Austria Tours and Travel Guide
Austria Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Austria -- the land of Mozart, Strauss, the Sound of Music, Alps, the Danube, Salzburg, and Vienna to name a few of the best-known icons -- has given us some of the world's greatest music, scenery, and cities. Once the center of power of a great empire, it's now a small Central European country that continues to enchant with its mountains, lakes, rivers, historic sites, grand Baroque architecture, orchestras, cafes, vineyards, villages, and Viennese cosmopolitanism. Whether you tour it by river cruise ship, mountain bike, or bus, Austria is one of Europe's essential stops.
If Austria had no cities at all, it still would attract more than its share of visitors from around the world, and with good reason. Despite its size, smaller than the state of Maine, Austria may well be more varied in geography than any other country in Europe.
Two-thirds of the compact nation is mountainous, providing some of the most spectacular high altitude views, and best variety of year-round activities, anywhere. The peaks of soaring mountains are reflected in tranquil lakes, and provide but one of a variety of equally inviting reasons to visit Austria. Skiers flock to world-famous resorts in winter.
After the snow melts they are followed by an influx of people drawn by hiking along sweeping hillsides that are blanketed in a rainbow of colorful wild flowers, mountain bikers and others interested in exploring the country’s historic heritage, rich culture, architectural treasures and other appeals.
Top tour activities in Austria
Many travelers to Austria are outdoors enthusiasts because of the fantastic natural landscape of Austria, including its mountains, valleys and lake regions.
Other visitors really enjoy the cultural and historical elements of visiting Austria including seeing sites from World Wars, Austrian history, famous art and musical artifacts and diving into the unique culinary scene of Austria’s cities.
Austria is a country that offers activities for every type of traveler. Be sure to look over the itinerary for your chosen tour to ensure that it aligns with your interests and passions. This small country has it all!
Historical sites in Austria
Austria is known as a place of castles, fortresses and folklore, so many of the historical sites to see fall within those categories. Many of the top historical sites are covered in the top 10 attractions below, so be sure to take a look there.
Austria is also a place where a visit to an art museum may uncover the genius of famous arts or you may stumble upon the sights that inspired famous classical musicians.
If you are a world history aficionado, there are numerous sites that will paint the picture for various time periods including World War I and II. A visit to Austria will definitely give you a greater picture of history.
The Classical City of Vienna
Vienna ranks high on many a traveler’s ‘must see” list. People visiting the most outstanding capitals of Europe often include Vienna on their itinerary, and they are not disappointed.
Present-day Austria, along with most of continental Europe, was ruled by members of the Habsburg (also spelled Hapsburg) dynasty for more than six centuries, and influences of their monarchy are very much alive today in the country’s largest city.
Examples of the imperial grandeur left as a legacy by the ruling family are everywhere. Opulent palaces vie with baroque mansions in their beauty, soaring cathedrals stand near museum buildings that are as impressive as the art inside them. Adding to the appeal is the fact that many major attractions are located in the compact historical center, within walking distance of each other.
Vienna is considered cornerstone to any visit to Austria and for great reasons. It is a cosmopolitan and unique city that showcases both traditional and new Austrian culture. There are fantastic museums, arts, a delectable culinary scene and historical architecture. A visit to Vienna is sure to delight all of your senses.
In particular, don't miss these top 3 destinations in Vienna
Schonbrunn palace and gardens - you will both learn about the history of the place and be taken away by the beauty of its architecture and grounds
Belvedere Museum - this museum houses the most important and iconic art masterpieces in Austria.
Naschmarkt - this is a historical and foodie’s heaven, where you can wander through a flea market and savor the diverse and distinct flavors of Austrian cuisine.
Top Cities in Austria
Beyond Vienna, Austria has many other interesting cities that will show you another side of this wonderful country.
Here are 5 other wonderful cities/areas to visit.
Salzburg - Known as the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg is a delightful city that has ties to the sights of Sound of Music. As such, it is a unique cultural gem.
Graz - Graz is a university city, with a host of art museums and international cuisines. It has a well-preserved old town that reflects Balkan and Italian culture.
Salzkammergut - This is a beautiful resort area starting from Salzburg and extending to the land of lakes. Those looking to relax and pamper themselves will enjoy this area.
Innsbruck - This is a great destination for skiers as it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976. It is a great all season destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Wachau Valley - A short trip from Vienna, the Wachau Valley is filled with culinary and cultural attractions, including vineyards and over 500 historic monuments.
The Austrian Outdoors
Given the varied landscape, it’s no surprise that Austria provides a setting for an equal variety of outdoor activities throughout the year. Skiing is the national sport, and some of the world’s most outstanding ski resorts are sprinkled among the Alps.
When the snow melts, outdoor-minded Austrians and visitors turn to a long list of warm-weather alternatives. These include mountain and road biking, river rafting and canoeing, and hiking. A popular pastime is to ride a ski lift up a mountain, take in the spectacular view and perhaps a bit of refreshment at a restaurant, then walk down the mountainside through fields of wildflowers.
Nature and Wildlife in Austria
Austria is known as an excellent destination for those looking to immerse themselves in high mountainous terrain, luscious valleys and exquisites lake country.
The influence of the well-preserved and beautiful landscapes on Austrian culture and leisure are unparalleled. Whether you are looking for an active or a relaxing trip, the setting of Austria is sure to complement your experience.
Since most of Austria is covered in forests, lakes, mountains and valleys, there are many opportunities to see wildlife while visiting Austria. For example, much of Austria has the central European fauna: deer, rabbit, stag, pheasant, fox and badger. The alpine areas also have the eagle and mountain jackdaw. So a visit to a natural area could offer you the delight of viewing these creatures!
Food for Thought - Austrian Cuisine
Enjoying the local food and drink of a destination is part of the immersion in its culture, and visitors to Austria are in for a treat. Make that multiple treats.
Warning to vegetarians: While fresh veggies and fruit are available and delicious, other artery-clogging national dishes are likely to challenge your willpower, and waistline. Think veal or pork schnitzel fried in butter, or a selection of sausages.
Mention Austria to any epicurean and images of that country’s deservedly world-famous pastries are likely to come to mind. Cakes and cream puffs, fruit tarts and Sachertorte layered chocolate sponge cake are among numerous treats that transform imbibing succulent sweets into a national ritual.
If, as some travelers insist, it’s possible to taste countries, the best-known flavor of Austria contains ample supplies of sugar, whipped cream and other mouth-watering, hard-to-resist flavors.
Top foods to try in Austria
Wiener Schnitzel - this wouldn’t be a complete list without including this famous sausage, as it is on many travelers bucket lists.
Apple Strudel - Strudel also means whirlwind and this is a delicious whirlwind of apples, sugar and flakey butter pastry.
Pumpkin soup - think savory meets sweet and add a dollop of fresh cream.
Knodel - bread dumplings, known as Christmas delicacies, but are popular year round.
Kaiserschmarrn - pancakes topped with fresh berries and berry jam.
The Sound of Music in Austria
The story of Austrian Captain Georg von Trapp, his second wife Maria and the 10 children from his two marriages is known around the world because of the Broadway musical and subsequent movie which, with some hyperbole, recounted it.
The film was released in 1965 and showcases many beloved locations and scenery from Austria. Many visitors to Austria are aficionados of the film and like to visit the many sites in Salzburg and the surrounding area where the film was filmed. There are many specialized tours within Salzburg that highlight this iconic film.
That being said, Austrians encourage visitors to see the other side of Salzburg and Austria as well. The movie was decidedly popular in the United States, but actually not well-received in Austria because of various historical and cultural inaccuracies in the film. In addition to enjoying the sights of the film, be sure to explore more about this other side of The Sound of Music on a trip to Salzburg.
Classical Music in Austria
Centuries before that World War II story, Austria and Vienna had taken their place at the top of the classical music scene because of the long list of great composers and musicians who were born, or lived and worked there.
The list is a virtual Who’s Who of outstanding musical talent during the 18th and 19th centuries. It includes Beethoven, Brahms and Bach; Schubert and Johann Strauss (both father and son); Haydn and Handel; Mozart and other renowned leaders in the musical world.
Given this history, it’s hardly surprising that hardly a day goes by without at least one exceptional concert, opera or recital taking place in Vienna. For those with a different taste in music, the city also offers a choice of clubs where jazz and other popular sounds are the fare.
There are many uniquely Austrian souvenirs to bring home from your adventure. Imagine bringing home the classic chocolate treat known as Mozart Balls (yes, after the famous composer) or anything that was made by the famous artist Klimt (think of the iconic painting The Kiss).
Here are 5 other great souvenirs from Austria
Cuddly bear or other animal wearing the traditional outfit, Lederhosen. You could also get some for yourself to wear.
Manner wafers, which are another classic treat, are a delicious hazelnut wafer.
Snowglobe depicting the expansive and gorgeous landscapes of Austria
Austrian beer glass, so you can remember your trip and the delicious beer of Austria when you’re enjoying beer at home.
Austrian wine after visiting the wonderful vineyards on your trip.
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