Why Austria should be on your Christmas Travel Wish List!
There are few places in the world that are as charming and captivating as Austria, especially in winter.
Having recently returned from a trip as a guest of the very hospitable Austrian National Tourist Office Team, I can honestly say I’m under its spell.
Let’s start in Salzburg, a very good place to start. Famed as the city where most of the family classic, the Sound of Music was filmed, I was surprised to hear most Austrians have never seen the famous Hollywood film. Enjoy The Sound of Music walking tour, which takes visitors to many of the iconic landmarks featured in the film. Be sure not to miss Mirabell Garden and the Pegasus Fountain, where Maria and the children danced and sang “Do-Re-Mi”.
Visit the rococo Leopoldskron Castle featured as the home to the Trapp family in the film and whose historic rooms were reconstructed as a film set and the beautiful gardens, and lake where the boat famously overturns tossing all into the water.
Did you know Karl Lagerfeld, showed the 2015 Chanel Collection in this palace and stayed in the famed creative, Max Reinhardt suite. The library, Venetian room, and White room are not to be missed. The Palace has a historical reference to the House of Chanel which noteworthy takes inspiration from the Austrian loden jacket. The Metirers d’Art collection tapped into Austria’s Imperial past and had denim lederhosen and a new twist on the iconic Chanel jacket.
Hotels are plentiful and staying in the old town is definitely more characteristic and charming. From 5-star luxury at the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, located directly on the banks of the Salzach River has the most stunning views of the town.
Privately owned and family-run this hotel lives and breaths Austrian traditions, authentic local flavors, and the warmest staff dressed dashingly in traditional attire. My junior suite was exquisitely appointed from the white roses and welcome note to the fluffy bathrooms and bath amenities that actually smell of chocolate and caramel! What’s not to love? (It’s clear why Julie Andrews chose to stay here)
Spend the reflective Christmas season here and let yourself be enchanted by the magical atmosphere in Salzburg. Enjoy the wintry season with your loved ones while staying in our luxurious rooms and suites. Round off your trip with a slice of Original Sacher-Torte in the Café Sacher Salzburg and delicious menus in the exclusive restaurant Sacher Grill. Take a stroll across the bridge and get in the mood for the Christmas season by visiting the many traditional Salzburg Christmas markets.
For a historic and more traditional boutique experience, the Hotel Goldener Hirsch, from the Luxury Collection, is one brimming with a history dating back to 1407 and offers exceptional hospitality and celebrated Austrian tradition. It embodies an enduring symbiosis between the original country inn and the luxury boutique hotel and is conveniently located just steps away from Mozart’s birthplace, in the heart of the city’s evocative old town. Its vibe draws on Salzburg’s fairytale setting with hints of its hunting lodge heritage. Guests are treated to a generational warmth with staff wearing uniforms reminiscent of the national Tracht history.
Shopping in the old town area of Getreidegasse is a must. The sights, sounds and scents of Salzburg’s historic pedestrian zone were one of the city’s earliest trade routes and commercial centres. Lined with picturesque alleyways and courtyards, this street is a travellers dream and shopper’s paradise.
Salzburg was seemingly created to conjure up a fairy-tale atmosphere during the most enchanting time of the year. The Salzburg Christmas Markets are plentiful with dozens of these little gems scattered all over, along with Advent concerts and folk customs in the magical City of Mozart.
Festivities begin from the end of November with the smell of hot chestnuts, mulled wine and delicious treats wafting through the streets of this enchanting region. Must-sees during every season include the Getreidegasse, Mozart’s birth house, Hellbrunn palace, Mirabell Square, Sternbräu, Hohensalzburg Fortress, Hotel Schoss Leopoldskron and Nonnberg Abbey.
Krampus, chestnuts and nativity scenes – Advent is a true highlight in Salzburg. The Christmas markets are the perfect backdrop for romantics, gourmets and folklore enthusiasts.
Only 40 minutes outside of Salzburg you find yourself in the beautiful Salzkammergut (or lake region) comprised of 76 lakes. We visited lake Wolfgangsee, perfect for a daytrip from Salzburg or event to stay a night. For something different take a cable car ride from St. Gilgen to Zwolferhorn and enjoy a (snowshoe) hike with stunning views of the lake beneath you.
During Christmas time the three villages around lake Wolfgangsee – St. Gilgen, Strobl, St. Wolfgang – have some of the most beautiful Christmas markets with decorated custom stalls, nativity scenes and glittering lights. Das Weisse Rossl (The White Horse Inn) in St. Wolfgang is a great place to stay and just out the front of the hotel is a 16-meter advent lantern floating on the lake. Wander the markets with more than 70 life-size figures and musicians playing melodies as you soak up some Christmas cheer.
Surprising Experiences – An advent ride on the Schafberg Bahn cog railway is a treat, it’s a Christmas locomotive ride to Schafberg Alm, which sits 1364 meters above sea level. We were serenaded by four traditional trumpeters on top of the mountain whilst we sipped more mulled wine.
If you’re a history and music buff, take a visit to the Stille Nacht Chapel and the Silent night museum, including a visit to the St. Nicholas Church where the famous carol was originally performed and church bells, and sing the famous carol. On 24 December 1818, the song “Silent Night” by Joseph Mohr (who penned the words) and Franz Xaver Gruber (the composer) was heard by the public for the very first time in Oberndorf just outside of Austria.
A 2-hour train ride will transport you from Salzburg to inspirational Innsbruck. With urban flair and alpine nature, it offers a unique mix seldom seen elsewhere. Innsbruck really is Christmas in the mountains, stroll the streets by day or night and be enchanted by the special atmosphere.
The Adlers hotel, where we stayed, is conveniently located near the train station and offers stunning views over the roofscape of Innsbruck with an amazing bar and dining room on level 12 with a panorama of the surrounding snowcapped alps.
A must-do is a visit to the Bergisel Olympic ski jump which stands proudly above the Olympic city, fittingly on the land where freedom was won. We were lucky enough to have a private VIP tour with a former ski jumping champion, Julian, who explained the sport complete with a bird’s eye view from top of the jump and seating plank. Did you know the skiers have a view out to the cemetery from to the top of the jump, now there’s an incentive to make the jump stick.
A guided Innsbruck city tour of Imperial Austria is a must including a visit to the Imperial Palace, Ambrass Castle and The Golden Roof, best seen in its full glory at 12pm midday.
Here you’re in the heartland of Tirolean heritage and the best way to experience this is on a food tour with Kurt who not only explains the history and heritage but comes equipped with his own flask and shot glasses to enjoy nips of Krautinger.
These immersive few hours take us on a visit to some of the best farmer’s markets, bakeries, coffee houses, and insider hotspots around Innsbruck. The “Innsbruck Food Tour” is perfect to eat like a local and get to know and love the culinary side of the Tirolean capital.
NO – It is not a cheesy tourist tour. Accompanied by a “local”, you can enjoy typical and customary delicacies and specialties within 4 hours (“Sweet Tour” 2.5 hours) on a leisurely walk – and many larger and smaller dishes – through the beautiful state capital. The rule is: Eat, walk, talk, eat, drink… and again and again.
Nordkette mountain is at the heart of Innsbruck. With world-class infrastructure take a 20-minute ride on the cable car, from the city centre to the 2000m peak. The Nordkette is part of Austria’s largest nature park, the Karwendel Nature Park. At the top enjoy the breathtaking 360° which leaves you with a lasting impression. Enjoy Innsbruck on one side and Tirol’s most extensive conservation area on the other.The Alpine Zoo on the foot of the Nordkette is Europe’s highest-elevation zoo and can also be reached via the funicular (the zoo has its own stop).
For lovers of bling, no trip to Innsbruck is complete without a tour of Swarovski Crystal World in Wattens. This is 7.5 hectares of sparkling contemporary art, classic history and changing installations. Immerse yourself in a wonderland of imagination with 18 “Chambers of Wonder’ created by international artists, and designers a feast for the senses.
It has to be said that Austria is famous for the endless Christmas markets which are a tradition and treat for travellers from Australia in particular as the weather is snowy and it’s cosy to huddle around with friends and a mug of mulled wine enjoying delicacies and culinary treats offered this time of year. Accompanied by softly sung Christmas tunes experiencing this special time of year in Austria is truly the loveliest way to get into the Christmas spirit.
They are literally everywhere and provide an atmosphere of social gathering and celebration with warmth and colour that brighten a winter’s eve. Tirol’s Christmas markets are a great place for hand-crafted products. Grab a mug of steaming-hot Glühwein and stroll from hut to hut for an insight into the region’s long and proud handicraft tradition.
A visit to Austra will surely put you under its spell too.