Travelling in Austria, a small Alpine country situated at the heart of Central Europe, allows you to perfectly combine nature and culture, with eight different UNESCO World Heritage sites. Enjoying international influence and acclaim thanks to places like Vienna and figures such as Mozart, this appealing country gives you the chance to travel through mountains, lakes and forests, as well as magnificent Baroque cities: Vienna, the imperial capital, Salzburg, the city of 100 churches and the cradle of Mozart, southern Graz, prized by UNESCO, Linz, on the coast of the Danube River, and Innsbruck, the capital of the Alps. Along the Danube River, you can celebrate the history, music, arts and cuisine, famous since the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Throughout the year you can enjoy operas, waltzes, balls and festivals, evidence of the country's rich musical heritage, evoking a nostalgia for the past.
Travelling Vienna by tramway is the perfect opportunity to see the city's most beautiful monuments: the Opera House, the Hofburg Imperial Palace, Parliament, the Rathaus, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Natural History Museum, the University and the Burgtheater. Don't miss the St Stephen's Cathedrals, known as Stephansdom, the symbol of the city, at the heart of the medieval town. Also unavoidable, outside the city centre, is the Schönbrunn Palace - the Windsor Castle of Austria.
From Vienna to Salzburg, Austria has inspired some of the world's most important musicians : Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Brahms, Beethoven and Strauss. Make sure you see a concert or go to a ball when you're in this musical country. Food lovers won't be able to resist the pastries (there's nothing quite like the sachertorte) along with a coffee or Viennese hot chocolate. You can also explore galleries full of Hapsburg art, or Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) by the likes of Klimt and Otto Wagner, not to mention the nature.
From the rivers of the Danube to the Viennese forests, from Vorarlberg to Tyrol, from Lake Constance to the Alpine summits to Krimml waterfalls, you will fall under the spell of the charming villages dotted between mountains and lakes. You will see how the Austrian cities combine cultural richness with omnipresent nature, you can hit the ski pistes in winter, you can enjoy wonderful hikes on beautiful summer days. And don't forget to enjoy Austrian culinary specialities.
One of our very favourite villages is Hallstatt, classified as a heritage site by UNESCO, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world. The terrain of the countryside is dreamed of by hikers, from full-blown treks to short walks. You can even enjoy the landscape by bike, with a wide variety of trails. As for museums, even if Vienna is home to the most prestigious, all of Austria is full of relics of European material culture, with innumerable art museums, history museums, music museums, as well as design and architecture museums. Austria is truly a country of a million faces!
Surface area : 83858.0 km2
Population : 8424000 inhabitants
Time difference : +1hr
The official showcase for Austrian craftwork, the Heimatwerk are a type of local emporium found in each town and city. Depending on the region, you can find wool carpets, deer leather, dried flowers, blown glass, toys, painted eggs, pottery, embroidery, porcelain knick-knacks, and a considerable variety of chocolate. Shops are open Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 6.00pm and to 5.00pm on Saturday.
Drinks: although beer is the national Austrian beverage, the country also has excellent vineyards and wine generally accompanies a meal. The wines from the Heurigen in the Viennese forest are some of the best, as well as of course ice wine. Organic wines are increasingly popular too.
Food: The speciality is the Viennese escalope. If you are adventurous with your food, try Tafelspitz (beef loin covered in a horseradish sauce), Leberknödel (dumplings made of liver and various spices), the Wild (venison with stewed cranberries) or Salzburger Nnockerin (a creamy soufflé shaped like a mountain).
For dessert, Austrians enjoy to eat fruits, though it is of course the world-famous pastries that you have to make sure you try when you visit. To start, try a slice of sachertorte (the famous chocolate cake), but don't miss the Apfelstrudel (an apple and cinnamon pie), Mohntorte (poppy tart) or Buchtel (cream brioche) either.
For something different, try the national soda: the Almdudler.
A very important spiritual and economic force in this very Catholic country, the Austrian church receives 1% of each citizen's revenue. If you refuse, you run the risk of not being buried in sacred ground.
Certain customs connected to religion still persist today, such as giving a cream cake during Easter Week.
Austria enjoys a lot of other pleasant customs, such as having a coffee break to each cake and read the newspaper - the best way to live. The café culture is historic and largely unchanged for many years.
Watching an opera or attending one of the 300 balls that take place throughout the year - everyone should learn how to dance the waltz!
And of course, jewellery making is an Austrian art: who hasn't heard of Swarovski?
Before Christmas parties, markets full of artisan products are a major tradition in Austria and not commercialised as they are in so many other places.
And the end of year parties, for those who enjoy eating, drinking and having fund, are like nowhere else in the world!
Austrians are very ecologically aware and frown upon littering on the street. In Vienna, avoid paying a fortune (50 euros for 20 minutes, 80 euros for 40 minutes) just to take a taxi. It is a lot more enjoyable to discover the city through walking and taking your time.
Make sure you get yourself a Vienna Card ! It is valid for three days, and allows you to use the buses, metro, and tramway for only 18.50 euros, and even gets you discounts at the city's museums. Since September 2010, the Viennese metro operates 24 hours per day on the weekends and on bank holidays.
What about if you don't want to pay 200 euros to get a place at an opera in Vienna ? You can even go on the day itself and queue up in order to get a place for only 3.50 euros.
We recommend that you go to the famous Prater amusement park to enjoy the many options on offer: first a pork knuckle, followed of course by candy floss, and finally be sure to have a ride on the famous Ferris wheel. Remember that the Prater is closed from November to April.
Attention : if you're on a diet, we don't recommend going to Vienna ! It will be very hard to resist the delicious Viennese pastries which are on offer everywhere, in all of the city's many cafés, a veritable institution in the Austrian capital. The Mozartkugeln, the chocolate balls filled with pralines in homage to the famous musician are equally unavoidable here. And of course, it would be a shame not to try the cheeses and meats on offer, as well as the cool wines from the Heurigen of the Viennese forests. The famous sachertorte is another delicacy!
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