Head to snowy Austria
Rom the middle of November until the end of the year, Austria is covered in little, romantic Christmas markets, a homage to an age-old tradition dating as far back as the Middle Ages. The character of these bazaars has changed considerably since then and state capital Vienna alone boasts some 20 such official markets.The Viennese Christmas Market is unforgettable with its unique backdrop of the City Hall. Apart from the obvious delicious treats, unique trinkets and melodious choirs, there is an area dedicated solely to children, where they can learn how to make cookies or candles. The markets in Innsbruck, especially the Old Town Christmas Market, are counted as some of the most beautiful and romantic in the entire Alpine region. Nestled in the historic part of Innsbruck, in front of the famous Golden Roof and surrounded by beautifully preserved medieval facades, Old Town market harkens to bygone times, as a mug of Glühwein (mulled grape beverage) keeps you warm.Markets at chilly Salzburg afford their own brand of charm with the smell of punch and toasted almonds, hot roasted chestnuts and freshly baked apples. The small town of Oberndorf in Salzburg, where the famous carol 'Silent Night, Holy Night' was composed back in 1818, also has its own seasonal winter market.
TITILLATING TIROLThe onset of winter also makes Austria the perfect playground for classic cross-country and Nordic skiing, freeriding, winter paragliding, snow-biking and air-boarding. Beginners needn’t lose heart - there are training camps for adults and kids alike, and are very much worth a try. Skiing can be addictive - they say most skiers head back to the pistes sooner or later. And with three-fourths of the country’s land occupied by the Alps, there are more than 800 winter sport resorts to choose from across 71 ski regions. Perfect for a holiday around the year, the province of Tirol is one of the best skiing areas in the country during winter. In summer it offers fantastic hiking paths and stunning views of lakes and valleys. The Kaunertal Glacier is Tirol’s youngest glacier. There is plenty of room on the 38km of wide open slopes, with hardly any queues for lifts. Snow is guaranteed from October until June and there is something to suit all ages.Tirol’s highest glacier, the Pitztal Glacier, has guaranteed snow from September to May. Take the highly recommended Wildspitzbahn cable car to 3,440m to soak in the views and the coffee in Austria’s highest café.Stubai Glacier, Tirol’s biggest glacier ski area is just a 45 minute drive from provincial capital Innsbruck. Skiing is guaranteed from October to June here and the runs range from easy to challenging, make this another family-friendly resort.
ZELL AM SEEThe Zell Am See Kaprun region is one of the most beautiful and scenic in Austria, being home to one of its greatest mountain and lake resorts. The Kitzsteinhorn glacier and the soaring Schmittenhöhe Mountain form the backdrop to the village of Zell Am See, located ashore Lake Zell, and surrounded by wooded valleys, majestic slopes and the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain. The region is a haven for active holidaymakers, with tennis and golf alongside water sports. An evening cruise, which combines spectacular scenery with culinary and musical highlights, comes highly recommended. A visit to the traffic-free medieval village of Zell am See is a must. Specialty shops and restaurants line the meandering narrow streets. Adrenaline junkies need to head towards Kitzsteinhorn, with its three snow parks and Austria’s largest super-pipe for freestylers. And their more sedate partners will enjoy the Gipfelwelt 3000, which opens up views of the highest and most spectacular mountains in Austria from the comfort of cable cars. There’s also a stylish summer ice camp presented by Audi, a guided tour through the neighbouring Hohe Tauern National Park and other activities to enjoy.Alpin Rentals offer a range of romantic chalets and luxury apartments in and around Zell Am See Kaprun. Their select Ski and Golf suites at Zell Am See offer comfort and convenience as well as stunning views of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. The newly opened Residence Bellevue in Thumersbach on the shores of Lake Zell offers 24 apartments offering a range of hotel services, wellness facilities and its own beach area. The Hintertux Glacier is Austria’s only year-round ski resort, offering winter sports enthusiasts perfectly groomed, snow-sure runs 365 days of the year, great food and stunning nature at altitudes of up to 3,250 metres.
VIVACIOUS VIENNAIn the 2013 Mercer study of the world’s 223 most important cities, Vienna scooped the title of the world’s most liveable city for the fifth year in a row. As one of Europe’s most popular city destinations, the city offers a blend of entertainment and creativity, tradition and modernity, art and enjoyment.Located in the heart of the most exclusive shopping district in Vienna, the newly opened Park Hyatt hotel is within easy walking distance to the city’s most important sights, historic monuments and museums, making it a great choice for weekend visitors to the city. The hotel is on an historic site itself, being a listed building in Vienna’s prestigious First District. It features 143 spacious guestrooms, including 35 suites. Synonymous with elegance and luxury, the hotel is the perfect location for style-savvy travellers. Packed with historic character, finest marble, gleaming brass, wood panelling and alabaster, the building is 101 years old this year and the former headquarters of Bank Austria. The stately atmosphere of this elegant architectural landmark features ornamental elements reminiscent of Vienna style at that time.
By Rashi Sen