The tickets are booked and you have a weekend in Austria to look forward to. It is a country with a rich history and a wonderful array of cultural highlights to take in. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to know where to start.
With that in mind, who better to ask for his top tips on things to do and see than Nery Alaev? Nery is an Austrian and German real estate expert who has lived and worked in the country for many years.
So, here are his thoughts on how to get the most out of your weekend in Austria.
1. Eat and drink at the best heuriger in Austria
“Heurigers are a fantastic Austrian institution,” explains Nery. “When people think of Austria, they often think of beer halls – but there is also a fine tradition of great wine making in the country too.”
Nery tells us that heurigers are a type of tavern that serve the wine produced in the neighbouring vineyards by local makers. It is the perfect environment in which to sample the very best of Austrian wine making – as well as to enjoy some great food and good company.
“There is a great place called Pulkers which is a real favourite of mine,” says Nery. “It is tucked in close by the Danube and the setting is just perfect. The wine and food is pretty special too.”
2. Enjoy some free opera during your weekend in Austria
Austria is rightly famous for its wonderful musical tradition – particularly in terms of opera. And yet opera also often has a reputation for being elitist, and hard for most people to see and enjoy. Not so, says Nery.
“Opera in Austria is actually far more accessible than you might think, and it’s even possible to see it for free if you know where to look. If you head to the Vienna State Opera during a live performance in the summer months then there is a good chance you will be able to watch it on a big screen outside. It is a wonderful way to enjoy opera, outside with the crowd on a warm evening – and it’s completely free! Look out for adverts for ‘Oper live am Platz’ – it should be a part of anyone’s itinerary if they’re here in Austria for a couple of days.”
3. Stay in a mountain lodge
This wonderful capital city is defined by its beautiful natural environment – whether it is the stately Danube river, or the country’s stunning mountain ranges.
One of the best ways to enjoy the mountains is to stay in a lodge – and Nery has a truly special one in mind. “The Kristallhütte in Kaltenbach is a very spectacular place,” he says. “It’s super-modern and has all of the facilities of a top-class hotel, with great food and accommodation. The views are spectacular, of course – but it is also home to some very striking modern art too – look out for the giant spider!
“I love spending time here when I need to relax and recuperate, and it makes a great base for walking in the surrounding mountains too.”
4. Marvel at the water gardens of Schloss Hellbrunn
Speaking of creativity, one of Nery’s other weekend picks is also somewhere that has a powerful creative flair. The Schloss Hellbrunn was originally built for Markus Sittikus, the archbishop of Salzburg, in 1619.
“If the house and gardens here are anything to go by, he must have been quite a character,” says Nery. “The gardens themselves are full of secret water features that he used to ‘surprise’ his guests with.”
One of the real highlights is the water powered mechanical theatre. This is a special place and well worth fitting into your weekend itinerary.
5. Swim in a mountain lake
People might not think of Austria as being a particularly warm country – it is more often associated with snow and skiing. But Nery says that in the summer months the mountain lakes are a wonderful place to spend time.
“Down in the south east of Austria is Carinthia – it is called Austria’s Riviera by some people. It is warm and stunningly beautiful, particularly in the area around Lake Ossiach.
“I would really recommend anyone heads down there to visit this lake. There is a cycle path all the way around it which makes exploring easy, and if you are feeling adventurous then you can even swim in its waters. It is a beautiful place to relax and unwind.”
Nery Alaev is the Director of ESN Investments GmbH, which engages in the acquisition and development of commercial and residential property in Germany and Austria.