You'll never fall into tourist traps when you travel with Frommer's. It's like having a friend show you around, taking you to the places locals like best. Our expert authors have already gone everywhere you might go they've done the legwork for you, and they're not afraid to tell it like it is, saving you time and money. No other series offers candid reviews of so many hotels and restaurants in all price ranges. Every Frommer's Travel Guide is up-to-date, with exact prices for everything, dozens of color maps, and exciting coverage of sports, shopping, and nightlife. You'd be lost without us!
Come along with Frommer's and discover some of Europe's most spectacular scenery, from the towering peaks of the Alps to the dazzling baroque architecture of Vienna and Salzburg. Frommer's offers up-to-date coverage of all of Austria's highlights Mozart festivals, skiing, hiking, cafes, castles, imperial palaces, alpine villages, Danube River towns, and more. Inside you'll find candid, detailed reviews of the very best dining and accommodations; accurate color maps; and insider tips on shopping. We offer a wealth of sightseeing, sports, strolls, and special moments from highlights for the first-time visitor to off-the-beaten-track discoveries that will impress even the most seasoned traveler.
About the Author
Veteran travel writers Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince have written numerous best-selling Frommer’s guides, notably to Germany, France, Italy, England, and Spain. Porter was bureau chief for the Miami Herald when he was 21. Prince, who began writing with Porter in 1982, worked for the Paris bureau of the New York Times. Together, they wrote and researched the first-ever Frommer’s guide to Austria. As frequent travelers to this alpine country, they know their destination well.
Read an Excerpt
By Darwin Porter & Danforth Prince
Wiley Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2003 Wiley Publishing, Inc.
All right reserved.
There's so much to do in Austria, from exploring historic castles and palaces to skiing some of the world's finest alpine slopes. All the choices you'll have to make when planning your trip can be a bit bewildering. We've tried to make your task easier by compiling a list of our favorite experiences and discoveries. In the following pages you'll find the kind of candid advice we'd give our close friends.
1 The Best Travel Experiences
Skiing in the Alps: This is the reason thousands of visitors come to Austria in the first place; skiing is the Austrian national sport. The country abounds in ski slopes, and you'll find the best ones in Tyrol, Land Salzburg, and Vorarlberg, although most parts of Carinthia, Western Styria, and Lower Austria also have slopes. The season lasts from late November to April, depending on snow conditions. At 1,739m (5,700 ft.), the Obertauern region extends its ski season until May. The daredevils among you can ski glaciers at 3,355m (11,000 ft.), even in summer. See section 8, "The Best Ski Areas," in this chapter.
Feasting on the "Emperor's Dish," Tafelspitz: No Austrian dish is more typical than the fabled Tafelspitz (boiled beef dinner) favored by Emperor Franz Joseph. Boiled beef might sound dull, but Tafelspitz is far from bland. Boiled to a tender delicacy, the "table end" cut is flavored with a variety of spices, including juniper berries, celery root, and onions. An apple-and-horseradish sauce further enlivens the dish, which is usually served with fried, grated potatoes. The best Tafelspitz is served in Vienna, where the chefs have been making the dish for decades. We recommend several restaurants where you can sample this dish. See chapter 3.
Listening to Mozart: It is said that at any time of the day or night in Austria, someone, somewhere is playing the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You might hear it at an opera house, a church, a festival, an open-air concert, or more romantically in a Belle Epoque cafe performed by a Hungarian orchestra. Regardless, "the sound of music" drifting through Vienna is likely the creation of this child prodigy. Try to hear Mozart on his home turf, especially in Vienna and Salzburg. See chapters 4 and 7.
Watching the Lipizzaner Stallions (Vienna): Nothing evokes the heyday of imperial Vienna more than the Spanish Riding School. Here, the sleek white stallions and their expert riders demonstrate the classic art of dressage in choreographed leaps and bounds. The stallions, a crossbreed of Spanish thoroughbreds and Karst horses, are the finest equestrian performers on earth. Riders wear brass buttons, doeskin breeches and black bicorne hats. You can watch the performances, but you'll need to make reservations 6 to 8 weeks in advance. See p. 129.
Cruising the Danube (Donau): Johann Strauss took a bit of poetic license in calling the Donau "The Blue Danube," as it's actually a muddy-green color. But a Danube cruise is a highlight of any Austrian vacation. The legendary DDSG, Blue Danube Shipping Company, Handelskai 265, offers mostly 1-day trips. On board, you'll pass some of the most famous sights in eastern Austria, including Krems and Melk. See "Boating on the 'Blue' Danube" (p. 149).
Heurigen Hopping in the Vienna Woods: Heurigen are rustic wine taverns that celebrate the arrival of each year's new wine (Heuriger) by placing a pine branch over the door. Austrians rush to these taverns to drink the new local wines and feast on a country buffet. Some Heurigen have garden tables with panoramic views of the Danube Valley, whereas others provide shaded, centuries-old courtyards where revelers can enjoy live folk music. Try the red wines from Vöslau, the Sylvaner of Grinzing, or the Riesling of Nussberg, while listening to a Schrammelmusik quartet with all the revelers singing "Wien bleibt Wien." See "The Wienerwald (Vienna Woods)" in chapter 5.
Reliving The Sound of Music: In 1964, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and a gaggle of kids imitating the von Trapp family filmed one of the world's great musicals. The memory of that Oscar-winning movie lingers on, as a steady stream of visitors heads to Salzburg just to take The Sound of Music tour. You visit the Nonnberg Abbey where the nuns sang "How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?" as well as that little gazebo where Rolf and Liesl danced in the rain. There's also a stop at the Felsenreitenschule (Rock Riding School), where the von Trapps gave their final performance. See p. 241.
Driving on Top of the World on the Grossglockner Road (Land Salzburg): For the drive of a lifetime, you can take Europe's longest and most panoramic alpine highway, with hairpin turns and bends around every corner-the stuff Grand Prix is made of. It begins at Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse at 757m (2,483 ft.); continues through the Hochtortunnel, where the highest point is 2,507m (8,220 ft.); and ends in the province of Carinthia. The mountain part of the road, stretching some 22km (13 1/2 miles), often at 1,983m (6,500 ft.), has a maximum gradient of 12%. You can drive this stunning engineering feat from mid-May to mid-November, although the road is safest from mid-June to mid-September. The views are among the greatest in the world, but keep your eye on that curvy road! See p. 282.
Exploring the Alps: There are few places in the world that are as splendid as the limestone chain of mountains shared between Austria and Bavaria. Moving toward the east, the Alps slope away to the Great Hungarian Plain. The Austrian Alps break into three chains, including the High or Central Alps, the Northern Limestone Alps, and the Southern Limestone Alps. In the west, you discover fairy-tale Tyrolean villages, the Holy Roman Empire attractions of Innsbruck, and some of the world's greatest ski resorts, including St. Anton, Zürs, Lech, and Kitzbühel. Filled with quaint little towns, the Eastern Alps sprawl across the Tyrolean country, West Styria, and Land Salzburg. Centuries-old castles and stunning views await you at every turn. See chapters 8, 10, 11, and 13.
2 The Most Romantic Getaways
Hof bei Salzburg (Land Salzburg): Lying on Lake Fuschl (Fuschlsee), this chic resort is only a 15-minute ride from the congestion of Salzburg; it boasts a breathtaking alpine backdrop of blue clear but chilly waters, mountains, and evergreen forests. Based here, you can also easily get to Fuschlsee as well as Wolfgangsee and Mondsee. The town offers some romantic places to stay, notably the Hotel Schloss Fuschl (06229/22530), whose main section dates from 1450. See p. 287.
St. Wolfgang (Upper Austria): On the Wolfgangsee, one of Austria's loveliest lakes, St. Wolfgang lies in the mountains of the Salzkammergut. It's the home of the White Horse Inn (06138/ 2306-0), which served as the setting for Ralph Benatzky's operetta The White Horse Inn. Lying 50km (31 miles) east of Salzburg, the resort is a summer paradise, with lakefront beaches and cafes and hiking opportunities in all directions, plus skiing in winter. See section 3, "St. Wolfgang & Bad Ischl," in chapter 9.
Mutters (Tyrol): On a sunny plateau above Innsbruck, this little resort has been called the most beautiful village in Tyrol (quite a compliment). Mutters, a central base of the 1964 and 1976 Olympics, attracts visitors yearround. The most romantic place to stay is the Hotel Altenburg (0512/54-85-34), a restaurant back in 1622 and later a farmhouse before its conversion into an elegant hotel. See p. 357.
Stuben (Vorarlberg): The rich and famous might flock to Vorarlberg's stellar ski resorts, Zürs or Lech, but we think you should sneak away to the little village of Stuben, 10km (6 miles) north of Lech on the west side of the Arlberg Pass. A way station for alpine travelers for centuries, Stuben was the birthplace of the great ski instructor Hannes Schneider. In winter, you can take a horse-drawn sleigh from Lech to Stuben. Once here, stay at Hotel Mondschein (05582/511), a 1739 house converted to a hotel. See p. 413.
Pörtschach (Carinthia): Many wealthy Viennese have lavish summer homes in this resort town on the northern perimeter of Lake Wörther. Known for its lakeside promenade, it attracts a sports-oriented crowd that wants to hike, play golf, ride, sail, and water-ski, or just enjoy scenic drives through the countryside. Lake Wörther itself is Carinthia's largest alpine lake, yet its waters are warm, often going above 80°F (27°C) in summer. We recommend staying and dining at the romantic Hotel Schloss Leonstain (04272/ 281-60), where Johannes Brahms composed his Violin Concerto and Second Symphony. See p. 432.
Bad Aussee (Styria): An old market town and spa in the "green heart" of the Salzkammergut, Bad Aussee is 80km (50 miles) southeast of Salzburg. In the Valley of Traun, it's set against the backdrop of Totes Gebirge and the Dachstein massif. June is a lovely time to visit, when fields of narcissus burst into bloom. Bad Aussee lies only 5km (3 miles) north of the lake, Altausee, and is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of Austria. Long known as a summer spa resort, it's also developing into a winter ski center. The best place to stay is the Eurotel Erzherzog Johann (03622/52507), with its rustic interior and spa facilities that include an indoor swimming pool. See section 4, "Bad Aussee," in chapter 13.
3 The Best Castles & Palaces
Schönbrunn Palace (Vienna): This Hapsburg palace of 1,441 rooms was the summer residence of this powerful family that ruled much of Europe. The great baroque architect J. B. Fischer von Erlach modeled his plans on Versailles, though he ultimately surpassed the French palace in size. Even so, Maria Theresa spoke of the palace as "cozy," where she could retreat with her many children and paint watercolors or work on her embroidery. The Hapsburg dynasty came to an end here when Karl I signed his Act of Abdication on November 11, 1918. See p. 136.
Hofburg (Vienna): The winter palace of the Hapsburgs, Hofburg was the seat of an imperial throne that once governed the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire. The sprawling palace reads like an architectural timeline of the Hapsburg family, dating from 1279 with subsequent additions continuing until 1918. Truly a city within a city, the Hofburg houses everything today from the offices of the president of Austria to the Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzaner stallions-even the Vienna Boys' Choir. See section 1, "The Hofburg Palace Complex," in chapter 4.
Österreichische Galarie Belvedere (Belvedere Palace) (Vienna): On a slope above Vienna, this palace was designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, the last major architect of the baroque in Austria. Belvedere served as a summer home for Prince Eugene of Savoy, the country's greatest military hero, who routed the Ottomans in the late 17th century. The palace was a gift from the imperial throne in recognition of the prince's military achievements, although he was (at the time) richer than the Hapsburgs. Not exactly pleased with his "gift," the hero made stunning new baroque additions and improvements. As a collector and patron of the arts, he filled the palace with objets d'art. See p. 134.
Schloss Esterhazy (Eisenstadt): This castle in Eisenstadt, capital of Burgenland, was the seat of the Esterhazy princes, a great and powerful Hungarian family that helped the Hapsburgs gain control of Hungary. The seat of their power was built around an inner courtyard and designed by Carlone, the Italian architect. Work started on the castle in 1663, but the design was subsequently altered over the years and later received the baroque treatment. The family invited Haydn here to work on his music, and in the Haydnsaal, the great composer conducted an orchestra for the family's entertainment. See p. 193.
Residenz (Salzburg): The seat of the Salzburg prince-bishops, this opulent palace dates from 1120. Over the years, newer palaces were added to form an ecclesiastical complex. On the palace's second floor is a 15-room art gallery filled with the works of 16th- to 18th-century European masters. You can also walk through more than a dozen richly decorated staterooms. The Residenz fountain, which dates from the 1660s, is one of the largest and most impressive baroque fountains north of the Alps. See p. 234.
Hofburg (Innsbruck): This imperial palace, built in the 14th to 16th centuries, was the seat of Emperor Maximilian I. In the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa made major structural changes, giving it a rococo appearance; the Giant's Hall is an architectural marvel of 18th-century Austrian architecture. In the palace's main hall hangs a portrait of Maria's famous youngest daughter, Marie Antoinette-with her head. See p. 334.
4 The Best Cathedrals & Abbeys
Domkirche St. Stephan (Vienna): Crowned by a 137m (450-ft.) steeple, St. Stephan's, the Cathedral of Vienna, is one of Europe's great Gothic structures. The great Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter claimed that its "sheer beauty lifts the spirit." The Viennese regard this monument with great affection, calling it Der Steffl. The cathedral's vast tiled roof is exactly twice the height of its walls. Intricate altarpieces, stone canopies, and masterful Gothic sculptures are just some of the treasures that lie within. Climb the spiral steps to the South Tower for a panoramic view of the city. See p. 131.
Melk Abbey (Melk): This abbey church, situated on a promontory above the Danube, is one of the world's finest baroque buildings. Melk figures in the Nibelungenlied, the great German epic poem, as well as Umberto Eco's best-selling The Name of the Rose. The view from here is one of the most panoramic in a country known for its views. This baroque masterpiece has burned many times, the first time in 1297 and then in 1683 and 1735, but each time has risen from the ashes. After a 1947 fire, the golden abbey church was restored yet again, even to the regilding of statues and altars with gold bullion. See p. 188.
Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburg): World renowned for its 4,000-pipe organ, this cathedral is the "most perfect" Renaissance structure in the Germanic countries, with a rich baroque interior and elaborate frescoes. It towers 76m (250 ft.) into the air and holds 10,000 worshippers. The present cathedral was consecrated with great ceremony in 1628, although records show a cathedral on this spot since the 8th century.
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Table of Contents
List of Maps.
What’s New in Austria.
1. The Best of Austria.
2. Planning Your Trip to Austria.
3. Settling into Vienna.
4. Exploring Vienna.
5. Lower Austria.
7. Salzburg: City of Mozart.
8. Land Salzburg.
9. Upper Austria.
10. Innsbruck & Tyrol: The Best of Scenic Austria.
Appendix: Language Lessons.