Located in central Europe, Austria is a landlocked country bordered by the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. The country was a centre of power in Europe at the time when it was ruled by the mighty Habsburgs. Although today it is relegated to being a minor player in the European Union, Austria offers some of the most impressive destinations on the Continent.
The capital Vienna was once the citadel of the Habsburgs who ruled the country for over 600 years. The city is an architectural gem and a centre of music from the medieval times. The Hofburg (Imperial Palace) and the adjoining Augustinian Church are two of the marvels of architecture. Other notable sights in Vienna include the Museum of Fine Arts, Belvedere Palace, and the Sigmund Freud Museum.
The southern city of Graz with its UNESCO World Heritage Old Town, the largest in central Europe, has a very relaxed and mediterranean flair. It is situated on the sunny side of the Alps and offers an exciting architectural mix between old - winding lanes and the remains of a castle that has never been taken - and new - Kunsthaus gallery with its blue bubble and an artificial island in the river - both created for Cultural Capital of Europe recently. With every sixth inhabitant being a student, it also offers a lively pub scene. The hilly wine growing region nearby is a great destination for an excursion.
Salzburg, the city that gave Mozart to the world, is a picturesque abode surrounded by tall mountains. Your tour of Salzburg is incomplete without a visit to the 11th-century Hohensalzburg Castle, the Museum of Fine Arts, and St. Peter's Abbey. Four kilometres to the south of Salzburg is the interesting Hellbrunn Palace whose grounds contain trick fountains and water-powered figures.
If destinations off-the-beaten-track fascinate you, Austria has plenty of them too. Wels and Steyr are small cities worth a visit. Rust, and Gurk are some good places to explore along with the Eisriesenwelt Caves, which, incidentally, are the largest accessible ice caves in the world. Another interesting place to visit is Bad_Ischl, the famous spa, where the Austrian Emperors spent their holidays.
Austria is thronged by tourists round the year. Summer is the ideal time for sightseeing while in winter the slopes of the Alps offer ample opportunities for skiing. The Arlberg region with St. Anton or Salzburg with Radstadt has some of the best skiing resorts in Austria. Up in the Alps, the Gemuetlichkeit of the Austrians makes you enjoy a stay in the snow, skiing or hiking.
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