austria

Travel guide to Austria

Austria is a country of 32,374 square miles that has borders with seven countries: Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. It is divided up into nine provinces or Bunderslander: Vienna, Burgenland, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg. It is a country of mountains and is divided from west to east by two parallel mountain ridges of the massive Alpine range. The highest mountain in Austria is the Grossglockner at 12,463 ft. This west to east range has a huge effect on the climate of Austria. Wintertime in the mountain regions are very cold with usually plenty of snow, making it an ideal location for winter sports. Springtime sees the lower parts of the mountains bursting into flower with such delights as anemones, orchids (Frauenschuh) and , or course, the edelweiss.

Waltzes, palaces, Mozart, Danube and skiing are probably the words that come to mind when we refer to Austria. Although it has been established in the consciousness of most people as the pre-eminent Christmas country, it continues to be an interesting destination at all times of the year.

Innsbruck – the heart of Tyrol – and popular alpine resorts such as Kitzbuhel and Badgastein are just as vibrant in summer and winter, with hiking, mountaineering and swimming in beautiful lakes replacing slalom in snow-capped mountains.

Vienna, with the Danube crossing it, full of museums and palaces with evocative Baroque architecture and a rising youth culture, is a serious candidate for the throne of the most arty city in Europe. Salzburg has built its tourism profile on Mozart and classical music and is claiming our attention both at Christmas and in the summer with its famous festival.

Austria consists of 9 independent federal states (Bundesländer) each with its own government. Federal legislation is exercised by the national council together with the federal council, the two chambers of parliament.
The federation’s legislation is implemented by the two chambers of parliament – the Nationalrat and the Bundesrat – with the latter representing the interests of the federated states. Legislation in the federal states is in the hands of the federal state parliaments, the so-called Landtage. The 183 deputies of the “Nationalrat” are elected every four years by the entire population, the members of the “Landtage” by the population of the respective federal state. The members of the “Bundesrat” are delegated by the “Landtage”.

Austria is a federal state, consisting of 9 federal states, each with its own :

Burgenland (Eisenstadt)
Easternmost state bordering Hungary. Known for the only steppe lake in Europe ‘the Neusiedler See’.

Carinthia, (capital Klagenfurt)
Southernmost state of Austria. Has the most hours of sunshine and many lakes with drinking water quality.

Lower Austria, (capital Sankt Pölten)
This state borders both the Czech Republic and Hungary and is located in the north-east. The capital Vienna is also located in this state.

Salzburgerland , (capital Salzburg)
State bordering Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria.

Styria , (capital Graz)
This state is also called ‘the green heart’ of Austria. Alps in the north and flat terrain in the south.

Tyrol, (capital Innsbruck)
Most loved by the tourists for both summer and winter holidays.

Upper Austria , (capital Linz)
Bordering Germany and the Czech Republic. This is where the Austrian section of the Danube begins.

Vienna
Capital of Austria.

Vorarlberg (capital Bregenz)
Most western state, bordering Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Climate

In Summertime the air is dry, crisp and crystal clear enabling magnificent views to be had of the snowy peaks and lush green valleys with their fast moving mountain streams and rivers. As in most mountainous regions, Austria has plenty of water provided by rivers and streams. Austria is one of the famous tourist spots of the world. Here you will find the Salzburg Fest, the cafes of Vienna, Innsbruck with marvellous skiing areas in the nearby Tyrol and Kitzbuhel. It has a temperate sub-Alpine climate. However, it rarely becomes either terribly hot nor bitterly cold. The seasons gradually slip on, one to the other, without abrupt temperature changes.  From late October until mid December the countryside has heavy rains but Vienna is always agreeable. In the mountainous regions snowfall begins mid November. The air is crisp, clear and cold but sunny.

Spring climate in the mountains makes Austria a paradise for skiers. The lower meadows of Oberinntal, near the Italian borders, are rich in multicoloured carpets of flowers for which the Alps are famous. Throughout the Alpine region the forests and flowers are strikingly beautiful, especially in Spring. Famous amongst these rivers are the Danube, the Drau and the Mur with several large tributary rivers. It also has one of Europe’s largest lakes, the Neusiedlersee. Vienna abounds in wonderful restaurants, bars, small smart eating places and coffee house. There are also traditional kellers where, in some, you can listen to traditional live music while you eat. The beautiful winter garden, with its restaurants, coffee shops and bars, is interesting to see. 

Winter and Summer

Skiing tops the list.  It is the national sport of Austria and her mountains and climate are perfect for it.  Skiing huts and lodges dot the countryside, and many fine ski resorts may be found in Austria.  Near Salzburg is the Bad Gastein resort with cable car, ski lifts and skating rink.  The Arlberg resorts west and Kitzbuehel east of Innsbruck are international favourites.  The St. Anton-am-Arlberg resort is known as ‘The Ski Capital of the World’. Austrian ski schools, trails, runs and incidental facilities cannot be surpassed.  Austria contains over a thousand miles of perfect ski slopes. 

Hunting and fishing, mountaineering, bicycling and boating are also popular sports in Austria. Sailing and Rowing is available on all the larger lakes and the Austrian rivers lend themselves exceptionally well to flat-boating.  All the lake resorts offer swimming facilities.  Opportunities for hiking and climbing are limitless.  Trails are carefully marked and the existence of the hut system and at least one clean, comfortable inn in every village makes it possible to range freely.  All mountaineering equipment may be purchased or hired on the spot and professional guides are available everywhere.

austriaDuring the summer months there are regular river trips available along the beautiful river Danube. The most beautiful stretch winds through the romantic ‘Wachau’ valley which is a famous attraction especially at blossom time. However, due to the fast current it is recommended to take this trip only downstream and not upstream . The slightly mountainous province of Carinthia (Karnten), in the south of the country, is a popular holiday destination in the summer due to its wonderfully warm summer climate and beautiful lakes. The Upper and Lower Austrian provinces are in the foothills of the mountains and comprise beautiful woodlands, meadows and farmlands. The driest part of Austria is along the eastern borders and includes parts of the provinces of Burgenland, Styria and Lower Austria. Here the climate and countryside is made up of gentle hills and plains.

Transport

As a means of transport within the country, the train or the car are recommended, “smaller” excursion destinations (especially those without their own train station) can be easily reached all over Austria with the Postbus. Domestic flights are unusual and rather expensive. They also do not save any significant time when you factor in the time required from the airports to the city centers.

Communications

Austria has a very good cell phone network, with almost 100% GSM coverage, almost 95% UMTS coverage and HSDPA / HSUPA in all metropolitan areas. All providers offer prepaid SIM cards, there is no obligation to register – simply refuse if the seller asks. Telephone booths (with a coin slot or for prepaid cards) can also be found in more crowded places, many of them with the option of sending e-mails. For longer calls it is advisable to purchase a telephone prepaid card (available from tobacconists (kiosks) and post offices, among others. Internet cafes can be found in all major cities, and access points in many public places (e.g. at Schwechat Airport), some of them free of charge. Free of charge All Mc Donalds branches offer WLAN unlimited time + unlimited transfer

Culture Arts and Museums

There is a good chance that when you think of Austria, you think of Mozart, Strauss, Schubert, Haydn, Klimt, Schiele or other well-known names from the rich art history of the Alpine country. Not to mention the imperial history: the pompous palaces and robust castles, churches and monasteries, opera houses and theaters.

Numerous heritages that are often surprisingly well preserved. Take a stroll through the Hofburg in Vienna at dusk, for example, or past the Residenz in Salzburg: you expect a diligence with Mozart on board to rattle around the corner at any moment. It is classic Austria, a fairyland of waltz, sissi and sachertorte.

Of course, the Austrians have not been sitting still since the end of the empire. On the contrary, the country has become a challenging travel destination for lovers of contemporary culture; a hotspot in the field of design, architecture, fashion and music.

That started in the middle of the last century, when young, ambitious artists such as Friedensreich Hundertwasser thought that everything could be a bit fresher and more exciting. But especially in the past decade Austria has experienced a cultural growth spurt.

Just take the dozens of galleries, lounge bars, designer shops and trendy fashion boutiques that have sprung up like mushrooms. Not only in the trendy districts of Vienna, but also in cities such as Innbruck, Salzburg and Bregenz.

It is therefore no coincidence that two Austrian cities could call themselves European Capitals of Culture for a year: Graz in 2003 and Linz in 2009. Many new museums have also been opened in recent years. Such as the Museums Quartier in Vienna: a collection of five museums in the former Imperial horse stables, a Baroque complex that has been given a masterly makeover into the largest contiguous museum area in Europe. The offer ranges from a permanent exhibition on Austrian architecture to the largest Egon Schiele collection in the world.

Other brand new must-see museums include the Kunsthaus Graz, the Lentos Museum in Linz, the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg and the Kunsthaus Bregenz, all of which are beautiful temples of modern art. And design has even made an appearance in the mountain pastures, for example in the Liaunig Museum of Contemporary Art in Carinthia, an architectural masterpiece that is masterfully embedded in the hilly landscape. It is the perfect illustration of 21st century Austria: where nature, culture, tradition and modern life coexist in harmony.

Passports and visas

Residents of countries in the European Union are allowed to move freely within the EU. This is especially true for tourist visits. In case you want to work somewhere, this is usually also possible, but pay particular attention to the rules regarding work for the more recently joined countries.

Anyone who does not have the nationality of one of the EU countries, but who is legally present in one of the countries that have joined the Schengen Agreement, can travel through such a country without any problems. A valid passport and visa or residence document must be presented.

However, everyone who travels needs a valid passport or ID card at all times. In these countries, the identity card is a valid travel document for nationals of one of the countries mentioned: Andorra, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Great Britain and Northern Ireland (including the Channel Islands), Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain (including the Canary Islands), Czech Republic, Turkey, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland.

Pets also need a passport containing various mandatory vaccinations and data chip, checks take place very regularly. Without proper and timely vaccinations and a chip, pets are prohibited from entering the country.

Getting there

By plane

There are international airports in Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, Salzburg and Vienna. By far the largest airport and the only one with an intercontinental service is Vienna-Schwechat (VIE). The western federal states are best reached for travelers outside Europe via the nearby airports of Friedrichshafen (FDH), Memmingen (FMM), Zurich (ZRH), Altenrhein (ACH) or Munich (MUC).

By train

The OBB (Austrian Federal Railways) is the only large railway company in Austria, the rail network is particularly well developed in the (less mountainous) eastern half of Austria. Many smaller cities can also be reached there by train. For visitors under 26 years of age, we recommend purchasing a VorteilsCard for € 19.90 (passport photo required) with frequent use, with which you receive a 45-50% discount on journeys within Austria.
In addition to the Austrian Federal Railways there has also been the private train company Westbahn for several years now, which connects Salzburg and Vienna (with a few stops in Wels, Linz, etc.). At the weekend it is worthwhile to reserve a seat for around € 5, as the trains are very crowded. Tickets can only be bought on the train or online.

The Austrian rail network is primarily geared towards Vienna. As a result of the role that Vienna played in the Habsburg Monarchy, the routes from Vienna to Hungary (Budapest) and the Czech Republic (Brno and Prague) are also well developed. Other lines lead to South Bohemia (Budweis) and Slovakia (Bratislava). The central function of Vienna also led to the fact that the routes were named after the direction in which they run from Vienna (north line, south line, east line, west line).

For inner-Austrian traffic, the southern line to Carinthia and Styria and the western line to Innsbruck are particularly important. There is a 2-hour service in the direction of Carinthia, and there are hourly connections to Graz. In the direction of Linz and Salzburg there is an hourly service, further to Innsbruck and Bregenz, as well as to Switzerland there is a connection every 2 hours.

By car

Austria is connected to many neighboring countries via motorways,like Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia. You can only enter Switzerland and Lichtenstein via country roads.
As an inexpensive alternative for longer distances, paid carpooling is becoming more and more popular in Austria. The mediation of drivers and passengers takes place on the Internet, with the help of online car sharing agencies such as mitfahrgelportun.at. The fare is a matter of negotiation and is usually EUR 5 per 100 km.

River cruises

The Danube passes through the north of Austria and flows through Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Vienna. Vienna in particular, the most important passenger port on the Danube next to Budapest, is the starting point for many of the (mostly 3 or 4 day) cruises to Budapest and back. It is also possible from here to travel the entire Danube to the Danube Delta with passenger ships in a very comfortable and contemplative way and to see the numerous sights along the way. However, traveling by ship is a rather slow route and comparatively expensive.