“Land of Mountains, Land by the River” these are the lyrics of the Austrian national anthem, as emblematic as is its scenic landscape of imposing Alpine mountains and verdant valleys. Equally glorious are the cities, and Vienna in particular, might as well be the capital of decorum, artistry and urban beauty. Once a mighty empire under the Hapsburgs, Austria became imperial glory, and above all, of imposing buildings and equally imposing music. Over the years, and given the country’s rising prestige as a calm, highly-industrialized nation, Austria managed to overcome some of the dark moments of history to emerge as one of the brightest stars on the European continent. Its sophistication and utterly high living standards had never compromised its classical beauty, for which it receives millions of visitors every year.
It is the largest city in Austria, and given its ultra-high standard of living, cleanliness and sheer beauty, UN-Habitat deemed it to be the most prosperous city in the world. And it is so deserving of the title that it’s often cited as a great example of excellent urban planning! But that is only a fraction of what Vienna really stands for—orderly beauty, unmatched elegance, timeless music, a grand centre of magnificent palaces, museums, parks; and of course, its famed cafes. In fact, we know how many cities are packed with cafes and fine restaurants, but they are only little eateries compared to the great coffee houses of Vienna. The city’s major landmarks are many, but even so, no visit to Vienna can be concluded without visiting them, and they include the exceptionally beautiful Belvedere, Hofburg and Schonbrunn Palaces, symbols of the imperial glory of the Hapsburgs; the Vienna State Opera where magnificent music plays; the Bughtheatre; the fashionable Graben Street and Stephansplatz, site of one of the world’s tallest churches; and the colossal City Hall building known as the Rathaus. Vienna had also been the city of music, and nearly every corner has a plaque or residence named after a major composer like the Mozarthaus, near Stephansplatz. The Zentralfirehof is Vienna’s famed cemetery where eminent composer like Beethoven, Brahms, Gluck, Salieri, Schubert, and Stauss are buried. The city, as said before, is home to the legendary cafes, so emblematic and elegant that they have become nearly UNSECO World Heritage Sites. Each café is unique in it style, but they all share that particular charm thus far unparalleled elsewhere. Some of these cafes include the Café Central, Café Schwarzenberg, Café Dommayer, Café Sacher, and the Café Pruckel. They are all relics of bygone times, evoking rococo or Belle Époque ambience, and they are all equally distinguished for the city’s specialties—Eispanner Coffee, Apfelstrudel, Sacher or Linzer torte, and of course, the famed Veal Wienner Schnitzel. Vienna also has one of Europe’s cleanest, most punctual and efficient public transport system which is user friendly and reaches nearly all the main sights and quarters. But if you wish to enjoy Vienna, a stroll would do much better to capture the air of placid elegance and glittering splendor of this majestic city.
Considered the ‘university town’ of Austria, this is the quintessential Austrian city with its many old castles, squares and picturesque natural surroundings. Visit its famous town hall known as the Rathaus, or its beautiful opera house, the Opernhaus, for an unforgettable musical evening.
For the lovers of winter sports, Innsbruck is the place. Lying half way between Munich and Verona (Romeo and Juliet’s town!), Innsbruck attracts people from around the world for its enchanting wintry settings and sports, skiing being its trademark. Swoop down a snowy hill as you breathe the cool, refreshing air of the ideal Alpine setting: snow-capped mountains, towering pine trees, and a warm, cozy town below waiting with beautiful cafes, elegant squares, and world-class hotels.
This architectural gem was chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2014. So vibrant, Linz was the subject of one of Mozart’s symphonies. Alongside being the ‘sweet’ powerhouse of Austria, with its legendary Linzer Torte, or Linz cake, the city offers visitors pleasant shopping centres as well as famous architectural landmarks like the Gothic St. Mary’s Cathedral and the ultra-modern Brucknerhaus concert hall.
And speaking of Mozart, this is his birthplace. Salzburg is a renowned city famous for its well-preserved Baroque architecture, enchanting Alpine scenery, and of course, for being the cradle of the music genius himself. But not all is old and quaint: Salzburg, believe it or not, juxtaposes the old with new; just visit its famous Hangar-7, an ultra-modern glass and steel building that houses a collection of airplanes, helicopters and formula 1 automobiles. Where else can you find all that in one place?