If, like many, you can’t stand to be awake without being close to a caffeinated drink, where better to travel to than Europe’s capital of coffee, Vienna? The suave city has endured a long-running love affair with espressos, since way before hipsters got their hands on them and flat whites became ubiquitous. Although the city is most renowned for its antiquated coffee houses, with their smoky interiors and snooty tuxedo-clad waiters, there has also been an influx of trendy third-wave coffee shops popping up in recent years. Whichever experience you decide upon, this city welcomes caffeine junkies with open arms.
If the mere mention of snow leaves you yearning for ski slopes, St Anton am Alberg could be the right place in Austria for you. Alongside France and Switzerland, Austria is world-renowned for being a top destination for winter sports, and St Anton is often cited as being one of Europe’s best destinations for serious skiers. The region attracts huge numbers of visitors each year, who enjoy the range of runs, from demanding to devilish.
Vienna certainly has a lot to offer by way of culture, but quieter types may prefer sleepy Graz, which has in the past been hailed as the capital’s cooler cousin. Bookworms and artsy visitors will be charmed by the former European Capital of Culture, with its low-key yet intriguing cultural scene, charming renaissance architecture and lively student crowd for when things get too tranquil. There is no place better to catch a glimpse of Graz’s art scene than the Kunsthaus. This striking, bulbous building sticks out like a sore thumb on the banks of the River Mur. Nicknamed by locals as ‘the friendly alien’, the gallery is not just an innovative exhibition space, but also one of the country’s most curious pieces of architecture. Alternatively, the Austrian Sculpture Park, located just outside the city, is perfect for those who would like to combine culture with the great outdoors.
If you look beyond the city skyline, you’ll notice that Vienna is hugged by rolling hills that are decorated with vineyards. Austrian wine is among the most underrated in Europe, and is often snubbed in favour of French or Italian varieties. Vienna Wine Hiking Day, held in the autumn of each year, takes you around the picturesque countryside that surrounds the city, with various pit stops along the way at Heuriger taverns – cosy places that serve local wine in the cellar or kitchen. Grüner Veltliner is an absolute must-try.
Austria’s scenic countryside and mountainous landscapes make for some epic and beautiful wanderings. Some of the country’s rural holiday destinations offer awe-inspiring hikes, with many well-established routes. From challenging Alpine climbs and epic hills to lush national parks, there are trails of every level to suit everyone. There are also many rewards to reap when you reach the peak of the mountain or the end of the trail: wonderfully cosy inns offering culinary delights and quaint accommodation for those brave enough to attempt long-distance hikes.
Those who seek therapeutic waters to escape the daily grind should seriously consider sampling spas in Styria. Steaming outdoor pools, reviving steam rooms and cosy sauna cabins – Austria’s spas are havens taking you away away from the hustle and bustle. If you are also of an artsy persuasion, consider the Rogner Bad Blumau in the region, which has a wonderfully surreal facade courtesy of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the architect behind many weird yet wonderful buildings in the capital.