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So Much to Love in Austria!

Last week I was invited by the Austrian Tourist Office to a fabulous dinner event in honor of their 100-year history in New York, and I got to meet Petra Schneebauer, the Austrian Ambassador to the U.S. I had great conversations with new Austrian friends and American travel writers and advisors in attendance. But honestly, the best part was THE FOOD! We were treated to scrummmmmptious food at Cafe Katja, an Austrian restaurant on Orchard Street in Manhattan's Lower East Side. They served AMAZING meatballs, spätzle, salads, fish dishes, apple strudel, and other deliciousness. I HIGHLY recommend Cafe Katja and can't wait for the next chance to go to Austria and eat my way through the country too!

Many are introduced to Austria by cruising the Danube, certainly a beautiful way to explore towns throughout Europe. Austrian Christmas markets are particularly magical and can also be enjoyed via river cruising or with a land-based trip. Austria deserves even more time to linger in delightful cities like Salzburg (pictured above) and to explore all this compact country has to offer - which is A LOT!

Excerpt below from 1/18/2022 Virtuoso article produced with Austrian Tourist Office can be found here.

From former imperial residences to high alpine mountain huts, here’s how to discover the best of it. Opulent palaces, cinematic mountain villages, stunning scenery – the small country of Austria delivers outsize rewards for travelers. Nestled between eight countries (including Germany, Switzerland, and Italy) in central Europe, it’s a destination where you can start the day in the Alps and end it waltzing in a Viennese palace, if you play your cards (and your train tickets) right.

If rich imperial history, storybook alpine landscapes, and a diverse culinary scene sounds like your kind of European vacation, we’ve got you covered. From Vienna to Salzburg to Arlberg, here are a few ideas for how to explore on your first – or next – visit to Austria.

Culture Capital: Vienna

Vienna served as the imperial residence for Austria’s Habsburg monarchy for more than 600 years, and the capital city’s palaces and landmarks provide glimpses into some of that storied history. One of the finest examples: the 1,440-room Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburgs’ former summer residence on the outskirts of the city

But there’s so much more to Vienna than the gilded past on display today. The city is home to a vibrant art scene, excellent shopping, one of Europe’s best coffeehouse cultures, elite hotels (including Virtuoso properties), and plenty of green space. In fact, parks, forests, and vineyards comprise more than half of Vienna.

Most Vienna exploration starts in the First District, the city center, home of the Hofburg palace complex, Vienna State Opera, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, and a labyrinth of winding alleys that lead to boutiques, antique stores, cafés, and hotels. Beyond the Ringstrasse, the road that encircles Old Town, restaurants, 100-plus museums (including the Albertina, Belvedere, and Kunsthistorisches), galleries, concert halls, and shops beckon.

Don’t leave without trying a slice (or three) of Sacher torte, Vienna’s iconic dessert, a rich chocolate cake with layers of apricot jam. The original was created in 1832 at the Hotel Sacher Wien, but travelers will find it pretty much everywhere.

The Stage of the World: Salzburg

Backed by the Alps and close to the German border, Salzburg is a three-hour train ride from Vienna, which is one of the most popular and sustainable ways to travel between the two destinations.

Salzburg’s Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage site – is a beautifully preserved pocket of baroque buildings, hilltop spires, cobblestoned streets, narrow town houses, and wrought-iron shop signs. (Pro tip: It’s all best seen from the top of Hohensalzburg Castle, Europe’s oldest intact fortress.) The prince-archbishops who founded Salzburg in the seventh century deemed it sacred, and it was once the world’s only other city-church state beyond Vatican City.

A visit to Mozarts Geburtshaus, the town house-turned-museum where Mozart was born in 1756, is a must. And yes, Salzburg’s hills are still very much alive with The Sound of Music, which was filmed there in 1964. Even those who don’t know every word to “Do-Re-Mi” will enjoy Mirabell Palace and Gardens, and the Leopoldskron Palace, which feature in the movie.

The pinnacle of the city’s vibrant musical culture takes place every summer during the Salzburg Festival, a weeks-long spectacle of opera, concert, and theater performances. The festival, established in 1920, is quite possibly the most prestigious of its kind worldwide.

Mountain Magic: Arlberg

Every winter, serious skiers head to Arlberg, a collection of five villages in western Austria’s Alps that’s home to the country’s largest ski resort – and one of Europe’s most popular, thanks to 124 miles of groomed runs and challenging off-piste terrain. Arlberg’s skiing reputation runs deep – it’s considered the birthplace of alpine skiing. Initially the Austrians were skeptical: a Norwegian engineer came to the Arlberg in the 1880s to build the Arlberg tunnel, bringing with him the two peculiar boards with which he glided through the snow to work. At the beginning of the twentieth century however, this initial skepticism gave way to pure enthusiasm and a local boy, Hannes Schneider, came on the scene and pioneered his Arlberg technique in the early 1900s.

Saint Anton is the largest and most popular village (and hosts the liveliest après-ski scene), but each holds its own appeal, and they’re all well connected by the region’s cableway and ski-lift network. There’s great shopping in Lech (and the sleek 16-room Kristiania Lech), the original Ski-Club Arlberg (established in 1901) in Saint Christoph, miles of cross-country trails in Zürs (plus the 38-room Thurnhers Alpenhof), and pure alpine charm in Stuben, a tiny hamlet with only 80 full-time residents.

A hearty array of Austrian specialties, from schnitzels and Leberknödel (dumplings) to vegan options, fuel days on the slopes – all served up in cozy mountain huts and modern dining rooms.

The snowmelt blankets slopes in wildflowers by summer, when visitors trade skiing for hiking, mountain biking, or alpine yoga (Saint Anton’s Mountain Yoga Festival in September attracts wellness seekers from around the world). One highlight: the five-mile trek to Formarinsee Lake, an emerald-hued jewel once named the country’s most beautiful spot. And in true Austrian form, Freiburger Hut near the lake has celebratory, post-hike snacks. Bonus: A bus takes you back to town, so go ahead and have that second beer.



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