Austria is a small, beautiful country that is mighty in history and rich in food and culture! Austria belongs to the Schengen Zone and European Union and uses the Euro as its currency. German is the official language, but as in many Western European countries, many are also fluent in English. It is a generally safe country, with easy access to public transportation, breathtaking buildings and views, marvelous balls that are world renowned, and historical music and monuments.
Getting around Austria is easy (for major cities or points of interest). They have a vast public transport system. Remember, that as is true with many European countries, generally, the further out you book from when you plan to leave, the cheaper it is to get around from city to city, especially when traveling by train. When visiting Austria, two of the most popular destinations are Vienna and Salzburg.
Vienna (Wien) is the capital of Austria and a popular tourist destination all year round (mainly in the spring/summer for the beautiful botany and in the winter for the renowned Advent markets). When visiting Vienna, there are many palaces from which to choose -- Schonbrunn, Hofburg, and Belvedere, among others. At all of these palaces, you are allowed free entry to the gardens (which -- generally during the months when the flowers are blooming -- is the most spectacular part), but if you want to go into the buildings, an entrance fee is required. You can also attend a Mozart concert at Schonbrunn Palace. Other points of interest in Vienna include the Spanish Riding School, the parliament, art museums, opera houses, Saint Stephen's Cathedral, and the Naschmarkt (a large food market). Unfortunately, Vienna is also known for its large smoking population (the smoking in public seems to be worse in the colder months).
While Vienna is beautiful, it is more urban than other parts of Austria. Salzburg contains more natural beauty, mixed with a cityscape to enjoy (including the large Hellbrunn property that was featured in "The Sound of Music"!). Salzburg is quite picturesque, especially along the river in the city center, and visiting the major sites like Hellbrunn Palace, the salt mines, Mirabell Palace, Hohensalzburg Castle, and Monchsberg is a must! Don't forget your student ID, as many places offer student discounts! Additionally, Hitler's Eagle Nest is just twelve miles from Salzburg, if you fancy a visit. If you are into airplanes or Red Bull, at the Salzburg Airport there is a Red Bull hangar you can visit!
There are many other cities and places to visit in Austria, like Innsbruck (most famous for skiing and the Swarovski museum), Graz, Linz, and Melk. Whether you are into music, architecture, nature, history, extreme sports, or art, you can certainly find something to tickle your fancy in Austria.
There are a lot of accommodation options, including resorts, hotels, camping, guesthouses, and hostels in Austria. There is something for every budget. Austria hostels tend to be of a regular standard and are abundant in all major cities. If you are traveling during the peak season (from June to September), it is worth booking in advance, as places book up quickly, and prices tend to go up as the date nears.
An interesting fact is how an uneducated woman took Austria from a depressed economy with no military to a thriving country -- this woman is Maria Theresa (Habsburg). You will notice in Vienna that she has the tallest statue in the entire city and people still adore her (because she was one of the greatest rulers of all time). She united Europe by marrying off her nineteen children (creating peace rather than war), made the Austro-Hungarian economy boom, and built up the military! She is a true heroine.
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Innsbruck is beautiful, clean, and refreshing. I could easily spend a year there.
Salzburg is a very pretty town, much livelier than Vienna for my money (but less museums). Music on the streets all the time plus outdoor concerts and operas. In the old town things can get expensive thanks to all the tourists, so try the other side of the river. Nightlife here is not really up to par either. And …
Bregenz is a nice town, maybe a little more "Swiss" than people might be used to seeing in other parts of Austria. In other words: a nice place to live, a mediocre place to visit. While I did actually enjoy the city, it had more of a "modern metropolis" feel than a European feel. There are many great resturaunts and …
Graz definitely doesn't match up to its close rivals Vienna and Slazburg, but it does offer a great day trip. The river winds through the city and its plesant to take a stroll alond it while taking in some of the modern and ancient architecture. The old clock tower is also worth a visit with some great views of the …
Great if you like museums. The castles and the coffee are both great as well. But Vienna seems to lack a personality (other than big city) these days, which is strange given that it used to be such a cultural center. Skip the overrated statue clock and beware pickpockets outside the Dom. Get off the main streets …