Austria is one of our favourite European countries, and not just for Vienna’s stately elegance. Yes, the capital is amazing, but we also love the other major cities, the small towns, the countryside — and of course, the food and drink. Whether you visit for a few days or several months, there’s plenty to do, see, and eat. Yum.
1. Discover Vienna
There’s always more to see in this tranquilly beautiful capital, from the architecture to the parks to the world-class museums in Museumsquartier. A Third Man tour is highly recommended.
2. Get around by train
The train network in Austria is excellent, and the carriages are clean, comfortable and usually equipped with power sockets. There are lots of discounts available on the rather pricy tickets, or use a Eurail pass.
3. Ski or hike in Innsbruck
Flying into Innsbruck is as much a treat for you as it is a challenge for the pilot, as the city is positioned between two rows of mountains – which are great for skiing in winter and hiking in summer.
4. Eat at a heuriger
These farm restaurants can only sell locally produced food, usually a variety of cold-cut meats, cheeses and pickles. Accompany your meal with a glass of local wine, and you’ll be in heaven.
5. Go wine-tasting
You can visit the wineries themselves, or head to a local vinothek (wine-tasting room and shop). Many towns (including some very very small ones) have a vinothek, where you can try local wines and wines from further afield for a small fee.
6. Head to the countryside
Austria’s cities are incredible, but the small towns nestled in valleys and on hillsides have a charm of their own.
Made famous by Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Melk’s sumptuous monastery sits high and impressive, overlooking the Donau and a small but interesting town below.
7. Cruise on the Donau
You can call it the Danube if you like, but make sure you spend a little time on the water.
8. Discover Salzburg
Although it’s known in English-speaking countries as the home of the Sound of Music, there’s a lot more to Salzburg than singing nuns. Explore the castle, head to one of the salt mines for which the city is named, visit Mozart’s houses. And if you’re a Sound of Music fan, watch the movie while you’re there and do one of the many, many tours on offer.
9. Eat wiener schnitzel, preferably in Wien (otherwise known as Vienna)
It’ll be served with fries or cold potato salad, and will quite likely be the size of a large plate. Make sure you’re hungry before you order one! Wash it down with beer or Almdudler: Austria’s local softdrink is hard to find outside of the country, and it’s really good.
10. Go to a Christmas market and drink gluhwein
Christmas markets pop up all over Europe in late November, but Vienna’s are a bit different. For one thing, there’s not just one market, several are scattered throughout the city – and the setting is incredible. Warm yourself up with a glass of gluhwein (mulled wine) or a hot chocolate.