This weekend it's time for a trip to Austria. The natural bowl formed by a ring of hills gives the Red Bull Ring a special quality for spectators; the green peaks and towering trees are the perfect backdrop to the action. Cool cities and intriguing history are scattered across the rest of the country and there's so much to explore. Read on to find out how to get the most out of a trip to Austria with Globe-Trotter.
Where can you find Austria's most surprising city?
Graz is continuing in its trajectory as a rising cultural centre. It is the undiscovered gem of Austria that people don't know well, but then discover and fall for. Music festivals, like Elevate – which took place in the Schlossberg tunnels – and Spring, have catapulted the former European City of Culture onto the world stage. As has the outlandish architecture of Graz’s impressive arts centre – which looks like some kind of prehistoric monster mixed with a bit of Black Mirror sci-fi fantasy. The HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark Gallery has also won plaudits for its art exhibitions. It's a compact and intriguing city, and well worth checking out.
Where can you explore classic Alpine scenery?
The Tyrol looks like a finger stretching west between Germany and Italy. It's so thin because Austria was forced to cede the territory of South Tyrol to Italy as reparations following World War. Resorts like St Anton and Mayerhofen are classic Austrian places with all the wooden bars, pints of beer, and oompah music playing. There are also high-end alternatives like Kitzbühel, where chalet-chic dominates, and boutiques and upscale restaurants line the main street. Skiing is the thing in winter; in summer it's a hiker's paradise. Right now, you can enjoy sunny slopes, mountain walks, challenging via ferrata excursions, waterfalls, toboggan runs, and quaint rack and pinion railways.
How can you follow in the footsteps of a great movie?
Vienna was the 'cool' equivalent of today's Berlin or Barcelona at the turn of the century. Everyone who was anyone came to read, write, and think in its cafes - from Freud to Marx. Today it is a dynamic place that's attracting city breakers back with a mix of culture, shopping, history, and food. The Richard Linklater film Before Sunrise – the ultimate travel romance fairy-tale – depicted fading Vienna as a magical, romantic place where young lovers could find themselves amid the stirring buildings, smoky bars, down at heel squares and vagabonds and poets. Scope out the locations from the classic 1995 movie like The Prater Park, the Riesenrad Wheel and the Danube.
Where can you find some of Austria's most spectacular roads?
Austria boasts Europe's greatest 'high roads' and mountain passes which allow you to view nature from the car window. The Gerlos Pass near Salzburg features a noted switchback bend that drivers won't forget in a hurry. The famous Grossglockner High Alpine Road dates from 1935 and features more than 30 turns on a road that rises up to 2500 metres. The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a 14.5 KM run that boasts a 10% climb and even some roadside huts selling local farm produce. Austria is one of the easiest places in the world to drive with great quality roads and rest stops.
Where can you get a taste of trad Austrian hospitality mixed with contemporary design?
Viennese traditions mix with modern twists in the 7th District of the former Imperial Capital. This used to be a place where gems were sold but also, where the wealthy classes of the city came to find more unsavoury night-time entertainment. Today it is one of Vienna's most intriguing areas and at its centre, Brillantengrund. This mid-century hotel boasts a 50s kitsch aesthetic and lashings of modern art and design, and a restaurant where founder Marvin Mangalino's Filipino mum cooks Asian fusion food. There's also a secret shop, where the guys who hang out here sell their BBUC cycling wear range, and host DJ parties. Monocle-reading international travellers gather in the courtyard for summer spritzes at dusk
Where is Austrian food and wine celebrated?
One of the most convivial spots in the centre of Vienna is the famous Guesthouse. Terence Conran designed the beautiful bedrooms upstairs which look down on the Albertina Art Gallery. Every day complimentary bottles of red and white Austrian wine are deposited in those rooms for guests to enjoy on the house. You can take your Riesling or Gewürztraminer down to the Guesthouse's excellent brasserie where it will be served to you with a plate of the crispiest, bubbliest wiener schnitzel and a potato salad or a beef noodle soup or even a simple sausage in bread. The all-day brunch – featuring smoked salmon, a loaded cheese plate, hams, eggs, and the house-baked bread selection – brings in those who love their breakfasts. In summer, seats outside on Albertinaplatz are prized.
How can you stay in a former corner shop or lamp maker's workshop?
The Urbanauts collective has shaken up the hospitality scene with all sorts of innovations that are all aimed squarely at making guests feel more like locals and less like tourists. They have converted former lampshade makers' workshops and tobacco shops on corners into small, beautiful 'Graetzhotel' apartments you can stay in, keeping historical touches. Their new Urbanauts Fillgrader Studios also sensitively re-imagines a historic building in Vienna's Mariahilf neighbourhood. They dispense with conventional receptions and have the likes of restaurant Daniel's Bistronomy acting as point of contact and place to come and eat brunch or dinner. It's all very quirky and satisfying.
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