Vienna’s wide boulevards such as the Ringstrasse and great palaces such as the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Hofberg and Belvedere are a clue that this was once one of Europe’s superpowers and Austria holidays offer a fascinating glimpse of fading imperial grandeur. Together with Hungary, this fairly small central European nation ruled an empire that included much of modern-day Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic.
The home of Mozart, Mahler, Strauss and Art Nouveau, the capital has a rich cultural pedigree. The Spanish Riding School is perhaps the best-known attraction on most Austria tours but there’s much more to see. Don’t miss the chance to visit Freud’s house and learn more about the origins of psychoanalysis, but be careful not to make any Freudian slips on the stairs! Film buffs should head for the Prater Park, where the gigantic Ferris wheel provided the backdrop for Orson Welles’ musings on war and peace in the post-war classic The Third Man. The wheel is a little dilapidated now, but the view from the top is as good as ever.
For a taste of Austria’s more indulgent side, head for the coffee-houses where the Viennese gather to eat more chocolate cake than is good for them. Sachertorte is a particular favourite.
Another side of holidays in Austria is the magical alpine scenery and for the best examples of this, head to Salzburg. The views are thrilling and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to relive your favourite scenes from The Sound of Music.