Four Austrian Cities & Towns That Should Top Your Getaway List

10 April 2015

Nestled amongst the Alps, Europe's winter sports capital isn't all about snow and slopes. In fact, the country's cities and towns glisten with stunning scenery and cultural history, after all, Austria is the nation that gave us Mozart, Beethoven, Johann Strauss, and who could forget The Sound of Music. 

So for a country that may be overlooked as simply a ski-holiday, here are four Austrian cities and towns that allay those prejudices, and are also the perfect destination for your next getaway. 

Vienna

Like I mentioned, Austria has a strong case for being classed as the home of classical music, and none more so is that prominent than at its State Opera house in Vienna. Possibly the most celebrated opera house in the world, inside its stunning facade you'll find history's most famous operas or ballets, each performed through both classical and modern versions, and the house's resident orchestra is widely regarded as the best in the world. Coincidentally, the city still hosts around 200 balls a year.

Away from music, Vienna's postcard picture has to be its Schönbrunn Palace. Comparable in stature to the Palace of Versailles, the 18th century palace houses 1,441 rooms but more impressive are its imposing gardens, which blossom and come alive in Summer. Its park offers many attractions, such as its Privy Garden, the oldest zoo in the world, a maze and labyrinth, and a marble summerhouse situated on top of a 60 metre high hill.

Other cultural spots include the Hofburg, the home of the Hapsburg rulers’ imperial jewellery, and the Kunsthistorisches, a museum that has an overwhelming collection of paintings by old masters.

Out on the streets though, Vienna has an abundance of cafés and alfresco dining set against its imperial architecture, and when night turns and opera's not your scene, you'll be able to find everything from rock to techno.

Festival-wise, they come no bigger than June's Rock in Vienna: a heavy-rock mecca on a Danube River island, blasting out the sounds of Muse, Metallica, KISS and tonnes more.  

Salzburg

Birthplace of Mozart and The Sound of Music, the country's fourth largest city is nestled within one of the most enthralling landscapes of dreaming spires, green hills and romantic gardens. From the Salzach River below, our gaze rises and rises until the Altstadt’s mosaic of elegant domes and spires, the powerful cliff-top fortress and the mountains beyond.

It's tempting to become lost in the Salzburg's enchanting setting, but if you break free and instead become lost in the city itself, you'll find one buzzing with a burgeoning arts scene, exquisite cuisine, lush parks and concert halls that uphold musical tradition 365 days a year.

Krems an der Donau

With a population of just 25,000, the charming Krems an der Donau is a place left best to the wanderer wishing to dip into history at the town's various churches and museums, and stroll along the danube before washing it all down with a tickle of some locally produced wine.

And to go with its seeming tranquility, the town is home to one of Austria's most introverted festivals - donaufestival - but it's one that bulges with artistic stimulation as live performances accompany the soothing electronic and rock waves of Ben Frost, Autechre, Battles and more.

Hallstatt

Just like Salzburg, Hallstatt's natural beauty alone is enough to merit a visit as its colourful reflection shimmers off the gleaming lake, while dramatic mountains stand tall on either side. So spectacular that even the Chinese have created their own replica of the ancient salt-mining village. 

The perfect retreat for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of an intoxicating city, Hallstatt, as you can imagine, revolves around its setting and is therefore popular with hikers and mountain climbers keen to try their luck at the terrain, while boat trips and processions allow those a little less athletic to admire the views too. 

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