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Hallstatt, a mountain village in the Austrian Alps (Shutterstock)

During its six years of Habsburg rule, Austria flourished as one of Europe’s major imperial powers and despite this status being lost at the start of the First World War, the artistic indulgence expressed during Austria’s heyday has thankfully stood the test of time. Visit Vienna today and around almost every corner are Baroque palaces, manicured gardens and opulent coffee houses. The jewel in the city’s crown is the more than 300-year-old Belvedere Palace which hides a vast collection of Gustav Klimt as well as other renowned artists.

Art and architecture can be admired outside of the capital, too. Hundreds of castles dot the landscape, spanning from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Contemporary designs also pop up everywhere, from Innsbruck’s futuristic structure of the lower station of the Hungerburgbahn to Bregenz’s floating stage on the shores of Lake Constance that hosts summer opera concerts. The stage is a work of art in itself, changing every two years to match the theme of the performance.

Many of Austria’s artists – painters, musicians and writers – were inspired by the surrounding nature and when you get out and see it for yourself, it is easy to see why. The Austrian Alps sweep across much of the country and are covered with well-signposted hiking and biking trails. The country’s forests are also easily explored on foot or by bike. And while the country might be landlocked, large lakes provide opportunities to swim, kayak and even sail.

Even in areas of unspoilt nature, urban centres are never far away and you can end your days of outdoor adventure in villages like Saint Anton am Arlberg and even cities such as Innsbruck.

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When to go

High levels of snow make winter a great time to visit for winter sports and many of the city’s host Christmas markets. April to October is the best time to go hiking, biking and lake swimming.

International Airports

Vienna International (VIE) 18km from Vienna; Innsbruck Kranebitten (INN) 4km from Innsbruck; Salzburg Mozart (SZG) 3km from Salzburg; Klagenfurt (KLU) 3km from Klagenfurt; Graz (GRZ) 9km from Graz.

Getting around

Austria has an efficient network of trains between its major cities and towns. Trains tend to be quicker but more expensive than comparative bus services.

Austria’s bus system connects the small towns, villages and lakes the trains don’t get to. Timetables are available from local tourist offices. Roads in Austria are impeccably maintained and a pleasure to drive – but don’t attempt alpine routes in winter unless your vehicle has snow chains.

Cycling is very popular in Austria. You’ll find bike-only pathways in rural areas as well the cities; there are bike rental outlets throughout the country.

Health & safety

Austria has an excellent healthcare system. No vaccinations are required to visit. It’s a generally very safe country with very little crime, but it is worth being aware of pickpockets in the cities.