Austria is one of my favourite countries that I’ve recently had the chance to travel to. I was blown away by the natural beauty of the mountain scenery that surrounded me as I made my way from each destination every couple of days, which in the end, made it very difficult to leave. The cities are pristine, the air is clean, the people are kind and the food…ohh, the glorious food.
Austria is often called “heaven on earth” by those who visit because it’s just so beautiful that when you’re there, it feels like you’re standing within the pages of a fairytale.
Situated in Central Europe, this German-speaking country oozes with imperial charm, natural beauty, rugged alpine terrain accompanied by cool fresh air. Austria is a federal republic, so it is comprised of nine independent federal states, or provinces: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna.
During my nine days of travelling through Austria by rail (ÖBB) I made my way from one end of the country to the other. I visited a total of seven cities, villages and towns during my trip; Vienna, Steyr, Gmunden, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Zell am See and Innsbruck. I chose to concentrate more on visiting the smaller mountain towns and of course, I had to visit the top three major cities; Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
If you are thinking about adding Austria to your European bucket list, I highly suggest you do. When you do visit, also make sure to venture out of the major cities to experience everything that Austria has to offer its visitors.
I guarantee that once you go, you’ll want to return again and again…trust me. 😉
Here are my 12 reasons why you need to visit Austria.
Music is a huge deal within Austrian culture and to its people. Classical music goes hand in hand with Vienna and the city was an important place for music innovation. Composers such as Beethoven and Mozart dominated the classical music scene back in its prime days and even to this day, you can visit the famous Operas and classical music shows around Vienna. Further in the mountains, traditional Austrian folk music can be enjoyed as well as yodeling. Literature is a large part of the Austrian culture as well. Many poets, writers and novelists such as Peter Altenberg call Austria home. Austrians take great pride in their musical culture as well as their love for nature and all things outdoorsy. Being outdoors in the mountains is very important to Austrians no matter the weather. In the summer, you’ll find Austrians hiking in the hills and in the winter, you’ll find them skiing and enjoying winter sports. The long time rule under the imperial Habsburg’s have also had a major influence in Austrian culture, which can be seen throughout the country and why Austria is known for rich arts and culture.
Austria is home to a vast array of different styles in architecture. Ranging from Romanesque, Baroque and Medieval to the traditional wooden cabins dotted throughout the Salzkammergut region, Austrian architecture is definitely a treat for the eyes. Examples of Baroque architecture are the Salzburg Cathedral, Belvedere Palace and Mirabell Palace. Viennese Classicism can be found throughout the famous boulevard, Ringstraße (ring road) in Vienna. In Innsbruck, modern architecture by the late architect, Zaha Hadid can be found at the Hungerburg funicular near the Congress Centre and the stations heading up to the Nordkette Mountain. The futuristic stations are beautiful and sleek in design. My favourite architecture within Austria has to be the traditional mountain homes made of wood that have cozy, cottage vibes and can be found all throughout the mountain regions of Salzkammergut and Tirol with stunning lake views to complement them.
I travelled through Austria solo and had zero safety concerns. I was able to walk alone and not be hassled by a single person and even walked alone at night with no issues. Austria is one of the safest countries to travel to in the entire world, but as with any country, always be aware of your surroundings and keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine. Petty crime like pickpocketing exists everywhere, even in the safest places. Trust your gut when it comes to scenarios, or neighbourhoods that may not give you the best vibes and if you feel uneasy about an area, or situation, remove yourself from there. Traveller’s gut is a real thing, so if you feel unsafe, trust your gut. I found that Austria was the perfect place to visit as a solo female traveller and highly recommend it if you are planning to travel solo, for the tenth time, or the first time.
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Like many European countries, Austria has a tumultuous past, which has made them as strong as they are today. This is just a quick Coles Notes about Austria’s colourful history and I definitely know I’ve probably skipped over a few details. 😉 In the early years, around 400 BC, Austria was run by Celtics, then Romans in 200 BC and by 15 BC, the Romans dominated the entire region. By the mid 500’s, the Bavarians moved in to rule the land and around 800, the Holy Roman Emperor established a territory along the Danube. Between 976 and 1246, the dynasty of the Babenberg’s ruled and during the 12th-century, Henry II moved his residence from Melk to Vienna, which since then, has been the capital city. During the 12th-century, the grand St.Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna was also completed and is now the landmark of Vienna that everyone knows to this day. Approximately 100 years later, the Habsburg’s took over the rule and stayed in power for about six centuries, therefore having the most influence over any other rule that Austria had. In 1529 and 1683, the Turks tried and unsuccessfully to invade Vienna, which then prompted other countries to join the Habsburgs Empire. During the Baroque period in the 1700’s, music, arts and culture soared within Austria, Vienna being the main focus due to the Habsburg’s love of the finer things in life, of course. The 20th-century saw two horrific World Wars and once Emperor Franz Joseph died in 1916 and WWI ended in 1918, it was the birth of the Republic of Austria, which ended the 640 year Habsburg Empire. WWII saw German troops storm the country with Adolf Hitler and after the war ended in 1945, Austria was run by its winning allies and finally in 1955, the Austrian State Treaty was declared and in 1995, Austria joined the EU. *phew*
Quality Of Life
In a country so beautiful, it’s easy to see why Austrians are so happy with their lives. The Austrian way of living is happy and active for the most part due to the close proximity to incredible mountains and more hiking trails than I could imagine and is well above the average quality of life within other countries around the globe. Recently, Vienna was voted as the #1 city in the world for quality of life. As you walk through any town, city and village, you will see people dining, or enjoying a beer at an outdoor café with friends and chatting about their days.
Read more: How To Spend 2 Days In Vienna, Austria
Traditional Austrian food is typically on the heavier side and your plate is sure to have some kind of meat on it, but don’t fret veggies, Austria’s larger cities and towns are starting to recognize the growing veggie and vegan scene that has recently exploded throughout the country, as well as Europe as a continent. Typical Austrian dishes that I tried and loved were hearty, hot and mouthwatering. Some traditional food that I absolutely loved was Rindsuppe (beef soup), which is a clear soup with golden colour and sometimes served with a large, baseball sized dumpling sitting directly in the middle of the bowl. My personal favourite dish to indulge in while in Vienna, is the good ‘ol fashioned Wiener Schnitzel. A traditional styled Wiener Schnitzel should classically be veal, breaded and fried. There is usually potatoes served alongside the meat, or a warm potato salad. There is almost always a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the crispy breaded meat, which adds that delicious zing to the dish.
Read more: Delicious Food & Beer Of Austria
Austrians really love their beer. They are second to the Czech Republic for consuming the cold, golden hued brew, so they know a thing or two when it comes to beers, whether it’s brewing it, or drinking it. Much like German beer, Austrian beer is brewed using pure and natural ingredients to produce a clean and delicious brew, which is enjoyed by the world over. Beer is generally sold in the following sizes in Austria: 0.2 litre (a Pfiff), 0.33 litre (a Seidel, kleines Bier or Glas Bier) and 0.5 litre (a Krügerl or großes Bier or Hoibe). At some establishments, you may even find the one litre (Maß) and two litre (Doppelmaß) , which are served in the Bavarian style steins.
Traditional Coffee Houses
Coffee is to an Austrian as pizza is to an Italian; it’s a staple of life and a large part of the culture. The Austrian coffee house is still popular to this day mostly because of the many historical figures that have graced the inside of their traditional walls. Emperors, musicians, poets and political figures are just some of the many VIP’s that have visited these traditional coffee houses over hundreds of years. A traditional coffee house is more than a place to enjoy your morning java. It’s a place that mixes culture, class, decadence and a comfortable ambiance all rolled into one place. Within Vienna alone, there are approximately 850 coffee houses, about 150 of them are considered traditional. Decked out with wooden floors, wooden walls, simple furniture and even some with stunning vaulted ceilings adorned with glistening chandeliers, these coffee houses are considered to be an extension of your living room meaning that you could order up a coffee, a slice of cake and linger for hours reading a newspaper without being pushed out. Your coffee is brought to you on a silver platter with sugar on the side if you need it, a glass of water and sometimes you’ll even be given a biscuit or a piece of chocolate, which makes the whole visit more of an exceptional experience rather than just grabbing a standard coffee and cookie and hitting the road. Visiting a traditional coffee house has always been more of an event, which is probably why visitors are curious and enamored by the coffee house culture within Vienna and Austria as a whole. Make sure to try a few variations of the coffees on the menu, just be prepared to pay for the experience, as Austria’s traditional coffee houses do not run cheap, but boy, are they delicious though!
From the Dachstein Mountain Range in the Salzkammergut Region to the Nordkette Mountains in Tirol, Austria boasts some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery that I’ve ever seen. Turquoise rivers flow with mountain backdrops and green valleys are dotted with traditional alpine homes. Do yourself a favour when you find yourself in Austria and make sure to take a few cable cars up to the mountain tops and admire the towns and villages from high above. You can also find numerous hiking trails within the hills with crystal clear lakes greeting you once the pathway opens up. Visit during the autumn season, so you can watch the forest turn into a bright kaleidoscope of colours with the changing leaves.
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Easy To Get Around
Austria is one of the easiest countries to get around in. The cities are walkable, the roads are a dream to road trip through, the public transit is flawless and the rail line will take you from one end of the country to the other safely and efficiently. It’s no secret that I adore travelling by train and travelling through Austria by train is easy, efficient, fast and comfortable and I highly recommend travellers to do the same if you plan on visiting Austria. You don’t have to worry about the weather (although there are sometimes disruptions to to heavy snowfall in the mountains), traffic, hidden car rental fees, or any of the hassles of road rage; just sit back and enjoy pure relaxation as the mountains, villages and streams surround you on your epic rail journey. The Austrian national train company, ÖBB operates all the major lines within Austria, so getting around to all ends of the country isn’t a problem. If you prefer to be on your own schedule, you could always rent a car and make your way through the mountainous roads that way.
Read more: Travelling Around Austria By Train
Attention all outdoor sports enthusiasts! If you love spending time hiking, swimming, snowboarding, skiing and mountain climbing, then Austria is the place you want to be. No matter the weather, Austrians are head over heels in love with the outdoors and being immersed in nature and are introduced to outdoor activities at a very young age, which makes it a large part of their culture. In the summer months, kilometres of hiking trails can be enjoyed throughout the mountains and in the winter months, those mountains turn into a snow lovers paradise, making Austria one of the top winter sports destinations in the world. With an endless amount of freshwater lakes, there are ample opportunities to go boating, swimming and fishing as well. If an active holiday is what you are in need of then visiting Austria would be your best bet for keeping fit, exploring and having fun doing it.
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The Salzkammergut Region of Austria is well known for its traditional style wooden homes surrounded by stunning lakes, mountain ranges and the cutest little town squares to sit in and people watch while enjoying a beer, or coffee. Straight out of what seems to be the pages of a storybook, in the heart of the Salzkammergut Lake Region, sits the most idyllic and stunning little village of Hallstatt. It’s surrounded by the clear clean water of the Hallstättersee and the imposing Dachstein mountains, making it one of the most gorgeous places within Austria. It’s cute little streets and colourful Marktplatz are a treat to walk aimlessly around. Although places like Hallstatt are now overrun by tourists most days, the Salzkammergut Region is home to many other small villages to get lost and relax in. You could even hop on a train and head towards Tirol to explore some of the small villages in that region as well.
Read more: How To Spend 2 Days In Salzburg, Austria
A country that seamlessly transitions from the imperial palaces and grandiose architecture of Vienna to the emerald green mountains and crystal clear lakes of mountain towns such as Zell am See; there is no shortage of beautiful countryside and impressive history to delight its visitors making Austria one of my top destinations to visit within Europe.
Have any of you guys been to Austria? If so, tell me where you’ve been in the comments below! xo