"Land of Mountains, Land by the River" are the lyrics of the Austrian national anthem, as emblematic as its scenic landscape of imposing Alpine mountains and verdant valleys. Equally glorious are the cities, and Vienna might as well be the capital of decorum, artistry, and urban beauty. Once a mighty empire under the Hapsburgs, Austria became imperial glory, 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 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 stands for—orderly beauty, unmatched elegance, timeless music, a grand center of magnificent palaces, museums, parks, and of course, its famed cafes. We know how many cities are packed with cafes and fine restaurants, but they are only little eateries compared to Vienna's great coffee houses. 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 composers like Beethoven, Brahms, Gluck, Salieri, Schubert, and Stauss are buried. As said before, the city is home to the legendary cafes, so emblematic and elegant that they have become nearly UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each café is unique in its style, but they all share that particular charm thus far unparalleled. Some of these cafes include the Café Central, Café Schwarzenberg, Café Dommayer, Café Sacher, and the Café Pruckel. They are all relics of ancient times, evoking rococo or Belle Époque ambiance. They are all equally distinguished for the city's specialties—Eispanner Coffee, Apfelstrudel, Sacher or Linzer torte, and of course, the famed Veal Wiener Schnitzel. Vienna also has one of Europe's cleanest, most punctual and efficient public transport system, 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 calm elegance and the glittering splendor of this majestic city.
Considered Austria's 'university town,' 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, its beautiful opera house, the Opernhaus, for an unforgettable musical evening.
For the lovers of winter sports, Innsbruck is the place. Lying halfway 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 location: 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 centers 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 musical genius himself. But not all are old and quaint: Salzburg, believe it or not, juxtaposes the old with new; 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?
BEST THINGS TO DO IN AUSTRIA
The Vienna Hofburg: Austria's Imperial Palace
This entire Hofburg complex occupies 59 acres encompassing 19 courtyards and 2,600 rooms, and it was for centuries the seat of Austria's monarchy. Highlights of a visit involve the Imperial Silver Collection, the Sisi Museum, and the Imperial Apartments.
It is a district of Salzburg identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. A small, pedestrian street with shops providing folk costumes and antiques. The Prince Archbishops contracted some of the most exceptional artists and architects of their times to build and refurbish their churches, residences, and monasteries. Although these have been "renewed" in succeeding centuries, the medieval and Baroque buildings combine to form an incredible old quarter to explore.
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna
A glimpse museum in the former Winter Riding School presents dozens of historical state coaches and cutters. The entire Palace and garden collection is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hallstatt and the Dachstein Salzkammergut
It is one of the most charming small towns in Austria. The beautiful Baroque architecture testifies to Hallstatt's wealth. You can sense the underground salt lake in the nearby Hörnerwerk cavern or explore the Dachstein Caves, one of Europe's most exciting cavern networks, which are up to 1,174 meters deep.
Belvedere Palace, Vienna
It is one of the most visited palaces in Austria-and should definitely be included on your itinerary. In the upper Palace, you will find an impressive collection of artworks, the incredible main hall-Sala Terrena, the Carlone Hall, and the two-story Marble Hall. You will see a group of statues in the Lower Palace, numerous fine wall paintings, and a second Marble Hall. Besides, the Palace possesses a great café and restaurant to enjoy.
Trek the Krimmler Ache
It is the tallest waterfall in Austria, and it has a drop of 380 meters.
To get there, you will have to make your way to the delightful town of Krimm; then, you will have the opportunity to choose between many exciting hiking trails to enjoy a tremendous Austrian outdoor activity.
Pay recognition to Mozart in Salzburg
Mozart was born in Salzburg in Austria in 1756. His small home has now converted into a museum that is aptly named Mozart's Birthplace. You will discover family memorabilia, musical instruments, and paintings of Mozart all over the house.
Stroll around Hallstatt
It is one of the prettiest Alpine towns in all of Austria. You will have the chance to enjoy a boat ride or swim in this fascinated place.