Many who’ve had a burning desire to travel to Europe, feel compelled to first seek out their heritage country. This was true for me as well. My grandparents immigrated from Germany and my father was the first generation born in Canada. I later learned that a few family members were born in Austria, so I set off to explore both of these alpine countries.
How I love Austria. Of course, I traversed around the most popular cities, but as exciting and captivating as they were, it was the least trodden paths to quaint villages and hamlets that strummed the strings of my heart. These hidden gem’s whimsical beauty and historical splendor left me in awe. Here are some of the most mesmeric places in Austria that will inspire you to get off the well-trodden path so you can discover and explore places less traveled.
Großes Walsertal, Austria is not a village or hamlet, but a stunning UNESCO biosphere park or reserve. These are protected and preserved natural areas where locals and tourists can enjoy nature without endangering it. There are six villages situated along the Großes Walsertal where sustainability and environmentally friendly living, agriculture and tourism plays a crucial role. Here you will find quaint villages tucked in the majestic mountains, lush forests, breathtaking meadows, pristine streams flowing down from the alps and absolute serenity.
There is an abundance of hiking trails from guided tours to theme paths, from long hikes to short treks, from mountaineering to ambling leisurely through floral dense meadows. You can also enjoy a hike that takes you from hut to hut where you can find refreshments, washrooms, and good company. It’s a place where you can soak in the diverse landscape and enjoy the tranquility.
Although Gmunden was fortified in 1186, it wasn’t established as a town until 1278. Gmunden is a charming little village surrounded by an epic Alpine landscape and a lush mountain range. It’s known for its salt baths and is frequented by visitors looking for spa treatments. Other sights tourists can experience are the Schloss Ort, a pretty castle founded in 1080. It rests on the shores of picturesque Traunsee Lake.
Tourists may also enjoy Gmunden Ceramics. It’s been operating since the 17th century and still makes and sells exquisite pottery. There are a plethora of hiking trails for the more adventurous, and the ferry can take visitors and locals to other quaint villages along Traunsee Lake.
Lake Wolfgangsee is a tranquil location where a number of charming villages rest on its shore. St. Gilgen, founded in 1376, is situated on the north-eastern shore of Lake Wolfgangsee. Since 2005, it’s been promoted as Wolfgang Village because of its connection to Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart’s grandfather worked in St. Gilgen and his mother was born in this elegant village as well. His sister, Maria Anna, made St. Gilgen her home after she got married to Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg.
Another village along Wolfgangsee is St. Wolfgang. Going back to 1056, this enchanting little village has maintained its historic charm while staying in tune with the modern world. Sites you may enjoy are the Distillery and Monastery Winery, Pilgrimage Church of St. Wolfgang, Abarena- an amusement park with a chill factor, slide down the Sommerrodelbahn, take a cruise on the Wolfgangsee Schifffahrt or stroll through the village and pop into one of their many tourist’s shops.
At the end of the lake is Strobl, a sleepy little village that offers peace and serenity. Visitors can explore the village, see St. Sigismund Parish, and walk along the picturesque promenade. You may also enjoy the breathtaking boardwalk path from Strobl back to St. Wolfgang.
Deemed one of Austria’s most picturesque alpine villages, Heiligenblut is nestled against the imposing Grossglockner. It’s Austria’s highest mountain range. Its name translates to Holy Blood and rumor has it that a relic flask containing the blood of Jesus is kept in their local parish. Its historic buildings, cultural heritage, and heart-stirring surroundings make it an ideal place for hikers, trekkers, and sightseers to explore.
Feldkirch is a well-preserved medieval town with an abundance of historic charm. It dates back to 1218 when Castle Schattenberg was built by Count Hugo Von Montfort. Today, it’s home to a museum and restaurant. The Katzenturm Tower (Cat Tower), now a landmark, is an eight-story tower that was built between 1491 and 1507. In 1665 it was converted into a bell tower and houses the largest bell in the Vorarlberg region, weighing in at 7500 kg. You can also check out the Courthouse, local Marketgasse, and museum. Feldkirch also borders Liechtenstein and Switzerland so it’s the ideal base for excursions and explorations throughout the alps.