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Austrian Alps

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Did You Know … ?

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger was born the son of a policeman in Graz in the alpine foothills.
  • Maria von Trapp sold rights to the story that became “The Sound of Music” for $9,000.
  • Salzburg-born Mozart’s full name was Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
  • “Silent Night” was first sung on Christmas Eve 1818 in Oberndorf just outside Salzburg.
  • Innsbruck hosted the 1976 Olympics because the original host, Denver, withdrew.

The mountains and their music

The Austrian Alps cover the nation’s west and central areas, extending across 70% of the country. They attract visitors of all personality types due to the beauty of the mountains, lakes, villages and the cities that are generally in the foothills. Innsbruck is the only large city that is nestled right in the mountains.

Active travelers come for skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing in winter. The Austrian Alps abound with resort choices, and Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics twice in 12 years, 1964 and 1976.

Lovers of the outdoors also come for hiking and walking in the summer. The country offers more than 31,000 miles of trails for hikers with options for those of all proficiency levels. One choice route takes visitors from village to village in the Alpbach Valley; highlights include the town of Alpbach itself, often deemed the country’s most beautiful village. Another, tastier route, in the Bregenzerwald in Austria’s far west, is designed to take walkers from dairy farms to alpine pastures, highlighting the products and a bucolic way of life.

Alternatively, even the most sedentary nature lovers can take in the highest mountains by car, driving along the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

Salzburg, situated in the foothills, is a popular gateway to the Alps and is one of the country’s noted cities of music. It was Mozart’s hometown and hosts the Salzburg Festival for music and theater. The city also was home to the singing von Trapp family, whose story became famous on the big screen. Enthusiasts can visit many sites in the area where “The Sound of Music” was filmed.

The cities and villages of Austria maintain an age-old tradition for the Christmas markets, which typically set up for business in late November and run through Advent. Holiday travelers immerse themselves in these winter festivities, but festivals are on offer at other, warmer seasons, too.

All in all, the Austrian Alps offer a modern infrastructure, high service standards and, most of all, friendly hosts.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Hike from village to village in the Alpbach Valley. Attractions include a medieval town noted for its glassblowers, a 17th century farmhouse museum and Alpbach, called Austria’s most beautiful village.
  • Carry a good camera and stroll the valleys and hillsides on your itinerary at sunrise or sunset for the best shots of a terrain noted for its beauty.
  • Sign on for mountaineering classes in SalzburgLand — and climb a mountain, or part of one.
  • Neustift offers year-round skiing. Head to Neustift for your out-of-season winter sports and take advantage of its Stubai Glacier ski area.
  • If you want a spa experience to complement the skiing and snowboarding, choose Bad Gastein.
  • Take a very long and (sometimes) high-altitude walk. The Adlerweg walking route across the Tirol extends for 174 miles in 31 stages. You can walk as many of the stages as fit your time and inclination.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take skiing lessons in Austria, the land most noted for its ski schools.
  • Follow the Cheese Route through the Bregenzerwald in Vorarlberg, the far western part of Austria. Taste the cheeses as you go; notice the quality of local butter and yogurt, too. A highlight is the Alpine Dairy Farming Museum in Hittisau, with a dairy kitchen as it would have looked 300 years ago.
  • Focus on food. For example, Tirol is noted for its dumplings, while Salzburg is famous for a sweet called Salzburger nockerin. Or, just buy a sausage at a sausage stand (wurstl stand) and compare it with an American hot dog.
  • At Neustift, choose a themed hiking trail. For example, the Meditation Trail takes you past sculptures by local artists.
  • In autumn, grazing cattle come down from mountain pastures. Time a visit to the Tirolean village of Jerzens, to see this festive event — including decorated cows — on the second Saturday of September. There’s a party in town that night with bands, beer, food, dancing and more.
  • In the warmer seasons, play tennis, go fishing, work in some time for swimming or tool around on a mountain bike in or between the villages of the Arlberg ski area (Lech, St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben and Zurs). There also is a free shuttle bus service between the villages.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Go for the romance of a wintertime ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.
  • Sip a mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine after a strenuous day of winter sports. Or enjoy the apres-ski amenities even if you didn’t hit the slopes at all.
  • Drive the Grossglockner High Alpine Road for the spectacular views.
  • Visit the village of Oberndorf, where the song “Silent Night” was first sung on Christmas Eve of 1818.
  • Play golf at the village of Igls outside Innsbruck, or at any of a few dozen other courses with mountain locations.
  • Hear music during Salzburg’s Mozart Week in January, or at the Salzburg Culture Days or its Jazz Festival, later in the year. The city boasts more than 4,000 cultural events a year.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Austrian Tourist Office at