DESTINATION FOCUS • November 2019
Whether it’s Mozart’s symphonies, Maria twirling down the Alps in The Sound of Music, or that first chocolatey forkful of Sachertorte, your love affair with Austria has likely already begun long before you arrive. As the first sprinkles of snow descend, Kerry Christiani, Austrian expert for The Telegraph and co-author of the Lonely Planet Austria guide, puts together an itinerary for every mood and moment
Oh, Vienna! The Austrian capital is cultural overload. Top billing goes to its hat-trick of exuberantly gilded, frescoed, chandelier-lit palaces – among them the Hofburg, HQ of Hapsburg emperors for 600 years; Unesco-feted Schloss Schönbrunn, sitting in sculpture-dotted gardens, and baroque beauty Schloss Belvedere, festooned with masterpieces by Klimt (The Kiss included), Schiele and Kokoschka. After dark, the lavish Staatsoper and Musikverein concert halls resonate to some of the world’s most revered orchestras. But don’t stop there. Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart, is topped by a medieval marvel of a fortress; Innsbruck enchants with its imperial Hofburg, and the Danube Valley lifts spirits with almighty Benedictine abbey Stift Melk (pictured).
Stay: Under the arcades in Innsbruck’s historic centre, delightfully old-fashioned Hotel Weisses Kreuz counts Mozart among its past guests.
There’s more to Austrian food than crisp apple strudel and schnitzel with noodles. Mornings might begin with a nose around a farmers’ market for picnic goodies, the biggest being Vienna’s Naschmarkt, brimming with fresh produce, spices and street food. For a wurst on the hoof, make for a sausage stand such as Bitzinger. More gourmet, season-driven riffs on Austrian cuisine are found countrywide at the likes of Obauer (pictured) in Werfen (Salzburg province); forage-focused Die Wilderin in Innsbruck, and slick Aiola Upstairs in Graz, serving creative Austrian tapas with ringside city views.
Stay: Up the romance with a night at Kirchenwirt in vine-strewn Wachau, where local wines are paired with excellent regional cooking.
Nature works on an epic scale in Austria, where more than half of the country is Alps. In the mountains of the Salzburg region you’ll find wonders such as the 380-metre-high, rainbow-kissed Krimmler Falls (pictured), Europe’s highest, and the Narnia-like chambers of Eisriesenwelt, the world’s largest accessible ice caves. Styria province enthrals with frozen sculptures at the Dachstein Ice Caves, as well as dress-circle views over thickly wooded mountains and sapphire-blue lakes from the cliff-hanging Krippenstein 5fingers viewing platform. For a road trip with altitude and sensational views, drive the 48km, hairpin-bend-riddled Grossglockner Road, capped off by 3,798-metre Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak.
Stay: A charming rustic-chic base for the night is Chalet Hotel Senger in Heiligenblut.
Vienna’s number one spot is unrivalled thanks to showstoppers such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum, winging you from Ancient Egypt to the Old Master paintings of Rembrandt and Rubens. For a more up-to-date take on the art scene, head across to the vast MuseumsQuartier, where the Leopold Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Egon Schiele originals (pictured), is just tip-of-the-iceberg stuff. Post-industrial Linz has rediscovered its verve with newcomers such as glass-fronted, colour-changing modern art gallery Lentos, and Ars Electronica, a fascinating interactive romp through new technology and science. In Graz, the sci-fi Kunsthaus hosts rotating contemporary exhibitions.
Stay: Check into architecturally innovative Hotel Topazz, where monochrome interiors are glammed up with fin-de-siècle Wiener Werkstätte designs and oval windows peer out across central Vienna.
One look at Austria’s landscapes and you’ll be eager to jump into boots or onto a bike, or perhaps throw yourself down a powder-soft slope or a gushing river. The country is ripe for adventure. In summer, you can stride into the Alps on high-level trails such as the Pinzgauer Spaziergang above Zell am See, with its tremendous views of the glacier-encrusted Hohe Tauern Range. Ramping up the action, Ziller Valley is a fine place to tandem paraglide (reputable outlets include Aktivzentrum), while the foaming Inn River is heaven for white-water rafting (try H20 Adventure). When the flakes start falling, the slopes buzz with skiers and boarders in legendary resorts such as Kitzbühel and St Anton am Arlberg.
Stay: Housed in a converted 500-year-old chalet, Steinerwirt in Zell am See offers light-filled, minimalist-chic rooms, locally sourced Austrian food, and a mountain-facing rooftop sauna and whirlpool.