible to live anywhere under Habsburg rule. Their legacy is explored in Jüdisches Museum Hohenems (739 89-0; Schweizer Strasse 5; adult/child €7/4; 10am-5pm Tue-Sun), housed in the Rosenthal villa. The Rosenthals built up a considerable textile business in the town, and part of their wealth – especially gorgeous period furniture – is on show, alongside photos, documents and religious artefacts from the long-defunct Jewish community. Huddled against a tree-lined hill just outside the town on the road to Götzis is the Jewish cemetery; get the key from the museum.

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