Austria Travel Guide
Austria is often mistaken for Australia (where Waltzing Matilda has a whole different meaning), but the home of Mozart, Sachertorte and The Sound of Music is quite the opposite as far as culture, history and cuisine are concerned. Baroque perfection in Salzburg, Innsbruck’s snow-capped mountains and Vienna’s refined musical scene combine to offer a diverse and polished travel experience.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Waltzing in Vienna, Sachertorte, skiing in Innsbruck, year-round outdoor activities, world-class museums and galleries, café culture, Lipizzaner stallions, magical ice caves, Lederhosen Festival, climbing in Tyrol, excellent transportation network and Mozart Balls!
What’s Not: Heavy food, commanding the language, lots of dog poo, Vienna horse poo too, overpriced and cheesy waltz shows, fake Mozarts, overpriced rides on horse-drawn carriages and overrated Schloss Schönbrunn.
When to Go
Austria has a temperate continental climate with four distinct seasons:
Spring (March to May) has changeable weather but few crowds.
Summer (June to August) is warm and pleasant but also sees the most rain.
Autumn (September to November) starts off fine but quickly gets miserable, dark and grey.
Winter (December to February) is cold and sunny, and the ski season lasts until April.
Getting There & Away
Vienna is the main airport, while domestic flights are expensive and unnecessary. Trains are comfortable and reasonably priced, and connect to most major tourist destinations. The road network is excellent and buses ply major routes. Vienna has an extensive system of metro, bus, light rail and tramway services, while there are bus systems in all the other main towns.
Health & Safety
Austria is one of the safest countries in the world. Bicycle theft is widespread in bigger cities. There’s no reason to worry about your health, apart from eating all that cake and rich food. Tick borne encephalitis can be found in certain regions in Austria (Carinthia, Styria, Lower Austria).
Food & Hospitality
Not all Wiener schnitzel and apfelstrudel, traditional Austrian cuisine can be found at the many gasthaus or gasthof at reasonable prices. Watch you waistline! Conventional hotels can bust your wallet, so look for pension or zimmer frei signs, where bed and breakfast-style rooms are rented privately.
One week is the least you can get away with to take in some of the highlights.
Two or three days to see the capital’s highlights and stuff yourself on Sachertorte.
Two or three days in Baroque Salzburg, Mozart’s hometown, and the ice caves of Eisriesenwelt.
Two or three days in medieval Innsbruck and the Tyrolean hinterland to sample true Austrian vistas.
Three or four days in Salzkammergut, a scenic resort area of mountains, lakes and picturesque towns just east of Salzburg.
Two or three days in the Donau-Auen National Park, Europe’s last protected rainforest.
Two or three days in Graz, a recent European Capital of Culture and the original Austrian Baroque town.
Schloss Schönbrunn: the sumptuous imperial summer palace in Vienna is an overrated must-see.
Mozart’s birthplace: in Salzburg, the Baroque city that oozes with Mozart Balls and other things Mozart you couldn’t even dream of.
Eisriesenwelt Höhle (Giant Ice Caves): outside Salzburg feature intricate and beautiful ice formations.
Tirol: offers alpine meadows, Edelweiss, beautiful valleys and mountain lakes.
Lipizzaner stallions: execute fine dressage drills to Viennese classical music at the Hofburg in Vienna.
Retz: a well-preserved medieval city which boasts subterranean wine cellars, city walls, windmills and a Dominican church.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must, with all the lovely museums and landmarks, beautiful scenery and intriguing musical culture.
Hiking: in the Zillertal Alps with plenty of well marked walking routes.
Skiing: whether downhill or cross-country, is most popular in Tyrol and Vorarlberg.
Waltzing: the night away at a traditional Austrian ball will make you feel like Princess Sissy.
Coffeehouse: culture is best enjoyed while sampling the 60 varieties of torte washed down with a traditional Viennese coffee.
Festivals & Events
Not surprisingly, many Austrian festivals feature lots of music and lederhosen.
February: Fasching is a carnival celebrating the return of spring with masked processions and dances.
May: Vienna Festival is the yearly highlight with an extensive program of arts.
July: Salzburger Festspiele celebrates Austria’s favorite son, Mozart.
July: Lederhosen Festival in Windischgarten brings honor and slaps to Miss Lederhosen!