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Austria Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations

     

Discount Hotels in Austria : Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Graz

 

In the heartland of Europe is Austria, a country composed of magnificent snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys and crystal-clear lakes. This was the seat of power for the Hapsburgs who dominated central Europe for seven centuries. Reminders of imperial rule are found throughout the country in architecture, museums, and monuments. Yet nowhere is the legacy more evident than in the capital city of Vienna where one finds the Opera House and the former imperial residence. There are many other Austrian cities that pay homage to the era as well, such as Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, featuring Baroque churches set against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks and Innsbruck, where the Imperial Palace, Ambras Palace, Ottoburg and the Wilten Basilica figure among the attractions.

Austria is justifiably proud of its reputation for music, the arts and literature, just as it is with its gourmet cuisine. In the coffee houses and wine taverns, the legendary Gemütlichkeit (a relaxed enjoyment of life) is raised to new levels. Nightlife in Austria ranges from laid-back taverns, beer gardens and excellent après-ski to the trendy clubs and dance venues.

Austria is member of the European Union and the United Nations. The country covers an area of 83,858 sq km and, of the approximately 8 million inhabitants, 98% speak German. Austria is a federal republic state with a parliamentary democracy.

Vienna
 

In Vienna, old coffee houses and rustic wine taverns populate the streets alongside flashy restaurants and boutiques. Time-honoured cultural events alternate with internationally acclaimed festivals to create a unique sense of 'then and now'. Recreational areas and parks are another feature of Vienna that is exemplified in places like the Wienerwald, the Prater and the Donauinsel.

Just over a million and a half Austrians inhabit the capital city of Vienna. This is a city justifiably proud of its past and present. Architecturally speaking, Vienna is a feast for the eyes with its monumental baroque facades and innovative modern age buildings. Tucked into all the nooks and crannies are delightful coffee houses and cozy wine taverns overflowing with Viennese charm. As might be expected, cultural events play a major role in the unique expression of this fabulous city.

It is probably safe to say, the abundance of imperial pleasures found round the Ringstraße can be directly attributed to the reign of Empress Maria Theresia and Emperor Franz Joseph. It was during their rule that these wonderful baroque buildings were constructed.

Sightseeing in Vienna would not be complete without visiting Schloss Schönbrunn, the former imperial summer residence. This splendid palace with exquisite formal gardens attracts hordes of visitors each year. As does the impressive Hofburg (Imperial Palace), which was the base of the Habsburgs for over six centuries. It houses a magnificent repository of culture and heritage.

For arts sake, the splendid baroque Belvedere palace is now home to the Österreichische Galerie (Austrian Gallery) displaying the largest collection of works by Klimt and Kokoschka as well as famous paintings by Schiele.


Vying for Vienna's prime landmark are the gothic Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral), the Giant Ferris Wheel in the Prater, Vienna's old recreational park, and of course, the Spanish Riding School with their world-famous Lipizzan.

For those visitors interested in history and art, Vienna has more museums and galleries than you can imagine: Kunsthistorischen Museum with the world's largest collection of Bruegel paintings, MuseumsQuartier with Leopold Museum (Schiele!), Museum Moderner Kunst (Museum of Modern Art), Architekturzentrum (Architectural Center) and Kunsthalle all feature among the cities most important cultural venues. Albertina is home to the world's largest collection of graphic arts and prints (60,000 drawings, 1 million prints), and Liechtenstein Museum is host to selected masterworks from the Princely Collections in Vaduz.

It is impossible to think about Vienna without conjuring up images of the celebrated composers who made this city their home. Strauß, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn all contributed to the musical prominence of Vienna's glory days. Today, it is the highly acclaimed Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Staatsoper (one of the world's leading opera houses) that elevates the city's musical ambiance. As always, the Vienna Boys' Choir is still one the most famous in the world. In recent years, Vienna has also established itself as a great musical metropolis for modern-age entertainment.
 

Salzburg
 

The skyline of the picturesque old town (a UNESCO world heritage sight) is cluttered with churches, castles and palaces making it a great place for lovers of medieval ambiance. Salzburg is also the birthplace of the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Nowhere else are cultural events embraced with such enthusiasm and revelry.

Festung Hohensalzburg, the most prominent landmark of Salzburg, is Central Europe's largest intact fortress and offers fantastic views of the city. A visit to the Princely Residence with its magnificent early baroque architecture and gallery will leave lasting impressions. The gallery features European paintings dating between the 16th and 19th century. Nearby is the immense Salzburg Dom, which is without doubt the main attraction of the old town. Inside there is the Romanesque font where Mozart was baptized.
 

You can visit Mozart’s Geburtshaus, the actual house where the famous composer was born (January 27, 1756). The house is located in Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s most eye-catching shopping district with its tall narrow houses and romantic courtyards. Another sight worth taking in is Schloss Mirabell with its superb gardens built by the baroque master builder Lukas von Hildebrandt.

At the foot of Mönchsberg, you will find the aptly named Festival District. This is where two famous festival halls are located: one built by Clemens Holzmeister 1956-1960 and the other, Felsenreitschule, a baroque masterpiece designed by Fischer von Erlach in 1693. South of the center of Salzburg’s old town is Schloss Hellbrunn, a fun place to view the world-famous Wasserspiele containing many ingenious trick fountains and water-powered figures. The much-acclaimed Salzburger Festspiele, founded in 1920, is the high point in Salzburg’s culture calendar. This festival attracts the world’s best performing artists. Concerts, opera and theatre are highlighted much to enjoyment of those lucky enough to attend.

Graz


The city of Graz dates back to the Roman age and lies on both banks of the River Mur.

Graz is dominated by the Schlossberg, a forested mountain rising up over the medieval town center. It is interlaced with walking trails on all sides. At the top, you will find the bell tower, which formed part of the now demolished castle and once was the emblem of the city. The city’s new landmark, the Kunsthaus (House of Modern Art), was constructed in 2003. It stands right next to the River Mur where it seemingly floats like a giant, bluish bubble.

Graz, (population 250,000), has a great number of interesting sights ranging from antiquity to ultra modern. The gothic cathedral is harks back to imperial times when Graz was still a seat of power. The baroque Mausoleum of Emperor Kaiser Ferdinand II, which is found right next door, is a very impressive sight. The 5-story Landeszeughaus (provincial armoury) stores an incredible 32,000 historic pieces of armour and weaponry. The Landhaus almost looks like a Venetian palazzo with its arcaded courtyard.

Joanneum is Austria’s largest provincial museum featuring Styrian nature, culture and arts. The Murinsel is an artificial floating platform in the middle of the Mur River. It was constructed by New York artist and designer Vito Acconci on the occasion of Graz becoming the 2003 European Capital of Culture.

Innsbruck


Innsbruck played host to the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, thus establishing itself as a major winter sports center. In the summer, the region is just as popular for outdoor sports such as cycling, mountain biking, and paragliding. Of course, hiking and walking in nature areas such as the Karwendel Alpine Park or Zirbenweg trail on Patscherkofel, is as much a part of summer as the more adventurous activities.

Innsbruck is a scenic city tucked between two impressive mountain chains. An absolute “must” on every visit to Innsbruck, is a gondola ride up Seegrube (2000m), from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Inn valley and the surrounding mountains.

But there is much more than Mother Nature greeting you here in the heart of the Alps: Innsbruck’s world-famous sights testify to the province’s great past and future. Castles, cathedrals, and monuments abound to transport you back in time. Or for a taste of something altogether new, Dominique Perrault’s Rathausgalerie and Zaha Hadid’s Bergisel Ski Jump are two outstanding landmarks that were recently added to Innsbruck’s modern cityscape. The diverse attractions of Innsbruck are many. The popular Dance Summer festival and the Innsbruck Festival Week blend with the beautiful scenery to make this a destination that offers something for everyone.


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