Ancient vineyards and dramatic lakes-and-mountains scenery compete for attention with opulent architecture from Austria’s imperial past. Sip your way around picturesque wine regions, then gaze at priceless works of art in former palaces or enjoy the sounds of music.
Experience The Sound of Music in Salzburg
See Vienna's grand palaces with a private guide
Visit the Vienna State Opera
Tatse the wines of the Wachau Valley
Explore the lakes of the scenic Salzkammergut
Discover the Flying Bulls of Salzburg's Hangar-7
EXPERIENCE THE SOUND OF MUSIC IN SALZBURG
The Sound of Music captured the public imagination when it was released in 1965, breaking box-office records around the world. While much of that was down to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s catchy soundtrack, the glorious locations in and around Salzburg also helped propel the film to cult status. Visit some of the most iconic in the company of a private guide, who can give you a host of insights into everything from where the script plays with the true story of the von Trapps to why the Austrians have never been fans. Stroll around the fabulous Baroque gardens of Schloss Mirabell where Julie Andrews and the children sang ‘Do-Re-Mi’ and take in the Gothic grace of Nonnberg Convent where both the real and cinematic Maria lived. Perhaps the most photogenic setting of all is Schloss Leopoldskron lake, with the snow-sprinkled Untersberg mountain in the background, where Maria and her charges fall out of a rowing boat. If you’re here in winter, you can admire the locals gliding across its frozen surface on skates.
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SEE VIENNA'S GRAND PALACES WITH A PRIVATE GUIDE
Step into the world of the Habsburg rulers and their court in the glittering palaces of their imperial capital. Accompanied by your personal guide, you’ll discover some of Vienna’s most magnificent buildings, none more so than UNESCO-listed Schönbrunn Palace, the family’s monumental summer residence whose interiors embody Rococo at its most theatrical. The centrally located Hofburg was the main seat of government and the winter residence. Explore 700 centuries of history in some of its 2,600 rooms, including the lavish private apartments of the last-but-one Emperor, Franz Joseph, and his wife Sissi. Art lovers will be in their element at the Upper Belvedere, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, which houses an art collection spanning 800 years; gaze at Egon Schiele’s moody portraits, Gustav Klimt’s gilded The Kiss and works by celebrated French Impressionists. Also now a gallery, the Albertina was once the home of Habsburg archdukes and archduchesses; wander through the 20 neo-classical State Rooms before exploring displays that range from Dürer drawings to modernist paintings.
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VISIT THE VIENNA STATE OPERA
Spending the evening in the Vienna State Opera’s red-and-gold auditorium, dressed in your best and watching one of the more than 60 works in its repertoire, is a high point of any stay in the Austrian capital. Learn more about the resident opera and ballet companies, the architecture and the history with a daytime visit behind the scenes. The knowledgeable guides will share eye-opening tales about the opera world in general and stories about the Staatsoper’s creation and evolution as you walk through its richly decorated interiors. Climb the Grand Staircase, with its Carrara marble statues and painted ceiling, which leads through a suite of equally lavishly appointed rooms to the auditorium. Peek into the Tea Salon where Emperor Franz Joseph liked to sip tea, marvel at the mosaic pictures on the walls of the Marble Hall, try to identify the composers whose busts decorate the Schwindfoyer and admire the tapestries of scenes from The Magic Flute in the Gustav Mahler Hall.
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TASTE THE WINES OF THE WACHAU VALLEY
Oenophiles and history buffs will be in their element in the Wachau, a remarkably unspoiled stretch of the Danube valley between Melk and Krems. In this fascinating ‘cultural landscape’, as UNESCO calls it, you’ll find traces of its unbroken history everywhere you look, from fabulous monasteries and fortresses to picture-perfect villages ringed by terraced vineyards dating back to the Middle Ages. This small wine-producing region is known for its distinctive white wines, made from the Grüner Veltliner and Riesling grapes that thrive here. Delve into everything from the unique conditions in the Wachau to the various methods of wine production in use here with a visit to one of the region’s well-regarded wineries, rounding off the experience with a guided tasting session against the serenity-inducing backdrop of a long-established vineyard.
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EXPLORE THE LAKES OF THE SCENIC SALZKAMMERGUT
Stretching eastwards from Salzburg, the Salzkammergut region is a quintessential alpine landscape: think craggy snow-crowned peaks, jewel-like glacial lakes and steep-sided valleys. It owes its World Heritage Site status to a once-precious commodity, salt, which has been extracted here in various ways since Neolithic times. Head to the absurdly pretty village of Hallstatt, a cluster of pastel-painted houses wedged between the mirror-like lake and the mountains, where a startlingly steep funicular will whisk you up to the world’s oldest salt mine. At Fuschlsee, the crystal-clear streak of emerald water drew the notice of a 15th-century Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, who built a grand hunting lodge on its banks; nowadays, people come here to fish, swim and mess around in boats. There’s more natural beauty at Sankt Gilgen on the north shore of Wolfgangsee, a captivating little town where Mozart’s mother was born. Catch the cable car into the surrounding hills for panoramic views and walks through wildflower-rich pastures.
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DISCOVER THE FLYING BULLS AT SALZBURG'S HANGAR-7
With its futuristic design inspired by the shape of aeroplane wings, Hangar-7 is a vision of steel and glass on the edge of Salzburg airport. Within its light-filled domes and towers, visitors can plunge into the world of aviation history, and more – the eye-catching building was created to house the private collection of the owner of Red Bull. At the core of this are the lovingly restored and fully functioning vintage craft of the Flying Bulls fleet, from a 1943 Boeing biplane and 1944 Lockheed Lightning to the only civil helicopter licensed for aerobatics. It’s not just about flying machines, however. There are racing cars of all kinds, including the one in which Red Bull Racing’s Sebastien Vettel’s won the Formula One World Championship, and a motorbike that’s a five-time Dakar Rally victor. An unexpected feature is the museum’s glossy restaurant, which has a trio of inventive tasting menus and two Michelin stars.