Category Archives: Austria

Tips for what to do in Austria.

Fingers Crossed I Make It to Vienna This Time

Update 15 May 2011 – I’m happy to report that I did make it to Vienna. I’ve reviewed The Ring Hotel and Austrian blogger Travelwritcus gave me a guided walking tour of Vienna.

I’ll be spending two nights in Vienna in early May 2011, immediately after my stay in the Burgenland region of eastern Austria.  I was due to visit the Austrian capital in late November 2010 on a bmi press trip which I’d to cancel at the last minute, due to severe Winter weather.  Let’s hope I do make it to Vienna this time, saying that I have seen snow in June in Scotland!

The Ring Hotel Vienna

I certainly have plenty of ideas for things to do from the “Best of Vienna Tips” on Europe a la Carte. I’ll be meeting up with Andreas Susana, editor of Notes of a Traveler, tweeting as  @Travelwriticus.

Fountain in Vienna

Click here for the lowest prices on Vienna hotels

Seven Things to Do in Burgenland, Austria

I spent a couple of days in Burgenland in eastern Austria in early May 2011, staying at the fabulous St Martins Therme & Lodge as a guest of the Austrian National  Tourist Office UK.  Here are my tips for things to do in Burgenland.

A stork nest on chimney; a common sight in Burgenland

Podcast on Things to Do in Burgenland


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Admire the Twin Spires of the Church in Frauenkirchen

The Basilica Maria auf der Heide (Our Lady on the Heath) church in Frauenkirchen is quite a local landmark, I spotted the twin spires from several miles away.  There was a bed of yellow tulips inside the church when I was there.

Basilica Maria auf der Heide in Frauenkirchen

Follow a Wine Route

Burgenland is well known for its wine. There are official wine routes you can follow but there are so many small family run wineries around Neuseidl am See where you can sample the produce, sitting in a courtyard accompanied by some nibbles. In Eisenstadt there’s a large vinothek opposite Esterhazy Castle.

One of the many small wineries in Burgenland

Cycle the Shores of Lake Neusiedl

Burgenland is ideal for cycling, as it’s fairly flat and there are dedicated cycle/walking routes running alongside, but totally separate to the roads for cars. It’s also so easy and cheap to hire a bike. There are many places to stop for refreshments located right on the lake. I had lunch at Mole West in Neusiedl am See and coffee and cake at the Katamaran in Rust.

Lake Neusiedl from terrace at Mole West

Be Charmed by Rust

I though that the town of Rust was like a picture postcard, with lots of brightly coloured houses and stork’s nests.

Ornate building in Rust

Explore Eisenstadt

Eisenstadt is the main city in Burgenland. It’s closely associated with the composer Joseph Haydn who lived here, and his former residence is a museum. The Haydn Mausoleum is at the back of Bergkirche. Esterhazy Castle is pretty impressive.

Esterhazy Castle, Eisenstadt

Visit Halbturn Castle & Restaurant

There was a lavish wedding on during my visit to Schloss Halbturn, I just had a walk around the grounds and sampled a local asparagus dish at the renowned Knappenstockl restaurant which had outdoor seating in the courtyard.

Gates to Halbturn Castle

Go on a Bird Watching Tour

Lake Neuseidl is a popular with bird watchers.  I went on a tour in the National Park Neusiedler See-Seewinkel offered by my hotel.  We were in an elevated hide and the guide helped us spot a lot of birds with the help of a high magnification telescope.

View of Lake Neusiedl from the elevated hide

You can see all my Burgenland photos on Flickr.

Win a 5 Night Holiday to Burgenland

UK residents can win a five night holiday in Burgenland including flights, half board accommodation at St Martins Spa & Lodge and various tours (competition closing date 31 August 2011). So if you win you can then follow some of my tips for things to do in Burgenland.

Best places to slow down and experience Vienna’s café culture

Vienna is surely one of the best European destinations. To truly enjoy the city, a visitor shouldn’t rush, but should instead slow down and enjoy age-old Viennese traditions. Few of these traditions are as enjoyable as taking time to relax, warm up,  people watch, and read in the venerable institution of the Viennese café.

Outside these lovely cafés, the hectic and distracting pace of 21st century life may go on as usual, but inside, be sure to pack away your laptops and hide your iphones in order to fully enjoy the splendours of turn of the 20th century Vienna. The cafés are all well stocked with international newspapers. The coffee is served Viennese-style, on a  platter, accompanied by a glass of water with an overturned spoon. Desserts are, of course, sinfully rich. Be sure to incorporate one (or many) visits to some of these cafés into your next visit to Vienna.


The grande dame of Viennese café culture, Demel was established in 1786. The “K.u.K” proudly displayed on its portal and on its confectionary boxes, indicate that it was the official imperial bakery (Kaiser und Kaiserin). Emperess Sissi was said to have been extremely fond of the sweets produced by Demel.

Firmly wedded to tradition, Demel refused to remove the “K.u.K” even after the collapse of the Empire rendered it irrelevant and unpopular. Almost one hundred years after the Empire’s collapse, it still remains proudly on the door – as you can see in this photo – and a visitor to this lovely café may indeed feel he’s been transported back to 19th century Vienna.

The beautiful window displays change frequently. Even if you don’t manage to go inside to sit down, be sure to see what’s on display in this most famous of Viennese cafés. Demel is located on Kohlmarkt, just a few steps away from the Hofburg.

Café Schwarzenberg

Café Schwarzenberg is on the Ringstrasse, midway between the Opera house and the Stadtpark. It was established in 1861 when the Ringstrasse was first built by tearing down Vienna’s defensive walls.

Café Schwarzenberg  is famous for having been occupied by the Russian army after liberating the city in 1945. Today, the café upholds Viennese traditions and is a pleasant place to stop on your walk around the Ringstrasse. On warm days, there is outdoor seating on the adjoining sidewalk.

Café Central

This is my favourite Vienna café. Opened in 1861, the Café Central is housed in the Palais Ferstel on Herrengasse. Over its long history, the Café Central has seen many famous – and infamous – patrons sipping coffee within its lovely vaulted spaces.

Adolf Loos, Tito, Sigmund Freud, Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler and Leon Trotsky have all spent time here. At a time when many Viennese flats were unheated, many young intellectuals and revolutionaries spent hours nursing their coffees – and staying warm – at the Café Central.

This was the case with Leon Trotsky, who became such a fixture at the Viennese coffee house that when the Russian Revolution began, the Viennese laughed it off, assured that “Herr Trotsky of the Café Central” could never succeed in such an endeavour.

Join the ranks of history and culture with a visit to these beautiful Viennese cafés on your next visit to the Austrian capital. For something more informal Andy recommends Cafe Aida.

Best of Vienna Tips

Our “Best of Vienna Travel Tips” collation will give you plenty of ideas for you trip to Vienna. We’ve also researched some of the best places to stay in Vienna for all budgets. You can also read about ten must-see Vienna museums.

Click here for the lowest prices on Vienna hotels

Eat, drink and relax in Vienna’s Palmenhaus

Right in Vienna’s Burggarten, just between the Opera house and the Hofburg, is the stunning Art Nouveau Palmenhaus, originally a 19th century imperial greenhouse,  which is now an ideal place to sit and relax while sipping a coffee or a glass of wine.

Vienna’s Palmenhaus was originally built in 1882 as a greenhouse for the Hofburg palace gardens. In 1901 it was renovated in Vienna’s famous Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) style.

Having fallen into disrepair, the Palmenhaus  was closed to the public in 1988. After a complete renovation, it was opened once again in 1998. The Palmenhaus today hosts a restaurant , serving lunch and dinner, and a bar.

It’s a wonderful place to sit and relax on a visit to Vienna. Opening times vary by day and by season, so check first on its web site. In general, the Palmenhaus opens between 10-11:30 am and remains open until midnight- 2 am.

The Palmenhaus also houses the Imperial Butterfly House.  We didn’t manage to see the butterflies on our last visit to Vienna, but it’s high on our list for next time. Check seasonal opening hours on the web site.

You can find ideas of other things go do in Vienna in our “Best of Vienna Travel Tips“. If you are planning a trip to the Austrian capital,  we’ve researched the “Best Places to Stay in Vienna for all Budgets“.

Best of Vienna Tips

Our Best of Vienna Travel Tips collation will give you plenty of ideas for you trip to Vienna. You can read about ten must-see Vienna museums. We’ve also researched some of the best places to stay in Vienna for all budgets.

Click here for the lowest prices on Vienna hotels

I’m off to Vienna 28 November – 1 December 2010

Update 28 November 2010 – I’ve had to cancel going on the Vienna trip.  Extreme weather warnings of heavy snow made this mornings drive north on the A1 from Berwick upon Tweed to Edinburgh Airport too dangerous.

I’m off to Vienna on 28 November 2010 for 3 nights on a press trip.  I’m so happy as I’ve been dying to visit the Austrian capital for ages.

Schonnbrunn Palace Park by tungi

I’ll be able to visit the famous Vienna Christmas Markets and follow some of the Europe a la Carte blogging team’s Best of Vienna Travel Tips.

Vienna Christmas Market by Charley1965

I’ll be staying at The Ring, Vienna’s casual luxury hotel.

The Ring Hotel Vienna

Two ways to visit Salzburg

Salzburg is one of these holiday destinations you can visit in two ways: the hard way or the soft way. The hard way involves sensible shoes, a lot of leg work and quite a good level of fitness to conquer Salzburg’s famous landmark, the Festung Hohensalzburg, perched high up on the Festungsberg. You can if course use the cable car, but the dedicated visitor to the castle climbs up on foot starting a steady uphill path through the Mirabell Garten, then crossing into the old part of town and following the Festungsgasse.

Construction of the castle  started in 1077 when the original building was a wooden structure. Over the following centuries, the castle was expanded and fortified until it reached its present state as one of the largest and best preserved medieval castles in Europe. Within the castle there is a lot to see too, the Fortress museum, the Regency chamber and the marionette museum. You need quite a lot of time to enjoy the views and to catch your breath along the way as well as walking around  the buildings themselves. After that you can of course take the cable car down.

The soft way is somehow more in tune with the particular laid back atmosphere and melodious dialect  of Salzburg. People don’t seem to be in a hurry here, just watch a housewife choosing fruit or flowers  at one of the many stalls in the market.  They’ll meet their friends and neighbors and stop for a chat in the middle of the sidewalk and you’ll never find an empty coffee house.

Flowershop in Salzburg

Therefore the more sedate exploration of Salzburg commences with a stroll around the vast and lovely Mirabell Garten, admiring the artistic landscaping, the statues and fountains. If you are lucky, you might even witness a wedding.

Carriage in Salzburg's Mirabell Garten

Follow the Rainerstrasse until you come  to the house were Mozart lived and, close to it, the famous Hotel and Café Sacher. This is one of the must-dos in Salzburgh, either sitting on the terrace overlooking the river Salzach or inside admiring the wall of fame and sampling a piece of Sacher torte and coffee.

Interior of Cafe Sacher

Thus fortified you cross over one of the many bridges, look at Mozart’s birthplace and then make your way through the many winding Gassen to the Domplatz.  It’s easy to spend hours just looking at the antique shops, the market, the Residenz and the Dom, all without climbing anywhere.

House where Mozart was born

If you have come by train from Munich, as I did on this occasion, it’s an easy 40 minute walk back to the station past all the beautiful Salzburg attractions in reverse. You will never lose sight of the mighty Festung Hohensalzburg either.

You can also follow Arwa’s Top 4 Sightseeing Tips for Salzburg.

Click here for the lowest prices on Salzburg hotels

Arrive hungry to eat Wienerschnitzel at Vienna’s Figlmüller

Vienna has to be one of Europe’s best walking cities – and thank goodness for that, since it allows visitors to work up an appetite before sampling the city’s mouth-watering specialities. For me, no visit to Vienna is complete without eating Wienerschnitzl – breaded veal cutlet-  at Figlmüller.

Figlmüller has been serving up Wienerschnitzel in Vienna since 1905 and, as its sign (not so modestly) points out, it boasts the city’s most famous Schnitzel. It has a great location, on a little passageway behind St Stephen’s cathedral. A second Figlmüller opened a few years ago, just around the corner. It lacks the charm of the original establishment, but when your stomach is growling and the queue seems endless, it’s best to check for availability at the second restaurant. There is actually a third Figlmüller, in the charming Grinzing district that Marcus describes in a  past post.

You are unlikely to leave Figlmüller’s  feeling hungry. Accompany your extra large Schnitzel with potato salad and green salad. There is no beer served, but there is wine. When visiting Austria, I always enjoy my red or white wine gespritzt. Mixing wine with sparkling water would seem sacrilege back home in Italy, but tastes just perfect in Vienna.

If you’re traveling with kids, you’re unlikely to hear any complaints about this meal.

So arrive hungry and enjoy your Wienerschnitzel at Figlmüller’s. Then go and walk off all those calories in order to make room for the Sachertorte you’ll have to try later that day. Yes, thank goodness that Vienna is such a wonderful walking city!

The original restaurant is at Wollzeile 5, open daily 11am – 10pm. The second restaurant is at Bäckerstraße 6, open daily 12pm-11pm.

Best of Vienna Tips

Our Best of Vienna Travel Tips collation will give you plenty of ideas for you trip to Vienna. We’ve also researched some of the best places to stay in Vienna for all budgets. You can also read about ten must-see Vienna museums.

Click here for the lowest prices on Vienna hotels

Enjoying Vienna’s Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School

I love the elegant city of Vienna.  It’s one of my favourite European destinations. Despite having lived there many years ago and having visited frequently over the years, it was only on a recent visit that I finally got to a performance at the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule).

The Spanish Riding School is housed within Vienna’s Hofburg. The beautiful Lipizzaner horses and their skilful riders perform daily (except Mondays) and  tickets for the performances can be booked in advance on-line.

Before or after the performance, you can cross the street and peek in at the stables of the Lipizzaner. These horses have been bred for Vienna since 1580 when Habsburg Archduke Charles II founded the imperial stables, in what is now Slovenia.  In 1920, following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the imperial stud was established in Piber, just west of the city of Graz. The Lipizzaner you are seeing today can all have their bloodlines traced back more than four hundred years to the original Habsburg stables.

The Winter Riding School performing hall is truly spectacular. It was built in 1735 and it is here that daily performances are held. Ticket prices are fairly steep, but I was in Vienna with my children, who love to ride. I thought it would be a special treat for them to see the performance. In the end, I ended up being just as enthusiastic. It’s wonderful to be seated in this stunning hall,  watching the horses and riders undertaking their elegant “ballet” performance set to classical music. Before the fall of the Habsburg Empire, these performances were only viewed by honoured guests of the Court.

Interesting commentary in German and English follows each segment of the performance. Spectators learn how the carefully selected riders begin their careers  at the Spanish Riding School and how the knowledge of this imperial tradition is passed on orally from more experienced, Master riders to their young pupils. Those students, upon reaching Master rider status, must also be prepared to instruct the younger generation.

Each junior rider is eventually put in charge of a young horse and is responsible for the horse’s care and training.

Photo courtesy

The performance is fascinating to watch – the riders and their horses carrying out precision movements to the music of Mozart and Strauss. The horses’ jumps, pirouettes, courbettes and intricate steps are truly impressive to experience.

Photo courtesy

My tip is to take in a performance of the Austrian Lipizzaner on your next visit to Vienna. It’s the only riding school of its kind in the world and it’s a true pleasure to experience a performance of this imperial tradition still going strong after 430 years.

Best of Vienna Tips

Our Best of Vienna Travel Tips collation will give you plenty of ideas for you trip to Vienna. You can
read about ten must-see Vienna museums. We’ve also researched some of the best places to stay in Vienna for all budgets.

Click here for the lowest prices on Vienna hotels

Mirabell gardens, Salzburg

Top 4 Sightseeing Tips for Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, the Austrian city famous for its Alpine setting, attracts a large number of tourists each year. Here are my four Salzburg sightseeing tips.

  • What is the Sound of Music? As much as the city is famous for its “Sound of Music” backdrop, most Austrians have never seen the movie and therefore are not in a position to answer your questions on the movie locations. Avoid the expensive guided tours proclaiming to show all the attractions featured in the movie – plan to explore them yourself.

Mirabell gardens, Salzburg

  • Mozart balls, anyone? Buy Mozart kugels (Mozart balls – named after the city’s most famous son and gifted composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) from any of the grocery stores, avoiding them completely at souvenir shops.
  • Where is the shade? The sun can be quite punishing in the summers, specially if you are climbing the Hohensalzburg Castle. Always carry your water bottle, sun glasses and an umbrella. Keeping yourself well hydrated in the summer is the key to a great Salzburg experience.

Salzburg city view from the Hohensalzburg Castle

  • Is there a Salzburg beyond Mozart? Be sure to explore the city beyond Mozart and the Sound of Music. Salzburg with its picturesque countryside and natural beauty should be seen without any prejudices. Take a salt mine tour or discover the hiking paradise that Salzburg is, through its many hills like Mönchsberg and Festungsberg.

Click here for the lowest prices on Salzburg hotels

[Photo Credit – Orangesplaash]

The Best Places to Stay in Vienna for All Budgets

I though it would useful for readers planning a trip to the Austrian capital to research some of the best places to stay in Vienna.  These Vienna hotel tips are based on research into accommodation of different grades/types that receive high guest satisfaction ratings.  I’ve also tried to include Vienna hotels which have free wifi or broadband internet connection.

Stadtpark Vienna

Vienna’s Stadtpark

Vienna Budget Accommodation

The Meininger City Centre Vienna is in a great location, close to Schonbrunn Palace and  a pedestrianised shopping centre. It offers a mix of private rooms and dorms.

Pension Mozart is half a mile from the Hofburg Palace and 1 mile from the city centre but with only 14 rooms it fills up quickly in busy periods.

Exterior of chapel where Vienna Boys Choir sing

Entrance to Chapel where Vienna Boys’ Choir perform

Palace Hostel Schlossberge lies in green surroundings on Wilhelminenberg hill  with great views over Vienna and offers free internet and breakfast.  There’s a mix of dorms, twin and double rooms. The only disadvantage is that it’s over 4 miles from the city centre, although the journey into the centre is said to take 20 minutes by public transport.

Vienna Mid-range hotels

The four star Rainers Hotel is a conversion from a factory which maintained the original exterior. It’s a couple of of miles from the city centre.

The Art Hotel is a couple of miles from the city centre in Vienna’s 5th district, close to the Nachsmarkt (which stretches for almost a mile selling all sort of produce and wares).

best places to stay in vienna

Naschmarkt Vienna by yazuzaru

Austria Trend Hotel Vienna Messe lies close to the Wurstel Prater Amusement Park and the Exhibition Centre, around a mile from the city centre.  It offers free internet connection.

best places to stay vienna

Vienna view from Ferris Wheel at Prater Amusement Park by Sarah_Ackerman

The Suitehotel Wien Messe suites are spacious at 30 square metres with free broadband and national phone calls. Free massages are on offer on Thursday evenings.

Villa Kumpf apartments in the city centre have a kitchenette, offer free wifi and are furnished with antiques.

Best Western Premier Hotel Kasierhof is situated less than one mile from the city centre in a quiet cobble stoned side street. The buffet breakfast is said to be excellent.  There’s free wifi in the suites and the public areas.

Vienna Luxury hotels

The five star Sacher Hotel first opened its doors to guests in 1876.  Run by the same family since the 1930s the hotel takes great pride in offering traditional service.

best places to stay in vienna

Sacher Hotel Vienna by thisisbossi

The five star Imperial Hotel started life as a royal residence in 1863 but was transformed into a hotel for the 1873 World Exhibition.  If you’d like to stay in palatial surroundings, adorned with marble and chandeliers, this is the place to book.

best places to stay in vienna

Hotel Imperial Vienna by Iquo E

Best of Vienna Tips

Our Best of Vienna Travel Tips collation will give you plenty of ideas for you trip to Vienna. You can also read about ten must-see Vienna museums.

Click here for the lowest prices on Vienna hotels