Sunday, April 14, 2024

An Austrian Affair

By Shweta Kulkarni, 31 Mar, 2020
  • An Austrian Affair

Austria makes a lasting impression with its breathtakingly beautiful views of the alpine peaks, pristine lakes, and architectural marvels.

Landlocked in the centre of Europe, the jaw-droppingly beautiful alpine country, Austria, has plenty to offer to every kind of traveller. Surrounded by stunning peaks and sparkling jewel-like lakes, Austria not only boasts of picturesque landscapes but the country also has a rich cultural heritage and is home to countless castles, palaces, cathedrals and museums. A tourist attraction all year round with places to visit in both summer and winter, Austria’s majestic splendour is sure to satiate all kinds of wanderlust. Here’s a look at five must-visit places in this mesmerizing country.

Fascinating Vorarlberg

One of the least touristy regions of Austria, Vorarlberg, with its alluring peaks, unspoilt valleys, gorgeous gorges, gushing rivers, quaint towns, and warm hospitality, is full of surprises. Sharing borders with three countries — Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Vorarlberg is famous for the mesmeric Lake Constance, the third-largest freshwater lake in Central Europe.

Bregenz, the capital of Vorarlberg, is an ideal base to explore the lake and its scenic surroundings. Hop on to a cruise and within minutes you shall find yourself in another country, travellers can even rent out small boats to enjoy the lake in its full glory. A cultural hotspot, the lakeside city is also a harmonious blend of history and modernity and is best known for its many festivals, cultural events and the world’s largest floating stage, which gets a stunning makeover every year. Among the other attractions is the Bregenz Upper Town that houses the remnants of the old 13th-century town walls and is filled with beautiful architectural sights like St. Martin’s Tower, the Gothic parish church of St. Gall, and old town hall. Visitors can take the Pfänderbahn cable car and go atop of the majestic Pfänder Mountain, to witness the most spellbinding views of the city, Lake Constance, Swiss Alps and German Alps. During winter time Pfänder turns into one hot spot for skiers from across Europe.

The unadulterated landscapes of Bregenzerwald and the magnificent gorges of Rappenlochschlucht are among the other places in Vorarlberg that can’t be missed. Rolls-Royce museum in Dornbirn is sure to appeal to car enthusiasts. For foodies, a visit to Panoramarestaurant Karren, a panoramic restaurant at 976 metres above sea level is highly recommended, also not to be missed is Burgrestaurant Gebhardsberg. Located within the premises of a Roman castle, the restaurant serves one of the best Käsespätzle in Austria. The region also offers a variety of outdoor sports including cycling, mountain biking, walking, trekking, tennis, and paragliding.

Idyllic Innsbruck

With a beautiful melange of imperial splendour, natural beauty and modern architecture, Innsbruck is absolutely enchanting. The city’s biggest draw, undoubtedly, is the famous Nordkette Mountain, which can be visited by taking the Nordkettenbahn — a cable car designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. The 360-degree panoramic views from the summit, where you stand above the clouds, are soothing to the eyes and soul. In the heart of the charming old town lies the Golden Roof — an iconic part of the Habsburg residence, the Town Tower, the Gothic Church Hofkirche, which is known for the 28 bronze statues of the ancestors and heroes of Austria, the Baroque style Cathedral of St. James, and the Grassmayr Bell Museum and Foundry. The cobbled street of Innsbruck comes to life with several souvenir shops, gelato shops, and even boasts of the famous Sacher Cafe and a Speckaria.

The Bergisel ski jump is another attraction that adds to the wonders of this beautiful European town. The stunning Ambras Castle, the Imperial Palace, Ottoburg, and the Wilten Basilica all tell the tales of Innsbruck’s glorious and eventful history. The sparkling Swarovski Crystal World on the outskirts of Innsbruck is worth a visit. During summertime, thriller seekers can hop on to the regional bus and travel to Mieders for a thrilling Alpine coaster ride. Travellers are recommended to purchase the Innsbruck Card, which covers admission into all museums and tourist attractions, free transportation on buses, trams and it even includes a free walking tour.

Vibrant Vienna

What truly makes this capital city of Austria appealing is the sheer vibrancy that resonates through every little corner of the city. Peppered with old-world charm and urban landscapes, Vienna is one of the most elegant and architecturally rich European cities one can ever witness.

Bursting with an array of museums and galleries which are filled with original masterpieces by world-renowned artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Albrecht Dürer as well as popular works of contemporary artists, Vienna is indeed an art lover’s paradise. Museums like The Albertina, Belvedere Palace, Leopold, and Mumok should definitely be part of the Vienna itinerary.

The royal heritage of the city can be best explored by visiting the resplendent Schönbrunn Palace and Hofburg Palace. Sitting in the historic centre of Vienna, the gothic architectural gem — St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is one of the top attractions in Vienna. For an alternative experience, one can visit the catacombs beneath the cathedral, where you can see the preserved skeletons and tombs of bishops and royal residents of Vienna. For lighter experience, travellers can visit the amusement park — Prater, and enjoy some gorgeous views of the city from the giant ferris wheel, which is the main attraction at the park. With a line of designer boutiques, jewellery shops, antique stores, art stores — Vienna is also a shopper’s paradise. Music lovers can catch one of the several classical music performances happening everywhere in the city almost throughout the year. With several pretty cafes clustered across the city, Vienna is a foodie’s delight as well.

Spectacular Salzburg

Salzburg has a certain amount of excellence and style that lures tourist from across the globe. Spectacular scenery, cultural history, the burgeoning art scene and its presence in the Oscar-winning musical drama Sound Of Music are some of Salzburg’s biggest draws, apart from being famously known as the birthplace of the classical period influential composer — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hence a visit to Mozart Wohnhaus aka Mozart’s home is a definite must when visiting the city. Now a state-of-art museum, Mozart’s birthplace shares detailed information about the composer’s early life, his first musical instruments, his friends, and his passion for music among other things.

Travellers with an interest in history can get enchanted by the majestic splendour of Mirabell Palace, Domplatz, Schloss Hellbrunn, Salzburg Cathedral and the Fortress Hohensalzburg, which is Europe’s largest intact fortress. While a visit to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg is sure to appeal to art lovers, a stroll through the charming Getreidegasse shall delight the shopaholics. Salzburg with its scenic spots like Salzburger Hochthron, Gaisberg and the pristine Lake Mondsee doesn’t disappoint nature lovers either.

Heavenly Hallstatt

Nestled between the foothills of the towering Salzkammergut Mountains and the tranquil lake Hallstätter, this picture-perfect Austrian town will imprint your heart with its surreal charm. Winding cobblestone narrow streets, quaint chalets, scenic views of the lake, soaring mountains and the beauty of alpine wilderness — Hallstatt appears to be a town pulled straight out of a fairy-tale.

Though a small village, Hallstatt is a wonder to wander and the list of things that can be done here is not at all short. Accessible only on foot, one can explore some of the oldest salt mines of the world here. For the most breath-taking views of this alpine wonder, one can visit the Skywalk point.

Hallstatt museum and the romantic lakeside castle — Schloss Ort are other prime attractions in town. Kayak, canoe, swan ride, hiking the mountain, boat ride, evening on terraces are other activities one can indulge in Hallstatt.


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