Get your culture fix – Top-ten cultural experiences to have in Austria
Text: Nane Steinhoff
Austria is a country of culture and traditions. Not only does it boast a rich historical past, which can be seen in the numerous palaces, museums and concert halls throughout the country, but it has also been influenced by its past and present neighbours, such as Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. This, in turn, means that the country is open to a diverse range of cultures, religions and languages. We explore this gorgeous country and its cultural experiences and traditions to find out more.
With almost nine million inhabitants throughout the entire country, Austria is one of the smaller members of the European Union, which nevertheless boasts more culture and traditions than many other countries. If you are planning a trip to this mountainous country in 2020, we suggest reading the following feature, to find out which top-ten cultural experiences you simply have to give a try when visiting.
1) Visit a ‘heuriger’
Visiting a ‘heuriger’ is a special experience and one that is very Austrian! But what exactly does that word mean? The ‘heuriger’ is the name given to taverns throughout Austria at which local winemakers serve their new wines under a special license during the growing season. We suggest going on a little ‘heuriger crawl’ through Vienna’s surrounding vineyards, as you won’t only enjoy the beautiful hike through lush nature with its gorgeous views across Vienna, but you will also have the pleasure to meet local winemakers, indulge in some awesome wines and enjoying the best outdoor seats the city has to offer.
2) Explore natural art at the ICE WORLD
Only an hour’s drive south of Salzburg, visitors can find a special attraction: the ICE WORLD underground formations. As a prime example of nature producing art, you can explore an impressive labyrinth across 42 kilometres, with many unique structures made out of ice and limestone. The impressive sight is only open between May and October, and you will need to book a guided tour, too. But it is certainly well worth it.
3) Underground chambers galore
When first entering the Eggenburg Charnel near the Parish Church St. Stephan, in the district of Lower Austria’s Horn, you might think you are gazing at a collection of precious stones and sea shells. However, when taking a closer look, you will see that this collection contains the remains of over 5,000 human beings which were gathered and artfully laid out around the 1400s, it is believed. It is an eerie sight you won’t ever forget – we can be sure of that.
4) Authentic coffeehouse culture
When visiting Vienna, you will soon notice the sheer amount of gorgeous coffee-houses throughout the city. Not only do they boast impressive architecture and elegant design, but they also serve up tasty coffee creations. Vienna’s coffee houses are a great place to spend a couple of hours meeting friends, reading the newspapers or simply people-watching, so we suggest taking a couple of hours to enjoy this very special and very Austrian atmosphere.
5) Cattle procession ‘Almabtrieb’
An annual event in the Alpine region of Austria, the ‘Almabtrieb’ cattle procession is one for locals and tourists alike. Every end of August or beginning of September, the cattle that spend their summer up in the higher regions of the Alps get escorted down into the valley for the winter months. It’s a sight not to be missed, as the cattle sport colourful decorations and charming headgear made out of flowers and traditional patterns. The event usually ends with fun festivities in the town centres – definitely an Austrian cultural staple that should not be missed.
6) Go dancing
Austria has a fifth season – and that is the ball season, which is taken very seriously throughout the country. That’s why Viennese balls are also renowned for being as romantically formal as possible. As there are many different balls for different aims and different people (more than 400 balls throughout the country!), you will most definitely find your best fit. The only thing to do now is to grab a ticket, find a gorgeous ball-gown and to dance the night away.
If you’re a carnival fan, Austria should be on your to-visit list. In Tirol, for example, the ‘Fasnacht’ processions are so wild, that these traditional events are only held every three, four or five years. One example is the ‘Imster Schemenlaufen’, for which over 900 men are actively involved. They hop, leap, dance and make loud noises in their elaborate costumes and intricate masks.
8) Beer, beer and more beer
Not only does Germany have a special taste for beer – its neighbour Austria is also crazy for the hop juice. And that’s also why we suggest trying some local brews for an authentically Austrian cultural experience. After all, Austrians are believed to consume around 105 litres of beer every year, which is quite an impressive number considering the country only has a population of around nine million. The country’s favourite beer is Stiegl from 1492.
9) Bird’s-eye views galore
Ever wondered what birds can marvel at while flying? Well, Austrian birds definitely have some of the most incredible views available, that’s for sure. Now, however, you also have the opportunity to get a glimpse of what these birds get to experience every day. Simply head to the old town of Innsbruck and go on a ride in the Nordkette Cable Car. It will drive you over diverse landscapes, from city rooftops to a never-ending blanket of snow-tipped Alps.
10) Sculptures all around
Last but not least, we have another top cultural experience for you that shouldn’t be missed on your next trip to Austria: the impressive sculpture park in Graz. Here, visitors can marvel at contemporary sculptures in plentiful lush surroundings, therefore getting to spend a couple of hours here, at least, without ever getting bored. More than 70 sculptures and works by the likes of Yoko Ono, Erwin Wurm and Herbert Boeckl stand in dialogue with the landscape architecture here.
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