Everywhere you turn in Austria, history comes alive. Walking through glimmering rows of weapons in the 17th-century Graz armory, you can almost see Styrian lords leading their troops on horseback against invaders and Habsburg rulers seem to stare at you from the portrait hall in Ambras Castle. Better yet, alongside these historical buildings are dynamic contemporary spaces. Austria blends old and new seamlessly, here are just eight reasons why you need to make Austria your next travel destination.
1. Discover the Habsburgs’ immense art collections in Vienna
Housed in a palatial building right on the Ringstrasse, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna is home to 2,100 objets d’art collected and commissioned by the Habsburgs. See the world’s largest collection of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the Picture Gallery, and marvel at frescoes by Klimt and his collective above the grand staircase. Between galleries, sit down for a coffee and pastry at Cupola Café, or make a dinner reservation on Thursday night and explore the museum after hours.
2. Tour iconic locations of The Sound of Music around Salzburg
Salzburg and The Sound of Music are inextricably linked, and many of the locations that appear in the film can be visited today. Spend the night at Leopoldskorn Palace, the von Trapp family’s fictional residence, then set out on foot in the morning to Mirabell Gardens, where Maria and the children sang “Do-Re-Mi.” Afterwards, pass by St. Peter’s Cemetery where the family hid behind tombstones and end your day, at The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show.
3. Explore the Habsburgs’ stronghold in Innsbruck
Only two of Austria’s cities can claim to be seats of Habsburg: Vienna and Innsbruck. Tirol’s capital combines its imperial opulence with raw, alpine character. Above the 800-year-old city of Innsbruck sits the Renaissance-era Ambras Castle. The legacy of one of the Habsburg’s foremost art collectors, Archduke Ferdinand II, it is the only collection of Habsburg curiosities preserved at its original location.
4. Visit the world’s largest armory in the city of Graz
Back in the 17th century, the city of Graz was subject to frequent attacks by neighboring territories. Styrian lords were forced to organise massive armies in response, and the Armory Graz was born. Today, it is the world’s largest original armory, and the collection’s 32,000 items are still stored the way they were 400 years ago
5. Explore the art-filled private palaces of the noble House of Liechtenstein in Vienna
Owned by one of Europe’s oldest noble families, the baroque Liechtenstein City and Garden Palaces are only open to the public twice a month. With their Rococo Revival interiors, gold embellishments and finest baroque stuccowork both palaces equal in magnificence. Be sure to schedule your tours ahead of time, because these are ones you don’t want to miss.
6. Step into the world’s sparkliest experience
At the turn of the 20th century, Daniel Swarovski founded his crystal-cutting company in the small Tyrolean town of Wattens. His fame grew exponentially in the years that followed, and on the company’s 100th anniversary, Swarovski Crystal World opened nearby. Part museum, part theme park and part art installation, it has attracted millions from around the world.
7. Feel the creative energy of Mozart at his old apartment in Vienna
Just steps from Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral is Mozarthaus, where Mozart and his family lived from 1784-1787. On your tour, see where the composer wrote his famous opera “The Marriage of Figaro” and learn about his Vienna years in the context of 18th-century society and culture.
8. Get lost in one of the world’s largest art complexes
The former horse stable of the Habsburg family is now a cultural playground where you can spend the entire day diving into the vibrant sprawl of museums, restaurants, shops and art spaces. The Museums Quartier is not only home to the world’s largest Schiele collection but also to internationally renowned avant-garde artists like Pablo Picasso and Any Warhol.