Follow these top tips for your tour of Austria, that will have you yodeling the tune "the hills are alive" for weeks afterwards.
Our Travel Expert Rose Jacobs, ditched her Aussie winter woollies for her summer sandals and went in search of Austria’s most delightful leather lederhosen.
Perhaps you are like me and really only know a few things about Austria before departure. Like the fact that Arnie was from there. There are an insane amount of castles. There’s a river called the Danube. And they are the creators of the now world famous Wien Schnitzel! Well, let me tell you, that’s just the entrée. Austria boasts some incredible sights, tastes, adventures and destinations and there’s no better time to visit that during the summer months.
Like any country, the diversity is huge. You wouldn’t fly all the way to Australia only to visit Sydney now would you? So, with Austria, I suggest you plan to visit as many of the towns and cities as possible. It’s also highly convenient that there’s an enormous river flowing through the best of these, which leans towards a cruise experience down the Danube. If you choose this option, it also means you don’t have to lug your baggage from town to town, driving or riding buses and generally wasting precious exploration time. It also means you can sit back, sip a cocktail and view the castles and riverside beaches at a leisurely pace along the way.
As you’re most likely to fly into Austria via Vienna, let’s start the fun here! After all, this is the capital and attracts the majority of the country’s tourists each year as 'The City of Music' because of its musical legacy as the home of Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss to name a few. It would be impossible not to stroll the cobblestone streets and notice every second shop front, museum, hotel, restaurant, bar, statue and public toilet is dedicated to these musicians.
These days, the culture is quite eclectic. There are bars with deck chairs, street graffiti and DJ’s along the canal running through the centre of the city. The shopping is world class. Annual film, food and music festivals are set up underneath ancient cathedrals, museums and town halls.
Dining and drinking:
The best Wien Schnitzel in the world can be found at Café Mozart (surprise!), opposite the film museum. It is the size of an entire cow but will be the best $50 (AUD) you’ll ever spend. And if you consider the fact you wont be hungry for three days afterwards, then it’s actually a saving! It’s also an informal outdoor atmosphere where you can people watch to your heart’s content. The beer is also refreshingly cold and seems to evaporate very quickly under the European sun.
Vienna’s skyline is dotted with domes, steeples and adorable rooftop apartments. The best way to see it is by way of a rooftop bar and there are two not to be missed. The first is called Sky Bar. I suggest getting there early as it turns into a popular bar destination at sunset and you won’t want to miss that view for anything!
The second is called Do & Co and has an unparalleled view of St Stephans-platz cathedral. The cocktails and dinner menu here are divine and it’s the go to place for a special evening out on the town.
It would be unforgivable to visit Vienna without a pit stop at a traditional Viennese Coffee House for a taste of a Sacher Torte. It’s the local sweet delicacy and with a thin layer of apricot jam and a side serve of fresh whipped cream, it’ll balance out the cow in your stomach nicely!
Get on your bike and see the city on wheels. There are so many bike-ways and in the summer you won’t want to be walking or stuck in a cab. All the major sights are in close proximity and they’re super easy to rent at any of the 'City Bike' public rental stations around the city.
It’s also worth clambering aboard one of the many beautiful horse-drawn carriages for a special view of the best sights. Prices are reasonable and the owners take excellent care of these majestic creatures.
My favourite adventure was a trip to the food markets near the Museum Quarter. Every ingredient under the sun can be found here and you can also sample some of Austria’s best cheeses, meats, ice-creams, cakes, dips and wines. Take a camera!
Be sure to make a visit to Schönbrunn Palace, just a short drive out of town. This was the summer residence of the Austrian dynasty, the Habsburg monarchs. It has 1441 rooms, a zoo and is visually one of the most breathtaking sights you’ll ever see. I don’t say these things lightly.
Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria but more interestingly, was the setting for the film 'The Sound of Music'. You don’t need to be a fan of the film to appreciate the rolling hillsides, the turquoise lakes and the adorable towns and alpine architecture surrounding the city.
The township itself is exquisite. Little bridges (don’t forget to take a padlock for the Lover’s Bridge) carry you to and from the Old Town shops and cafes.
Personally, it’s the townships surrounding Salzburg itself that had my heart singing. Take a visit to Mondsee for lunch on the lake and drop by St Michael’s Basilica…which is the church from the wedding scene at the end of The Sound of Music film. And be sure to take your bathers, the lake here is even better than the aerial views from the film!
Back in Salzburg itself, the main attraction not to be missed is the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, bursting with colour and scenes from the film also, such as the round fountain and steps where Maria danced with the Von Trapp kids.
This is the most charming destination you could imagine. A small town nestled alongside the Danube River with a population of just over 5000 people, complete with cobble stoned streets and tiny flower-pots perfectly placed in every window sill.
It’s impossible not to glance up and notice a majestic Abbey like a matriarch watching over her township, dating back to 1089. Melk Abbey was fortuitously saved from bombings during the Second World War and today is a major tourist draw card for its views over the town and river along with its church, library, museum, gardens and also currently serves as a high school and monastery.
The most spectacular part of Melk for me though is the location right on the enormous fast flowing Danube. A visit here would be incomplete without a day of bike riding along the beautifully manicured bike routes (think golf course green grass and teensy flower beds) that run alongside the river. On a hot day the riverbanks come alive with locals and tourists picnicking on the rocks and taking dips in the fresh water to cool off. Don’t be shocked if your fellow bathers opt for a dip minus their togs… when in Europe!
With all of Austria’s riches of food, sights, history, music, culture and colour, now I know why Arnie keeps saying he’ll be back. I will too!
Rose travelled as a guest of SCENIC and flew with CATHAY PACIFIC AIRLINES.
Rose also has a blog poopypropeller.blogspot.com.au providing humorous and practical advice for parents travelling with kids.