Mountains, lakes and deep alpine valleys. Food and wine, and Vienna’s gritty eloquence. Austria has lots of culture to get into, and iconic landscapes for getting away from it all.
Culture in Many Disguises
Austria is fabled for its cultural life, especially in Vienna, where white Lipizzaner horses move to the tunes of classical music, angelic choir boys pledge their innocence to the heavens, and innovative and provocative theatre, opera and classical music can be enjoyed in exciting seasonal programs. No less grandiose is the architecture, which is often combined with performance or visual arts in the one ensemble. But the cultural experience of Austria is also about the undiscovered, the regional and the grassroots – the artists and performers working in the provincial capitals. It’s about geographically far-flung and unusual exhibition spaces huddled in long valleys – valleys dotted with small towns and which together form a heartland of the country. Anyone with an eye for the nuances of everyday life will also find much of informal cultural interest. This is definitely one country where the grandiose and the everyday, the provincial and the idiosyncratic, and the iconic and the concealed stand in poetic contrast.
Landscapes & the Great Outdoors
The mountains, valleys and lakes of Austria are legendary and provide one of the world’s most spectacular backdrops for outdoor activities. Dominating the country is the towering eastern Alps, where in winter skiers and snowboarders test their mettle. Come summer, some of the winter ski trails complement vast networks of hiking or mountain-biking trails, often serviced by a cable car. The mountain meadows make for a perfect picnic spot in warm weather. Austria’s thousands of lakes are also fine places in summer for swimming and relaxing – some are chilly and glacial, others warm, splashy playgrounds. Thanks to the modest size of most towns, the great outdoors is never far away.
Food & Wine Experiences
Austria is experiencing a renaissance in food and wine. Vienna is packed with exciting new places to eat and drink, and the long traditions of the coffee house and Beisl (tavern) are being imbued with new life. Outside the capital, regions such as the Waldviertel, Danube Valley and southern Styria beckon with food and wine experiences in picturesque landscapes. Traditional Heurigen (wine taverns) abound, and innovative producers are delivering the ingredients from regions such as these to the nation’s tables. This is good news for the traveller, who can easily combine food and wine with city visits, outdoor activities, health and wellness, or with trips by bicycle or car through Austria’s character-packed gourmet and wine regions.
Best places to stay in Austria
How to stay in an igloo (and live to tell about it)
'They give me a piece of insulation so me feet don't freeze to the floor,' the bartender tells me cheerfully at the Iglu Village in Kühtai, Austria, roughly a 40-minute drive west of Innsbruck. It's cold in the Tyrolean Alps. Very cold.
Castle hunting in Austria: ten of the best
Though other countries hog all the fairytale glory, Austria does not lack for castles. In fact, for the intrepid traveller, there are many castles to explore filled with trick fountains, curious art collections, dizzying architecture and centuries of history.
Austria: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet's Austria guide provides a selection of travel literature to enhance your trip. Austria is still waiting for its definitive travel description because most writers focus on its rich cultural heritage rather than the trials and tribulations of the everyday traveller.
Get steamy in Austria: 5 great spa experiences
Austria is a steam-cleaned dream of a country. For every leg-aching mountain pass and ski run, there is a glorious spa - Roman, arty, framed by the Alps, you name it. And we're talking veritable water worlds, where just testing out all the saunas (naked, natürlich) takes an entire afternoon. Here are my five favourites: 1.
Austria's long and winding road: beauty on every bend
Hairpin bends: 36. Length: 48km. Average slope gradient: 9%. Those are the vital stats of Austria's Grossglockner High Alpine Road, one of Europe’s greatest drives. And if you think the statistics sound impressive, wait until you see the scenery.