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Did you know … ?

  • Austria’s Lipizzaner horses are bred on a state stud farm in Piber.
  • Stiftskeller St. Peter in Salzburg is central Europe’s oldest restaurant (803).
  • The Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche, who gave his name to the car, also designed the Volkswagen Beetle.
  • Enthusiasts can ski year-round on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier.
  • After the failed 1683 siege of Vienna, the Turkish army abandoned its coffee — and the Viennese coffeehouse was born.

Of coffee and tortes

“The Sound of Music” may have been the name of a movie about the von Trapp family, but it also was a particularly apt name for a story based in Austria.

This alpine nation is noted for concerts, operas and the Vienna Imperial Ball on New Year’s Eve. Returning visitors talk about the music and, for the more outgoing, the conversations in the coffeehouses.  Listening to a Mozart opera, boating on the Danube, savoring a slice of sinful Sacher torte at a landmark pastry shop, skiing on perfect snow — this is what travelers remember about Austria.

Although Austria’s history and language parallel Germany’s and Switzerland’s in many ways, it establishes its own identity and appeal to tourists in two areas: culture and winter sports.

Austrians are welcoming and cheerful. They know how to live the good life, which they generously share. There are food and lodging choices for every budget. There are numerous festivals to entertain and provide a window onto Austrian life. And the country has four official languages: German, plus Croatian, Hungarian and Slovenian.

Music is so much a part of Austria’s heritage that Austrians insisted the concert hall in Vienna be one of the first buildings rebuilt after World War II. Anton Bruckner, Josef Haydn, Wolfgang Mozart, Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss are among the top composers born in Austria.

Visitors at the middle of the personality scale admire what they call the civilized lifestyle of Austrians; they appreciate the concerts, theatrical performances and museum exhibitions. Sightseeing opportunities abound for these travelers, who concentrate on historical sites. Or, they can soak up the beauty of the countryside.

For the venturesome, recreation centers around winter sports, especially downhill skiing, but cross-country skiing is popular, too. In summer, they stretch their legs on miles of walking or hiking trails. Austria’s lakes and rivers offer plentiful opportunities for boating, both for recreation and sightseeing. The celebrated Danube is in that mix.

The country’s unspoiled look is a main attraction for visitors. They talk about the splendid snow-capped mountains, the clean and noncommercial cities, the picturesque towns and villages — plus the quality of shopping and dining.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Do a pub crawl in Vienna in a series of establishments found under part of the U-Bahn’s train tracks. The area, near the Josefstadter Strasse and Nussdorfer Strasse stations, is a bit seedy but becoming trendy.
  • Ski on snow. Or, ski or snowboard on a glacier in summer at the Zell am See/Kaprun ski resort; the glacier effectively creates a year-round ski season here. There are other skiable glaciers in Austria, too.
  • Immerse yourself in German language classes.
  • Come to the late-summer Festival on the Danube Island in Vienna, a three-day event called Europe’s largest party for the young. More than 2 million enthusiasts come to hear entertainers appearing on up to 20 stages.
  • Travel the 197-mile Danube Bike Trail from Passau to Vienna and on to Hainburg. Follow this Danube River route for the area’s beauty; stop to see the abbeys of St. Florian and Melk. This is one of several marked trails identified by the Austrian National Tourist Office.
  • Austria is a land of mountains. Hone your mountaineering skills there.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Pass a pleasant evening, or several, in an Austrian beer garden. Also, snack at sausage stands called wurstelstands.
  • Take a boating excursion on the Danube. All kinds of vessels are available, from hovercraft to putt-putts.
  • See in the new year at an outdoor party. Many major towns and cities, including Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna, turn their old city centers into what is effectively an open-air ballroom and offer fireworks plus music to waltz by.
  • Attend the autumn harvest festival in Uttendorf/Weisssee in Salzburgerland. Events include schnapps tastings, cooking classes and a parade of cattle returning from summer grazing in the hills. This is one of many harvest festivals in Austria.
  • Have dinner at Stiftskeller St. Peter (St. Peter’s Beer Cellar) in Salzburg. It is so old some believe Charlemagne came there.
  • For a trip that focuses on the finest of Austrian Baroque, see Salzburg Cathedral, the Karlskirche in Vienna plus two abbeys outside the cities, St. Florian and Melk.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Attend the Salzburg Festival in July and August, but if you miss that, try the Vienna Festival earlier in the summer or the midsummer Graz jazz festival — or any of a number of other festivals in a land of music lovers.
  • Learn the Viennese waltz, or refine your skills, in dance classes in the Austrian capital.
  • Join a guided wine and food tour. Austria has numerous wineries in the states of Burgenland, Lower Austria and Styria.
  • At Christmas, attend a candlelight concert in the Hohensalzburg Fortress overlooking Salzburg, or an advent concert in Innsbruck or performances of the international choral festival in Vienna.
  • Take a stunning train ride. The 25-mile Semmering Railway, built over high mountains in the mid-19th century as part of the link between Vienna and Graz, counts 15 tunnels, 16 viaducts and 129 bridges, creating one of Europe’s top scenic rides.
  • See the all-white Lipizzaner stallions perform at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, and such events are usually standing-room-only. Also, visit the Lipizzaner stud farm at Piber.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Austrian Tourist Office at