Five Things First Time Travellers To Austria Should Know
- There is no portable WiFi for hire. However, Austria has some of the lowest data rates in Europe. All you need to do is buy a local sim card from any 7/11 or taboo stores and get a data bundle.
- Some restaurants don't open on the weekends or are only open after 5:00 p.m. To avoid disappointment, go online to check the opening times before making the mission across town.
- Round up your bill to tip. In Austria, restaurants include a service charge on all bills. However, it's still customary to round up your bill total and pay that amount to your waiter.
- You can drink the tap water. Austria has some of the best quality water in the world. In fact, it all comes straight from the Alps, so you don't need to worry about spending money on bottled water.
- WiFi is in most public spaces. If you're out exploring the museums or enjoying a meal at a restaurant, you'll be able to get online. Some places do have limits, only giving you enough time for a quick jaunt online.
Best Time To Visit Austria
It's hard to go wrong with a trip to Austria. The country is a year-round destination, offering something for every type of traveller.
The most popular time to visit Austria is during its summer months. From June to August, holidaymakers descend upon the country to take advantage of the good weather. Make sure you book your accommodation and flight ticket well in advance as hotels fill up fast during this season.
Other popular times of year to keep in mind are the holidays and annual festivals. Prices peak as crowds roll in for Christmas, New Year and Fasching (the famous ball season).
If you're a winter sports enthusiast, head to Austria's mountains from December to April. To save money, try to plan your visit for either the beginning or end of the season when rates are slightly cheaper.
September to October is a good option if you're looking for warm weather without the crowds. As the temperatures start to cool down, the summer crowds leave and you'll have Austria's top attractions to yourself. But don't leave your plans to the last minute. You'll still need to book your accommodation for at least two weeks in advance.
Vienna is the capital and the largest city in Austria. It holds more than 200 balls each year is one of the most visited places in Europe. It's also known around the world for producing some of the best composers such as Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven.
The city's highlights include the Hofburg Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral, The Vienna State Opera House and The Spanish Riding School.
Near the German border, lies Salzburg. It's Austria's fourth largest city and the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Surrounded by the beautiful Alpine scenery, the city's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting some of the best examples of baroque architecture.
It's also home to a 17th-century palace and is where the Sound of Music was filmed.
After hosting the Winter Olympics in 1964, Innsbruck has become synonymous with winter sports. It has some of the best skiing in the country and incredible views of the Alpine mountain range.
Besides its excellent outdoor activities, the city also has a lot of history. It houses the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I, a 16th-century castle and beautiful gothic cathedrals.
Graz is Austria's second largest city. It's known as the city of students thanks to its six universities and population of 44,000 students.
Graz is also considered one of the best preserved old towns in Europe and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The city is full of museums, baroque architecture and has developed a reputation among foodies for its culinary prowess.
Top Attractions in Austria
For centuries, the Hofburg Palace was the seat of Austria's monarchy up until the first World War. Since being built in 1275, Austria's past rulers have added their own flair to the building. The result is a mix of architectural influences including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.
While it's still used by Austria's President, visitors can visit the Hofburg complex. It contains over 2,500 rooms and sprawls across 59 acres. Its highlights are the Imperial Silver Collection, the Sisi Museum which focuses on the life of Empress Elisabeth and the Imperial Apartments that were once occupied by Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife.
Tomb of Emperor Maximilian
Located in the town of Innsbruck is the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I. The monument to the king is considered to be the finest example of German Renaissance sculpture and it attracts hundreds of visitors each year.
Commissioned by the emperor, work on the tomb began in 1502. However, when he died in 1519, only 11 of the 28 life-size figures surrounding his grave were complete. It took several more decades of work before the last one was finally added to the line up in 1555.
Strangely enough, the statues watch over an empty grave. The remains of Maximilian were never brought to the mausoleum and remain in their original resting place 325 miles away.
Melk Benedictine Abbey
Melk Benedictine Abbey is one of the most well-known monasteries in the world. The 325-metre long complex was once the castle of Leopold II before it was given to the monks in 1089.
Since then, Melk has become one of Austria's top historical attractions. It's home to some of the greatest examples of Baroque architecture and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Inside the complex, visitors will find the tomb of Saint Coloman of Stockerau, a 196 metre long Imperial Corridor complete with portraits of past rulers, Imperial Rooms and the remains of Austria's first ruling family.
Burg Hochosterwitz is Austria's most important medieval castle. Located 60-metres above the valley, it was first mentioned in the history books in 860 AD. For centuries, the castle was a frontline between Europe and the Ottoman Empire.
But thanks to its impressive fortifications, the castle was never captured by invaders, and it has remained in the Khevenhuller family ever since.
The castle has an incredible selection of 14th-century weapons, 14 defensive gates and a chapel with paintings dating back to 1570.
The guided tour included in the entrance fee will give you an in-depth look into the castle's history and is well worth the EUR 13 price tag.
World of the Ice Giants
The World of the Ice Giants is the largest system of ice caves in the world. It covers an area of 30,000 square metres and was discovered back in 1879.
The caves opened to the public in 1912 and have been a popular attraction ever since. To date, there is still 45 km of the network that remains unexplored.
Tours to the caves last about two hours and will take you along its winding corridors. Its highlights include Hymir Hall, and its impressive ice formations; the Great Ice Wall; the Ice Gate and the beautiful Ice Palace.
Plan to spend a whole day here as travel time between the site and the nearest town is a few hours.
Major International Airports in Austria
- Vienna International Airport
- Salzburg Airport
- Innsbruck Airport
- Graz Airport
- Linz Airport