The Grüner See is one of nature’s mythical wonders, with seemingly transfiguring powers: a shape-shifting landscape that alternates between being a lake and a country park. Transparent water, a glittering emerald from a distance, makes it a honey-pot location for happy-snapper Instagrammers. Although restrictions have now been applied preventing water sports that cause damage to the lake’s environment, it is still a wonderfully picturesque place to admire from afar.
This is a magical part of the country, with an endless expanse of rolling hills, historic fortresses and vineyards, all set around the River Danube. The Wachau area in rural Upper Austria is perhaps most famous for being the site where the notorious King Richard Lionheart of England was captured and imprisoned for a year after he insulted Duke Leopold. In 2000, the Wachau was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich architectural and agricultural history.
During the summer months, flocks of locals and tourists alike populate the banks of the dreamy River Danube, the promenades of the canal populated by a younger crowd drinking cans of beer and watching the sunset, and the Danube Island – a strip of land that was constructed in order to prevent flooding – attracting naturists, who bask, unabashed, in the heat on lazy days.
Holidays in this spectacular lakeside town are full of endless wonders, and are terrific in both the summer and winter. Those who visit in the warmer months should be sure to embark on some hiking trails, which promise to deliver breathtaking panoramic views and some satisfyingly challenging routes. Nearby Kaprun is famed for its glacier ice rinks.
Located on the border between Austria and Switzerland, between Tyrol and Voralberg, are some of Europe’s most indescribably enchanting natural landscapes. Not only does Arlberg offer scenic sights that will knock you sideways, the area also boasts incredible conditions for winter sports, and thus contains numerous resorts for skiers and hikers, with some testing slopes and staggering views. St Anton is considered the capital of the region, favoured by visitors for its numerous boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants.
Austria is not widely acknowledged by connoisseurs for its wine culture, but unjustifiably so, for it is a country producing many rich and full-bodied varieties of wine deserving of high praise. The Eisenberg Hill, in the South Bergen, is an ideal location for producing fine wine, with a complex soil structure and climatic influences from nearby Steiermark. Mörbisch am See has a number of wineries where you can sample local products and enjoy the colourful, winding patchwork-quilt landscape of vineyards.
Located 700 metres (2,300 feet) above sea level, the district of Gmunden in Upper Austria is a delightful area blessed with densely rich forests, rugged mountains and glittering streams. Between the January 13 and 21 each year the azure skies explode with colour, when hundreds of Luftballons grace Gosau’s heavens for Hot Air Balloon Week. This is just one of many spectacular attractions to enjoy here; the glaciers and the enchanting Lake Gosau are also sights not to be missed.
Innsbruck, the capital of the Alps, is at its most captivating during the winter months when the sky turns a deep navy, the mountain peaks are dusted with icing-sugar snow and glowing Christmas markets pop up all around the city. While most people flock to Vienna when visiting the country for the first time, Innsbruck promises a far more tranquil and unassuming holiday away, boasting the best of both worlds, with natural beauty and intriguing city sights.
Wandering through these gardens, located just outside Graz, you will find twisted metal and surrealist shapes of lurid colour emerging from the ordinary landscape. Marrying nature and art harmoniously, the Austrian Sculpture Park makes for a wonderfully dreamlike day out, and will introduce you to the work of some of Austria’s most prominent modern artists, including Fritz Wotruba and Franz West, Erwin Wurm, Heimo Zobernig and Michael Kienze.
This futuristic construction, resembling a cross between a cubist sculpture and Stonehenge, is one of Vienna’s most intriguing architectural landmarks. In order to marvel at this curiosity, you must venture out to the lesser-known 23rd district of the city, Liesing, an area not usually much visited by tourists. Consisting of over 150 carefully arranged asymmetrical concrete blocks, the building was constructed 1974–1976, inspired by a model by Austrian-born Franz Wotruba, one of Austria’s most prominent sculptors.