Austria boasts an inherent elegance. There’s a beautiful mix of old and new architecture, historic sites are present at every corner and alongside charming, quaint towns and cities is Mother Nature with its alpine valleys, dominant mountain ranges and azure lakes. To experience a slice of what Austria really means, Quotient points you to this little nation’s quintessential experiences.
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Cruise the Danube
Cruising is perhaps the best way to really feel this mighty river’s power and strength so don’t hesitate to jump aboard a vessel in the capital and gently glide along to admire some of Austria’s most diverse and picturesque landscapes. To meld history, scenery and even get a taste of the local winemaking methods, take a boat trip through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wachau Valley, which won’t be short on romanticism and relaxation. For wine lovers, the recommended stretch from Vienna and Passau includes plenty of vineyards and quaint villages, whereas history lovers can opt for the stretch between Melk and Krems; be sure not to miss the grandiose Melk Abbey if you pass through the area.
Cruises within Vienna are offered year-round; excursions to Wachau Valley are conducted between mid-April and late October with the highest frequency from May to September.
Heurige-hop around Vienna
For a real ‘in Vienna veritas’ experience, head to the outskirts of this beautiful city to visit the local wine taverns called heurige, which can be identified by a signboard with the word “Ausg’steckt”. They are where patrons can sample the most recent year’s wines and even get a feel of “gemultlichkeit”, which can be literally translated as “cheerful cosiness”.
For instance, in Döbling, vineyards and heurige are located on the Kahlenberg hill and pledge a spectacular view across the city. Besides, this lively tradition makes for the perfect opportunity to mingle with locals and sample wines from different vineyards!
Heurige (singular: heuriger or heurigen) are open throughout the year, but to taste the young vintage also known as heurige, pop by before 11th November or Saint Martin’s Day. Post this date, the most recent vintage will be designated old wine or “alter”.
Drive the Grossglockner High Alpine Road
Stretching from Bruck in Salzburgerland to Heiligenblut in Carinthia, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is considered one of the most scenic and beautiful roads in the world for good reasons.
Almost resembling an ornament of ribbons, the scenic road is located between verdant mountain pastures and meadows brimming with wild flowers, and makes for a visual delight. Expect to get a good dose of stunning scenery and immerse in nature entirely as well as experience exhibitions and museums along the way, and even get some rest in rustic mountain huts and inns. One thing’s for sure; the drive is dramatic and the pristine Alpine landscapes of the Hohe Tauern National Park are incredibly uplifting — literally!
While the scenic road is open early May to early November, it is advisable to time your road trip in early summer or the beginning of autumn when it is not as crowded. Note that there are specific opening hours for the different seasons, so be sure to consult the Grossglockner High Alpine Road website before your drive.
Bask in the beauty of Carinthian lakes
Known as Austria’s Riviera, the region of Carinthia tucked in the country’s boasts an incredible collection of pristine lakes, which are known for their beauty as well as warm temperatures during summer. As nature here dominates, you will enjoy a landscape of 200 swimming lakes as well as rivers and hot springs. In autumn, too, the atmosphere here is charming, as you can welcome the season with hikes along the lakes, cycling tours and even wine festivals.
Among the most popular bathing lakes are Woerthersee, the largest in the region and a popular filming location, Weissensee, Carinthia’s highest lake, and the Ossiacher See with its long water slide and proximity to Burgruine Landskron that hosts a birds of prey show on its castle ruins.
Watch a majestic Lipizzan Stallion performance
To get a glimpse of Vienna’s sophistication, don’t miss out the stallion performance at the baroque Winter Riding School in the lovely Hofburg Palace, which is set to Viennese classical music. The Spanish Riding School, named after the horses’ heritage, is located in the capital, while in Piber, visitors can get up-close and personal with the stud farm where they are trained and ridden.
Over 75 classical dressage performances of the snow-white stallions are available each year, but only a handful — in winter — are gala shows. Note that children under the age of 3 years are not allowed to attend.