From summer festivals in Vienna to winter skiing in the Alps, Austria boasts a host of seasonal activities, so it’s best to align your itinerary with the time of year. The country’s weather is somewhat more moderate than that of the American northeast, with temperatures averaging 70 degrees Fahrenheit in July and 30 degrees in January. The scenery is gorgeous whether covered in snow or bedecked with flowers. Indagare reports on the best itineraries for each season, most of which are anchored by time spent in Austria’s glittering capital.
Spring: Culture and Winelands
Each year during the fresh Austrian spring, Vienna celebrates May Day with parades and food fairs. Spend three days in the capital visiting cathedrals, museums and the opera and sampling Viennese treats at classic coffee houses. Finish your stay with a tour of the opulent Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) which is twenty minutes outside Vienna by car, followed by a traditional meal of schnitzel and strudel back in the city center. Burgenland, a mere 45-minute drive from Vienna, is wonderful for day trip, with much to travelers of every stripe: active types will adore the thousands of miles of paths for running, walking, cycling and horseback riding; seasoned oenophiles will be impressed by the hundreds of vineyards and wineries; and classical music buffs can take in a Haydn performance in the hall for which he composed his symphonies.
Summer: Family Fun and Festivals
Start in Vienna. The city may be crowded during the summer, but that’s only because it offers so much: balmy weather, parades and performances ranging from charity fashion shows to jazz concerts. Families should visit the Prater Amusement Park for a picnic and a ride on the legendary Ferris wheel, which, at 200 feet high, offers breathtaking views from its fifteen enclosed gondolas.
Next, sample the summer delights of Salzburg, a smaller city suited to days spent taking long, leisurely strolls through streets lined with baroque-era buildings, exploring the town’s historic squares and sampling locally brewed beer. Its annual music festival, held in July, draws the world’s biggest names in vocal and instrumental music and theater. Fans of The Sound of Music should not miss a tour of Mirabell Palace and Garden, where several scenes from the movie musical were shot.
Fall: Innsbruck and Beyond
Austria’s temperate autumn is a great time to visit Innsbruck. Although best known for its easily accessible ski trails, the storybook village also boasts a bounty of restaurants, shops and beautiful architecture that can be enjoyed year-round. And outside ski season, visitors have fewer crowds to contend with in exploring them. Culture lovers will find as much to enchant them as those seeking outdoor activities, thanks to a rich history that extends back 800 years and the area’s many castles, theaters, opera houses and museums. The fall is also a fine season for visiting Prague and Budapest — before the weather gets too cold and after the summer backpacking crowd departs. For travelers wishing to venture beyond Austria, those two cities are just a train ride away.
Winter: Holiday Cheer and Alpine Skiing
Come December, Vienna sparkles with festivities. Its holiday markets are some of the best in the world, with stalls full of seasonal goodies for visitors to explore, and concerts and other performances to attend. Vienna hosts roughly 450 balls annually, starting in November, but the busiest months are January and February, when the events occur almost nightly. Particularly elegant is the Flower Ball, for which City Hall is covered with thousands of blooms.
After visiting the capital, spend a few days skiing in the equally enchanting Austrian Alps, whose cozy slope-side towns offer rustic charm as well as posh hotels. Many travelers hide out here for a week or more, enjoying the serene natural landscape with days spent on the mountain—whether conquering ski trails or sledding with little ones—sitting by the fireside, indulging in spa treatments and taking advantage of the fine dining and shopping options.