Three Under-the-Radar Austrian Cities to Visit in 2020

Three Under-the-Radar Austrian Cities to Visit in 2020

In partnership withAustrian National Tourist Office

While Vienna may be a place of pilgrimage for
classical-music nuts and has an unrivalled café scene to boot, in
2020 we’re looking to “second cities” for our holiday hit. Offering
similar delights – but minus the crowds – this year it’s all about
venturing beyond perennially popular capitals in favour of
lesser-visited locales.

as a country is a destination that does that nature/
culture hotch-potch like few others. It may not have a coastline,
but what “Österreich” lacks in sandy beaches it more than makes up
for in majestic mountains, dominated as it is by the jagged peaks
of the Alps, sugar-coated in winter and perfumed with wildflowers
come summer. In short, a trip to Austria offers a catch-them-all
break for time-poor urbanites looking for a bit of everything.

Whether you’re in the market for an outdoorsy break, looking to
do some serious eating or want to scope out unsung art and
architecture in stonkingly beautiful surroundings, these are the
under-the-radar Austrian cities that we’re putting on our

Innsbruck: For City and Mountains

Scenic mountain hikes? Tick. Cutting-edge architecture mingled
with colourful gothic houses? Tick. Snug local bars open until
late? Tick.

Innsbruck is the capital of Austria’s beautiful Tirol region and
deemed the jewel in the country’s mountainous crown. It’s a city
for curious travellers looking to get off the beaten track and get
their fill of both town and country in one hit.

There’s no better place to start exploring than at one of the
Zaha Hadid-designed funicular stations, all of which bear her
signature space-age stamp. From there, head into Nordkette mountain
range. It’s part of the Karwendel Nature Park, which just happens
to be the biggest in Austria, and is only 20 minutes by cable

Perhaps it’s the altitude, but in Innsbruck magic seems to hang
thick in the air. Ask a local and they’ll tell you the cloud-kissed
peaks that cradle the city are home to an army of mythical
characters. There’s Haymon, a heavy-footed giant; Frau Hitt, a
narcissistic queen who was turned to stone for her avarice, and a
mischievous goblin called Kasermandl, to name but a few.

Climbing is the name of the game in Innsbruck and routes cater
to everyone, from Gortex-clad hiking enthusiasts to those looking
to simply drink in the views from the top. Unsure where to begin?
We suggest visiting one of the area’s mountaineering schools where
you can recruit the know-how of a local guide to show you the

If you’re visiting in summer, head to the grassy banks of
Baggersee, a serene lake where you’ll likely find locals
alternately dipping into picnic hampers and the cool waters. As
evening falls, head to one of the city’s luxuriously outfitted
rooftop bars (those at the Adlers hotel and Penz hotel are our favourites)
or work your way through regional schnapps at S’Culinarium in the
pretty old town. Each valley in Tirol distills their own concoction
from seasonal mountain vegetables – base notes vary from apple to
turnip, so we suggest you discriminate accordingly.

When you’ve had your fill, make your way through the city’s
warren of winding streets back to your hotel. We’ve picked out
Hotel Faktorei for it’s Scandi-style furniture,
mountain views and handy location in the city centre.

Salzburg: For Culture and Music

If you like Vienna, you’ll undoubtedly fall for Salzburg’s
charms. There’s something about its looming baroque architecture
and classical-music scene (it’s the birthplace of Mozart and the
von Trapp family) that lends it a similar grandiosity – yet to be
set upon by crowds. Salzburg isn’t all antique architraves and
symphonious concert halls, however. There’s a burgeoning
contemporary-art scene that quietly but sternly demands

Perhaps the biggest draw is the Salzburg Festival which celebrates its 100th
anniversary this summer. Usually, about 250,000 culture vultures
descend on the city for a global gathering of the brightest names
in opera, theatre and classical music. It being the centenary year,
the extravaganza will be preceded by an exhibition at the Salzburg
Museum which opens in April, while the festival itself is set to be
the most spectacular yet.

Flitting from one concert hall to the next is a savvy way to get
to grips the city’s geography at speed, while you’ll stumble across
unexpected treasures along the way. Our favourite pit stops are
Mozart’s residence (a world away from his modest birthplace, also
found in the city) and the aforementioned Salzburg Museum where a
mixture of baroque paintings and funky multimedia installations are
used to tell the city’s history. We also recommend a diversion to
the Museum of Modern Art, perched on the sheer cliff-edge of
Mönchsberg and offering panoramic views of the city below.

To immerse yourself in Salzburg’s contemporary cultural cachet,
make tracks to the river. On the south side, Altstadt (the old
town) is home to the arts centre Arge Kultur, as well as
conceptual-art organisation, Salzburger Kunstverein, where an
itinerary is always brimming with interesting events. In Neustadt
(the new town) to the north, outpourings by some of the world’s
most important 21st-century artists such as Cory Arcangel and
Anthony Gormley are displayed in the skeleton of 19th-century Villa
Kast. Swing by the neighbouring Mirabell Gardens, too – it’s a
honeytrap for tourists, but elegant nonetheless.

From here, it’s a five-minute wander back to Hotel Auersperg.
It’s not only conveniently located just outside Altstadt but has an
intimate courtyard garden where you can take breakfast in the
morning and cocktails in the evening – the perfect bolthole to both
start and end a cultural weekend in the city.

Skirt the Tirol mountains from Vienna then edge southwards
towards the Slovenian border and you’ll happen upon Graz. It’s a
sprawling town, surveilled by a medieval clock tower plucked
straight from the pages of a Germanic fairy tale. But don’t let
this picture-book scene fool you. Much like the varied cityscape,
there are an array of contemporary and traditional culinary
experiences to get stuck into.

The best way to get an overview of the city is to grab coffee
and a slice of strudel at Aiola Upstairs which sits on top of
Schlossberg, a verdant hill in the city centre. From there, map out
your itinerary. First, you’ll want to seek out some local produce;
if you leave Graz without visiting one of their 14 farmer’s
markets, you’ve been cheated. At Kaiser-Josef market you’ll be
spoilt for choice – though be prepared to jostle with crowds on a
Saturday when the locals descend for their weekly shop.

Then, hit the “Bermuda Triangle” of Graz. Calamitous though it
may sound, it’s actually an endearing moniker used to describe the
seemingly endless variety of bars and restaurants that vie for
space in the pedestrianised streets around Mehlplatz and
Färbergasse. There’s a table under our name at Gasthaus Stainzerbauer, where hearty Austrian plates
are dished up with a side serving of traditional charm.

The ultimate highlight of the summer calendar in Graz is The
Long Table, an open-air banquet during which 750 guests indulge in
a feast cooked by some of the city’s most esteemed chefs – think
long, white-tablecloth-clad tables, multiple courses and an
atmosphere made for merriment. It’s extremely popular both in Graz
and the surrounding regions, so be sure to book in advance.
Visitors who are too late to nab a seat at the table should book
tickets to the Styriarte Festival in June instead, where
pre-theatre dinners dished up by regional chefs are as highly
anticipated as the varied performances.

The Augarten Art Hotel is the place we’re choosing to stay. Not
only does it have an eclectic collection of Austrian artwork, but
their restaurant is also one of the best places in Graz to fill up
on fresh, organic food. If you’re hankering for a country escape,
the Styrian wine region is a short car ride out of the city; strap
yourself in at a traditional “buschenschank” (wine tavern) and
sample the latest “Heuriger” (wine harvest). We couldn’t think of a
better digestif for a long weekend spent sinking your teeth into
the city.

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