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Austria Tourism And Travel Guide
7.2° C / 45° F
Light Intensity Shower Rain
March to September
7 to 8 Days
Vienna International Airport
Austria is the birthplace of Mozart and a land of fairytale like towns, tall imposing castles and baroque palaces, high snow-capped mountains with lakes that look right out of a canvas painting. This country is renowned world over to be the central hub of some of the most stunning Christmas markets and sees a lot of winter tourism as a result. Austria is sure one of the first countries to come to mind when you want to explore a magical Christmas. But it is also brilliant in summers and makes for great outdoor as well historical expeditions. Here’s a little travel guide to help you on your way to Austria.
How to Reach
For Indians, the best and easiest way to reach Austria is by air, though internally train travel is preferable.
Austria’s capital Vienna is a major international airport and you will get regular 6-7 hour flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. While in Austria, their budget airlines are a good bet to travel - Eurowings Europe, easyJet and Niki airlines.
Train travel is one of the most convenient and cheapest travel options in Austria, scenic too. You can catch a train into the country from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein etc, as well as travel between cities like Graz, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna etc with Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). Vienna has two main railway stations, namely Wien Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof and Wien Westbahnhof that serve as a hub.
All countries that have signed the Schengen Agreement can pass each others’ borders without any hassles or control from the other. Austria is one of the members, hence making travel into the country very easy from neighbouring lands. You can hire a car or book a seat in a bus, whichever your budget sanctions.
Trains and local trains are great for travel within Austria, while some places are best reached by buses. To get around in a city, hire cars or bicycles to peddle around or choose trams, as is the case in cities like Graz, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Austrian weather is great through its spring and summer and even beginning of autumn, so these are good seasons for a visit. However, the winter month of December is also great because of the famous Christmas night markets.
Spring (March to May):
Spring season in Austria starts with a gentle rise in temperatures from freezing point. The ski resorts see the last of their crowds by March and longer, warmer days replace the dreary ones. The average temperature in spring is 6-14°C and this makes the weather good for exploration.
Summer (June to August):
Summer is the peak season, with tourists a dime a dozen at every nook and cranny you check. The temperature touches 25°C and rains are pretty heavy with sudden outbursts. So it is advised you carry an umbrella at all times. The sightseeing is still at its best in summer and the parades, festivals and puppet shows make everything more amusing.
Autumn (September to November):
Autumn brings a mix of reds and shimmering golds to town, with temperatures dropping back down to 19°C and rains receding. September is still quite full with tourists but come October and the areas start becoming scantier. Quietness falls in the plains and cities, while ski resorts open up again by November.
Winter (December to February):
Winter is not a tourist time in any north or central European country by default. It is bitter cold and very chilly. However, Austria makes an exception as it opens some of the most stunning night markets during the Christmas month of December, attracting hoards of tourists. The ski resorts are also full to brimming. Hence winter is not for historic or cultural expeditions around cities like Vienna, but for Christmas and snow sports.
Things to Do
Explore Vienna’s Art:
Vienna is a stunning city of baroque palaces and rich museums, Hapsburg residences and decadent gardens. You will find yourself admiring art everywhere you go, from the Museums Quartier district to Palace of Schönbrunn, the Hapsburg Palace to Ringstrasse Boulevard. What’s more is, Vienna was also the home of musicians like Mozart and Beethoven, so you will find much of their heritage and music here too.
Go for Christmas markets:
Austria is renowned for its Christmas markets, all those night markets set up amid swirling snow and fairy lights, ensconced within fragrances of coffees and ales and mulled wines and gingerbread. You will find that some beautiful markets are set up in Vienna, like the Christmas World at City Hall. In Innsbruck you have Hungerburg Christmas Market as well as Old Town Christmas Market, while Salzburg has the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt.
Follow the Hapsburg Trail:
The Hapsburg dynasty ruled Austria for more than 600 years and their heritage and riches are clearly displayed in the monuments ad palaces they left the country with. From the Bad Ischl Museum and Imperial Villa to Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, Lainz Game Reserve and the Hermes Villa and Ringstrabe boulevard, all of the rich Hapsburg glory can be touched in these places. It would be a history buff’s dream come true!
Go Skiing in the Alps:
Skiing schools and ski resorts do very good business in the Alps of Austria through winter. The snow is perfectly textured and makes for some of the best ski routes in the world where people come to indulge from far and wide. Alrberg is the best place to go for a skiing holiday, while Kirchberg is great for an overall winter fun - from spas and skiing to snowboarding and mountain biking.
Listen to Mozart:
Mozart is long dead, but the echo of his creative genius still trails behind in this country of his birth. You will find that Salzburg, his birth-land, is full of trivia as well as heritage of this music maestro. Enjoy the Mozart Concert in Salzburg with live performances and dramas, go for tours of Mozart’s house and the museums that now display his artefacts. Music lovers will fall in love with Austria all over again.
What to Eat
The Austrians have a penchant for beef and pork dishes, as well as breads and pastries like most of central Europe. You will find yourself indulging in tafelspitz, apple strudels, sauerkraut and dumplings for the most part of main course meals, along with the various varieties of soups and broths. Pancakes are a famous treat here, as are plum jams and crepes. One of the most famous delicacy is the chocolate of this land, whisked into rich cakes, marzipan balls, tarts and pralines. Some great places to eat local Austrian fare are Cafe Landtmann and Fabio’s. Beer and wine make for the most indigenous drinks of choice and you must try each.
Where to Shop
Shopping in this country is not cheap and Austria by no means is a ‘shopper’s paradise.’ However, you will find that the VAT returns on all your purchases as tourists do lower the price of goods considerably. Some souvenirs to take back from here are wooden toys, jewellery, sacher torte chocolate cake, pumpkin seed oil, Himbeergeist’s raspberry schnapps, leather goods and trousers. Most cities are not centred around shopping mall culture but thrive in open markets that are organic and homely. Some of the best places to shop in Vienna are Kärtner Strasse and Mariahilfer Strasse. Innsbruck is known for its Maria Theresien Strasse and Salzburg for Getreidegasse and Linzergasse.