A record number of travellers from Australia visited Austria in 2017.
Tourism to Vienna increasing by a whopping 20 per cent as Australians clamber to see the city that gets voted the world’s most liveable, year after year.
Mercer’s 20th annual Quality of Living survey on Wednesday announced that Vienna topped the world’s most liveable city list for the ninth consecutive year.
Tourism to Austria has increased as a whole by nine per cent, with most Australian tourists beelining to Vienna, the skiing city of Tirol, and of course, postcard-perfect Salzburg.
Maybe Australians are drawn to the place cafe society was born; its radical modern art and architecture, or its musical culture.
Either way, if you weren’t impressed on your first visit, here’s 10 reasons you should return to Austria.
1. Everything old is new again
Remember travelling around western Europe for the first time as a backpacker and vowing no more castles, churches or museums? Wrong. When you walk into the first European church you’ve seen in 20 years prepare to be floored by their size and grandeur, and how different they all can be – such as the baroque Salzburg Cathedral compared to the dark, candle-lit splendour of St Stephen’s in Vienna.
2. Discover a whole new world of food
Earning wages from a full-time professional job instead of savings made from pitiful Austudy crumbs and your first casual job in hospitality can reap rewards when it comes to eating in Europe. Your budget no longer prioritises cheap German beer, utilising whatever is leftover for a slab of deep-fried cheese from a terrible “restaurant” a Busabout guide nicknamed “Wolfie” recommended. Now, you can really enjoy true Euro cuisine, from the Michelin starred restaurants in Vienna – such as the two-star Silvio Nickol Gourmet Restaurant in Palais, or the Naschmarkt to graze at Urbanek, a 30-year-old shrine to cold meats, cheeses and wine favoured by Anthony Bourdain. See palais-coburg.com/en/culinary/silvio-nickol
3. You can take your sweet time
Instead of rushing through a city in a three-day-two-night recommended timeframe for backpackers, you can take your time to enjoy things the locals would do. Visit the incredible, historic coffee shops of Vienna and Salzburg, where the rock star artists from the 1900s like Egon Schiele used to banter over caffeinated beverages. Moreover, coffee is just as important a part of Austria’s culture as it is Australia’s (try ordering the melange, which is similar to a flat white).
4. Come during winter
So you’ve seen Europe during a busy summer, but arriving in the month of December when snow has already started to coat rooftops gives you a whole new perspective on a destination. It’s a bonus there are less tourists around than in summer, and Austrians go out regardless, embracing the cold. It helps that inside it’s very, very warm.
5. And even if you’re suffering from the cold
Shopping in Europe is amazing. And now you have some real money to spend on clothes, rather than cheap duds from H&M. That being said, the department stores like Zara and Mango are always better and cheaper than back home. You can seek out stores unique to Europe like Turek, or you can do a specially-tailored shopping tour – try Shopping with Lucie, run by a New Yorker who fell in love with an Austrian and moved to Vienna. As a former fashion stylist, she knows all the best, off-the-beaten-track places to shop. shoppingwithlucie.com
6. You’ve already ticked off the big ticket and touristy items
You did the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg and the Summer and Winter palaces in Vienna. So now is the chance to dig a little deeper and check some of the hidden gems or the things you would have snubbed as a 20-something backpacker. Get a taste of the short ‘n’ sweet opera in Vienna, where single acts were written so guests could get in and out during the war in case of bombings. In Salzburg, check out the modern circus performances held during Winterfest. winterfest.at
7. You can still enjoy things on the cheap
If two star Michelin restaurants are not within your budget, there are still plenty of other places you can go to enjoy Austria’s great food and its famous wine. In December, the Christmas markets are a-buzzin’ and you can enjoy a cup of hot Aperol or golshwein (mulled wine) over some raclette or homemade gingerbread. The traditional Viennese sausages, found all over the city from stalls on the streets are always a steal and historic restaurants such as Gmoakeller – a traditional Viennese Beisel – where you can get a hearty, homestyle Viennese meal served with local wines and rounded off with a shot of fruity schnapps. See gmoakeller.at
8. Splurge at a high-end hotel and enjoy Viennese hospitality
Ditch the cheap guesthouses and hostels and experience European hospitality at its best. Hotel Sacher, in both Vienna and Salzburg, is classic five star hotel famous for its Sacher Torte. Under instruction from Prince von Metternich, 16-year-old apprentice Franz Sacher created Austria’s most fought-over dessert back in 1832 for the prince’s guests. The cake, which people queue in the snow to taste today, is made of chocolate, apricot jam and whipped cream, and can be boxed up and sent all around the world to destinations including Australia, if you’re looking for an impressive souvenir for the folks back home. See sacher.com
9. First-class transport is exactly what it claims to be
Leave those A1 air-conditioned buses around Asia behind – you know, the ones that are minus floorboards and the airconditioning is open windows – and travel in style on European trains, which are comfortable, fast and reliable – and generally serviced with things like food and beverages and bathrooms. Travelling in first-class also entitles you to use the lounges at each station which are equipped with wi-fi, snacks and beverages.
10. You can finally show off your photos
If there are no photos on Instagram of your European adventure, did you really go? Chances are that first trip you took to Europe was before the age of digital cameras, now you have a tiny swanky mobile phone with which you can share all your flashy new experiences (those photos you took the first time ’round were terrible, anyway).
Mercer’s 20 most liveable cities
- Luxembourg City
Thai Airways has four weekly direct flights from Bangkok to Vienna with connections from Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane; thaiairways.com
You can catch a train to Salzburg from Vienna, which takes around 2.5 hours. Raileurope.com
Hotel Sacher: Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010 Wien, Austria; sacher.com
Hotel Topazz: Lichtensteg 3, 1010 Wien, Austria; hoteltopazz.com
Hotel Sacher: Schwarzstraße 5-7, 5020 Salzburg; sacher.com
The writer travelled to Austria as a guest of the Austrian National Tourist Office