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3 Must-See Wonders in Austria

Austria is a juxtaposition of high culture set against some of the most stunning scenery the world has to offer. Here you’ll find aristocratic beginnings, and ever-changing artistry mingled together with a flair for turning the “Land of Mountains” into a playground of both the body and the mind. The spirit of grand ideas made manifest is the guiding principle you’ll find as you explore these three “must see” sights that take you through the history and ingenuity of this boundless country.

1. St. Michael’s Square: Vienna’s Historic City Center

“The streets of Vienna are paved with culture, the streets of other cities with asphalt.” – Austrian writer Karl Kraus
There’s little doubt that Kraus had in mind the inspiring and multifaceted architecture layered upon the streets of old town Vienna when he penned this tribute to his beloved city. There are more than 2,900 structures located within a 1.8 square mile section of middle Vienna. Their histories span across numerous eras, from Roman settlements to modern innovations. Her streets are a living museum, and UNESCO declared  the location a World Heritage site in 2011.
One of the best places to experience both the old and contemporary charm of historic Vienna is at St. Michael’s Square. Here you can walk just a few feet in any direction and find yourself transported to in a different era. Even the individual buildings span centuries. The centerpiece Hofburg Imperial Palace is a great example of this: you’ll find sections dating back to the 1200s alongside wings built across the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The palace’s impressive 165 foot-high dome and Michaelerto gate provide an exquisite entrance to the numerous museums and cultural centers now housed within her walls, including the world-famous Spanish Riding School. Show up on a Sunday and you’ll even be lucky enough to hear the Vienna Boy’s Choir singing in the palace’s original medieval chapel.

St. Michael’s Church

The square’s oldest building is also its namesake: St. Michael’s Church, built in the late Romanesque period between 1220 and 1240. It houses numerous treasures, including recent discovery of 15th-century frescoes and the city’s oldest Baroque organ. It also claims the historical bragging rights to being the first church to play Mozart’s Requiem. True to form, the creation of this national icon traversed hundreds of years, and its many paintings and architectural elements make it a fascinating site to explore.

Mix of Old and New

In the square’s center sit ruins that hark back to the first Roman settlement in the area, a military camp called Vindobona. The camp was constructed between the 1st and 5th centuries A.D. and were excavated from below current street levels. When you walk back to street level, you’ll soon find yourself moving from Roman times to the 20th century as you catch sight of the square’s most modern building, the Looshaus. Established in 1912, it caused serious controversy in its day due to its lack of ornamental flair. Emperor Franz Joseph even lost his usual aristocratic eloquence and called the pared-down design of the building “ugly.” Architect Alfred Loos vehemently disagreed with this assessment, saying a spiritual simplicity drove his new style. Today the building causes much less contention: it houses both a bank and an art gallery in the basement, along with a much grander indoor style that is open for the public to enjoy.

2. The Danube River Vineyards of Wachau

The River Danube runs through the historic streets of Vienna and out into the lush countryside of Wachau Province. Here you’ll encounter some of the most famous vineyards in Europe. The ancient indigenous people of the area called the river “Great Water,” and the grape cultivators who made this region famous have terraced the lush soils surrounding its banks to produce decadent white wines that are celebrated the world over.
Wachau makes the list of must-see destinations because it is a kaleidoscope of culturally enriching activities. Just like the city center, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also home to over 124 vineyards located within a short 12-mile stretch. One of the most fascinating stops is Nikolaihof Estate in Mautern, where you’ll experience firsthand the rich winemaking history of the region which extends back 2,000 years to Roman times. Here you can tour the original Roman food storage cellars. Be sure to taste the strictly organic Grüner Veltliner and Rieslings that make the Wachau region famous. The estate is the oldest continually operating vineyard in Austria. It offers a cozy guesthouse, a locally-sourced tavern, and a stellar wine selection including the much-sought-after vintage Nikolaihof Riesling Vinothek.

Melk village

Another favorite stop on Wachau’s River Danube is Melk village, home of the 1,000-year-old Melk Abbey Founded by Benedictine monks in 1089 A.D. The beautifully ornate castle was a gift to them from military governor Leopold II. Architectural masters of the day were commissioned to create the monastery’s opulent Baroque church. Your eyes will be continuously drawn to the frescoes that adorn the ceilings and walls amidst marble and gold gilding. The abbey is also home to Austria’s world-famous library that houses over 16,000 antique books and historic manuscripts. In Melk’s museum, you’ll learn about its long past, including the monks’ role in building the impermeable dry stone wall terraces that are still utilized on Wachau wine estates today.

3. Grossglockner Alpine High Road: Hohe Tauern National Park

The wonders of the Alps are showcased in the 36-turn Grossglockner Alpine High Road which sits in the heart of Austria’s largest national park, Hohe Tauern. This serpentine pass ascends 8,215 feet to provide you with stunning views of the summit of Austria’s highest peak: Grossglockner Mountain. Grossglockner Mountain stands at 12,460 feet and captures all of the of the spectacular power of the region. The journey upwards towards her summit will take you along 30 miles of pristine scenery. With numerous cultural relics, educational centers, and recreational activities interspersed along the way.
Legend has it that in 914 A.D. a Byzantine general carrying a sacred Christian relic stopped off in the village of Heiligenblut. He met an untimely death when an avalanche hit the village sitting at the base of Grossglockner Mountain. While there, he met an untimely death in an avalanche. The events that followed led the locals to discover that he held a vial which they grew to believe contained the blood of Christ. Thus sprang up a pilgrimage town, and the church of St. Vincent was constructed in 1491 to accommodate the worshipers. The church’s architectural wonders include a Gothic high altar and a refined outer design meant to blend in with the pristine mountain scenery. Today, the details of the Legend of Briccius are still related to travelers who stop in to visit this marvel of the Middle Ages.

Heiligenblut

Along with being pilgrimage site, the city of Heiligenblut is also the central hub for visitors to the Alpine High Road. The road’s construction was completed in the 1930s by a team of innovators who built the original cobblestone pass in just five short years. Today the asphalt update connects Bruck in the state of Salzburg with Heiligenblut. One of the highlights of this place is the Visitor Center at the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe. Step into simulation of the largest glacier in the Eastern Alps, the Pasterze. Here, you can learn about the ancient ice formations of the region and more.

Gamsgruben Trail

Once you step outside of the visitor center onto the Gamsgruben Trail, you get to see the real Pasterze. Formed during the last Ice Age, it is approximately five miles long and 390 feet thick. The best views are from the Wasserfallwinkel lookout point located 8,360 feet above sea level. –Continue to the top of Grossglockner Alpine High Road to enjoy the breathtaking sight of the “black” mountain herself, surrounded by over 300 sister peaks all standing at nearly 10,000 feet. You can take in the scenery on the outdoor deck of the aptly named Panoramic Restaurant, where sweet omelets, homemade dumplings with cheese, and succulent smoked sausage are served against the gorgeous Alpine backdrop.
When you come back down from the top, enjoy a day panning for gold in at the historic Alten Pocher gold mining village located in the nearby town of Fleißtal. Here, you can take a ski lift onto one of four Freeride trails covering nearly six square miles of terrain. Or relax in the spa and sauna at the ancestrally historic National Park Lodge Grossglockner. The lodge, the lifts, and St. Vincent Church are all situated just steps away from each other at this beautiful mountain retreat. Come see the places where human-made innovation meet the marvels of Austria’s awe-inspiring landscape.
If you’re looking for a place to go on your next vacation, stop by Austria and experience all the country has to offer.
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Enjoy Mouthwatering Cuisine in Croatia

Feast Through Croatia

While the country as a whole boasts food that will leave you wanting to lick your plate, each region has its own unique tastes and traditions. Despite what region you decide to visit, the Croatian food will not leave you disappointed, the only thing to decide is where to begin.

Try a Taste of Italy in Istria

In northern Croatia lies the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria. The region runs down the northwestern coast of Croatia but also includes parts of Italy and Slovenia. Istria has become a booming culinary hotspot recently, leaving many to proclaim Istria to be similar to Venice but at half the price. This region is best known for its wine and olive oil, the latter prized as the best in the world. The rolling hilltops and the endless sun provide the perfect environment to create intense flavor profiles. Because of its proximity to Venice, you will find many Italian influences. Manestra is a popular bean soup, similar to Italian Minestrone. Pasta and gnocchi are also prominent on many menus as well as a plentiful selection of fresh vegetables.
Like most of Croatia, Istria has a rich selection of flavorful seafood. Octopus salad is a favorite among visitors and locals and a delicious showcase of what the area has to offer. The dish is traditionally prepared with fresh octopus, onions, and herbs and will often include potatoes. A dressing of fresh lemon juice or vinegar adds acidity and perfectly balances the flavors of the salad.
It’s hard to visit Istria without discovering truffles. These pungent mushrooms are in appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Harvested only a few months of the year, you can’t leave without tasting this delicacy. Try this treat shaved over fresh Adriatic fish or frozen in a bowl of black truffle ice cream.
If you are visiting in the fall, be sure to catch the Zigante Truffle Days International Gourmet Expo and don’t forget to visit Zigante Tartufi. The expo’s host offers a variety of dishes throughout the year with the rare white truffle featured in the fall.

Enjoy the Bounties of the Sea in Dalmatia

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Squid Ink Risotto

When it comes to great Croatian food, traveling south is the place to go. In the south you will find the Dalmatian region. Dubrovnik is a seaport village located in the Dalmatian region in Southern Croatia. It is one of Croatia’s top tourist stops and once again a great place to find amazing seafood. While you really can’t go wrong with any seafood offering, the Crni Rizot is the dish you can’t leave Croatia without trying. The first thing you will notice about the dish is its bold, black color. Crni Rizot, also known as squid ink risotto is a creamy rice dish consisting of Arborio rice, squid ink, and typically squid or cuttlefish. The squid ink is what gives this tasty entrée its unique appearance.
The strong flavors of the risotto are best balanced with a nice red wine. The Dingac wine offers an excellent pairing and has deep roots in the region. Just be warned, because of the growing conditions, this wine can have a considerably high alcohol content.
At the north end of Dalmatia sits the island of Pag. This island is known for its salty sheep’s head cheese. The sheep of this island graze on rosemary and other herbs showered with salt deposits from the sea, hence the distinct salty flavor. There is such a salty influence on the island, that you will find a taste of it in many of the local foods. Just south of Pag lies the city of Zadar. Visit Lungo Mare for dinner on the Maestral Bay and enjoy what Alfred Hitchcock revered as the most beautiful sunset in the world.

Other coastal Croatian food specialties include:

Pršut i sir: Simply ham and cheese. The pork leg is salt-dried, seasoned, and air-cured for 12-18 months.
Mali Ston oysters: The town of Mali Ston is about an hour north of Dubrovnik, and their oysters are to die for.
Ispod Peke: Translated to “under the bell,” Ispod peke is a method of cooking in which meats and potatoes are slow-cooked under a terracotta lid, typically over coals.

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Octopus Peke

Meats and Traditional Flavors Provide a Hearty Feast Inland

Travel inland, and you will see a shift in Croatian food with recipes including more tastes from Turkey, Austria, and Hungary. The taste of punjene paprike will transport you to Hungary with the bold flavors of this dish. Fresh bell peppers are stuffed with mincemeat and rice and topped with a savory paprika-infused sauce. Sarma is another staple in Croatia. Though resembling traditional cabbage rolls, your nose (and your mouth) will detect a distinct difference — the cabbage is pickled.
Where coastal Croatia is known for its pršut, continental Croatia brings Kulen, a full-flavored sausage packed with intense spices and given a bold red appearance thanks to the generous infusion of paprika.
Visit the capital city of Zagreb, and you will be greeted by numerous outdoor marketplaces, with the most visited being the Dolac. Here you will find an endless selection of fresh local produce, dairy, meats, and bread. Visit with the locals and discover some of the freshest ingredients.
Zagreb is also the best place to try zagrebački odrezak, a veal schnitzel filled with melted cheese and ham. Try it at Pri Zvoncu.

Finish with Dessert

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Croatian Fritule

No visit to a new country is complete without sampling the desserts of the region, and Croatia has plenty to offer. Whether you are on the pebble beaches of Istria or dining in Krapina, your sweet tooth will have a cornucopia of options. The fritule is the Croatian version of a doughnut. This doughy treat, found on almost every table in Croatia during Christmas, is not often served at restaurants but can be found at local street stalls.
If you are looking for a decadent dessert, Rožata will delight. A Croatian custard, the dessert is infused with a Dubrovnik rose liqueur, giving it a sweet scent. Although it gets its name from the Dubrovnik region, Rožata is common in many restaurants throughout Croatia.
There is certainly no lack of diversity or flavor in Croatia’s food. Whether you are a seafood lover or enjoy a hearty meal of meat and potatoes, the options are limitless in this beauty by the sea.

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A Foodie’s Guide to Hungary

Feast Through Hungary

Hungary has a growing and bustling restaurant scene, and thanks to a few Michelin stars won by local restaurateurs, it is finally starting to get some attention. Described by the Daily News Hungry as the “perfect blend of Germanic, Italian, with a little touch of Slavic cooking traditions” Hungary is a hidden gem for any lover of food.

Food Rich in History

Situated in Central Europe between Romania and Austria, the country has a tumultuous past, with much of its history shrouded in raids and invasions. Because of the ongoing battles, the country became somewhat of a melting pot of the neighboring fare. Present day food will showcase a heavy influence of German and Italian food as well as a number of Jewish dishes.
With over 3 million residents, the Budapest metropolitan area accounts for more than a third of Hungary’s population, making it a central location for some of the country’s best food. The capital city was once two separate cities separated by the Danube river. Buda resided on the hillside, while pest was down below. The two cities have since merged, but they still retain their own unique vibes. Buda is known for being a quieter location, home to palaces and Ottoman spas, whereas in Pest, you will find a more lively scene featuring museums, art, and the Jewish District, a spot for amazing food.

Hearty Favorites

Gulyás

Hungary’s cuisine is rich with soups. It’s most well-known dish is arguably goulash, or as the locals call it, gulyás. The dish, a stew consisting of beef and vegetables is a staple in Hungary. It is given a savory, sweet taste thanks to the generous infusion of paprika. This history of gulyás goes back to the Magyars, the earliest settlers of Hungary, who would travel with dried chunks of meat and vegetables with them. They would later combine all the ingredients with water in a heavy cast iron pot and eat the stew throughout their journey.

Põrkõlt

Põrkõlt is another favorite in Hungary. The stew is made of large pieces of meat (usually beef, mutton, chicken, veal, goose, carp, or game), onions, bacon, garlic, tomatoes, and green peppers. And of course, you can’t forget the paprika. The stew is simmered down until barely a broth remains.
Although a staple, soups are not the only fare you will find in Hungary. Take a walk around Budapest, and you’ll surely stumble across somebody devouring langos. This popular street food consists of deep-fried dough topped with sour cream, topped with cheese, topped with practically anything you want. Consider it the Hungarian version of pizza. Meats, cheeses, and vegetables are popular toppings, but langos can also be topped with sweets like Nutella.

Paprika chicken

Paprika chicken (Csirke paprikás) is a bold showcase of the country’s favorite spice, you guessed it, paprika. The chicken is marinated in a creamy sauce and most often served with nokedli (dumplings). While traveling through the country, you will find paprika to be a common ingredient in the local cuisine. Paprika was introduced to Hungary during the 150-year rule of the Turks. It was initially used as an alternative to traditional pepper as the price of pepper began to rise. However, it slowly became a staple of the Hungarian kitchen and replaced pepper altogether.

Pork

Pork is the chosen meat in Hungary. The reason for this is rooted in history. During the period following the Ottoman era, the Turks took away domestic except pigs, as the Turks did not eat pigs due to their Muslim faith. You will find pork showcased in many of the local markets, where you can treat yourself to a diverse supply of local sausages and cured meats.

Sweet Tastes

While the culinary scene does not get its fair share of attention, the confections of Hungary are known worldwide. If sweets are your weakness, be sure to try a Kurtoskalaces, aptly known as a chimney cake. This treat is a towering funnel of sweet dough, topped with butter, sugar, and often cinnamon, nuts, and candies. Not sure where to find one? Like with Lángos, a walk around town is sure to introduce you to someone enjoying this dessert. The Dobos torta is another treat not to be missed. This dessert is a vanilla cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel.
When enjoying dessert, don’t forget to try some local wine. Though Hungary is not usually a name that is tossed around in the wine realm, it’s moderate climate makes it a great place to grow a variety of wine grapes. The Tokaji aszú comes from the Tokaji region of Hungary. The wine is made from hand-picked berries that have been affected by noble rot. This type of berry lends to a very sweet wine that is a favorite in Hungary.

Can’t-Miss Local Spots

The Great Hall Market, expansive, and supported by towering wrought iron, is a foodie hub in Budapest. The traditional fare of fruits and vegetables are ever present, but this market has so much more to offer. Meats and cheeses abound, but you will also find a large supply of preserved foods, such as jams and pickles. Pickled foods are a large part of the Hungarian diet and will typically have an entire section devoted to them at the markets.
Café Ruszworm is one of oldest cafes in Budapest and one of the best places to try a Dobos torta. Another delicious choice is the Ruszworm Cream Cake, which consists of a sweet vanilla cream between two delicate layers of pastry.
Gelarto Rosa delights with picture worthy servings of ice cream. The smooth, frozen dessert is beautifully formed to resemble a rose. The shop features only the best local and organic ingredients. Alongside their traditional offerings, they also provide vegan, lactose intolerant, and diabetic friendly options.
Looking for the best pancakes? Gundel is the place to visit. Here, the pancakes are stuffed with grounds walnuts, raisins, rum, and cream. They are topped with a decadent chocolate-rum sauce and a sprinkling of orange zest.
Pest-Buda is a great place to find traditional homestyle cooking. The restaurant and hotel are located within an 18th-century building in the Buda Castle Quarter.
As with every location, be sure to keep an eye on where the natives frequent. You will often discover hidden treasures that will delight your inner foodie.

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Germany Destination Guide—Tips and Highlights

With medieval castles, baroque churches, and picturesque villages, Germany boasts a vibrant historical legacy. Germany exemplifies natural beauty, culture, history and art. Here’s a destination guide for your trip to Germany.

Top Highlights of Germany

With over 2 millennia of history, Germany is one of the world’s most dominant economic powers, whose cultural influence has shaped the European landscape. One of the top attractions of Germany is the Bavarian countryside, home to the 19th-century fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle. The Bavarian region also houses Germany’s most popular auto touring route, the Romantic Road, weaving through spa towns like Baden-Baden, and well-preserved medieval towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Two of Germany’s most outstanding cathedrals are located roughly an hour away from each other. One of Europe’s largest cathedrals, the Cologne Cathedral is a stunning example of High Gothic architecture. It is also Germany’s most visited landmark. Built by Emperor Charlemagne, the Aachen cathedral served as the seat of coronation for 31 German kings and 12 queens. It is known for its exquisite mosaics decorated with gold leaf and precious stones.
Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is easily one of Germany’s top destinations. Located in Berlin, it is home to some of Germany’s oldest museums such as the Pergamon and the Neues Museum. Visitors can admire unique treasures including the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, as well as the world’s largest collection of Etruscan art.

Geographical Landscape

Being Europe’s seventh largest country, Germany’s geography is extremely variegated and diverse. Towards the north lies the North European Plain, characterized by flat, low lying areas filled with bogs, rivers and streams. It is now used predominantly for agriculture.
The coastline along the North Sea is full of marshes, wetlands, mudflats and islands. But Germany’s largest island Rugen is found off the Baltic Sea coastline. The area is a lot hillier than the North Sea coastline and has many steep and jagged cliffs.
During the last Ice Age, the glaciers retreated extensively, leaving behind dry and sandy terrain and a great number of small lakes. Lying south of Berlin, this topography rises to form giant landforms such as the volcanic Harz Mountains, the forested Rothaargebirge Mountains, and the Rhine River Valley.
The Rhine River is Germany’s longest river. At the southwestern border of the Rhine River with France lies the Black Forest. The river Danube rises in the Black Forest, travels across central Europe, and ends in the Black Sea.
Along the southern border with Austria, the highest mountains of Germany are found, the Bavarian Alps. Germany’s highest point, Zugspitze, is also found here.

Things To Know Before Visiting Germany

Best Time to Visit

While May through September is peak tourist season, the best time to visit Germany for those seeking the outdoors and less crowds is April and October. Winter is also popular for its beautiful Christmas markets and alpine skiing adventures.

Weather

Germany has a temperate seasonal climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, more prominently in the summers.

Languages Spoken

The official language of Germany is German, but most locals study English as their foreign language of choice. French is also a common second foreign language.

Currency

Germany’s official currency is the euro. Germany is one of the most cash-intensive countries in the world. From parking and gas stations to museums and restaurants, cash is the preferred and sometimes the only mode of payment.

Electricity

The electrical sockets in Germany are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V, while the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If traveling from the US, visitors will need a combined power plug adapter and a voltage converter.

Traveling around

Germany is known for its extensive and efficient public transportation. The high-speed trains can cost a bit, and it is recommended to book in advance or opt for the slower, intercity trains. Visitors have to both pay and validate their tickets. There is €60 fine for not doing so. Note that while there is no security personnel or gate at train station entrances, there are ticket checkers in plain clothes.
The widespread train network means that visitors can explore the other wonders of Germany. While big cities like Berlin and Munich attract the most crowds, Germany is a country of many treasures. With a valid EU driver’s license or International Driving License, visitors can also choose to rent a car and hit the beautiful countryside and historic towns.

Visitor Facilities

Like many countries in Europe, toilets in Germany are pay-to-use. Pay toilets average around 0.50 to 1 euros. It is also not uncommon to find attendants of the opposite gender in the toilets.

Opening Hours

Germany has some of the strictest laws in Europe regarding opening hours. While eateries like cafes and restaurants are open throughout the week, other places like stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are closed on Sunday. This concept of making ‘taking a day off’ a legal requirement is dear to the Germans, who call it ‘Ruhetag’ (resting day).

Respect the Rules

Germans are known for following the rules. Behavior which is common in other countries (example: jaywalking, cutting in line, arriving late, etc.) will earn tourists disapproving looks and nods.

Food

Germany is the ideal destination to try unique cuisines. German dishes are traditionally heavy in meats, sugar and breads. Local favorites include schnitzel (breaded and fried veal), weisswurst (white sausage), apfelstrudel (apple strudel), currywurst (grilled sausage), spargel (white asparagus), and Schwarzwälder kirschtorte (Black Forest cake).

Oktoberfest

Held every year in Munich, Oktoberfest is the world’s most popular beer festival. The huge beer halls, most famous of which is the Hofbräuhaus, attract tourists from all over the world. Men and women are dressed in Bavarian Lederhosen and Dirndl, and there is live music, parades, and traditional German cuisine.

Christmas Markets

Dating back to the Late Middle Ages, Christmas markets radiate the festive spirit of the holiday season. The beautifully decorated stalls are lined with local handicrafts and woodwork such as the famous nutcracker. Visitors can also savor German beer, as well as the delicious aromas of baked goods like stollen (fruit bread) and lebkuchen (gingerbread). There are more than 150 markets in Germany alone, but the Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg and the Striezelmarkt in Dresden are the most popular.
Germany is a country whose roots travel far beyond the Middle Ages. The landscape is steeped in history, as reflected in its many museums, monuments, and squares. It is also a country of natural beauty as can be witnessed in the green valleys of the Rhine River and the majestic snowy caps of the Alps. It is also a country of wonderful cultural traditions, as can be savored in locally brewed beer, delicious cuisine, and handcrafted woodwork, textiles, and pottery. All of this together makes Germany one of the top destinations in the world.

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Best Romantic Getaways in Austria

Romantic Austria Getaways

While the scenery is outstanding in all the top romantic spots of Austria, there are also plenty of unique activities and world-renowned restaurants to anchor a journey to one of the marvels of Central Europe. If you’re looking for a romantic backdrop in Austria, consider these possibilities.

Unparalleled views of Hallstatt

This stunning and remote oasis in upper Austria is much more than just a postcard. Complete with a unique history that dates to prehistoric times, Hallstatt is a picturesque village at the base of the Alps. A pristine blue lake surrounds the village, creating a magically timeless feel that attracts visitors from all over the world. It’s also easily one of the most romantic vacation spots in Austria, a place of pure tranquility that offers endless opportunities for cozying up with a loved one and enjoying the alpine wonder.
The most popular feature of Hallstatt, the age-old salt mine, may not sound particularly romantic but that changes quickly once actually experiencing it. While the 7,000-year history of the mine will pique the interest of some, the views obtained on a funicular ride up the mountain to the mine are sensational and the World Heritage Skywalk gives you a brilliant panoramic view of Lake Hallstatt from high above. But one of the very best ways to absorb the sights of Hallstatt is to simply head off on your own to one of the trails that surround the village. The Soleweg, in particular, is a great way to get lost for an afternoon of mountain/lake views, and a simple picnic can quickly turn into an unforgettable experience for anyone looking to stir up a little romance.
The same goes for hopping on a boat tour of the lake, although renting your own small rowboat can be an easy way to elevate the romantic ambiance to the next level. As for restaurants, lakefront options like the Gasthaus Seeraunzn let you soak up the scenery from a fresh angle while enjoying some of the best traditional German/Austrian food you’ll find in Hallstatt. Though you definitely won’t have trouble finding a terrific hotel that lets you tap the beauty of the region, the Seehotel Grüner Baum has been a refuge since at least 1700 and offers rooms and dining areas with picture-perfect views of the lake and village.
Hallstatt is gorgeous all year long and can be a great experience in the winter, but less adventurous visitors might want to stick to the warmer weather months of March through October.

No shortage of romantic options in Vienna

A sunset dinner at Villa Aurora is likely all it takes to fall in love with the city of Vienna, marking it a terrific place to have an Austrian date night. Although Vienna has your inevitable touristy location, Villa Aurora has genuine local favorites (like schnitzels) and happens to have a terrace perched directly over the Viennese cityscape. Villa Aurora joins an impressive list of different cafes and restaurants that offer authentic Austrian cuisine along with an atmosphere worthy of being the backdrop for your romantic excursion. Others like the Buxbaum or the famous ef16 Restaurant Weinbar are known for striking a romantic mood alongside some of the best Austrian dishes in the city, although Vienna is also known for having a variety of other romantic restaurants featuring cuisine from all over Europe (and beyond).
If you’re visiting in spring or early summer, Schönbrunn Palace is worth mingling in the crowds to see the flower-filled grounds in front of the 16th-century landmark. A short drive away, the Hofburg Palace is just as impressive and is another romantic place to spend an afternoon, and some couples will enjoy the terrific museums within shouting distance of the palace. Even if you’ve never been to an opera in your life, dressing up for a romantic meal and night at the very famous Vienna State Opera is a classic Viennese experience that anyone can enjoy. In a similar vein, ball season in Vienna is a very big deal and can offer a night out worthy of royalty.
If the opera and ball season aren’t what you’re looking for in a getaway, however, Vienna has plenty of other routes geared toward romanticism. A river cruise along the Danube will show off some of the best views of the city and many of the options include traditional music, food, and beverages along with a smooth ride down the famous river. Couples also routinely make their way to the Palais Hansen Kempinski for honeymoons and urban escapes, where guests enjoy luxurious accommodations pulled back from the tourist-heavy parts of the city. Not only is there a world-class day spa but the restaurant on-site, Edvard, is one of the highest rated in Vienna. Although it’s away from the hustle and bustle, Palais Hansen Kempinski offers very easy access to the main features of the city thanks to neighboring tram and bus stops, in addition to a nearby U-Bahm station.

Step into a storybook at Schloss Fuschl

Originally built as a castle and hunting lodge for Austrian royalty in the mid-15th century, this masterpiece on Lake Fuschl guarantees privacy and luxury while visitors feast their eyes on the treasures of western Austria. Though swimming in the lake and hiking are typical activities during the summer, it’s also spectacular in the winter months thanks to the renowned Nordic walks accessible from the hotel.
The accommodations are also first-rate, as guests get to choose from suites with different décor styles like Baroque or Renaissance along with lakeside cottages that offer couples privacy. Couples can also enjoy a mesmerizing experience at the two-floor spa along with a host of terrific dining options that change with the season.
For any couple looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience highlighted by elegant accommodations, seclusion, and staggering scenery, Schloss Fuschl is as good of an option as you’ll find anywhere in Austria. It’s also a fantastic add-on to a trip to Salzburg, which is only a 20-minute drive away and has plenty of its own charm.
Also worth considering is Schloss Mönchstein, another outstanding resort easily accessible from Salzburg, offering a similar level of luxury and another opportunity to stay in an Austrian castle known for being an ideal romantic escape.

Innsbruck

The gorgeous, old-world style of Innsbruck makes it an ageless classic, and there are more than a few options for the romantically inclined. The tightly packed rows of colorful buildings overlooking the famous market square create a vintage European village look at the heart of the city, which is bustling with open-air cafes and restaurants sitting beneath the often snow-tipped Karwendel Alps. If eating strudel and gaping at medieval architectural masterpieces isn’t for you, an evening hike up the mountain to a traditional Austrian tavern overlooking the city lights (the Laternenwanderung hike) tends to leave couples with the proverbial unforgettable experience.

Alpbach

Just a short drive from Innsbruck in western Austria, the cozy village of Alpbach is your quintessential ski town that keeps moving with or without the snow. Skiers and snowboarders can line up an outstanding winter getaway in Alpbach, although taking a gondola through the mountains for a scenic hike in the summer can also be the perfect launch for a romantic excursion.
Austria is country with scenic views and landscapes sure to take your breath away. With several amazing resorts, cities, and landmarks, there is no place like Austria for the perfect romantic getaway. It offers an environment where anything seems possible, and where you will make unforgettable memories with your significant other.
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A Taste of Austria—The Ultimate Foodie’s Guide

With fresh ingredients, robust flavor, and a commitment to quality, the cuisine of Austria is beyond compare. Those who experience the tastes of this country will be introduced to a world of culinary delight that they have never before known. Although traditional dishes are simple, they are rooted in history, regional ingredients, and ties to neighboring countries. In previous times, Austrians were accustomed to having their larger meal at midday and eating lighter in the evening. However, due to the work schedules of most, the midday meal tends to be smaller, with the main meal eaten later in the day. Here is all that you need to know about the cuisine of Austria so that you can unleash your inner foodie and enjoy every taste and flavor that the country has to offer.

Starting the Day in Austria

Breakfast in Austria is usually of the continental type, as a typical Austrian breakfast is small. Along with the traditional coffees, teas, and juices, you’ll find yourself enjoying a spread of bread rolls with either butter and jam or cold meats or cheese. Austrians enjoy a sweet breakfast, and the most popular type of bread you’ll see is “Schwarzbrot”, a black bread made of rye and wheat flour. Bite into other bread rolls like “Kornspitz” or “Semmel” for a continental breakfast you won’t soon forget.
If you visit Austria on a weekend, you’ll likely find yourself in a coffee house for breakfast. Here, you’ll likely find “Wiener Frühstück”, which means “Viennese Breakfast”. It consists of coffee or tea, a bread roll or croissant, and butter, honey or jam.

Clear Soups

You’ll find different variations of an Austrian favorite, clear soups. In Austria, the locals enjoy clear soups with solid ingredients that can vary by region. The broth usually consists of basic ingredients such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, leeks, and celeriac, while the addition of ingredients such as semolina balls, liver dumplings, bacon dumplings, strips of pancake, soup pearls, and egg puffs are what makes the soup extra special. You’ll find a clear soup on just about every table in Austria.

Wiener Schnitzel

As one would expect, Wiener Schnitzel is one of the most popular foods that you will find in Austria. A type of schnitzel made from a thin veal cutlet that is breaded and pan-fried, this food is most often found in the city of Vienna. It represents the love and deliciousness of fried food and is a must-have while in Austria.
The traditional version is not the only version that you can get while in Austria, and you are encouraged to try different types. Schnitzel in cornflakes batter is quite delicious, as is the Cordon Bleu, two filets filled with ham and cheese and then fried in bread crumb batter. When you order a schnitzel at a restaurant in Austria, be prepared. Make sure you are hungry because it is usually bigger than the plate!

Goulash

No trip to Austria would be complete without first trying the goulash. A flavorful soup that is made of beef and vegetables, it is also known as “Wiener Saftgulasch” due to the thickness of the broth. It’s a comforting dish loved by Austrians and visitors alike. Almost like a stew, the dish is fragrant and nourishing. Those who try it can attest to the fact that the mention of it will leave your mouth watering.

Tafelspitz

The interesting spin that is put on this Austrian dish is that it is served with bread dumplings rather than the traditional potato type. Made from a chunk of beef boiled in a vegetable broth until it is tender and soft, and served with root vegetables and a mix of chopped apples and horseradish, the dish is simple and straightforward, yet delicious. One thing is for sure. Tafelspitz represents some of the best Austrian cooking that you can possibly have.

Brettljause

During your trip to Austria, you’ll surely make your way to the countryside and into the mountains of the Austrian Alps, where you will find an item called Brettljause. In Austrian, “Jause” refers to a snack eaten between meals, and “Brettl” is the wooden board that snacks of this type are served on. What you’ll typically find when you order this specialty is a board covered in fresh cold cuts and cheese, an array of spreads, pickled vegetables, and bread. This traditional Austrian farmer’s plate is one of the most delightful snacks you will find in Austria and one that is best enjoyed with a group of friends and lighthearted conversation.

Austrian Desserts

Save room for one of the sweetest parts of Austria’s cuisine, the desserts! Austria is known for being home to some of the best desserts in the world. While visiting some of the cafes and patisseries that line the streets, there are some delectable treats that every foodie should try.

Gugelhupf

Similar to the American bundt cake, Guglehupf is usually made with yeast dough, raisins, almonds, and kirschwasser. Usually served with afternoon tea or Sunday breakfast, this dessert has different variations. It can be made with dried orange peels for a burst of flavor or made as a marble cake. Dating back to the 15th century, Guglehupf is still one of the most popular desserts in the country.

Apfelstrudel

This Austrian classic is so delicious, you may want to splurge and order two! Apfelstrudel is translated to “apple strudel”, and is made from a puff pastry filled with apples, often served warm with ice cream, vanilla sauce, and fresh whipped cream. Locals think of this dessert as a “marvel dish” and one bite will have you think the same.

Topfengolatsche

A square-shaped pastry filled with cheese curd, the Topfengolatsche is usually eaten with afternoon tea. Don’t let its simple appearance fool you. This pastry is so scrumptious you’ll want to savor every bite. The first Topfengolatsche was baked in the 17th century, they have been a classic ever since.
All of these dishes and desserts represent the history and culture of Austria. Along with plenty of Almdudler, an Austrian soft drink with an herbal taste and the slight flavor of elderflower, as well as coffee and tea, and you’ll understand why the classic recipes have been deep-rooted in Austria’s tradition for centuries.

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A Thrillseeker’s Guide to Experiencing Austria

Adventure Travel Austria

It also contains a whole spectrum of opportunities beyond Vienna, the usual starting point for many travelers who target Austria. If you’re a thrillseeker, you might not want to go to Austria without considering these options.

A toboggan run through the Alps.

A quintessential and timeless alpine experience, a toboggan run in the mountains is an easy way to cut right to the chase when it comes to what Austria has to offer. Although there are quite a few terrific toboggan runs throughout the country, one of the classics happens to be in Biberwier, a gorgeous little mountain town in Western Austria. The Biberwier run is the longest in the state of Tyrol, letting adventurers wind through 1,300 meters of track that snakes through the snow-capped mountains and green countryside.
Although the area also has excellent winter options as well, the summer toboggan run is a fantastic option from the spring all the way through the early part of the fall. The run is also perfectly tailored for a wide range of different adventure-based appetites, as the toboggan (sled) can whip down the mountain at a breakneck speed, or slow down for a nice leisurely slide through the countryside. That’s why Biberwier happens to be perfect for both thrillseekers and families, and everyone in between.
Like many areas in Austria that have toboggan runs, the hiking surrounding Biberwier is also outstanding, and it’s a great little place to experience a bit of authentic, small-town Austria when you’re not cruising downhill on a sled. And for winter travelers, the brilliant, snow-coated countryside makes winter tobogganing a great way to see the alps and let your lungs mingle with air that is about as crisp and clean as it comes.

Austrian biking—possibilities for everyone.

From the novice to the pro, Austria caters to many adventure levels when it comes to biking, one of the very best ways to see Austria. For anyone hoping to work up a sweat but not get carried away biking up mountains, renting an e-bike (electric bike) can be the perfect companion that lets you focus mostly on the scenery. E-bikes are specially made to give you a little boost, but they still will require effort and are not to be confused with the motorized bikes that take all the fun out of it.
One possible way to have a great e-biking—or just mountain-biking—experience is to hop on the trail surrounding Lake Piburg, a lake so clear that it’s known as the “mirror of Tyrol.” The trail shows off stunning views from high above the lake before descending to the shore, where it’s easy to launch boating, swimming, or fishing excursions. Located in the stunning Otztal Valley, Piburg is also known for being on the warm side for an alpine lake, making it ideal for taking a memorable swim at the base of the alps.
While trails like Lake Piburg offer a more tranquil experience, it’s also very easy to ratchet it up a notch by doing a downhill-biking adventure in different locations throughout the Otztal Valley. At Bike Republic Solden, there are more than 20 different trails that cater to various skill levels, but all require a stomach for at least a few thrills. For the very adventurous (or the casually insane), some of the top trails are internationally known among biking enthusiasts, which is why you need to make sure you’re up for the challenge and understand the skill-level required before choosing the right trail.

Don’t overthink it: hiking is unreal in Austria.

Not everyone is up for the more niche adventures that you’re able to experience in Austria, which is why you can’t go wrong with simply dusting off your best hiking shoes/boots and getting ready for some alpine eye candy. The country is littered with outstanding hikes that showcase the natural Austrian beauty. On the trail above Zell am See-Kaprun (known as Pinzgauer Spaziergang), you’ll spend up to six hours picking your way along a mountain plateau so spectacular you’ll think the scenery below you is airbrushed. If you’re ready for a day strolling through pristine Austrian wilderness, it’s hard to top a trail that lets you keep an eye on the snow-dusted Kitzbühel Alps, a tremendous glacier (Kitzsteinhorn), and the sunshine glimmering off the enormous Lake Zell, where picturesque villages huddle around the deep blue water.
You can also go well-beyond an afternoon hike. For those with serious stamina and hiking ambition, the 280km Eagle Walk has 24 stages between St. Johann and St. Anton am Arlberg and will challenge even the most seasoned hikers. It also has scenery every bit as sensational as you might expect. For everyone else, there are plenty of low to midgrade hikes as well, including family-friendly options like the Wildpark Aurach just outside Kitzbühel. More than 1,000 meters above sea-level, the Wildpark Aurach not only has the visual element but allows guests to see a spectacular array of different animals in their natural environment, from yaks and lynxes to ibexes and wild boar.
While many of the best trails are in central or Western Austria, those who are only making it to Vienna on their travels also have some great hiking possibilities as well. The areas around Vienna have plenty of different trails, and many of the best run right alongside the world-famous Danube River, like the majestic Hermannskogel trail.

Canyoning and rafting.

It’s also extremely easy to fold hiking into other activities in Austria, particularly for those who enjoy some of the other athletic possibilities awaiting in the mountains. Less than an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, the Lake Achensee region is renowned for being the perfect getaway for thrillseekers thanks to the lovely spread of options at any point of the year. While the skiing there is breathtaking in the winter, it’s also a summer haven complete with river rafting, tubing, canyoning, and much more.
The rafting and tubing experiences can be fantastic, although scaling down scenic gorges (canyoning) is the type of activity that is great for adventurers ready to push themselves just a little bit. Once you have on your wetsuit, a helmet and a harness, local tour guides will help teach newcomers the art of rappelling down a rocky gorge, often right alongside gushing waterfalls. For the more advanced, most local tour companies offer more difficult canyoning experiences that are intense enough to satisfy the veteran adventure-traveler.
Great rafting options are also prevalent throughout the rest of the country as well, particularly near Zell am See-Kaprun and Salzburg. With Austria offering rafting for Class II beginners all the way to the experts who take on Class V courses, the rafting experiences available in Austria compare favorably to any other country in Europe.

More than just Vienna.

Given the apparent charm of Vienna and host of things to do there, it can be easy for many travelers to target the Austrian capital and overlook the other treasures awaiting elsewhere. While you can still absolutely find plenty of adventurous activities both inside and outside the city limits of Vienna, thrillseekers looking to capitalize on Austria’s offerings are only a train ride away from a host of once-in-a-lifetime adventures. With options for everyone and countless chances to mingle with stunning landscapes along the way, it’s not hard to figure out why Austria remains a world-class travel destination for those seeking a wide variety of different experiences.
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Don’t Leave Austria Without Seeing These Sights

Stunning lakeside villages plucked from fairytales, modern city centers filled with architectural wonders, internationally known museums, and rich history. Mountain-hugging Alpine roads and river cruises that you won’t want to leave. With its geographical advantages and series of beautiful towns and cities, Austria is perfect for both the seasoned explorer and those looking for a quiet and luxurious holiday. Although it’s hard to get a country like Austria wrong, here is a guide to help ensure that you get it right.

Vienna Must-Sees

Historic center of Vienna: A UNESCO World Heritage site loaded with baroque castles and sprawling gardens, the centerpiece of Vienna has been an important European staple for centuries and retains its ageless charm in the current age. Originally a medieval settlement, Vienna became a critical hot spot for classical music thanks to icons like Mozart, Beethoven, and Johann Strauss (I and II), and today it remains a gathering place for travelers from all over the world. You don’t have to be a classical music buff to enjoy the city center either. Whether by foot, bike or Segway, it’s easy to be dazzled by buildings like the Stephansdom, Hofburg, and the extremely famous State Opera House, or simply relax at one of the many cafes lining the streets. From the city center, it’s also a breeze to get around the rest of Vienna via the S-train, U-Bahm (underground metro) or city bus.
Viennese museums: You may not be able to pronounce the Kunsthistorisches Museum, but you’ll likely find yourself marveling at 5,000 years of artwork packed into one of the most famous art museums in the world. User-friendly and an incredible building in its own right, the Kunsthistorisches is well worth dealing with the crowds that can build up during the peak times of the year. At the Natural History Museum, visitors inspect a terrific dinosaur exhibit, are awed by a world-class planetarium, and experience a rolling set of other acclaimed exhibits. Architectural enthusiasts will also want to check out the Belvedere Palace Museum for even more eye candy.
Palaces and gardens: When the weather is good, you’ll have a hard time beating the sights of Schonbrunner Gardens, arguably the greatest public park in Austria. Intricate water fountains, miles of green space, and colorful flowers fill a visitor’s vision, and a famous maze also makes for a fun stop (as well as a great photo opportunity). The Imperial Palace of Hofburg, meanwhile, is a window into the Viennese past, as it has been an important government center since the 13th century and is the working residence of the current President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen.
Also try: The Vienna Zoo, Albertina (art museum), St. Peter’s Church, Rathaus, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral are all worth researching before heading to Vienna. One of the very best ways to see Vienna is also a Danube River Cruise that takes you right through the heart of the city.

Peruse the Fairytale Village of Hallstatt

No matter when you go to Austria, a trip to the upper region to take in the sights of Hallstatt is well worth your time. One of the earliest areas settled by Celtic tribes during the Iron Age, Hallstatt of today is a quaint village hugging a tranquil Alpine lake (Hallstatter See) and filled with local shops, restaurants, and sightseeing opportunities. With the Alps hovering just behind the classically designed buildings lining the lakefront, Hallstatt has a timeless beauty that helped make it another of Austria’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. Although it’s perfect for pure relaxation, adventurers can also head up more than 1,000 feet to the Hallstatt Skyway for unforgettable views of the village and the Alps.

A Journey to Salzburg

Salzburger Altstadt (Old Town Salzburg): Vienna is the more famous of cities, but the birthplace of Mozart is every bit Vienna’s rival when it comes to beauty and culture. Everywhere you turn is a sensational piece of architecture or a neighborhood with old world charm, with cobbled side streets and all kinds of small shops and eateries to enjoy.
Salzburg Fortress: Dating to the 11th century, the Salzburg Fortress is a medieval palace on the outskirts of the city that is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. Complete with concerts featuring famous classical works and opportunities to explore the grounds, the fortress continues to be one of the most popular hot spots in the city.
Untersburg: The best place to see Salzburg is actually from Untersburg, a massif in the Berchtesgaden Alps just outside the city that sits along the German-Austria border. A 10-minute cable car can take you up the mountain, where you’ll have panoramic views of Salzburg and the towering Alps that fill in the backdrop of the city.
Also worth checking out: The Salzburg Cathedral is a domed wonder that is known for its unique design and for being where Mozart was baptized. Hellbrunn Castle is another palace grounds with impeccable buildings, well-kept gardens, and waterfalls that make it a great spot for a leisurely stroll on a sunny day.

Melk, Innsbruck, and One of the Most Scenic Mountain Roads in the Alps

It might be a little tough to include Melk and Innsbruck if you have a fairly limited amount of time in Austria, but they also make perfect additions for an extended trip. Less than an hour from Vienna by rail, Melk’s Abbey has a collection of impressive gardens and courtyards to go along with a beautiful main building sitting atop a hill overlooking the Danube. The monks on the premises are also known for making wine and the abbey is often incorporated into Danube River cruises.
In Innsbruck, the Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen is a tramway that takes you soaring through the Alps for spectacular mountain views that have few peers anywhere in Europe. If you’re a skier or snowboarder, the tram is also the perfect way to get in the mood to go cruising down the mountain. For those who can’t get enough mountain views, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is an absolute knockout that takes you right through the Alps in western Austria.

When to Go and How to Get Around

Austria can be an amazing place no matter the time of year, depending on what you’re looking for. Those who love seeing winter wonderlands will likely be awed by seeing Vienna, Salzburg, and the highlights of Austria covered in a dusting of snow, but spring and summer remain the go-to parts of the year for most visitors. With lush gardens, beautiful waterfalls, and many places to stretch your legs throughout the mainstays of Austria, it’s very easy to plan and enjoy a trip during the warmer weather months. For anyone looking to make trips away from the main draws of Austria, winter weather can also quickly complicate a trip.
The good news is that Vienna and Salzburg are both perfect launching points thanks to the easy access by train and other means of transportation. Vienna, in particular, is incredibly simple to reach through a variety of major European cities by train and its international airport provides plenty of options for those looking to fly directly into Austria. Cruising along the Danube River to Vienna is also an unbeatable way to reach the Austrian capital from cities like Munich or Budapest, and Salzburg is a quick two hours down the rail from Vienna. From either Salzburg or Vienna, there are also plenty of worthwhile day trips accessible through train, bus, or private shuttle.

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Authentic Austria: 8 Great Ways to Live Like the Locals

Austrian City

If you want to get more than a tourist’s peek of Austria’s rich culture, Vienna is a perfect place to find accommodations. It’s not only the largest city in the nation, it’s also one of the most well-organized in the world. The surrounding countryside and nearest city hold treasures that are easily explored from this favorable spot, which makes Vienna an ideal jumping-off point for a priceless, once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Take a look at these 8 insider tips for living like the locals in Austria and creating an authentic and memorable holiday experience. Continue reading Authentic Austria: 8 Great Ways to Live Like the Locals