Between the beautiful countryside, picturesque towns and bustling metropolitans, Austria is a diverse country that offers different types of journeys for all types of travelers.
If you’ve ever been to Austria, then you know the hills really are alive with the sound of music. Julie Andrews gave us a peak into the gorgeous landscape and rich history that Austria is known for, but there is so much more. Between the beautiful countryside, picturesque towns and bustling metropolitans, Austria is a diverse country that offers different types of journeys for all types of travelers.
I first visited Austria when I was living in Munich. I took a day trip there, by train to visit Salzburg. To this day, this is one of my favorite things, I mean cities. I’ll stop with the Sound of Music puns, but they are so me, a name I call myself. Some people don’t recommend doing a day trip on a Sunday in Europe, because most of the shops and restaurants are closed, but this is always a great way to see a popular city without having to deal with all of the crowds.
On my first journey to Salzburg I remember arriving into the city on the far side of the river marveling at how charming a town could be set with the Alps in the background. Choose one of the many bridges that will lead you over into the city center, or stroll along the banks and enjoy a picnic. Once in the city you are greeted by shops both high end and local. The smells of street food wafting in the air, and accordion music sets the tone for a truly transformative experience. If you are on the hunt for great food, stroll the main street to find options from all over the world. I love finding around the corner, up a set of stairs, type of restaurants because it always feels that much more authentic. And you can’t really be in Austria without sampling the schnitzel with spaetzle. You will find other Austrian delicacies throughout the city, make sure to try the Sachertorte for dessert.
Aside from the marvelous food that Salzburg has to offer, there is also a lot to see in this tiny town. Right along the main street you will notice a group of tourists looking up at a bright yellow house with the words “Mozarts geburtshaus”, meaning Mozart’s birth house, this is in fact, the home that the great composer Mozart was born in. If you pop into one of the dozens of bakeries you will also find a delicious souvenir known as Mozart Kugel, which are small chocolate and marzipan treats that make good presents to bring home for the family and for you to enjoy as you stroll around the town.
Continue along the main street until you arrive in the square. Here you will have an excellent view of the Hohensalzburg Castle set atop the hill looking down onto the city. You can get up to the castle by tram or walking and it is open 365 days of the year, which also makes Salzburg a great location to visit during down times of the year and Sundays. Take in the Baroque architecture and opt for an audio tour to learn about this castle built in the 11th century. Other great options for site seeing in Salzburg include dozens of churches, the Salzburg Residenz as well as Schloss Mirabell. Having gone back to Salzburg a couple of times now it is one of those places where you feel at home as soon as you arrive. It is easy to navigate and the charm of the town brings you back to all of your previous visits.
If you are the type of traveler looking for a little more to see and do, then Vienna may be your Austrian city of choice. With a population of almost 2 million, Vienna is Austria’s largest city and capital. Unlike Salzburg, Vienna will require a bit more time to explore. When I first arrived in the capital I did so by bus. Vienna truly is a juxtaposition of Salzburg. Although, they both hold history, culture and cuisine, Vienna is a true European city. Both historic and modern, Vienna offers art, architecture and industry. My first stop was at the Schoenbrunn Palace. This summer residence offers opulent interiors that show off the rococo style made popular by the French. If you are looking to take in a show during the day, the Spanish Riding School is an excellent option. Let the Lipizzaner horses show off their skills as you enjoy this 450 year old Austrian tradition.
If shopping is something you are looking for, then Vienna is the place for you. Paris has the Champs Elysees, New York has 5th Avenue and Vienna has the Goldenes Quartier. Here you will find luxury brands from around the world. Even if you don’t want to splurge on your favorite European designers this is an excellent place for people watching and window shopping. If you go to Vienna around the Christmas season you will also find the world renowned Christkindlmarkt. These Christmas markets offer hand made goods, local items, delicious food and of course gluehwein. The mulled wine is a delicious treat to warm up on a cool winter day. Stroll the lanes and lanes of the Christmas market and enjoy a town that truly loves the Christmas holiday.
Vienna is known for many things, but one in particular is the Viennese Coffee House Culture. This is not the town to grab a quick Americano from a Starbucks, no matter how bad you want the free Wi-Fi. Take in a true Vienna experience by popping into one of the hundreds of coffee houses in the city. Although, all unique, you will find traditional elements such as marble table tops, delicious pastries and languages from all over the world. The Vienna coffee houses attract tourist from every corner of the earth. Think the salons of Paris, but with cheaper coffee and just as thrilling conversation. Bring your fellow travelers with you and discuss political topics at hand or sit quietly by yourself and take in the surroundings.
Austria is an excellent travel location, one that offers rich history, delicious food and unending options for entertainment. You will see influences from Germany, France and other European nations, but Austria is a truly unique experience. Taking in a bit of the city, some small towns and the countryside gives you a well-rounded Austrian experience that will leave with a greater understanding of this diverse country.