Image credit: Dominik Bartsch
Grand architecture, cosy coffee houses, rich in culture; Vienna is historically one of Europe’s famous power cities, but venture out and you’ll find a largely undiscovered state with equally as much to brag about…
The Lost Garden of Schloss Schönbrunn
Alongside the luxuriously opulent sight that is Schönbrunn Palace (former abode of the Habsburg royal family), a garden may not seem like much, but this secretive section of one of the most important houses in Austria contains more intrigue than the entire estate put together.
Known as the ‘irrgarten’, the mysterious green maze, fashioned from someone with a serious knack for topiary, has surprises around every corner; from tiny, but infuriating brain-teasers and riddles, to more challenging tasks such as the ‘chiming climbing pole’ and the ‘bouncing boards’ pathway. The labyrinth’s historical side should also entice history buffs, who can learn more about the scandalous encounters between courtiers and aristocratic ladies that once occurred at its centre (and almost caused its destruction in 1892).
Krems an der Donau
Located in the world-famous and wonderfully handsome Wachau region, this thousand-year-old city provides a gateway to the past unlike any other. A walk amongst its distinctive red-roofed, pastel-fronted buildings, punctuated by monastery spires, museums and monuments around every corner, is a pleasurable and educational way to spend (easily) an entire day.
The settlement’s proximity to the Danube also means that those with a penchant for waterfront views can get their fill of riverside fun, while those whose tastes are more gastronomically aligned can sample any number of the area’s supremely delicious wines, grown locally in the surrounding vineyards.
On seeing the exterior of this gleaming golden monastery, perched formidably on a rock overlooking the ancient town, one might think that the architects had been a tad overenthusiastic in the Baroque department. But the façade isn’t even a patch on what lies behind the outer walls of this astonishing abbey.
Built in 1089, this former palace is home to all kinds of fanciful flourishes – ornate stained glass windows, multifaceted marble walls, deeply detailed frescoes and treasures dating back entire millennia. Despite all this finery, it also has a humbler side and still operates as an educational facility, as it has done since the 12th Century. With a whopping 80,000 tomes in its two-storey library, it should keep the students busy for some time yet.
1 hour 15 minutes
One of Austria’s foremost magnets for winter sports enthusiasts, this petite village in the state of Styria is nestled the base of the beautiful eastern Alps. But it is not only known for the pilgrims who come to admire the slopes of the Bürgeralpe, but also for its significance to those of a religious persuasion.
Housed in the grand Catholic basilica in a prominent town square, a rare wooden statue depicting the Virgin Mary draws crowds so often, the site now holds status as being one of the most visited shrines in all of Europe. Though several myths surround the formation of the church, its beauty – and that of its surroundings – are entirely unquestionable.
2 hours 5 minutes
As a symbol so often associated with the great conquests of male kings and lords, this castle is somewhat of a brilliant anomaly, being that it is most-known as the homestead of a number of influential and wealthy women throughout the ages.
This scenic structure was built upon and reconstructed over various centuries by a series of royals and affluent families, but the castle gained its current distinctiveness after the Baroness Katharina Elisabeth von Wechsler took control of the land in the 17th century. It has since been in the ownership of the von Liechtenstein family after their purchase in 1822 but is, of course, open to the public with a hotel on site should you want to really feel like royalty.
1 hour 50 minutes