3:46 PMTravel to Austria
Austria is a diverse country, rich in culture with spectacular scenery. Its regions offer a wealth of activities and pursuits for all ages and interests. As one of the most mountainous countries in Europe (approximately 60% of the country's surface area), Austria undoubtedly boasts one of the most impressive skiing regions in the world, with many different resorts attracting tourists from far and wide. As well as skiing there is also a large number of hiking trails, cycling and many other leisure activities on offer.
Nightlife can vary; Austria can offer anything from beer gardens, laid-back taverns and great apres-ski spots, plus many trendy bars and clubs which are open until the early hours. Austria is a popular tourist destination all year round, with both summer and winter activities. Away from the ski slopes, the cities are well worth a visit. Vienna, the capital; renowned for having some of the most impressive architecture in Europe and is ideal for art and music enthusiasts. The city of Salzburg is the most popular among tourists. This stunning historical city was the birthplace of the great classical composer Mozart. The Salzburg festival held each summer still attracts the world's best classical artists.
The summers in Austria offer a comfortable heat with cool nights. However, in Vienna and other low lying cities temperatures can get uncomfortably hot between July and August. The winters are cold, below freezing in January and February which encourage plenty of winter sports. The winter ski season runs from December to April. Outdoor sports enthusiasts should note that the sun can be intense at high altitudes it is important to slather on the sun screen.
Things to see and do
Austria's capital, Vienna, is located in the northeast of the country at the foothills of the Alps, alongside the Danube River. This city boasts a rich musical tradition which is still evident today with world class museums, galleries and theatres. It is well worth taking time to visit the Schonbrunn Palace which was the residence of the famous Hapsburgs from the 18th century onwards. A tour of the palace gives visitors the chance to see a stunning assortment of Baroque and Rococo state rooms and to view the hall of mirrors where Mozart once played. The Palace is set in vast gardens which include a zoo and a maze. At approximately £8 per person this is definitely a visit not to be missed.
Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart and music city and is perfect for those who like baroque architecture, church bells, cafes, chocolate and mountains. The Hellbrunn Palace is home to the famous Sound of Music Tour and the Eisriesenwelt Caves at Werfen south of the city contain remarkable frozen waterfalls and striking ice formations. Music lovers might like to go to the famous Salzburg festival: one of the world's best and biggest classical music festivals; presents performances of drama, concerts and opera over a period of five to six weeks each summer. (www.salzburgfestival.at)
Innsbruck is located at the centre of the Austrian Alps and has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. There are limitless opportunities for biking, hiking and winter sports. Innsbruck is also popular as a summer destination and has a wide choice of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
One of the top destinations for British skiers and snowboarders is St Anton. These are the main activities St Anton has to offer, but there are some other options. In the summer an open-air heated pool on the mountainside proves very popular with tourists.
Austria has excellent rail connections to all major European destinations and transport systems within Austria are very efficient and highly developed. Both Eurail and Interrail passes can be used on all trains. An Austrian railpass is available and allows three days of unlimited second-class travel within a fifteen day period. (Price)
Bicycle travel is extremely popular among tourists in Austria. Bicycles can be hired from over 160 railway stations and returned to any other station with a rental office. The Danube cycling trail, from the Black Forest in Germany to Vienna and beyond is definitely one to consider.
The main domestic carrier is Tyrolean Airways and operates several flights a day between Austria's main cities, such as Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. However, Austria is a small country and its rail network offers an efficient and comfortable way to travel around. However, if money is tight taking the bus can offer a cheaper alternative. The Bundesbus (federal bus) is used for local trips and for those on a tight budget, to get to the hard to reach places rather than for long distance travelling. Certain ski resorts in Voralberg and Tirol can only be reached by Bundesbus or private transport.
Austrians drive on the right. Roads are generally good, but some care should be taken with the difficult mountain routes. High altitude destinations can be reached by cable cars and gondolas.
Hotels in Austria tend to be quite expensive in the smaller cities, though there are the cheaper alternatives in the bigger cities. Youth hostels offer a cheaper alternative and generally offer a very high standard of accommodation.
Many hostels are independently owned and can range from large city hostels with bars to the smaller alpine lodges and chalets located in popular ski resorts. The Austrian Youth Hostel Association has over 100 hostels in various regions around the country. It is advisable to book your hostel in advance especially during peak season. For youth hostels in Austria, see our Austria hostels section
There are around 500 campsites in Austria, with around 160 sites equipped for winter camping. Camping grounds are exceptionally clean but are a bit more expensive than other countries in Central Europe.
Chalets, alpine huts, ski lodges and holiday apartments are all available for rent throughout Austria. For further details, contact your local travel agent or contact the Austrian National Tourist Office. Chalets and apartments can cost as little as £6 per person per night.
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