Things to Do in Austrian Alps - page 2
A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, the Graz Old Town (Grazer Altstadt) is one of the best preserved districts in all of central Europe. In the heart of Graz, the Old Town features a mix of old and new, ranging from the medieval building facades surrounding the Hauptplaz (Main Square) to the modern architecture of the Kunsthaus Graz, which reflects the Old Town in its unique façade. The area includes more than a thousand buildings featuring a variety of architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance and Medieval. Visitors will enjoy getting lost among the narrow alleys and cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, cafes and one of a kind boutiques. Any tour of the Old Town is sure to include highlights such as the Hauptplaz and Kunsthaus, as well as the Rathaus (Town Hall), the Landhaus and the hill overlooking the town known as the Schlossberg. The latter is the site of the ruined Dom, a Gothic cathedral that is home to the oldest painting of the city.
Perched above Austria’s forested Inntal Valley, 16th-century Tratzberg Castle is one of the Tirol’s most impressive Renaissance and Gothic castles. Guided tours of this one-time defensive outpost take you on a journey through its history, and the lives of the Habsburg emperors and medieval merchants who once lived here.
One of the most notable landmarks in Graz and a must for any visitor, the Graz Clock Tower (Grazer Uhrturm) may be best known for its confusing clock faces, featuring long hands for the hours and short hands for the minutes. Dating back to medieval times, the tower stands 28 meters high and has a clock face on each side, each about five meters in diameter. The 18th century clockworks still operate, but are now electronic. In addition to the famous clock, the tower is also home to three bells, the oldest of which dates back to 1385 and still rings on the hour. Another bell from around 1450 was used during executions and later to remind people of the city curfew.
Once used to watch for fires in the surrounding area, the tower today offers visitors 360 degree views of Graz and its environs. Visitors should also look for the three painted coats of arms on the walls of the tower and the walled-in stone armchairs that were added in the 16th century.
The Graz City Hall (Grazer Rathaus) was completed at the end of the 19th century, replacing two earlier town halls that stood in the same spot on Graz’s Main Square as early as 1550. The new hall stands four stories tall with an Old German style façade once highlighted by a series of statues that depict prominent Austrians and the four allegories, art, science, industry and commerce. The statues were removed in the early 20th century and later replaced with copies. In the inner courtyard, two houses extend into the design of the building; the owners famously refused to move when the new hall was built.
Inside, highlights for visitors include a painting depicting the city hall over time, a brass Styrian panther, a large mural of Graz in 1635, portraits of past Graz mayors, coffered ceilings and a tiled stove on the second floor and the chandelier, 19th century clock and intricately-designed ceilings in the elegant assembly hall.
Perched in the foothills of the Alps just south of Innsbruck, the 16th-century Ambras Palace (Schloss Ambras) was the onetime residence of Archduke Ferdinand II. Today, the striking Renaissance palace and impeccably manicured gardens play host to one of Innsbruck’s most impressive museums and portrait galleries.
The number-one destination of beer lovers, Austria’s most popular brewing exhibition is found Salzburg’s oldest brewery, which was built in 1863, although Stiegl has actually been brewing ever since 1492 and the company remains independent to this day. In medieval times the production of beer was as vital to the growth of Salzburg’ wealth as the mining of salt in the region; a visit to the Stiegl Brauwelt encompasses a whistle-stop tour of the brewing process and the bottling plant as well as highlighting the social impact of brewing on the city. Although guided tours are currently only available in German, all the exhibits in the museum are clearly labeled in other languages, including English, so it is easy to understand the displays.
Tastings following the brewery tour give the chance to sample three of the ales produced here, and soft options are offered for non-drinkers. Time your visit correctly and stay on in the restaurant for lunch or supper to savor traditional Austrian restaurant – spicy sausages, pickles and plenty of horseradish sauce – and try out some of Stiegl’s brews of the month. On sunny days the Stiegl garden is one of the most popular spots in Salzburg, with beer served in clunky gray-and-redsteins. There’s also the chance to buy your favorite bottled beer in the museum store at the end of your visit.
Towering 167 feet (51 meters) over the northern mouth of Maria Theresien Strasse, Innsbruck City Tower (Stadtturm) is one of the city’s most recognizable monuments. Built in 1450 and topped with a striking green dome, the historic clock tower is best known for its open-air observation deck, affording views over the Old Town.
On the sunny slopes of the Hungerburg plateau, surrounded by snow-capped Alpine peaks, the Alpine Zoo Innsbruck (Alpenzoo Innsbruck) is a unique wildlife reserve with a spectacular setting. Devoted to protecting native Tyrolean wildlife, the zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals, with over 150 different Alpine species represented.
Building started in 1956 on Salzburg’s Large Festival Hall (Grosses Festspielhaus), which was designed by Austrian architect and stage designer Clemens Holzmeister specifically to host the annual Salzburg Festival. The grand green-and white theater is neo-baroque in style and the main auditorium can seat an audience of 2,170; it opened to great fanfare in 1960 with a performance of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier conducted by Herbert von Karajan and is renowned for its acoustics; the circular stage has a width of 100 meters (328 feet) and is one of the largest in the world. The interior decor is a monument to 1960s design, with marble statues by sculptor Wander Bertoni, as well as installations by Anton von Webern and notorious Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka.
As well as hosting the Salzburg Festival, the venue has a full repertoire of year-round performances and also holds concerts during the city’s Easter and Whitsun Festivals as well as carol services at Christmas. It stands next door to another of Salzburg’s great musical venues, the Haus für Mozart (House for Mozart), which was completed in 1925 and was also designed by Clemens Holzmeister.
The Universalmuseum Joanneum in Graz is a multidisciplinary museum that boasts 4.5 million items in its collection. The largest museum of its kind in Europe, it was also Austria’s first public museum, founded in 1811 by Archduke Johann of Austria, the brother of Emperor Franz I. The museum includes 12 different locations in Graz, each of which focuses on either art, culture or the natural sciences.
For modern and contemporary art, visitors should head to the Kunsthaus Graz, the Neue Galerie Graz or Art in Public Space. For a look into the Middle Ages and Baroque art, visit the Schloss Eggenberg and the Alte Galerie. Focusing in prehistory and antiquity are the Archaeology Museum adjacent to the Schloss Eggenberg and the Coin Cabinet inside the Schloss. The Styrian Armory, Folk Life Museum, Museum in Palais and the Multimedial Collections provide a look into cultural history of the area and the Natural History Museum and Centre of Natural History showcase the region’s natural history. An additional seven locations can be found elsewhere in Austria outside of Graz.
More Things to Do in Austrian Alps
The Styrian Armory in Graz is the world’s largest historic army, holding 32,000 pieces of weaponry, tools and suits of armor. Built between 1642 and 1645, the armory stood on the front lines for Austria’s battles with the Ottoman Empire and Hungarian rebels for the next few centuries. One of the most visited of the dozen museums that comprise the Universalmuseum Joanneum, the Armory features exhibitions on four floors, arranged in a way reminiscent of a 17th century arsenal. On the first floor, visitors will find cannons, mortars and muskets from the 16th to 18th centuries, while the second floor focuses on helmets, suits of armor and pistols. The third floor shows off more armor, including German-made armor and equestrian armor for nobles. Finally, the fourth floor is home to staff weapons such as morning stars, halberds and pikes used by foot soldiers, as well as swords and sabres once used by horsemen.
Located at the Salzburg Airport, Hangar-7 is a one of-a-kind aircraft hangar and transport museum that comes in at 44,130 square feet and offers ever-changing exhibitions in addition to upwards of five restaurant and lounge options. In addition to the aircraft and cars on display, there are also contemporary art exhibitions and air shows on occasion.
Though its main attractions are Flying Bulls historical aircraft and fleet of Formula 1 cars, many visitors come to the hangar simply to admire its architecture, the work of Salzburg architect Volkmar Burgstaller. The landmark's exterior can look like a glass aircraft wing when admired from the outside, and Hangar-7 also has a sweeping 131-foot (40-meter) entrance with two cylindrical towers. There are 1,754 panes of glass of different sizes, providing a view of the nearby mountain panorama.
The Hallein Salt Mine (Salzwelten Hallein) is an ancient salt mine carved into Mt. Dürrnberg, just south of Salzburg, in Austria’s Salzkammergut region. Perched above the town of Hallein, the mine is around 2,500 years old and open to visitors who explore the tunnels and learn how “white gold” contributed to medieval Salzburg’s wealth.
Just south of Salzburg in Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park, the 10,508-foot (3,203-meter) Kitzsteinhorn mountain and glacier dominates the Zell am See and Kaprun region. With glacier snow until summer and spectacular scenery all year, the Kitzsteinhorn is a magnet for skiers, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, and sightseers.
One of the world’s largest ice caves, this network of frosty caverns and tunnels extends for more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) through the Tennen Mountains in the Austrian Alps. Discovered in 1879, this subterranean wonderland encompasses vast blue-tinged chambers, sculptural ice formations, and frozen waterfalls.
Zipping up to one of Salzburg’s most impressive viewpoints, the Mönchsberg Lift (Mönchsbergaufzug) makes easy work of the 60-meter climb to the top of the Mönchsberg plateau. From the 523-meter-high viewing terrace, the views span Salzburg’s Old Town, with its hilltop Hohensalzburg Fortress, striking cathedral and scenic riverside, and it’s a perfect spot for photos.
Hop on the lift from Anton-Neumayr-Platz in the Old Town, then jump out at the top of the hill, where you can visit the Museum of Modern Art or hike along the plateau’s woodland trails all the way to the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Devoted to the world of hearing, Audioversum—Science Center is a high-tech, interactive, family-friendly museum. Walk through core exhibits like a giant 3D ear and a virtual reality sound labyrinth, try games to test your hearing, and experience the soundproof Scream Box to measure the volume of a shout.
Salzburg is immensely proud of its most famous son, and Mozart Square (Mozartplatz) is just one of the city’s many tributes.
The square, with its elegant statue of a youthful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, dates back to 1842 and was partly funded by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was a big fan.
One of Salzburg’s most famous squares, Mozartplatz is a popular spot for a photo stop and a stroll.
Salzburg’s Old Market (Alter Markt) dates way back to 1280. The medieval buildings have long since gone, replaced by grand Baroque townhouses that line the square.
Take a seat at an outdoor cafe, or pick up some handmade chocolate Mozartkugeln balls at Fürst chocolatiers.
You’ll want to take a photo of one of the buildings lining the square at number 10a; you might miss it as it’s the smallest house in Salzburg.
Located in two buildings on Museumsplatz near the River Salzach, Salzburg’s natural history museum was founded in 1924. The Salzburg Museum of Natural History (Haus der Natur) is an offshoot of the Salzburg Museum, which incorporates seven branches including the Toy Museum (Spielzeug Museum) and the Monatsschlössl ethnology museum at Schloss Hellbrunn as well as its main branch at the Neue Residenz. Along with a series of exhibitions focusing on dinosaurs, geology, the natural world and space travel, there’s an aquarium and reptile zoo featuring alligators and poisonous lizards.
The separate and largely interactive science center is wonderfully child friendly and displays across its three floors of hands-on exhibits examine energy, the human body and noise – this being Salzburg, the Audio Lab features the music of Mozart; it also has a science lab where junior experiments can be safely conducted under supervision.
Salzburg is the city of Mozart and music festivals and is also home to several Baroque orchestras. Most prestigious is the Mozarteum Orchestra, which was founded in 1841 with the help of Mozart’s widow and their sons; today it is one of Austria's leading symphony orchestras under the leadership of English conductor Ivor Bolton. It plays a leading role in the annual Salzburg Festival and has a permanent home at the Mozarteum, a complex of two concert halls built between 1910 and 1914. The grand and glittering neo-classical Great Hall (Grosser Saal) has seating for 800 and is regarded as Salzburg’s most beautiful concert venue, while the Viennese Hall is a smaller auditorium perfectly proportioned for chamber-music concerts, with an audience capacity of 200.
As well as performing around the world and hosting weekly concerts at their home base, the Mozarteum Orchestra also performs at the annual Mozart Week every January. In June 2015 Salzburg celebrates The Sound of Music’s 50th anniversary; kicking off on Monday June 22, the festivities will culminate on Friday June 26 with a concert at the Mozarteum, where much-adored song tunes from the movie will get a rousing airing. There are free organ concerts in the Great Hall most days at 12.30pm.
Located in the gloriously ornate Neue Residenz in Mozartplatz, the Salzburg Museum opened in 2007 to great acclaim and won European Museum of the Year two years later. It serves as an informative and educational museum of art and history, scanning aspects of the development of Salzburg as a city.
A museum of several parts housed in fine marble apartments, it features temporary art exhibitions, highlights the lives of prominent Salzburg movers and shakers, and examines the history of the city through a series of artwork in the permanent exhibition ‘The Myth of Salzburg’. A one-man exhibition on the third floor spotlights the mesmeric paintings of famous contemporary Austrian artist Gottfried Salzmann.
The Salzburg Museum is partnered to the adjacent Panorama Museum and they are connected by the subterranean Panorama Passage, which reveals a section of Roman wall covered with murals and four models of Salzburg at pertinent points in its development. The undoubted star of the Panorama Museum is the 85-foot (26-m) cyclorama of the city painted in 1829 by Johann Michael Sattler; it is supremely impressive in its fine architectural and topographical detail.
The 900-year-old Hohenwerfen Fortress (Erlebnisburg Hohenwerfen) squats 510 ft (155 m) up on a rocky hilltop, surrounded by swathes of pine trees and the harsh peaks of the Tennengebirge Mountains. From its lofty position the castle dominates the village of Werfen in the Salzach Valley region of the Austrian Alps.
Accessed by either steep climb or funicular from the car parks, Hohenwerfen Fortress has its beginnings in the 11th century; it was built in tandem with the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg as a refuge for the ruling prince-bishops. Parts of the fortified medieval walls can still be seen but the castle’s history has been turbulent and it was razed to the ground during the Peasants’ Rebellion of 1525.
Much of what you see today is the result of subsequent 16th-century restyling in Baroque style, when the castle was extended and heavily fortified to protect the prince-bishops from further attack. It was also used to house military prisoners before falling into disuse in the late 18th century; more refurbishment followed by then-owner Archduke Eugen of Austria before parts of the fortress was destroyed yet again by fire in 1931.
Restored once more to its present pristine whitewashed majesty, Hohenwerfen featured as Schloss Adler in the 1968 WWII movieWhere Eagles Dare.
Today an audio-guide leads visitors around the landscaped gardens and battlements, into the kitchens and Romanesque chapel, around the prince-bishops’ apartments, and up the bell tower for far-reaching Alpine views. There are also small museums detailing the history of the castle and displaying weapons used in its protection as well as Austria’s only falconry museum – the summer months see daily flight demonstrations with birds of prey. Tours of Hohenwerfen Fortress are often combined with a trip through the world’s largest ice caves at Eisriesenwelt near Werfen.
Salzburg’s superb museum of modern Austrian art comes as a contemporary change after the city’s relentless Baroque charm. It has two branches: the Museum of Modern Art Mönchsberg (Museum der Moderne am Mönchsberg) and the Museum of Modern Art Rupertinum (Museum der Moderne Salzburg Rupertinum).
The Mönchsberg museum of modern art perches above the city on the rocky crag of Mönchsberg, one of five steep hills that form part of the city’s skyline; it was designed by Munich architects Friedrich Hoff Zwink following a competition launched in 1998 and has a series of light-filled, airy galleries tucked behind its ultra-modern white-marble façade. The four-floor museum opened in 2004 and holds exhibitions of contemporary painting, installations and temporary exhibitions from contemporary Austrian artists as well as open-air displays on the surrounding terraces. The neo-Gothic 19th-century Amalie Redlich Water Tower that stands next to MDM Mönchsberg has been incorporated into the gallery and hosts workshops and other events. The museum’s award-winning M32 restaurant has a panoramic terrace for views across Salzburg and the River Salzach; it is one of the city’s most popular summer dining spots.
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