Pack your suitcases and jump on the next flight to Austria: one of the number one destinations in Europe for family holidays. With a magnificent mountainous landscape that is perfect for numerous outdoor activities, a rich culture, delicious local cuisine, friendly locals and assured safety, Austria is set to provide all ages with the perfect mix of fun, adventure and relaxation.
Vienna, the country’s capital, is the most-visited city in Austria – and for good reason. It’s magnificent Baroque streetscapes and imperial palaces make you feel like you are stepping back in time (or into a fairytale!), and it’s musical heritage, coffee houses and endless list of fantastic museums and galleries are the perfect culture fix.
Travel through time in Vienna’s city centre at Time Travel Vienna. Pick up some new historical facts in a 5D cinema which takes visitors back to the Roman Vienna Age and onwards.
With over 100 museums in Vienna alone, there are plenty of places to lose a day or 10. Some options are Albertina Museum for families with its range of creative workshops and the Museum of Technology which has many interactive objects that will educate in an enjoyable way for all.
The House of the Sea is the largest aquarium in Austria and home to sea turtle, various shark species and more. There are options to feed sharks, piranhas and reptiles or safari through the House of Seas – and if you’re really daring, there is shark diving on offer.
A must-visit in Vienna is the Prater theme park. There are roller coasters, rides, ghost-trains, a giant ferris wheel, and events such as Family Sundays, Vacation Games and Prater Adventure Tours.
Tirol’s capital of the Alps has so much to offer, especially come Christmas time. The city is a beacon of illuminated festive cheer, surrounded by the nine snow resorts of Olympia SkiWorld, including Nordkette, accessed directly from the city centre. As a two-time host of the Winter Olympics (three if you count the first-ever Youth Winter Olympics in 2012) snow sports are a major drawcard for the area. You and your family can also choose from a range of other winter pursuits. For the perfect way to bring the magic of a white Christmas to life, take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage through the snow or visit one of the five famous Christmas markets where you’ll find delicate ornaments, handicrafts and tasty winter treats, all under the twinkling lights of a giant Christmas tree on Marktplatz.
Just as famous for being the backdrop to ‘The Sound of Music’ as for being the home of Mozart, Salzburg is a storybook town surrounded by gorgeous mountain scenery and overlooked by an imposing cliff-top fortress. Add to the mix a fantastic arts scene, quiet side streets, great cuisine (be sure to order a schnitzel) and an array lush parks, it is a fairytale holiday for all ages.
Best time to go to Austria
Austria, located in the European heartland, lies within a temperate climatic zone. Weather conditions vary only slightly across the country, the lowland regions in the north and east have more continental influenced conditions with colder winters and hotter summers with moderate precipitation throughout the year. The southeastern areas of Austria have longer and warmer, almost Mediterranean-like summers. For warm weather, aim for the months between April and October. Winter is in full swing from mid-December to late March, the perfect time to visit Austria’s alpine resorts.
Passport and visa requirements
Holders of an Australian or New Zealand passport do not need a visa if their stay in Austria does not exceed three months.
Vienna International Airport is Austria’s major airport and is located about 16 kilometres southeast of the city. The quickest and easiest way to get from the airport to the city is on the City Airport Train CAT. It departs from the airport every 30 minutes from 6.06am to 11.36pm from Monday to Sunday. From Vienna, the train leaves an hour earlier.
Taxis are reliable and relatively cheap by Western European standards. City journeys are metered and taxis are easily found at train stations and taxi stands all over the city.
Vienna’s comprehensive public transport network is one of the most efficient in Europe. Flat-fare tickets are valid for trains, trams, buses, the underground (U-Bahn) and the S-Bahn regional trains. Services are frequent and wait times usually less than 10 minutes.
Buses are fairly reliable, and usually depart from outside train stations. Reservations are usually unnecessary. It’s possible to buy tickets in advance on some routes, but on others you can only buy tickets from the drivers. For online information visit Post Bus.
Trains are an ideal way to travel between Austria’s cities and towns. Comfortable trains provide frequent services on an extensive rail network that links the country with most of Europe. Fares for children aged six to 15 are half-price; younger kids travel free if they don’t require a seat. The ÖBB is the main operator, supplemented by a handful of private lines.
There are discount cards called ‘Vorteilscard’ that offer special discounts for families travelling together.
Driving in Austria is uncomplicated and offers the greatest flexibility – you can explore at your own pace and stop whenever it suits (which will probably be a lot with this country’s amazing scenery). Roads are well-maintained, whether you choose a motorway or a small country road. Australians require an international driving licence together with their Australian licence to drive and rent a car. It is much easier to hire cars in Austria in large cities. Small towns either have no hire companies or a very limited number of vehicles and can be expensive and often booked out.
If you are using the motorways, toll stickers are required on the windscreen of your vehicle. They need to be purchased before using the motorways. These window stickers, called ‘Vignette’, are available at petrol stations, tobacconists, automobile associations, post offices and border crossings.
Food and drinks that kids will love
Austrian cuisine is traditionally heart-warming grub, perfect for families eating out. However, if you’re looking for something a little more innovative, Austria is also home to a number of global flavours and Michelin-starred restaurants.
The classical Austrian set meal consists of nutritious soup (usually with noodles or dumplings added), a main course of a meat dish with a side dish and salad, and a dessert (cake or souffle). Much of Austria’s cuisine is meat-based; the most popular icons obviously being the wiener schnitzel and the tafelspitz (beef). A variety of dumplings in all sizes and tastes, as well as sauerkraut (cabbage), are popular side dishes.
Some of Austria’s specialities which are known all over the world include delicious pastries such as the apfelstrudel or the sacher torte, which are best enjoyed with one of the many different kinds of Viennese coffee for the adults and a juice or smoothie for the little ones.
The standard opening hours for stores is Monday to Friday from 6am to 7.30pm, and Saturday to 5pm. However, the actual opening hours for stores may vary. Exceptional regulations with longer opening hours exist in tourist areas, shops at railway stations and at airports. The longest stretch of shops is Mariahilfer Strasse in Vienna, closely followed by Landstraße in Linz, where you can easily spend an entire day browsing.
With a long-standing history of craftsmanship, Austrian’s love attention to detail. Popular souvenirs include items hand-crafted of ceramic, welded iron, glass and enamel (especially jewellery); woodcarvings; and traditional dress items. Augarten porcelain also makes a lovely and unique Viennese gift.
From around mid-November to late December, Christmas markets across the country bring festive cheer into city squares, courtyards and cobbled lanes. Each has its own distinct flavour but all have mulled wine and twinkling trees.
It is customary to round up your bill total, which will be your tip to the waiter. Many restaurants in Austria have a tax and service charge in their bills.
Austrians are fairly formal. For example, kissing, hugging, touching and physical closeness in public are not common, and eye contact is very important. Shake hands with everyone (including children) present at a business or social meeting; shake hands with women before men. Women should offer their hand first. Don’t be surprised, however, if some Viennese men kiss the hand of a woman.
What to wear
On excursions in altitudes above 1800 metres, it is essential to carry proper protection against cold weather, including sturdy walking boots. During winter season (December to March), warm clothing is absolutely necessary, as are water-resistant shoes. In spring (March to June) and autumn (September to November) a topcoat, sweater or jacket is advisable. Summer in Austria can be very hot, so pack accordingly.
Electricity mainly operates on 230 volts and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. The two associated plug types are Plug C (two round pins) and Plug F (two round pins with two earth clips on the side).
Safety and health precautions
Travelling in Austria presents very few health and safety risks. The tap water is safe to drink and of high quality. No vaccinations are required to enter Austria.
German is the official language in Austria. English is widely understood and spoken fluently by most people working in tourism-related jobs.
Here are a few German basics, with pronunciation:
- Hello – Guten tag (Gooten tahg)
- Goodbye – Auf Wiedersehen (Owf veeder zane)
- Please – Bitte (Bee tah)
- Yes – Ja (Yah)
- No – Nein (Nine)
- Do you speak English? – Sprechen sie Englisch? (Sprecken see English?)
- What time is it? – Wieviel Uhr ist es? (Veefeel oor ist es?)
- How much is that? – Was kostet das? (Vas kostet das?)
- Where is/are…? – Wo ist/sind…? (Vo ist/sint…?)
- Excuse me – Entschuldigung (Entshool-digoong)
Hallstatt is pure magic. With pastel houses casting their reflections on the shimmering lake and towering mountains on all sides, it’s little wonder this is an Instagram hit. So popular, in fact, that China modelled its own town of the same name after this one!
Salzburg’s Old Town
There are photo opportunities lurking around every corner in Salzburg. The colourful roofs and church spires of the Old Town are just begging to be photographed, all leading up to the formidable and imposing fortress.
With its blockbuster abbey-fortress set high above the valley, Melk is a high point of any visit to the Danube Valley. Walking the halls, libraries and squares of the abbey itself is simply awe-inspiring.