Going around the Vorarlberg region
Vorarlberg Austria is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for the ultimate year-round travel destination! Vorarlberg is the westernmost state of Austria and is located in the heart of the Alps and near more lakes than you can count! Vorarlberg Austria is a great place to visit because it is relatively tiny yet diverse so whether you like cities, mountains, watersports and more, there is something for everyone.
Summers in Vorarlberg are lush and green and winters transform the state into a winter wonderland. Hikes and boating turn into skiing and ice skating in the winter and people come from all around to enjoy all of the things to do in Vorarlberg. It is easy to put together a list of things to do in Vorarlberg when it is snowing (skiing!) or during the summer (hiking in the alps!) but we wanted to give you something you can do no matter what time of year you visit Austria! Enjoy.
Where to stay
The Aurelio Lech is an unique 5-star-superior-hotel which offers every imaginable service and comfort you can expect from a distinguished hotel, combined with the atmosphere and elegance of a private retreat. Built in 2008 the Aurelio Lech is a luxury boutique Hotel, directly located in the center of the Lech am Arlberg, on the Schlegelkopf ski-run, offering ski-in / ski-out. Each of the 18 individual rooms has access to a spacious balcony with stunning mountain views. Kick off the boots, dine on traditional and modern Austrian cuisine at the elegant Aurelio’s restaurant. For harried alpine muscles, the Aurelio Spa is heaven: sauna cabins, aroma salt steam rooms, herbal baths or just relax in the tranquil meditation centre. For an after-spa treat, indulge yourself further: sip a 100-year-old Armagnac as you get lost in the deep cushions around the open fire in the Licca Lounge.
Lech Zürs am Arlberg
The mountain villages of Lech and Zürs are best-known as winter playgrounds for British skiers, including the late Princess Diana. But I am a fan of Lech in summer and autumn. Here, in the eastern end of Vorarlberg, the air is fresh and clean, the mountains rise to an impressive 2.444 mt, and the choice of hiking trails is huge. Taking in Lech plus neighbouring Zürs and Zug, the new Green Ring circuit consists of three different one-day hikes with varying degrees of difficulty; look for wildflowers, and listen for the whistling call of marmots. Other activities include mountain biking, devotees can test themselves on the steep and exciting Burgwald Trail and golf. The new 9-hole golf course straddling the River Lech in Zug is Austria’s highest; at 1.500 mt, the ball flies really long. And of course there are cafés, up the mountains and in villages, providing food, drink and views.
When it comes to spectacular views, the Pfänder’s is hard to beat. This mountain stands guard above Bregenz at the eastern end of Lake Constance, one of Europe’s most beautiful stretches of water. Getting to the top is half the fun. Board the Pfänderbahn cable car, five minutes’ walk from the harbour; six minutes later, you are at 1.064 metres. The vista takes in Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. They say you can see 240 mountain peaks. There is more to do. Children love the Alpine Wildlife Park, with its mountain goats, mountain sheep, wild boar and red deer. There are hiking and mountain biking trails, and three restaurants offering food, drink and the panorama: the Berghaus Pfänder (self-service, sun terrace); the Pfänderdohle (country cooking); and the Pfänderspitze (cosy inside, jolly sunshades on the patio). Return to Bregenz by cable car or walk down the well-marked but steep trail.
Who would expect the world’s biggest museum collection of Rolls-Royce automobiles to be found up a quiet mountain valley in Vorarlberg? But 15 minutes from Dornbirn railway station, a former 19th-century factory is home to 70 Rolls-Royces. Collected over some 50 years by the Anglophile Vonier family, this gleaming array is astonishing. As impressive as the cars themselves is the list of owners and drivers, a who’s who of the rich and famous of the 20th century. Peter O’Toole took the wheel of the white 1927 Phantom I in Lawrence of Arabia; Rita Hayworth rode in the 1932 Phantom II. The 1936 Phantom III, with its St George and Dragon silver mascot, belonged to the late Queen Mother. Petrol heads discuss engines and chassis as they watch experts in the workshop; I recommend heading up to the English-style tea room for a cuppa and a slice of Rolls-Royce Torte cake.
The beautiful natural playground of the Brandnertal, the Brand Valley, offers 400 km of hiking trails, 110km of mountain biking trails and an 18-hole golf course. It is also home to three villages: Bürs, Bürserberg and Brand. Entering the valley from Bludenz, first up is Bürs, guarded by a sheer cliff. The nearby gorge testifies to the power of running water over the millennia. The Bürserberg mountain area is known for the Tschengla, a sunny 1.250 mt plateau. Watch cheese being made at Alpe Rona; puzzle over Bürserberg’s mini Stonehenge; enjoy grand views of five valleys. In Brand, youngsters work off energy playing tennis, riding and, at the Kletterpark, climbing rope ladders and zooming along zip lines. Beyond Brand, take the cable car up to Lünersee (1.979 mt), then enjoy the easy two-hour walk around this sapphire Alpine lake close to the Swiss border.
Kleinwalsertal, the little Walser valley, is one of Europe’s anomalies. Part of Austria? Yes. Reachable from Austria? No! The only road access is via Oberstdorf in Germany. Settled by Swiss immigrants 700 years ago, this 15km-long valley has four communities: Riezlern, Hirschegg, Mittelberg and, finally, Baad, where the road ends and the mountains rear up to form a barrier with the rest of Austria. To my mind, it is all picture perfect: meadows dotted with wildflowers, chalets bedecked with geraniums in window boxes and peaks everywhere. The largest village is Riezlern. Here, the Kanzelwand cable car glides up to the 1.957 mt summit, with its network of hiking trails. In Hirschegg, you can’t miss the valley’s cultural centre: the striking, modern glass Walserhaus. By contrast, Mittelberg boasts St Jodok, the valley’s oldest church, with a needle-like spire. Baad, the smallest and highest village, is a starting point for serious hikers. Kleinwalsertal, only accessible via Oberstdorf in Germany, is one of Europe’s anomolies
Bregenz Lower Town
Kunsthaus Art Gallery
You may well have seen Bregenz without realising it. In Quantum of Solace, James Bond takes on the bad guys during a performance of the opera Tosca. And that open-air stage, floating on Lake Constance, is real! For 70 years, the Bregenz Festival has presented operas in this spectacular venue. But there is more in the Lower Town. Must-sees include the KUB , the Kunsthaus Bregenz art gallery, a glass cube of a building showing avant-garde exhibitions. Equally dramatic is the Vorarlberg Museum, an ultra-modern showcase for the history of the province. New and old in Bregenz go hand in hand: at street level are boutiques and trendy wine bars; above are elegant domes, gables and towers. Stroll by the lake, where ferries head in and out of the harbour; look up to the Pfänder mountain. Quite simply, this small city is one of the most charming I know.
Bregenz Upper Town
Up the hill from the Lower Town and the lake is the Oberstadt, the Upper Town, which is the oldest part of Bregenz. Put on sensible shoes, take your time and head up Maurachgasse, past the old houses and the Gasthaus Maurachbund to the even steeper, cobbled Stadtsteig street. The brooding Untere Tor, the former town gate, leads to a different world. The Old Town Hall is a massive example of 17th-century half-timbering: five floors of criss-crossed beams, small windows and red and white shutters. Nearby is a landmark, the Martinsturm, the 35m-tall Martin’s Tower. Built as a watchtower 400 years ago, its distinctive onion dome was a first, a brand-new design in the region. From the top floor, savour the view over the tiled rooftops to the Kunsthaus Bregenz in the Lower Town, and sparkling Lake Constance beyond. Put on sensible shoes, take your time and head up the steep, cobbled streets past the old houses
Schwarzenberg is the best-known village in the Bregenzerwald, the region lying between Bregenz/Lake Constance and the Arlberg range. It’s a postcard-pretty place, of handsome, well-preserved homes hung with wooden shingles. Two serve as a fine hotel and a restaurant: the Gasthof Hirschen and Gasthof Adler. Culture is a big draw here. The Angelika Kauffmann Museum honours a local girl who was the most important woman painter of her time. Having moved to London, Kauffmann (1741-1807) became a founder member of Britain’s Royal Academy. The annual Schubertiade, the world’s leading Schubert festival, takes place in mid-June and late August, and features 50 song recitals, piano and chamber concerts; make reservations well in advance. I also love getting into the great outdoors and that’s easy here: the Schwarzenberg tourist office has maps of the well-marked local walks.