Travel Diaries from Vienna and Austria
This year we have decided to spend our family holidays in Austria. Following our custom of wanting to see as much as possible, we visit Innsbruck, Hallstatt, Salzburg, Graz, and Vienna. The trip to Austria was organized by me through the internet. So now that there is already a hotel, flight, Lonely Planet guide to Vienna, we head to Austria and its Christmas markets.
Day 1 - Innsbruck
We arrived in Innsbruck from London at about 12 noon. As we traveled with a backpack, on arrival we went directly to the car. We leave for our first stop at Innsbruck to our hotel for the first night. It takes 10 minutes by car from the airport and 15 minutes walking from the center of Innsbruck.
We take a double room with shared bathroom and breakfast included. As we arrived with some hunger we eat in the restaurant of the hotel that looks very good. We decided to try the dumplings of sausage and cheese very typical of Austria and a dish of Italian pasta just in case we do not like. They were delicious.
Now, with the batteries charged we go to Innsbruck to enjoy its old town. Our idea is to visit the city for 2 or 3 hours and watch the sunset from the Nordkette, a gondola lift that climbs to the top of the mountains. From here one can enjoy an incredible view of the city. There is a lot of snow and it is also very cold. We are at -7 degrees but we do not care as we enjoy the snow.
We walk through all its streets and squares and visit the most popular places. Practically we do not care as all the streets are beautiful and with this blanket of snow even more. We stop for a moment to have a coffee and get warm. Since we have run out of views from the Nordkette we decided to climb the Stadtturm tower of the city from which we also have a beautiful view.
Well, it's already getting dark and we're pretty tired since we left London at 3 in the morning and we have not slept yet. We go back to the hotel and go through a very nice market for traditional Austrian products, right next to the viewpoint of the river.
Now it's time to rest and regain strength. Tomorrow we have to get up early to take advantage of the hours of light and pray that it doesn't snow much as we are a little scared to drive with so much snow.
Day 2 - Uttendorf
We got up early and had breakfast at the hotel, coffee and some sandwiches of sausage or ham. It was quite good for the price of the hotel. Finally, we go out to the street. We start the car and it marks -10 degrees. We are not used to that cold.
Our first destination is Alpbach. According to the Austria travel guide, it is one of the most beautiful villages. It is located in the middle of the mountain and from which there are plenty of ski slopes. We hope to enjoy its beauty and its surroundings. A few kilometers before arriving at the town we began to enter by mountain roads. With so much snow the thing begins to complicate. But it is necessary to say that in general, the roads are good in spite of as much snow as it has fallen a couple of days. In the end, we managed to get to Alpbach and parked the car in a parking lot just below the village.
Alpbach is beautiful and the day seems to accompany us despite the cold. We got to be at -15 degrees, and we enjoyed a beautiful blue sky. We had a coffee in the hotel which is very nice inside and enjoy a very good view of the valley.
We take the car again and we go to Kufstein, our next destination. The city is located near the German border at the foot of the Eno River. The most famous site of the city is the 12th-century fortress that dominates the whole city. We also want to visit its old town, especially the Romerhofgasse street.
We enjoyed a nice walk along the river with a splendid day and wonderful views of the fort. It's time to eat and we do it in the restaurant with typical Tyrolean food without a doubt the best lunch on the whole trip. We ordered Tiroler Grostl, a kind of scrambled dish with meat, peppers, potatoes, and bacon. We also have a Strindberg with a mustard sauce with beans and mashed potatoes.
After the satisfying meal, we now touch the last stretch by car to reach our next accommodation. It is a house of an Austrian family in which we have rented a room and our destination is Uttendorf.
When we get to the town we go to the tourist office to have a little more information about the area. They give us very good advice, besides the lady speaks English perfectly, a thing that we are not finding everywhere.
Day 3 - Hallstatt
When we get up to see the sunrise from the balcony of our apartment in the typical Austrian cabin we enjoy amazing views. I would like to emphasize that staying in this cabin has been a success and also the owners kept it very well decorated. It seemed that we were in the house of Heidi.
We take the car to reach Zell am See which is 15 minutes only from Uttendorf. Upon arrival, we have a coffee and walk through its picturesque streets and its famous lake. We walk by the lake and visit the most beautiful buildings. Practically all the buildings deserve a photo.
Here there are also cable cars for skiing and in which one can observe the lake from the mountains. This time we decided to enjoy the town and move around the lake with our car to take pictures. I am a nature photographer and go crazy with the dreamy landscapes. The houses that surround the lake are beautiful and every 5 minutes we stop to see the lake that is almost frozen at this time.
We head towards Bad Gastein, to get on the gondola to its ski station. After an hour on the road through some beautiful valleys, we reached our destination. We parked in the parking lot that is right next to the gondola station and we go up to the mountains. We enjoyed a very exciting climb and when we reached the top we were astonished by the views.
We walk about 100 meters to the 360 degrees Glocknerblick viewpoint and we go crazy taking pictures. We head towards the hanging bridge of 140 meters. The bridge sways a bit with the steps of the people, which makes us feel a nerve by the stomach that gives a point to the visit.
We continue to walk for a while on the heights and eat in the restaurant at the ski resort. It is nothing special in terms of food a hamburger and the typical Austrian schnitzel (breaded steak). From the restaurant, the views are wonderful.
We have our food and went down to the Felsentherme Thermal Baths. As we get off the gondola we cross a platform and we are in the hot springs. The spa is not the best we have been in but the views are worth it. It is relaxing in the 40-degree pool with the snowy mountains in front.
Before arriving in Hallstatt we have a planned stop. We try to get to Gosau as early as possible to see that majestic lake with the mountains in the background. We were amazed by the beauty of the roads and the Gosau valley which is beautiful with lots of snow.
When we reach the lake we realize that the clouds prevent us from seeing those magnificent mountains but we decided to wait as the weather forecast give hope. After several minutes waiting with crossed fingers, we got lucky and a window opened in the clouds.
Now we are only 25 min away from Hallstatt and wish to tread its streets, perhaps the most beautiful town in Austria. We bought some postcards for the family. We go through all its streets which is beautiful and we arrive at its famous viewpoint from where everybody takes a picture. The houses were decorated with Christmas decorations. The whole town was beautiful with the snow seemed like a story.
I think that being winter there are many fewer tourists than in summer because we are practically alone through the town. It makes it even more beautiful to visit the places without a lot of people. After a few hours, we decided that we need to get on a boat. From Hallstatt, there are cruises around the lake. Although for being winter now they only go towards the train station. The walk does not last more than 15 minutes but we were excited.
We have a coffee in one of the cafeterias that overlook the lake with very nice views with some icicles that are scary. It is a fact to be taken into account when walking the streets at this time. We have to continue our journey with great regret to leave Hallstatt behind.
Because the end of our journey is getting closer we continue towards Salzburg. We arrived around 5:30 and we stayed at the hotel. To our surprise, the receptionist treated us wonderfully. We explained that what we want is to go around the center and have some typical food. The hotel is very clean and the bed is perfect.
The bus that stops right at the door of the hotel leaves us in the center in only 10 minutes and we bought a 24-hour ticket. We set out to tour the birthplace of Mozart. Salzburg is charming and although it is at night it is very beautiful. We realized that each square had its own Christmas market. We go through some of the main streets and its galleries and hidden squares.
After seeing several squares all with their Christmas trees and their calendars marking the advent, we were surprised. Suddenly the main street began to fill. In Austria, there is a great tradition where children and adults dress up as devils with clothes of animals and masks with big horns. They are called Krampus and in their hands, they carry a kind of feather duster.
We went to dinner at the restaurant and it was great. We had a pork steak with a very rich mushroom sauce and a homemade cordon bleu with spectacular chips.
Day 4 - Salzburg
We have breakfast in a restaurant that is next to the hotel that has a cafeteria. We caught the bus and we got off at Mirabellplatz next to the Mirabell Castle through which we walk through its gardens. In summer it should be beautiful but now in winter, it is all under the snow. In the courtyard of the castle, they put a large Christmas tree. Many stalls sell delicacies from the area and especially its famous mulled wine.
From here we cross the gardens and go to the Mullner Steg bridge from which there is a beautiful view of the Fortress. We cross the bridge and go to the old town of Salzburg (world heritage site) and there we visit the most emblematic places. But on the way, we are surprised by a market of typical products. Since we had breakfast in that way it was a tribute and we ate a piece of sandwich.
We visit the cathedral for free and an endless number of streets that are more beautiful with pastel houses, the city is surprising us. Now it's time to gather strength to climb the Monchsberg, the park that is next to the Fortress from which we have the best views of the city.
Without a doubt for us, the best of Salzburg were these views from the viewpoints. When we went down from the park we did it at the other end with the intention of visiting the Agustinerbräu brewery, as we have read it is quite an experience. For our misfortune it was closed as they open from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm and it was only 2:00 pm and we were starving.
For lunch, we went to the restaurant and this time we ate some Austrian vegetarian ravioli (different from the Italian pasta). We also order a filet of pork and another of chicken and chips. To go down after such a binge, we climb towards another of the mountains that surround the city to the Kapuzinerberg.
We had read that in Salzburg there was a wide tradition of coffee that came from the Turkish times. We wanted to drink coffee in one of the oldest coffee shops in the city. At first, we decided on the oldest cafe in the city but upon entering it did not give us a very good impression. There were many tourists inside and a bit of disorder.
When we asked the waiter what cakes or sweets they have, they indicated that they had finished. We left the premises and went to the cafe right in front and also the oldest. In addition to this cafeteria, the Mozartkugel was created, a typical truffle with marzipan from Salzburg and which is very rich.
A couple of hours later we continue visiting streets and places of Salzburg. We decide to return to the hotel since we are tiring. Well, our flight back departs early in the morning. Undoubtedly this has been one of the best trips we have made in Austria. We have loved everything, its landscapes, its mountains, its rivers, its towns, its cities, its gastronomy and its people. It is clear that one day we will return to these lands.
Day 5 - Vienna
We had breakfast in a chain that we only saw in Innsbruck and whose name I can not remember. What I will remember for a long time is the Apfelstrudel that we ate. It is the best I've tasted! It had been a clear day and the city looked like another, so we decided to take a walk before we left.
Now we could see the mountains that surround the city, all snowed. One thing that caught my attention was that people took the urban transport with skis to get to the slopes. We ended up going to Vienna after 11.
We left for Vienna, as we had almost 3 hours of travel. We ate on the way. At about 2 we arrived at the hostel. We had a room with bathroom. The hotel had parking, but it was for a fee, and there was a lot of space in the surroundings. So we parked it on the street.
As in Innsbruck, as soon as we left things we went to see Vienna. The hotel was a bit far from the center, but very well connected by tram (we were about 8 stops from the center). That afternoon we had time to see the whole area of the town hall, the opera, the museums (it must be said that we see everything on the outside, we do not enter any), Hofburg and in general all the Innere Stadt.
When we passed by the secession building we saw that there was a market next door, and we decided to go in to buy bread. We were inside for more than an hour. It was huge and had a lot of bars with terraces to eat, and many stalls of all kinds of food. We liked it a lot.
From there we went to see the Belvedere (to me it is the palace that I like the most). The trees had not yet flowered and were not at its peak. We will have to return in May! Despite this, the day was perfect and totally clear. So the photos were great.
At first, this was all I had planned to see, but since it was still 4 in the afternoon, we decided to go up to Hundertwasser. It is a rather peculiar house, built by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (hence the name). We took the tram, went down to the center, took the metro at the Opera, and from there to Schombrum. There was a lot of people with a group of elderly people singing Christmas carols.
We took photos, we walked, but there were more and more people and it was quite oppressive. So we went back to the subway, and this time towards the Prater amusement park. We danced for a while, as the Viennese did! We took a walk through the amusement park and then we went back to the center. We have a small stop on the way to take a drink in one of the thousands of food stalls in Vienna selling hotdogs, pizzas, and kebabs.
At the end of so much wandering we got back at 9 o'clock, without having dinner, and a bit far from where we took the tram. We decided to dine in any place that we could find on the way. After much searching, we found one by chance.
We went to have a beer in the center, and then to have dinner at an Austrian restaurant, where both Viennese and tourists go. There is always a queue to enter, but the restaurant is so large that it does not take more than 10 minutes to find a place. The truth is that we were surprised that it was quite good. It was a cellar with typical food.
We dined well. At the end of dinner, we see that there was an ice cream parlor nearby, and we went in and ordered a two-flavored ice cream. When we left, it was close to 11 at night. We tried to find some flea market, but they were all closed. We took a couple of photos of the cathedral, and the Christmas shops we saw, and we went back to the hotel, frozen! The cold was getting into your bones. We return and went to sleep.
Day 6 - Graz
We had little time to see Vienna, so we decided to get up early to take advantage of the day. The hotel breakfast was normal like most hostels. There was a bit of cheese, sausage, juices, coffee or tea, some sweet and a bit of fruit. The truth is that we like to have a strong breakfast, so we make good use of it. After breakfast, we went to the center. We saw everything we had left to see in the center.
We visit Schonbrunn because that way we went with the car and went straight to Graz. We had no problem parking next door. In an hour or so we saw the palace on the outside, and the gardens, which as I said before had not yet bloomed and we headed to Graz.
It took us 2 hours to get to Graz. We had taken the hotel near the train station (15 minutes from downtown). It has parking at the back of the hotel, but there is also a lot of street space in front of the hotel. We parked there, right in front of our room. The hotel is fine and the corridors have a very special decoration with paintings of all kinds and the walls are painted dark blue.
The room is spacious, with bathroom recently renovated. We decided to eat the sandwiches at the hotel, and then go out to discover the city. The first thing we saw was the Murinsel, which caught our attention because of how well used it is. It is a shell in the middle of the river that serves as a footbridge from one side to the other.
It also has a bar with a playground for children and an outdoor amphitheater. From there we realized that we had passed the modern art center without even realizing it. If you do not pass just ahead and raise your head you do not realize that it is there. If you cross the river by the Murinsel you arrive at the Schlossberg Platz, from where you climb some stairs (enough stairs) to the castle of the city.
Now it is used for concerts, and various acts, especially in summer. The truth is that it does not have much either. We went down the other side of the castle, and we ended up in the old part of the city. I immediately felt a positive energy, certainly due to his student life.
As the weather deteriorated, I decided to climb as soon as I arrived in Schlossberg just to have a view over the red roofs of the city while the sky is still blue. The atmosphere is spring with all these pretty flowers everywhere. From above, we can distinguish the different architectural styles, notably the Middle Ages and the more modern ones.
The tourist office in Graz provided me with the guide. Everything begins on Herrengasse, the nerve center of the city. It is here that we see the most beautiful palaces and the most beautiful facades.
The courtyard of Landhaushof is quite remarkable with its cobblestones and arcades. We see the Swarovski shop. In the other peculiarities that I liked, there is the wooden facade of the imperial bakery in Sporgasse where apparently you are invited to taste pastries of the imperial era like the Sissibuserl, kiss of Sissi or the Kaiserzwieback, the rusk of the emperor.
It was closed so I could not taste. I cross the river MurInsel, the island on the wall, a contemporary footbridge by the New York artist Vito Acconci. There is also the Museum of Contemporary Art by London architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier. After visiting the whole town, we decided to find a place to eat, more than anything else so that it would not happen to us like in Vienna.
The issue is that it was 6 in the afternoon, and all the restaurants were closed! After searching a lot, and not finding any, we decided to ask at the tourist office, and they told us that since it was Resurrection Sunday. All the businesses were closed and told us that they were usually open on Sundays in general.
With this panorama we decided to return to the hotel, and look for a place nearby, so we do not have to go back. In the end we found one of hamburgers, sandwiches, salads and those things. Nothing great, but that served to at least eat hot. Anyway in the center there seemed to be two zones with bars, by the Franziskanerplatz, and in the surroundings of the carillon square.