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Exploring Austria

Our Travel Guide

Austria is a German-speaking country in Central Europe, characterized by mountain villages, baroque architecture, Imperial history and rugged Alpine terrain. Vienna, its Danube River capital, is home to the Schönbrunn and Hofburg palaces and  has counted Mozart, Strauss and Freud among its residents. The country’s other notable regions include the northern Bohemian Forest, Traunsee Lake and eastern hillside vineyards.

Austria is beautiful and whether you want to explore alpine terrain, beautiful lakes or vibrant historic cities, there is something for everyone in Austria.

Austria is always a great holiday destination. 

Austria at a Glance

In Austria the power plugs and sockets are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

The Euro (symbol: €) became the official Austrian currency on January 1st, 2002.

62% of Austria is covered by the Austrian Alps.

When the Turks fled the city of Vienna in 1683, they left behind a large quantity of coffee beans, thereby launching the great Viennese tradition of the Kaffeehaus (coffee house). Since the 19th century, the coffee house has been an indispensable social part of Viennese middle class and intellectual life.

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Austria’s lakes and mountains have been a popular holiday destination for Kati and her family since being young.  We have explored Austria and love the people, vibrant cities and history that comes alive.

Top 5 Experiences in Austria

1. Hallstatt 

There are several options for arriving in the spectacular Alpine village of Hallstatt.  We arrived by car, but a ferry ride across the lake probably beats them all. You cannot drive within the town itself and as the tiny village tucked between mountains come into view across the water, the beauty is overwhelming.

For centuries villagers traded salt, a then sought-after commodity that lies deep inside the mountains.

A few steps from the market square and you can snap a photo of one of the most photographed points in the world.  Then capture the delightful houses built into the mountains and women dressed in typical outfits.  It all makes going to Hallstatt a step back in time.

After renting a boat and photographing the town, have lunch and head to quirky Beinhaus, where skulls and bones from the last 8 centuries find a home.  Some skulls are painted in bright colors according to local tradition which gives this historic crypt an artistic touch.

The next day, take an elevator up to the Hallstatt salt mine. It’s one of the oldest salt mines in the world, and welcomes visitors into a cool maze of tunnels.

A wooden slide takes you deep into Salzberg (salt mountain) which has been used for mining since around 5000 BCE.


Worked up an appetite? Head to the village of Obertraun at the bottom of Lake Hallstatt. Take the Dachstein Krippenstein cable care that overlooks one of Europe’s most impressive glaciers. The region’s mountains are dotted with cozy huts that sometimes even take overnight guests.

Kati and I have stayed in one of these huts and it was cozy and warm, served delicious hearty food and we loved hiking the mountains.  Stay in one of the many family-owned huts for a romantic, authentic visit to the area.

2. Vienna

This is our favorite Austrian city. Vienna lies in the country’s east on the Danube River. Its artistic and intellectual legacy was shaped by residents including Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. The city is also known for its Imperial palaces, including Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ summer residence. In the Museum Quarter, art and history comes alive.

Vienna is not to be missed.  Our favorite Vienna sites are:

1. Schönbrunn Palace – Schönbrunn Palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, located in Hietzing, Vienna. The 1,441-room Rococo palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historic monuments in the country.

Spend at least a half-day here and if you want to make it a full day, add the Schonbrunn Gardens.

2. The Vienna State Opera House – The Vienna State Opera House delivers exactly what Vienna is known for: Opera and fine architecture.  It is centrally located in the Innere Stadt district in Vienna and is considered one of the finest Opera Houses in the World.

There are daily guided tours that last about 40 minutes.  But for a really special experience, do a little research and attend an opera or concert.  Kati and I attended a Mozart Symphony and loved it.

3. The Natural History Museum – We fell in love with the Vienna Natural History Museum. With over 30 million objects, and one of the most important collections in Europe, there are rooms filled with minerals, precious stones, meteorites, fossils, skeletons of animals, displays of various insects and mammals and even some taxidermy of extinct species.

Both children and adults will love the Natural History Museum.  It is close enough to walk to the State Opera House and the Museum District.

4. Spanish Riding School – The Spanish Riding School is an Austrian institution dedicated to the preservation of classical dressage and the training of Lipizzaner horses. These horses are really amazing and even if you are not into riding, you will appreciate the training and discipline of these beautiful animals.

5. Vienna Coffee House – Do not go to Vienna and miss out on the Vienna Coffee House culture. The social practices, the rituals, the elegance create the very specific atmosphere of the Viennese café and should not be missed during your visit.  

There are many other sites to see in Vienna including the Vienna Zoo, the Sigmund Freud Museum and House, the Mozart Apartment, the Belvedere Museum and many other museums and palaces.  Take your time and make sure you see what interests you.

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3. The Alps

When we speak to people about the Austrian Alps, most think about skiing and others about the incredible natural beauty.  We believe that even if you are not a skier, a trip to the Alps is always something should have on their must-do lists when traveling to Austria.

Tyrol, a cluster of tiny towns 300 miles from Vienna, there are activities from the culinary to wellness, and even thermal waters.

Innsbruck is the capital city in this region.  While it is famous for the ski culture with the Winter Olympics being hosted here in 1964 and 1976, it is so much more.  With eleven museums and several landmarks, Innsbruck is a cultural mecca.

In Sölden, take one of the gondola rides all the way to the top and visit the Ice Q.  The Ice Q is a glass-enclosed restaurant that is nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.  It also appeared in the James Bond film Spectre. We recommend the famed apple strudel and take in the views.

Then head to the Acqua Dome in Lanenfeld for it’s thermal waters.  You don’t have to book a room and stay there, you can get a day pass and soak in the 95 degree water.

St. Anton’s  charming downtown is a picture-perfect ski town, with undulating snow-topped mountain ranges and a winding main street.  This is where Alpine Skiing originated and there are many shops filled with ski gear, but there are many restaurants that offer Alpine cuisine.  You don’t need to ski to enjoy the town and scenery.

If you are like us, you will never want to leave.

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4. Salzburg

Salzburg is an Austrian city on the border of Germany, with views of the Eastern Alps. The city is divided by the Salzach River, with medieval and baroque buildings of the pedestrian Altstadt (Old City – an UNESCO World Heritage Site) on its left bank, facing the 19th-century Neustadt (New City) on its right. The Altstadt birthplace of famed composer Mozart is preserved as a museum displaying his childhood instruments.

A city walk, a Sound of Music tour (cheesy but fun), Mozart’s birthplace and residence are all activities in Salzburg.  Kati and I loved going to a café and people watched as we walked around the city and visited Mozart’s house.

Though not our favorite Austrian city, it is worth going to Salzburg for a day or two.

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5. Lake Wolfgang

Lake Wolfgang is a lake in Austria that lies mostly within the state of Salzburg and is one of the best known lakes in the Salzkammergut resort region. The municipalities on its shore are Strobl, St. Gilgen with the villages of Abersee and Ried as well as the market town of St. Wolfgang in the state of Upper Austria.

We love Lake Wolfgang, and have celebrated family birthdays there, explored the markets and just relaxed and enjoyed the lake.


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