In many respects, Austria has it all. Breathtaking scenery and mountains, a temperate climate, tasty and eclectic food, and a cultural heritage that counts Mozart and Beethoven among its luminaries.
It is also a country that is often overlooked on the traditional tourist trails, meaning that there are not sharp dealers waiting at every turn to rip off the visitors. Here are five reasons why you should head over to Austria next time you are on your travels.
Try the opera
It might have meant nothing to Ultravox, but you will struggle to find a city that squeezes as much diversity into so small a space as Vienna. The magnificent Vienna State Opera House stands proud on the Ringstrasse, in the centre of the city.
Even if you’ve never listened to classical music in your life, give the opera a go. It is a truly unique experience, and it is worth it just to see the looks on your friends’ faces afterwards. Tickets are inexpensive through online resources like viennaoperatickets.com.
The ice caves
Eisriesenwelt is a vast complex of underground caverns, joined by miles of paths and reached by descending 700 steps beneath the earth’s surface. The walls shimmer, and each cavern has something different to see.
The closest civilisation is the small town of Werfen, which is, in itself, worth a visit. The town is best known for Hohenwerfen Castle, which played a guest role in The Sound of Music. Shuttle buses for the ice caves leave from Werfen railway station regularly throughout the day.
Austria has no shortage of medieval castles perched on mountainsides, but Hochosterwitz is probably the most famous. According to local legend, it was the inspiration behind the castle mentioned in the Brothers Grimm version of Sleeping Beauty.
The story certainly seems plausible when you see the place, which looks like the basis of any number of fairy tales involving princesses and enchantment.
The inclined railway, by which tourists can gain access, is a feat of engineering that is alone worth the price of admission.
Did somebody say fairy tales? The centre of the historic city of Krems is another venue that seems to have been lifted out of a picture book. It stands at the point where the rivers Krems and Danube converge, and is probably the most famous place for Austria’s growing wine industry.
If you like a glass of vino, this is definitely the place for you. Local vineyards engage in good natured competition to promote their wares, and even the city’s museum has a distinct wine focus.
Austria has plenty of mountains with breathtaking views, but Schafberg is a little different. Situated in the heart of the Salzkammergut Mountains, this peak provides an incredible vista across the Wolfgangsee Lake.
And the best news of all? Getting there does not mean a day of hiking, as there is a steam train that runs from St Wolfgang right the way to the top of the mountain.