Austria’s greatest works of art are those wrought for God, some say. Gazing up at the golden glory of Stift Melk, Austria’s must-see Benedictine abbey-fortress, you can’t help but agree. The twin-spired monastery church is a baroque tour de force, swirling with prancing angels, gilt flourishes and Johann Michael Rottmayr’s ceiling paintings. Such opulence continues in the library and marble hall, both embellished with illusionary trompe l’oeil tiers by Paul Troger. If you can, stay to see the monarch of monasteries strikingly lit at night.
With its crisp mountain air and thermal springs, Austria positively radiates good health. For an otherworldly spa experience, drift off in flying-saucer-shaped pools at crystalline Aqua Dome at the foot of the Ötztaler Alps, or in the fantastical hot springs of Hundertwasser’s technicolor Rogner-Bad Blumau. History bubbles to the surface in the Wienerwald’s Römertherme, where beauty-conscious Romans once took the sulphuric waters. The Victorians favoured belle-époque Bad Gastein, whose radon-laced springs reputedly cure a multitude of ills.
Once the imperial stables, now one of the world’s biggest exhibition spaces, Vienna’s 60,000-sq-metre MuseumsQuartier contains more art than some small countries. Emotive works by Klimt and Schiele hang out in the Leopold Museum, while the basalt MUMOK highlights provocative Viennese Actionists, and the Kunsthalle new media. Progressive boutiques, workshops and cafes take creativity beyond the canvas. On warm days, Viennese gather in the huge courtyard to chat, drink and watch the world go by.
Outdoor Adventure in Tyrol
Anywhere where there’s foaming water, a tall mountain or a sheer ravine, there are heart-pumping outdoor escapades in Austria. For a summertime buzz, you can’t beat throwing yourself down raging rivers such as the Inn and Sanna in Tyrol, Austria’s rafting mecca. Or strap into your harness and be blown away by the alpine scenery, paragliding in the Zillertal. Cyclists use the cable-car network to access the many high-altitude and downhill routes.
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