Arrival airport: Zurich or Memmingen
Departure airport: Graz
Suggested duration: 11 nights
Highlights along the way: Watching a performance on Lake Constance's floating stage, sampling the Bregenzerwald Cheese Trail, tackling your first 3000m in Montafon, city stop overs in Graz, Salzburg and Innsbruck, Zillertal's gourmet huts, travelling back into time at Alpbachtal's Musuem of Tirolean Farmhouses, accomplishing the first stage of the Eagle's Walk in Tirol!
Your journey starts with a direct flight from the UK to either Zurich or Memmingen. The hire car of your choice, which was organized by the hotel, is already polished and waiting for you at the airport. After a short drive, you reach the first destination on your round trip of Austria's summer hotspots.
Tucked in the four-country corner of Austria, Germany, Switzerland Liechtenstein, Lake Constance in Vorarlberg - known as the Bodensee-Vorarlberg region - has a proud identity and daring imagination, reflected in its dozens of annual music and art festivals. Your hotel is located in the city centre of Bregenz, the region's capital. The Weisses Kreuz is the oldest and at the same time most modern 4-star superior hotel in town. After being shown your room, you enjoy a wonderful dinner at the hotel restaurant, where head chef Harald Fink prepares the best dishes from the good old days.
The next day it is time to discover the cultural highlights of the region. The Rolls-Royce Museum in Dornbirn houses the world’s most important collection, and the Kunsthaus Bregenz with its impressive architecture and artworks should also be paid a visit. Come evening, you head out to one of the famous festivals, and should you be visiting in the summer months then the Bregenz Festival with its floating Lake Constance stage is a must.
After breakfast on Gasthof Krone's sunny terrace, your trip continues to Montafon where you check in at the 4-star superior Alpine Spa Hotel Alpenrose. Outstanding cuisine, a wide range of spa treatments, tennis and golf are just a few of the many activities offered by this superb hotel. The charming young lady at reception helps you plan the ideal programme for your stay, before showing you your room with a terrace that provides excellent views of the valley.
The afternoon starts with a quick thrill. You head to Alpine Coaster Golm - part toboggan, part roller-coaster - and strap yourself in for a 1.6 mile ride down the mountain. You may need a short rest after this, before the adrenaline continues at Aktivclub Montafon. Activities include climbing, guided mountain bike or E-Bike tours and lama trekking! Back in the hotel, a delicious 5-course dinner and some downtime in the spa are the fitting finish to your day.
You awake refreshed and ready for the challenge of the trip: the Piz Buin Ascent. Your efforts are rewarded with breathtaking views from 3,312m at the top of Vorarlberg's highest mountain. The tour is led by Montafon locals who ease you into your ascent, meaning that everyone can take the challenge.
The next destination on your round trip is Innsbruck. This city simply has it all: the air of the Habsburg era blended with modern architecture. You are staying in the city centre at Romantik Hotel Schwarzer Adler. Most of the rooms have a balcony with wonderful mountain views, and on the romantic roof terrace you are spoiled with favourite Austrian recipes.
You are going to visit some of the modern design that shot up across the skyline over the last 10 years, such as the Bergisel Ski Jump and Nordkettenbahnen, both designed by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid. Afterwards, you stroll through the historical old town, do some shopping and look out for the Golden Roof, Innsbruck’s famous landmark, built in the 16th century. After that, the road takes you to the dazzling Swarovski Crystal Worlds Wattens.
Your fifth stop is the Zillertal Valley where you stay at the 4-star Hotel Sieghard, home to one of Austria’s best chefs. Those who wish to get straight out and about can enjoy the latest trend sport called Geocaching. This involves using a GPS to find hidden surprises in some of the most unlikely of places. Should you want to tuck straight into the famous Zillertal produce instead, the Adventure Alpine Dairy is a good place to start, where you can work your way through cheeses, yoghurts and other milk-derived delicacies. But not only the dairy produce is of outstanding quality in Zillertal. The valley is peppered with family-run businesses and you meet Hans Gasser, owner of Zillertal's oldest butcher shop. In addition to delicious sausages, you’ll find honey, bread and even schnapps behind the counter.
Time to work off some of that food with a walk to the Berliner Mountain Hut, a protected Alpine landmark and the oldest stopping point for hikers, built in 1879. From here, there's nothing like a locally brewed beer at one of the alpine huts to get your appetite going again. Then on to the Wedelhütte, the highest gourmet restaurant in Tirol.
A 20 minute drive takes you to Hotel Galtenberg, your accommodation for the night in the Alpbach Valley Tirol. The family-run hotel with a huge spa area is just one of several wellness centres dotted around the area. First stop is a glimpse into the Tirol of old at the Museum of Tyrolean Farmhouses. After that, you meet Gertrude Messner at Brandenberg's Land of Herbs, where there is said to be a herb for every ailment.
On to more rural mystery at the World of Crystal in Rattenberg, where glass makers, engravers and painters have been showcasing their craft since 1820. Nearby you find the Augustinian Museum Rattenberg. Formerly a monastery, today it is home to an award-wining museum showcasing nine centuries of Tirolean art and culture.
The Eagle’s Walk in Tirol is hailed as one of Europe’s greatest long-distance footpaths and offers its visitors, whether leisurely walkers or experienced hikers, the choice of a short or long mountain itinerary. On your day in this area you accomplish the first stage, which is already an experience in itself. From your starting point in St. Johann it’s a westward walk of moderate challenge toward a very worthy photo stop. Once you’ve snapped some memories, the route continues towards the alpine hut where you spend the night. Here you exchange experiences with other hikers and tuck into well-deserved hearty regional delicacies such as Tiroler Gröstl.
Now you reach the city of Salzburg. Its romantic and well-preserved old town is full of gorgeous baroque architecture and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your accommodation, the Art Hotel Blaue Gans, is located right in the city centre, just a few minute’s walk from well-known Getreidegasse and the house where Mozart was born.
After a warm welcome at the hotel, a certainly unexpected modern side of Salzburg is waiting to be explored. Perched on a cliff above the historic quarter, enjoy the views of the old town while walking up to the Museum of Modern Art, which houses pieces by the world’s hottest contemporary artists. Once you are back in the centre, you participate in a guided Walk of Modern Art on which a knowledgeable local shows you numerous artworks dotted throughout the city. To complete your day dedicated to modern Salzburg, don’t miss the Museum of Modern Art Rupertinum. It began as a school for priests in 1350, but has been redesigned to form the perfect backdrop for the contemporary pieces on show.
For dinner you visit St Peter Stiftskeller, Europe’s oldest eatery and a Mozart Family favourite in the 1700s. This evening you are in luck: The restaurant hosts a concert of the loveliest Mozart arias whilst you enjoy a delicious three-course meal based on traditional recipes that Mozart’s mother liked to follow.
The capital of Styria is already the last stop of your round trip of Austria’s summer hotspots. Despite being Austria’s second largest city, Graz is relatively undiscovered by British holidaymakers. You stay at Hotel zum Dom, a former palace in the heart of the UNESCO listed old town. The relaxed vibe and the fact that Graz is known as a paradise for foodies mean that you can quite happily spend your final day strolling around, soaking up the atmosphere, the Kunsthaus Graz your point of reference with its curved, blobby exterior contrasting the sharp angular baroque roof-tops that surround.
Next morning you make your way to Graz airport for your flight home. While waiting at the gate, you find time to recap all the experiences of your trip. Breathtaking landscapes dotted with alpine towns, authentic hosts, fine cuisine, unforeseen avant-garde architecture and a second to none arts and culture scene. All of this makes Holidays in Austria so unusual and long lasting, yes, even giving you a new perspective to take back home.
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