Austria Travel Guide: Things To Do in Austria. Places To See in Austria.
Austria may be a small nation compared to its other European neighbors, but this country has much to offer tourists all year round. There are attractions and activities both during the summer and winter months. Thanks to its typography and the location of the Alps encompassing two thirds of the land, Austria is a winter lover’s paradise, with a number of ski resorts, abundant snow to thrill skiers and snowboarders alike.
Those who prefer to enjoy a bit of history and culture will find that the capital city of Vienna has much to offer, to soothe the soul, feed an artistic yearning and tantalize taste buds. With its rich history, interesting architecture, numerous works of art and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder that travelers may become overwhelmed with the number of places to see and things to do while in Austria. Here are some of the top places to see in Austria and things to do in Austria. This section of our Travel Guide Austria provides travelers with some information on exciting places to visit as well as suggestions on what to do when going around the charming cities in Austria.
Things to see in Vienna
As the capital city of Austria, Vienna is bustling with activity with most of the Austrian population residing here. It pays homage to its grand past while at the same time redefining itself for the new century. Its great historical past is attributed to the Hapsburg Empire, whose influence can be seen in the grandeur of the buildings and architecture. Vienna today is divided into 23 districts.
One of the first stops in Vienna is the square of St. Stephen’s Cathedral of the Stephansdom. Here, travelers can see a bird’s eye view of the city by climbing the 343 steps of the South Tower or an elevator from the North tower. It’s also interesting to check out the catacombs. Art lovers will also delight in the many museums found around the city. One of the major museums to visit is the museum of Österreichische Galerie Belvedere within the Belvedere Palace. This is home to Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, The Kiss.
There are two world heritage sites in Vienna: the historic center of Vienna, as well as the Schönbrunn Palace. Going to the Historic Center of Vienna is literally taking a step back in time. Here, you can see medieval town walls, Baroque castles, the Schottenklöster Monastery, which is the oldest in Austria, and the Belvedere Palace. It is also the location of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The homes of Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart, as well as Sigmund Freud are also here. The Schönbrunn Palace is a castle with some amazing gardens, and is often compared to Versailles because of the opulence and grandeur that it exudes. Another castle that is worth visiting is the Hofburg Palace or the Imperial Palace. This houses three museums, with items and scenery recreated to provide travelers a taste of the Imperial era.
Things to do in Vienna
There are many things to do in Vienna. No trip is complete without a stop in at least one of the museums in the city. City run museums have entrance that is free on Fridays till noon. If you wish to check out a lot of museums and cultural centers, it’s a good idea to avail of a museum card. The Kunsthistorisches Museum is where travelers can see many of the relics of the Hapsburg Empire. The Liechtenstein Museum is the largest private art collection of Prince Johann Adam Andreas von Liechtenstein’s family. Here, you can find the works of Rubens and Rembrandt.
Don’t leave Vienna without trying a plate of Wiener schnitzel and Spaetzle (Spätzle). For some authentic Austrian cuisine, try the Restaurant Schönnbruner Stockl, located very near the Schönnbrunn Palace. Kurkonditorei Oberlaa is another popular place, especially if you love desserts, such as the chocolate mousse cake or the raspberry royale. Enjoy a cup of Viennese coffee with some strudel in many of the quaint coffeehouses around the city, especially at Demel and Heiner. Enjoy the many tortes concocted by some of the best patisserie chefs in the country.
Because this is the city that inspired many musical masterpieces, take advantage of the musical offerings in Vienna. If you’re going to Vienna between May and June, attend the Vienna Festwochen. Around July, there is the Jazzfest Wien. In the summer season, there is also the Im Puls Dance Festival. For movie lovers, the Viennale is a film festival held in October before the peak tourist season. For those who want to try some opera, head down to the Staatsoper. For classical music, you can even get a ticket for a standing room only show by the Wiener Philharmoniker at the premiere music concert hall, Musikverein. Finally, the Vienna Boys’ Choir sings at the 9:15am Sunday mass held at Hofburgkapelle from September to early June. This is free to the public but it can get crowded so it’s best to come early, before 8am.
Those looking for something more exciting can check out the nightlife at Bermudadreieck in Bochum, which is a hotspot of bars, clubs and other places of entertainment. During the daytime, Riesenrad is the place to be. A ride on the giant Ferris wheel located at Wurstelprater Amusement Park at Leopoldstadt is a top tourist drawer since the 20 minute ride affords tourists an unparalled view of the city. For 8.5 euros, it’s one of the more affordable attractions in the city. If you have children, you may want to make a stop at Schönbrunn Zoo, the world’s oldest zoo and home to over 750 animals. There is also the Schmetterlinghaus, a home for a number of species of butterflies.
Things to see in Salzburg
The natural scenery in Salzburg is simply breathtaking. After all, it is surrounded by the Alps and the German border is only about two kilometers away. Salzburg’s old town is a World Heritage Site. One of the first stops is the Festung Hohensalzburg. It is a fortress built in 1077 and today remains as one of the largest preserved castles in Europe. The Burg museum is located here.
Another must see is Mozart Geburtshaus. The city takes pride in being the birthplace of one of the musical geniuses ever produced by Austria. You can see his childhood belongings, including his violin and viola. It’s best to come as soon as it opens at 9am since it does get crowded. Another home of Mozart is Mozart Wohnhaus.
Another must see in Salzburg is the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. The Dwarf Garden here is where Maria and the Von Trapp children happily sang Do Re Mi. There is also a shack called the Zauberflötenhäuschen, where Mozart is supposed to have composed The Magic Flute.
Things to do in Salzburg
Recreate the steps of Maria and do the Sound of Music Tour. This is especially fun if you have children with you. The tour takes you to the Lake District, St. Gilgens, Nonnberg Convent and Mondsee. You may just want to burst into song as you see the hills come alive!
It’s well worth taking the trip to Untersberg. Only a half hour journey away, you can see the grandeur of the Austrian landscape here. Simply use your Salzburg card, take bus number 25 from the city then hop on the cable car which takes you up the mountain. If you go on a clear day, you’ll be amazed.
For a gastronomic feast, travelers will enjoy the many outdoor dining options of the city. Have some Salzburger Nockerl, a local specialty made of egg whites and sugar. Mozartkugeln is another local specialty, a rich hazelnut dessert dipped in marzipan. Stop by the Sacher Hotel and enjoy a slice of the original Sachertorte, a chocolate lover’s confection and beer lovers will appreciate a visit to Stiegl Brauwelt, a very popular brewery.
If you like to shop, head down to Getreidegasse or Grain Lane, where stores still have iron signs outside and you can appreciate some old world elegance. If you cross the river, you can find Linzergasse, another shopping district.
During the summer, try to catch the Salzburger Festspiele, which is a five-week long musical and cultural extravaganza. If you have children or simply appreciate something unique, check out the Marionette Theatre, which has been featuring puppet shows since 1913. At times, it is also a venue for operatic and other musical performances.
Things to see in Innsbruck
One of the top draws of Innsbruck is that the scenery is simply gorgeous. The view of the Alps can literally take your breath away, especially if you use one of the cable cars to go further up the mountains.
The city of Innsbruck in Tyrol comes alive during the winter season. After all, it has been host to two winter Olympics. The Olympia Bobbahn was specially constructed for the 1976 winter games. This mountain city delights skiers, snowboarders, bobsledders and other winter sports fans of all ages. Hikers can also enjoy the mountains during the warmer months.
If you prefer taking in a bit of culture, drop by the Schloss Ambras or Ambras Castle in English. This castle was built in the 10th century and was home to Archduke Ferdinand II. Here, you’ll see the Spanish Hall.
If you want to take a look around, hop on a tram ride. There is the Nordpark Cable Railways, which takes you around. If you don’t mind going 865 meters high, you’ll like Hungerburg. Here, you can visit the world’s highest zoo, Alpenzoo.
While in Innsbruck, travelers must visit Hofburg. Here, you can see the splendor of the architecture and the lavishness of the era from the crystal chandeliers to the 31 meter long table in Giant’s Hall. This is where Maria Theresia lived with her 16 children, one of which is Marie Antoinette.
Things to do in Innsbruck
Innsbruck is paradise to skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts. It is also a nature lover’s paradise since this is probably the closest place where many can try to touch the skies. If you plan to stay long, check in one of the best hotels in Innsbruck, Hotel Sailer. For those who love to hike, it may pay to avail of a Club Innsbruck membership to get you to the best trails and the best hiking and skiing deals. There are free guides as well as access to equipment. Hikers can also start at Patscherkofel. For members, there is also a shuttle that takes skiers to the slopes via cable cars.
If you love getting a thrill, pay 30 euros to slide down a bobsled at the Olympic Bobbahn. If you want a hearty plate of Käsespätzle, go down to Theresien Brau and finish your meal with a pint of dark lager.
Things to see in Graz
Graz is Austria’s second largest city after Vienna and has the distinction of being the Cultural Capital of the European Union. It serves as the federal state of Styria’s capital and is known as a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site. The population is largely young in Graz because it is a student town. You can visit the Landeszeughaus, which is the world’s largest museum of medieval weaponry. Many of the pieces here date back to the 17th century. There is also the Open Air Museum, the Österreichisches Freilichtmuseum Stübing, is another must see in Graz. If you prefer a modern structure, then you can’t miss the Mur River. Here’s you’ll find the Murinsel, a modern glass structure built right in the middle of the river designed by Vito Acconci, an artist from New York to commemorate Graz becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2003. This man-made glass platform with an amphitheater in the center is a top tourist destination in Graz.
Things to do in Graz
Travelers can enjoy the leisurely pace of the old town of Graz. From Lord Street, make your way down to the square, passing by a number of coffee shops and quaint stores along the way. If you enjoy music, try to catch one of the musical performances as the Schloss Eggenburg. It’s a castle and park that can be a leisurely backdrop if you want to spend some time outdoors. You can also choose to take a day trip to the see the Styrian wine country.
Grab a bite to eat at Landhaus-Keller or the Eckstein Gastronomie. Before you leave Graz, have your picture taken by the iconic Uhrturm, which dates back to as early as the 13th century. This is the clock tower that has come to symbolize the city, where locals take their first kiss as a tradition. If you like to take things easy, walk around the Mur River.
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