A Printable, Downloadable, PDF version of this itinerary is available for purchase. Includes Places to Stay in proximity.
ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S E-BOOK:
Many travelers long for the freedom to travel at their own pace, to choose their own hotels, and to avoid the confinement of a packaged tour, but their sense of adventure does not quite extend to driving in a foreign country. If this dilemma applies to you, do not despair: Austria’s public transportation is convenient, well organized, moderate in price, and, best of all-fun. Such fun in fact that many of you who usually rent a car might want to consider making this vacation a complete holiday for all, including the driver, and choose to see Austria by train and boat. To climb aboard a train or boat immediately evokes a mood of romance, a twinge of nostalgia. As you whiz through meadows of wildflowers, chug over mountain passes, zip through tunnels, trace narrow gorges, or float lazily down the Danube, the world is yours. Transportation of this kind is not a means to an end: it is a sightseeing adventure. This itinerary covers some of Austria’s highlights-an excellent choice for seeing Austria for the first time whether you follow the itinerary by train and boat-or car.
This itinerary can easily be duplicated by car, in which case you do not need to be overly concerned with luggage. However, should you choose to travel by train and boat, you really must travel lightly. To lug a heavy suitcase from train to taxi to hotel soon dims your joy, and the journey becomes drudgery. But if each person has just one small suitcase (preferably on wheels), freedom and adventure are yours.
Note for Train Travelers: Times are given as a reference so that you can see how the pieces of the itinerary fit together and gauge the approximate time to allow between destinations. Since schedules constantly change, especially between seasons, please verify each of the times. At train stations you can pick up handy, free, easy-to-read, small pocket-sized schedules for specific train routes. These pamphlets also list connecting trains to other major cities. Also, every station has an information desk with an English-speaking agent who can assist you with train schedules.
Note for Car Travelers: For those who are following this itinerary by car, we highly recommended a side trip that will take you into the Czech Republic to visit Český Krumlov, one of the most charming villages in Europe (and, only a couple of hours from the Austrian border).
ORIGINATING CITY: SALZBURG
Salzburg is a medieval town that snuggles in a small pocket of land, traced on one side by the River Salzach and hemmed in on the other by the Mönchberg, a small mountain that rises steeply from the city. Salzburg has a storybook quality with narrow streets, colorful old houses, charming little squares, arcaded courtyards, and enticing shops. Always a special favorite of tourists is the Getreidegasse, a picturesque street lined by buildings that are accented by whimsical wrought-iron signs. Salzburg is so charming you can spend hours just meandering through the maze of streets, which frequently converge like spokes into small squares. It is easy to get lost, but the town is so small that you can quickly find a familiar landmark and be on your way again.
When you settle down to sightseeing, you will be pleased to discover that most places of interest are within easy walking distance. Be sure not to miss any of the following: the intriguing fortress, Hohensalzburg, which looms above the city and is reached by funicular from the edge of town; Saint Peter’s Abbey, a Benedictine abbey which (until 1110) was the archbishops’ residence; the 17th-century Salzburg Cathedral, modeled after Saint Peter’s in Rome, which has over four thousand pipes in its organ and three massive bronze doors representing Faith, Love, and Hope; the Glockenspiel whose 36 bells play Mozart tunes at 7 am, 11 am, and 6 pm; the Salzburg Residenz, an opulent palace, once home to the wealthy prince bishops, whose lavish apartments and art gallery (with a wealth of 16th- to 19th-century paintings) are open to the public; and Mozart’s Birthplace Museum filled with portraits, musical scores, keyboard instruments, and violins.
Just across the river from the heart of Old Salzburg-an easy walk over the pedestrian bridge-are the Mirabell Gardens, which you must not miss. The Schloss Mirabell and the Mirabell Gardens were built in 1606 by Archbishop Wolf Dietrich for his mistress, Salome Alt. As you walk through enchanting terraced lawns you can imagine the Archbishop strolling with his “favorite” while their children romped nearby.
Before arriving in Salzburg check with the Austrian National Tourist Office to see what special events are happening during your visit. A popular event in late summer (last week in July through August) is the Salzburg Music Festival, featuring opera, chamber music, concerts, and many world-renowned artists. Should your visit coincide with this event, you will need to plan far in advance-not only for tickets, but also for hotel space. (Note: Unless you are an ardent music lover, avoid Salzburg during the music festival since the city is crowded and hotel prices soar.)
One event you must include is the Marionette Opera, with performances taking place from Easter through September in the Marionetten Theater, which is located near the Mirabell Gardens. The marionettes usually perform Mozart operas. The exquisite scenery, splendid marionettes dressed in intricate costumes, and the agility and talent of the skillful fingers manipulating the strings combine to make a magical evening you will long remember. Arrive early so that you can spend time studying the showcases of marionettes from past performances. Their tiny costumes of fine silks, handmade laces, velvets, and feathers are amazing.
Almost second to Mozart in terms of popularity and something almost everyone associates with Austria The Sound of Music. Salzburg is the home to the story of Maria and the VonTrapp Family immortalized in the film and one can sentimentally visit locations where the filming took place and bring memories of the film to life. One can take an organized tour to visit the sights (almost every tourist agency in town offers a bus tour visiting the landmarks in and around Salzburg where the movie was filmed), or, if you have a car, it is easy to make the journey yourself. The convent, Nonntal, where Maria first settled with the wish to become a nun, pledging her life to god, is located on the hillside above Salzburg just a short distance from the castle. Still an active convent, and seemingly not “on the tourist agenda”, it is simple and pretty and one’s imagination can conjure up the sound of Maria leading the other sisters in chorus. On the other side of the mountain, in the shadow of the castle, is the beautiful lakeside Schloss Leopoldskron. This became the “stage” for the VonTrapp family villa where romance reigned. It was here in the lakeside garden that Captain VonTrapp proposed to the woman who would then take on the role of bride and mother to his children. Although, technically not open to the general public, Schloss Leopold is now a member of Schloss Hotels & Herrenhaüser, and although principally an international conference facility, given availability, also offers accommodation to overnight travelers. And for the romantic finally, (as we mention later on in this suggested itinerary), journey just a few miles outside Salzburg, traveling the A1 to the Mondsee exit, and in the scenic, lakeside town of Mondsee, one can visit the pretty,, soft yellow church where Maria and Captain VonTrapp were married.
There are also many excellent day trips available from Salzburg. One of the tours takes in the beautiful lakes and towering Dachstein Mountains-this area is called the Salzkammergut. Other tours go to the salt mines-the name of Salzburg evolves from salz (salt) and burg (fortress). The mining of salt was responsible for Salzburg’s wealth and power and the mines can still be visited, making an exciting tour. There is also the Dachstein Ice Caves near Salzburg-a beautiful outing not only because the caves are fascinating with their fabulous formations of ice, but the scenery is exceptionally lovely too.
EXCURSION INTO THE CZECH REPUBLIC: ČESKÝ KRUMLOV
Especially for those who are traveling by car, we cannot resist recommending a side trip to romantic Bohemia to see one of the most scenic parts of the Czech Republic and visit the charming village of Cesky Krumlov. This deviation works in quite conveniently since one of the main roads into the Czech Republic is from Linz, which is roughly midway between Salzburg and Dürnstein. If you are traveling by public transportation, it is possible to train to Český Krumlov from Linz, but it would difficult to also include our other suggested excursions from Český Krumlov without a car.
Side Trip By Car: The Czech Republic is a country of astounding natural beauty. The scenery in the southwest corner is particularly glorious with gentle rolling hills, forests, green meadows, idyllic rivers, and charming villages. One of these, Český Krumlov, is (in our opinion) one of the most stunning towns in all of Europe, and easily accessible-only about a two-hour drive north of Linz. If you can squeeze in time for a visit, we heartily recommend doing so. Note: Český Krumlov is so chock full of tourists in July and August that, if this is your time for travel, you might want to delay this excursion for another trip.
Pacing: We recommend a minimum of four nights for this side trip in order to give you two full days in Český Krumlov and another day for sightseeing in the countryside.
Entry into the Czech Republic: It used to be that the majority of tourists visiting the Czech Republic took a train from Vienna (Austria) or Weimar (Germany) since few agencies would rent a car going into any country that previously was a part of the Eastern Bloc. However, that has now changed. Auto Europe (whom we highly recommend for car rentals: 800-223-5555) tells us that entering the country by car is no longer a problem. However, you need to mention to whatever car rental company you choose that you plan to go into the Czech Republic, since a few restrictions still apply, such as you might not be able to rent a specific make of a car. In addition, there is usually an additional premium for any car going into a country that used to be a part of the Eastern Bloc.
Beginning your adventure: Linz, which is about midway between Salzburg and your next destination, Dürnstein, makes the perfect place to begin your side trip. When you reach Linz, exit the A1 and go north on the A7. Travel through the city and continue approximately 15 kilometers to where the four-lane highway ends. At that point, continue north on road 125 to Freistadt, a very attractive medieval town complete with stone walls, towers, and even a moat. If it is lunchtime, head into the colorful central square where you will find an assortment of restaurants.
From Freistadt it is only 18 kilometers to the border of the Czech Republic. Have your passport and car documents available. The customs formality is simple; however, you will need to purchase a motorway toll sticker for the window of your car. It is not excessively expensive-the price varies depending upon how long you will be in the country. Stickers are available for 15 days, 2 months, or a year.
Continue north for about 10 kilometers. When you come to Kaplice, turn west on a road that weaves through a gorgeous, pristine countryside, going by the towns of Omlenička, Zahrádka, and Přídolí before arriving in Český Krumlov.
Český Krumlov is quite tricky to drive into and many of the alley-like roads are so narrow you can almost stretch out your arms and touch the walls on either side of your car. When you arrive, follow signs to the town center. Although it is a pedestrian area, you can cautiously maneuver your car through the narrow streets for the brief time needed to unload your luggage before parking. If you prefer to park and find your hotel on foot, as you arrive into town look for signs to Parking #3, which has overnight parking and is the most convenient choice for hotels that are located within the historic center. From the parking lot, it is about a 10-minute walk along a delightful path that traces the river’s edge. To your right, St. Vitus Church looms high on the bluffs overlooking the river, and to your left is a pretty park. When you reach the bridge, cross over it and you are in the heart of the village. All of the hotels are nearby.
Český Krumlov (designated a UNESCO monument) is truly an exquisite jewel. There are many picturesque places in Europe, but none can surpass this one. The setting is extraordinary and you will love it. The village is almost totally wrapped by the Vltava River, which loops around the town forming an island-with only a thread of land connecting it to the “mainland.” To further the enchantment, there are no modern buildings or jarring architecture to dim the delight of this untainted medieval beauty. Most of the houses are now brightly painted and have been restored and brought back to life. Only a few buildings have not yet been renovated, providing a gentle reminder of how poorly maintained most of the Czech Republic was during the time it was a part of the Eastern Bloc.
Sightseeing in town: Just strolling through the maze of small cobblestone lanes of Český Krumlov is a joy. Before beginning any formal sightseeing, wander at random through the town to get a feeling of its many treasures. Be sure to stop at the picturesque Svornosti Square, where you will find the tourist office. Here you can get a map and will find all the information on special events taking place, location of museums, and tours. You can book tours here and buy tickets for any concerts or special events. There is so much to see and do in the town that it will take a minimum of two days. Following are some suggestions on what to see and do.
Old Town Tour: We highly recommend to first take this walking tour, which is an excellent introduction to the colorful history of Český Krumlov. As you stroll through the labyrinth of its cobbled medieval streets, your guide will tell romantic tales of yesteryear, take you to hidden nooks you might not find on your own, and point out the location of museums and other places you will later want to explore on your own. (April through October, English-speaking tour leaves 2:00 pm from the tourist office, duration 90 minutes.)
Brewing History Tour: Český Krumlov has always been an important beer-producing town, and still has its own local brewery. This walking tour gives a hint of what life was like for both nobility and ordinary people in medieval times and why beer was so popular. (April through October, English-speaking tour leaves 12:30 pm from the tourist office, duration 60 minutes.)
Night Tour: This walking tour explores the legends, ghosts, mysteries and love stories of Český Krumlov. It includes a visit to an ancient gothic house and admission to an exhibit of marionettes from the National Museum of Prague. (May through October, English-speaking tour begins 8:30 pm in front of the Fairy Tale House on Radiční Street, duration 90 minutes.)
Eggenberg Brewery: For beer enthusiasts, a tour of the Eggenberg Brewery, which produces dark lagers plus a yeasty, unfiltered beer, is well worthwhile and, best of all, beer sampling is included. (Tours begin at the brewery at 11:00 am, duration 45 minutes.)
Raft Tour: On the banks of the Vltava River, just below the town, you can board a wooden raft crafted in the ancient style for a boat tour. As the raft loops around the city it provides many beautiful views from a different perspective. To add to the fun, your guide will entertain you with tales of days of yore. (May through October, information and tickets available at the tourist office, duration 60 minutes.)
Graphite Mine: The Český Krumlov Graphite Mine is located on the outskirts of town. This tour is especially fun for children (and adults who are still a child inside). You don special clothing (including shoes) and a helmet with miner’s lamp attached before descending to the bowels of the earth with your guide to learn about how the graphite has been mined here since the 18th century. (July & August: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; April, June, September & October: tours by arrangement; tel: (380) 711.199, website: www.grafitovydul.cz, email: email@example.com.
Marionette Museum: Housed in the former church of St. Jošt, the Marionette Museum features an exhibit of antique marionettes and a replica of the Baroque Theater in the Český Krumlov Castle.
The Fairy Tale House: Here you will find an awesome exhibit with hundreds of precious puppets in all sizes and shapes from the National Museum in Prague. The display is very inclusive with all kinds of puppets from peasants to warriors. Also of interest is a fantastic mechanical puppet theater (it even has a miniature ferris wheel) brought here from the Cačina Castle. If you are lucky, there might be a puppet show in the courtyard. (May through October: 10 am to 10 pm.)
Museum of Torture: Located on the square near the tourist office, the Museum of Torture is a must of you are traveling with little boys-they will relish the gruesome displays of medieval instruments of torture. It is all a bit contrived, but certainly interesting. (Open all year, 9 am to 8 pm.)
Wax Museum: Located in one of Český Krumlov’s pic-turesque old houses, the wax museum depicts skillfully crafted wax figures that are cleverly displayed in various scenes appropriate to the featured personalities. Dimly lit staircases lead up and down through the house, adding to the drama. Not only figures from the Czech past are shown, but also other cultural personalities such as Louis Armstrong and Charlie Chaplin. (Open all year, 9 am to 8 pm.)
St. Vitus church: The spire of beautiful St. Vitus church (which dates back to the 15th century) stretches into the sky, making it easy to spot from anywhere in town. There are no tours, but you can visit the church on your own.
Krumlov Castle: If you see nothing else in Český Krumlov, you must visit the amazing Krumlov Castle (the second largest in the Czech Republic). There is no way you can miss it since the castle, which consists of an endless row of attached buildings, stretches across a lofty ridge overlooking the town from across the river. It is huge, stretching over a kilometer along the bluff. Dominating the scene is a dramatic bell tower that rises in a series of whimsically painted tiers, the final one being an ornate, open-air viewing arcade under a steeple topped by a jaunty flag.
Buy your tickets as soon as possible upon arriving in Český Krumlov since Krumlov Castle is a highlight. Tickets are necessary since you cannot tour independently but need to take a guided tour. Also, the number of English-speaking tours is limited and space is sometimes sold out. (April, May, September, October: 9 am to 5 pm; June July & August: 9 am to 6 pm, closed on Mondays.)
Krumlov castle is so vast that the tours are broken down into the following:
Tour 1: This tour is a very good overview of the castle, visiting the Renaissance Chambers, the incredible Golden Carriage (which was only used once), and the Masquerade Hall. (Tour originates in the third courtyard, duration 60 minutes.)
Tour 2: This tour includes a visit to the Schwarzenbergs’ 19th-century Chambers. (Tour originates in the third courtyard, duration 60 minutes.)
Baroque Theater Tour: This fabulous tour is a favorite and sells out very quickly. The boundless wealth of the nobility who lived in Krumlov Castle in the 17th century is obvious when you see this opulent theater. The only comparable one in the world is the Baroque Theater at Drottningholm Castle, on an island just outside of Stockholm. (Tour originates in the fifth courtyard, duration 45 minutes.)
Castle Tower & Castle Gardens: You can visit the Castle Tower (located in the second courtyard) and the beautiful Castle Gardens (located at the far end of the castle) on your own, without tickets or reservations.
Excursions from Český Krumlov: In addition to the sights to see in the town, there are wonderful excursions into the countryside. Shown below, is a selection of highlights.
Holašovice (45 km north of Český Krumlov): If you enjoy visiting picturesque villages, Holašovice will enchant you. Here you find, tucked in the tranquil countryside, a tiny town where time seems to have stood still. This cluster of 19th-century peasant homes is a fine example of the charming, whimsical style of architecture characteristic of many of the villages in the southern part of Bohemia, where baroque features such as gables, white stucco ornamentation, and articulated rooflines enhance the farm houses. Holašovice is so special that UNESCO has chosen it as a protected town under the World Cultural Heritage.
Zlatá Koruna Monastery (8 km northeast of Český Krumlov): Conveniently close to Český Krumlov, Zlatá Koruna Monastery was built by King Přemysl Otakear in 1263 in gratitude to God for victory in a battle against the Hungarians. It remains today as one of the best-preserved monasteries in the Czech Republic. The guided tours are not in English, but an explanatory text is available. In 1995 the monastery was proclaimed a National Cultural Heritage site. (Open April through October: 9 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 4 pm, closed Monday.)
Rožmberk Castle (25 km south of Český Krumlov): Built on a rocky promontory above the Vltava River, Rožmberk Castle is one of the oldest castles in Bohemia, dating back to the 13th century. Throughout the centuries, it has been renovated and expanded many times. You can visit the art gallery featuring many baroque paintings and beautiful ceramic pieces, and a superb armory. Like many castles, this one too has its own ghost. Rožmberk Castle’s ghost is a lovely lady who wanders through the castle at night. (Open April through October: 9 am to 4 pm, closed Sunday.)
Vyšší Brod Monastery (33 km south of Český Krumlov): Located on the outskirts of Vyšší Brod above the Vltava River, the Vyšší Brod Monastery dates back to 1259. The fortified complex contains the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, various farm buildings, an abbey, and a monastery. Guided tours visit the beautiful church, an extensive picture gallery with over 100 paintings by baroque masters, and a stunning baroque cloister library. (Open May through September, Tuesday-Saturday: 9 am to 11:30 and 1 pm to 4 pm, Sunday: 1 pm to 4 pm, closed Monday.)
When it is time to leave Český Krumlov, retrace your route south to Linz, and rejoin the “Highlights of Austria” itinerary that follows or consider a longer excursion into the Czech Republic and continue on to one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Prague.
CONTINUING ON TO PRAGUE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Note: if you do opt to venture on to Prague and you are traveling by car, rather than treat Holašovice (45 km north of Český Krumlov) as an excursion from Český Krumlov, visit it en route.
Extremely popular with tourists, streets are always a bit crowded in Prague, with April to June and September and October the height of the travel season. As is often the case with crowded scenarios, be attentive of your valuables and carry the minimum with you as you walk the streets. Prague has a reputation for a high percentage of pickpocket instances. Although part of the EU, the Euro is not always accepted so you definitely will want to have some Czech crowns (koruny). Also, if traveling by train, do not make the mistake we made; there is more than one train station in Prague, and do not assume that you will arrive and depart from the same one!
Prague is a truly beautiful city. Everywhere you look, everywhere you walk, are magnificent buildings, scenic walkways, lovely parks, beautiful monuments. Consider all you have ever heard about the city and know that it is even more spectacular and will exceed expectations. Transected by a wide sweep of the Vltava River, there are two distinct areas of Prague. Again, although it is possible with a city tour to get an overview of Prague in one day, we would recommend a minimum of three nights and two full days in Prague-devoting one day to each side of the river.
There are many ways to explore the city: bus tours (some allow on and off access), smaller, more personalized mini-van tours, via an electric trolley, by horse-drawn carriage, in a classic convertible, by bike taxi and by foot. Note: because of narrow, steep, cobbled, and pedestrian-only streets, some forms of transportation have limited access. There are many places where you can purchase tours-at the many tourist offices, often from the vendors directly, or through your hotel concierge. Given the luxury of time and energy, we recommend donning a comfortable pair of shoes and covering the cobbled miles on foot. For the purposes of an introduction to this wonderful city, we offer the following narrative that follows the path of an assumed walking tour, which means being able to explore Prague at your own pace and preference.
In subtle ways reminiscent of Paris’ right and left banks, the districts of Prague on either side of the river each have their own personality. The Hradčany or Castle District and the Malá Strana or Lesser Quarter which share the west bank, are distinguished by the crowning Palace and seem a bit more residential, with a little less activity, pedestrian traffic, and a little more quiet. By contrast the east bank, which includes the Staré Mĕsto or Old Town, the Josefov or Jewish Quarter, and the Nové Mĕsto or New Town, seems busier and has a higher concentration of hotels and restaurants. Spanning the river, the historic, pedestrian-only Charles Bridge serves as an excellent and convenient starting point for exploration of either side.
For the purposes of this walking tour narrative, we are going to assume the luxury of two full days and begin day one on the west side of Charles Bridge.
DAY ONE: PRAGUE
The Karlův Most, or Charles Bridge, is understandably one of the most famous bridges in the world. Commissioned in the 14th century by King Charles IV, it replaced the previous Judith Bridge, which was destroyed in a flood. On the west side are two towers. The Judith Tower is the only architectural survivor of the original bridge and the Lesser Quarter Bridge Tower that was erected as a gateway to the town. On the eastern side is the Old Town Bridge Tower that one can climb for spectacular panoramic views. Especially appealing with fewer crowds in the soft morning or evening light, the bridge is fun to walk. Numerous artisans, magicians, and performers settle in from early morning to evening and the bridge becomes their stage. The parade of Baroque statues lining either side of the bridge is a more recent addition, sculpted in the 18th century. The one exception is that of St. John of Nepomuk, who was thrown into the Vltava by King Wenceslas IV and drowned. It is said that the spirit of the saint was seen rising from the waters below the bridge. The statue was erected in 1683. This statue is easy to spot, as its bronze relief shines from the natural polish it receives as people rub it for good luck.
The core of the east bank is the Old Town and it is wonderful to explore, with its intriguing architectural mélange of Medieval to Baroque buildings that line the maze of cobbled streets. Because of its strategic location, Prague was an important commercial center along the ancient trading routes, and the Old Town Square was the central marketplace. Still very much the pulse of the district, within a few blocks of the square you will experience the wealth and diversity of Prague: the Old Town Hall (which you can climb for yet another panoramic view), its magnificent astronomical clock (be sure to be present on the hour to watch the animation), the Church of St. Nicholas, the Kinský Palace, as well as sidewalk cafes, picnic tables, and the colorful and diverse array of transportation offered for exploring the city-buses, trolleys, horse drawn carriages, and even classic motor cars! This is also the departure point for many of the arranged tours. Leading up to the New Town (Nové Mĕsto) and the impressive National Museum, the wide tree-lined boulevard referred to as Wenceslas Square is reminiscent of the Champs Elysées and is crowned by a statue of the saint himself on horseback. It is interesting to note that the Na Příkopĕ, which divides the old and new town, follows the path of the old moat. Try to imagine the Royal procession as they journeyed down this boulevard from the Powder Gate, across the bridge, and up to the palace.
However, before returning to the Charles Bridge, venture north of the old town to a district with its own special ambiance and character: the Jewish Quarter or Josefov. Still an important and active community, in addition to some wonderful shops, you will discover Europe’s oldest synagogue, the Old-New Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue, the Jewish Town Hall, and cemetery. Then as one circles back along the river to the Charles Bridge, it is impossible not to admire the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Rudolfinum, home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and St. Agnes Convent which today houses a Medieval art collection.
Note: If you are fortunate to have the luxury of more time, you will most definitely want to spend another day exploring the Old Town as this one-day recommended introduction features only a few of the highlights in terms of the multitude of churches, squares and monuments.
DAY TWO: PRAGUE
Once again, we will use the Charles Bridge as the starting point for exploration of the Lesser Quarter and Castle District. From the bridge’s western edge, rather than cross the span, step down to the streets that meander in its shadow and cross over to the small Kampa Island, banded by canals that add to its own quiet ambiance, and a scenic old water wheel. A narrow bridge crosses back over to the Lesser Quarter. This exclusive residential district is home to a number of quaint streets and embassies; here you will also find the well-known mural of John Lennon surrounded by graffiti. This side of the river enjoys a wealth of parkland as well as shopping streets that climb to the castle and the numerous palaces that call Prague home. With the parameters of just one day to explore this side of the river, this suggested exploration will focus on the crowning palace which impressively stretches along the skyline and overlooks the city and river valley. Strategically located, it is the largest medieval fortress in Europe, the ancient seat of the Czech kings, and has maintained a prominent role since its origin over 1,000 years ago. The reality is that Prague Castle is a collection of impressive buildings in various architectural styles; embraced within its walls are the Royal Palace, The Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, the Convent of St. George, the remarkable St. Vitus Cathedral, and a charming residential district referred to as Golden Lane. The intriguing mix of architectural styles each reflect the various stages when it was rebuilt after suffering the ravages of wars, fires, or simply at the request of the person in power.
There are three entrances to Prague Castle, the principal one being the Ceremonial Gate located on the west side. This entrance faces the regal and lovely Hradčany Square which is bordered by a multitude of impressive residences that desired an address in close proximity to the seat of power: Schwarzenberg Palace, The Tuscan Palace, The Martinic Palace, The Archbishop’s Palace, The Sternberg Palace (which houses the National Gallery of European Art), The Černín Palace, and The Loreto. (Note: Once again, given the luxury of time, one could spend days going from one palace to the other, but for the purposes of this two-day introduction to Prague we are going to recommend focusing your visit within the walls of the castle.) The other objective in selecting the Ceremonial Gate as your starting point is to coordinate your visit with the traditional Changing of the Guards. The fanfare takes place every day on the hour from 0500 to 2300 and the ceremony is enhanced at the noon hour with all the pomp and circumstance of an entire regiment and banner exchange.
Enter the castle through the Ceremonial Gate dominated by the imposing and impressive heroic statues, and pass through to the first courtyard that was an 18th-century addition. From here continue on through the 17th-century Matthias Gate into a second courtyard, which is the location of the Holy Cross Chapel; housed in the stables that once sheltered the horses is the Picture Gallery of Prague Castle. From here, a narrow passage leads to the third and principal courtyard of the castle and the immediate and towering presence of the spectacular St. Vitus Cathedral.
Although the first church to occupy this site was built in the 10th century by Prince Wenceslas, the cathedral you see today was commissioned by Charles IV, begun in 1344, and inspired by the great cathedrals in France. Magnificent in structure and overwhelming in proportion, St. Vitus Cathedral is awe-inspiring. Its walls embrace eighteen ornate chapels and are segmented by gorgeous stained glass windows that soar to the vaulted ceiling and illuminate the interior with warm, colored rays. The most visited chapel (which also guards the coronation jewels) is dedicated to Saint Wenceslas, who is more familiarly referred to as The Good King Wenceslas from the chant in the ever-popular Christmas song. Although you will enter the cathedral through the west entrance, be sure to visit what was the entry in the 19th century, on the south side. The Golden Door displays the ornate mosaic of the Last Judgment. Many Czech kings are buried in St. Vitus Cathedral, and it is possible to descend to the crypt where, most notably, the remains of Charles IV are entombed. It is also easy to spot the ornate silver tomb that protects the remains of St. John Nepomuk, who became a martyred saint when he was thrown from the Charles Bridge by the anti-clerical King Wenceslas IV in 1393. It is also possible to climb the literally hundreds of stone steps that wind up a narrow circular stairwell to the church spire, and although the effort is more than rewarded by some spectacular panoramic views, please note that it takes time and requires good stamina and strength.
Within the walls of the castle, sharing this third courtyard is The Old Royal Palace. With a surprisingly modest façade, this palace was home to the original rulers of the land. Most remarkable about its structure is the incredible Vladislav Hall that in its history has been host to large gatherings and meetings, as well as 17th-century royal tournaments. As one stands on the wide old plank floors under the expanse of high-vaulted ceilings, one can almost envision the tournament extravaganza and hear the echo of thundering hooves and applause. Remarkably, the ceiling is said to be the largest expanse of unsupported vaulted ceiling in the world. Off the grand hall you can also visit two side chambers: the Bohemian Chancellery and the Diet Hall which hosted the medieval parliament. Before leaving the palace, in a side room there is an interesting film-continuous with different language versions scheduled and posted-of the castle, that offers a wonderful excuse to rest one’s legs.
From the Royal Palace walk round to yet another square, St. George’s Square, where on the corner is the entrance to the St. George’s Basilica and the convent of St. George. Reputed to be the oldest church in Prague, the intimate Basilica was founded in the 9th century. Neighboring the Basilica, the Convent of St. George embraces its own central courtyard; once a religious sanctuary, it now houses the National Gallery’s collection of Baroque and Mannerist Art.
Banded by the eastern walls of the castle is an intimate little quarter referred to as the Golden Lane that has a character all its own. A row of colorful little cottages runs the length of the cobbled street and once provided accommodation to the archers who defended the castle; later craftsmen, goldsmiths (who gave the residential alley its name), and alchemists. In the 20th century it sheltered the poor and was home to Prague’s favorite son and author, Franz Kafka. (A museum dedicated to the memory of this Prague native and one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century is located near the river’s edge below the castle, to the north of Charles Bridge; Franz Kafka Museum, www.kafkamuseum.cz.) Today the charming houses boast boutiques selling local crafts as well as the Národní Museum (History of Bohemia to the revolution of 1848). Walk the 15th-century hallway of the Black Tower, adorned with a wonderful display of defense and armor to the end cap, Dalibor Tower, which was used as a torture chamber and named for its first prisoner. Leading to the east gate and a convenient exit, Golden Lane serves as a wonderful conclusion to your explorations of the castle. From here you can easily enter one of the many lush gardens surrounding the castle or descend the road that transitions to a public street and leads back down to the river.
Once you have finished your explorations and stay in Prague in the Czech Republic, return south by train or car to the Austrian border and on to Linz in order to rejoin our Highlights of Austria by Train & Boat-or Car. Note: There are also convenient train connections from Prague to Vienna should you wish to conclude your travels there.
DESTINATION I : DÜRNSTEIN
It is a short cab ride from the center of Old Salzburg to the train station. On rainy days it sometimes takes ten or fifteen minutes just to summon a cab, so allow plenty of time. Your train journey takes you from Salzburg to Melk, a boat station for the Danube ferry. Melk has a marvelous Benedictine abbey which dominates the hill above the town and overlooks the river and those who want to visit the abbey should leave Salzburg on the early-morning train. However, if you prefer to get a more leisurely start, you can forego the abbey and take a later train. Trains leave every hour for Amstetten with a connection to Melk.
8:10 am Leave Salzburg by train
10:16 am Arrive Amstetten
10:45 am Leave Amstetten by train
11:23 am Arrive Melk
After leaving Salzburg station it is only minutes until you are out of the city and surrounded by the beautiful hills and lakes that make the area around Salzburg so famous. The landscape is lovely, with high mountains in the distance and rolling low hills dotted with farms in the foreground. As the train nears Linz, industrial areas begin to appear, but once you are through the city, the scenery is again one of pastoral beauty. As you near Melk, watch closely, for you will have a beautiful view of Melk Abbey.
When you arrive in Melk, a five-minute taxi ride takes you to the ferry stop. There are two docks, one for the large ferry between Passau and Vienna and another for the local ferry. If the taxi driver does not speak English (and you are not fluent in German), jot down on a slip of paper “Schiffahrt-Wien.” This will tell him that you want the boat dock for the ferry going to Vienna. The ferry operates from mid-May to mid-October. Because schedules change you might want to check the most current information from the Brandner Schiffahrt website: www.brandner.at.
At the boat dock purchase a ticket to Vienna, which allows you a free stopover at tonight’s destination, Dürnstein. Once you have your ticket, check your bags so that you are free to walk around until the boat arrives. There is a baggage room at the ticket office-if it is closed, the person who sells the tickets will open it for you. There is a nice restaurant with a riverfront terrace just a two-minute walk from the dock. If you are not visiting the abbey, this makes a great spot to relax while waiting for the ferry.
As the time for the ferry’s arrival draws near, people suddenly congregate. The recently deserted dock teems with activity: young boys with bicycles, families with picnic baskets, hikers in sturdy shoes with knapsacks on their shoulders, busloads of tourists. Once on board, stake your claim and find a table and some chairs where you can enjoy the journey. The ferry has a dining room and several snack bars.
1:50 pm Leave Melk by Danube ferry
3:15 pm Arrive Dürnstein
The section of the Danube between Melk and Dürnstein is very famous and very beautiful. During these few kilometers, the river lazily loops and turns as it cuts its way through the hills that sometimes rise so precipitously as to give a fjord-like beauty. This is the famous Wachau region of Austria whose grapes produce some of the country’s finest wines. Along the banks of the river, vineyards terrace up the steep hillsides, small wine-producing villages nestle at every hospitable spot on the shore, and romantic ruins of castles pierce the skyline. En route the major points of interest are pointed out in English.
Your destination is the enchanting village of Durnstein. This tiny hamlet, perched on a ledge overlooking the Danube, is fairy-tale perfect. Still walled, the village boasts colorful houses, a tiny square, a lovely monastery with an especially attractive courtyard, and castle ruins atop the hill. The castle has its own fairy tale: in 1192 Leopold V captured England’s King Richard the Lionheart and hid him in Durnstein Castle. No one knew where the king was imprisoned. Blondel, the King’s devoted minstrel, devised a plan to find his master and drifted from castle to castle playing King Richard’s favorite songs. When Blondel reached Dürnstein, he played and sang beneath the castle walls. Richard recognized the voice of his minstrel and joined in the singing, which led to his rescue. As in all fairy tales, the story had a happy ending!
We recommend two places to stay in Dürnstein. The first, Schloss Dürnstein, is one of our favorite hotels in Austria. This beautifully furnished, romantic hotel is built into the old town walls and has a tranquil terrace where you can dine outside while enjoying a stunning view of the river. Our other recommendation, the Gasthof Sänger Blondel (a less expensive hotel tucked into the center of the village) offers great warmth of welcome and charm. If you advise either of the hotels when you will arrive, they will send a porter to the pier to help you with your luggage and guide you to your hotel.
Dürnstein is so tiny that it takes only a short walk to explore it from one gate to the other. Nevertheless, Dürnstein is exceptionally romantic and makes a wonderful stopover for a few days. There are many paths to explore, including a walk to Weissenkirchen, another beautiful old wine village about 4 kilometers away. With careful planning you can hike to Weissenkirchen and return by ferry to Dürnstein.
DESTINATION II : VIENNA
Dürnstein makes a good base for enjoying this beautiful region of Austria. When it is time to leave, a porter will carry your bags to the pier. The ferry operates on Sunday only, but it is also possible to take a train from Dürnstein or Krems (about a 7-kilometer taxi ride from Dürnstein) to Vienna. You can check out of your hotel and leave your luggage at the front desk while you enjoy a last stroll through town and a lingering lunch before leaving.
4:30 pm Leave Dürnstein by ferry (mid-April through October)
8:45 pm Arrive Vienna
The first town you come to is Krems. As you near the town, watch for the magnificent Benedictine monastery, Gottweig Abbey, which dominates the top of a hill. Although it is far in the distance on the right bank of the river, it appears quite dramatic and beautiful in the late afternoon sunlight due to its immense size. After Krems, the banks of the river flatten out and become less scenic, but before you have time to become restless, you arrive at an enormous lock which drops the boat from the high level of a dam to the lower flow of the river below. It is fascinating to watch the boat sink about 12 meters and, as the gates slowly swing open, glide out into the river below. Beyond the lock you will see on the right a large nuclear power station which, although finished for several years, has never been put into operation. There is a second lock to navigate before you see the distant skyline of Vienna.
Since the ferry does not arrive in Vienna until evening, it is wise to have dinner before the boat docks. The ferry’s dining room has large windows, so you do not miss any of the action as you enjoy your meal.
Upon arrival in Vienna, take a cab to your hotel. In the hotel section in the back of the book we recommend a selection of places to stay in every price range, from luxury hotels to simple pensions. Read the descriptions carefully and you should find a hotel that suits you perfectly.
There is so much to see and do in Vienna that it almost demands a book in itself. Although this is a spread-out metropolis, most of the sightseeing attractions are in the heart of the city bound by the Ringstrasse, a loop of roads built where the medieval walls of the city once existed. If you enjoy walking, most of the places of interest are easily accessibly by foot. (Those outside the inner city can be visited by bus tours or on the subway.)
Buy a city map and a sightseeing guide. To get acquainted with the major points of interest, take a city tour and then go back to savor at length your favorite museums, cathedrals, and palaces. There are many tour operators and your hotel will have their brochures. However, if there are several persons in your party, check the price of a private car with an English-speaking guide. You can cover so much more of the city and squeeze so much more information into a small amount of time when you do not have to wait for a busload of other passengers and a private car does not cost much more if you have several persons to share the expense. You will certainly want to see all of the following places of interest.
The Vienna State Opera House is renowned throughout the world. Opened in May 1869, the beautiful Renaissance-style building faces the Ringstrasse. Although badly damaged during World War II, it was rebuilt to duplicate its original grandeur. In July and August (when there are no performances), and during the opera season from September through June, the Opera House is open for tours. It is great fun to take a tour and see behind the scenes of this spectacular building.
The Hofburg Palace (frequently called just die Burg) is much more than a palace. Although it was indeed the home of the Hapsburgs until 1918, it is actually an enormous complex of gardens, museums, and theaters. You could easily spend several days here enjoying the wealth of sightseeing possibilities which include the following places of great interest. The Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule), founded in 1572, is where the gorgeous white Lippizaner stallions display their incredible talents, dancing to classical music in an opulent 18th-century ballroom, painted white and hung with crystal chandeliers. Performances take place from March through June and from September to mid-December, visit their website for exact performance times and ticket information, www.srs.at. If you are unable to see one of these performances, you can watch one of the training sessions. These take place from mid-February to June, from the end of August until mid-October, and again from mid-November to mid-December, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 am. (Open year-round is a small museum where you can view samples of the ornate riding costumes and a video showing the history of the riding school.)
Just across the square from the riding school is the Augustinian Church (Augustinerkirche). This exquisite church dates back to the 14th century and the Sunday morning high mass at 11 am is truly memorable. Many famous events have taken place here including the wedding of Maria Theresa to François of Lorraine and the wedding of her daughter, Marie-Antionette, to Louis XVI of France. In the Imperial Apartments (Kaiserappartements), once the royal residence, you can imagine the opulent lifestyle of the ruling family. The Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer) displays the kingdom’s crown jewels. Among the dazzling treasures on display is a magnificent 1,000-year-old crown studded with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. (This crown was stolen by Hitler, but returned to Austria after the war.)
The New Chateau (Neue Burg), once the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, now houses several spectacular museums. In one wing you can see one of the world’s most extensive collections of weapons and armor, while another wing is a marvelous Museum of Musical Instruments (Musikinstrumentensammlung) where you can wander through room after room of musical instruments dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. (Be sure to take one of the headphones that play the music of the period as you enjoy the beautiful instruments.) Also in the New Château is the Ephesos Museum, which displays artifacts from ancient Greece and Turkey and the Ethnographical Museum (Museum für Völkerkunde), which displays some fabulous pre-Columbian artifacts including an incredible authentic Aztec feather headdress. Another museum in the New Château is the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), one of the most impressive and beautiful libraries in the world, with a collection of rare manuscripts dating back to the 14th century. The New Château also houses the 15th-century Palace Chapel (Burgkapelle) where the world-famous Vienna Boys’ Choir performs. Performances are given January through June and mid-September until the end of December at 9:15 am. Reservations must be made far in advance by writing to: Verwaltung der Hofmusikkapelle, Hofburg, 1010, Vienna, Austria, or you can contact Mondial at Faulmanngasse 4, 1040 Vienna, Austria, tel: (01) 58.804 ext. 141, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or look at their website, www.mondial.at.
One of the most elegant shopping streets in Europe is the Kartner Strasse, a pedestrian-only avenue that runs from the Opern Ring to Stephansplatz where you find one of Vienna’s landmarks, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Dompfarre St. Stephan). You must not miss seeing this richly adorned cathedral with its dramatic Gothic tower soaring 137 meters into the sky.
There are two palaces you must visit that are outside the heart of the city, but easily accessible. The first of these is the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace with its Schönbrunn Gardens. Reached from the center of Vienna by the U4 subway, the Schönbrunn Palace is well worth the journey. This huge palace (1,400 rooms) was the summer home of the Hapsburg family and now 40 of its rooms are open to the public (including the impressive Hall of Mirrors where the six-year-old Mozart played for Maria Theresa). Although the palace is a masterpiece, the spectacular formal gardens that surround it are truly sensational. Also outside the heart of Vienna is the Belvedere Palace, which is actually two palaces joined by extensive gardens. The Belevedere Palace was built in the 18th century as a summer home of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
In addition to the endless variety of castles, museums, palaces, gardens, parks, churches, and entertainment to be savored within Vienna, on the outskirts of the city you can enjoy a trip to the beautiful Vienna Woods, or a trip to Mayerling where the tragic Prince Rudolph, only son of the Emperor Franz Joseph, committed suicide with his young mistress, Baroness Vetsera, in l889. Or travel to Grinzing to sample the new wines and join in with the music and gaiety. There is so much to see and do in Vienna that you could spend your entire holiday here.
When you begin to plan your holiday, contact the Austrian National Tourist Office to find out what will be highlighted while you are visiting and how to obtain tickets for performances. Tickets for the Opera, the Spanish Riding School, and Vienna Boys’ Choir must be purchased far in advance. Note: Some hotels will also make reservations for you for the special events-ask when you book your hotel room.
DESTINATION III : PÖRTSCHACH AM WÖRTHER SEE
After a busy sightseeing schedule, it will be a pleasant contrast to spend a few days in the south beside one of Austria’s loveliest lakes, the Wörther See. The train connections are easy and the ride is especially beautiful. You depart from the South Station (Südbahnhof), about a five-minute taxi ride from the Palais Schwarzenberg.
10:55 am Leave Vienna South Station by train
3:32 pm Arrive Pörtschach am Wörther See
Leaving Vienna, the land is flat as you pass through small suburbs and commercial areas, but within an hour the panorama from your window becomes enchanting-beautiful wooded hills, lush green meadows, castles dotting mountaintops, rocky cliffs, small villages, and tiny chapels. You will not want to take your eyes from the window for fear of missing a magnificent castle partially hidden behind giant trees or an exquisite onion-domed little chapel on a mountain ledge. In a couple of hours the train will arrive in Bruck an der Mur, which is a small industrial town at the junction of the Murz and Mur rivers. The train follows the River Mur west from Bruck. For a short while the scene is industrial but soon the suburbs are behind you and you enter a serene rural area-a wide valley filled with fields of wheat and enclosed by forested hills. Cows graze in square patches of meadow among the trees on the rolling hills. About an hour from Bruck the train makes a curve to the south and heads for the large city of Klagenfurt. Watch closely because about 15 minutes before the train comes to Klagenfurt, near the town of Saint Veit an der Glan, you will see on the left side of the train Burg Hochosterwitz, a fascinating castle dominating the top of a miniature mountain. After leaving Klagenfurt, the train follows the lake and in a few minutes you are in Portschach.
In Pörtschach we recommend the Schloss Leonstain, a beautiful castle hotel located in the center of town.
The Wörther See is a lovely lake backdropped by majestic mountains. While staying in Pörtschach be sure to take one of the ferries that ply the lake-the complete circle takes several hours. It is fun to get off in one of the villages en route, do a little exploring, then board another ferry to continue your journey. The most attractive of the villages is Maria Worth, on a peninsula that juts into the lake. A beautiful Gothic parish church crowns the crest of the hill in the village center and makes a splendid picture as the boat draws near. In Maria Wörth we recommend the Villa Seehof, a beautiful villa on the lake with a prime location.
In addition to a lake excursion, there are many package bus tours you can take from Pörtschach. One you should not miss is to Burg Hochosterwitz, the castle you saw earlier from the train. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes because you have to walk up to the castle, built on what looks like a toy mountain. The path zigzags up the hill crossing fortified bridges, little moats, drawbridges, and, most fascinating of all, through 14 gates, each with its unique way to do in the enemy. Some gates have walls with spiked doors that descend from the ceiling, others have holes for hot oil, others inner rooms to capture the invader. It is lots of fun. As you near the summit there is a path leading off to an exquisite little chapel. Be sure to take the detour because the chapel is as pretty inside as it is out. Once you have conquered your castle, there is nothing of special interest-a small museum of arms, a few pictures, and a very nice courtyard-the fun is in the approach. There is a nice restaurant in the courtyard for lunch or a glass of wine.
DESTINATION IV : KITZBÜHEL
There are many trains that pass through the Pörtschach station-watch for the one marked to Salzburg. After boarding, settle back and relax: the scenery en route is sensational. The train follows the shoreline and then stops in the city of Villach before heading north.
9:38 am Leave Pörtschach by train
11:44 am Arrive Schwarzach/St. Veit
12:12 pm Leave Schwarzach/St. Veit by train
1:29 pm Arrive Kitzbühel
Schwarzach/St. Veit is a small station and the connection is easy. The train to Kitzbühel usually comes on the track next to the one where you arrive and will be marked to Innsbruck. Do not be concerned when you board the train and it seems you are heading back the way you just came-you are, but in only a short while the train changes direction and heads directly west toward Kitzbühel. The ride is lovely as the train follows a gentle valley bordered by low, tree-covered mountains. Before long you will see the lake, Zell am See. The train traces its shoreline before rushing on again through the wide valley. Soon the soft hills swell into enormous rocky summits of great beauty that herald the arrival of Kitzbühel.
Upon arrival in Kitzbühel take a taxi to your hotel. We recommend three hotels in Kitzbühel, the Romantik Hotel Tennerhof, a superb hotel idyllically located in the gentle hills just outside of town, the picture perfect Villa Mellon, and the Hotel Strasshofer, a small hotel in the center of town.
Kitzbuhel, a charming walled town, is a very popular tourist center both in summer and winter. It is the epitome of what one pictures when one thinks of the Tyrol-a colorful village whose painted buildings echo the past, charming little squares, inviting shops, walls surrounding the town, picturesque old gates, and mountains looming up from every view. Although this is a small town, there are a few sights to see such as the Pfarrkirche and the Liebfrauenkirche, two churches with lovely paintings to admire. But sightseeing is not the emphasis in Kitzbühel-instead, just relax and soak in the charm of the Tyrol. Try to linger here for several days: one day take the cable car up to the mountain peaks and meander for kilometers along well-marked paths through some of the loveliest scenery in Austria.
DESTINATION V : FELDKIRCH
Note: Although this itinerary follows a route leading directly west to the scenic town of Feldkirch almost on the Swiss border, there are several excellent options for those who wish either to travel on to Germany or else to complete their circle and return to Salzburg. As an example, there is a train that leaves Kitzbühel about 9 am and arrives in Munich about 10:30 am. The return train trip to Salzburg takes about three hours. However, if you are heading into Switzerland, or have the time to extend your Austrian holiday, enjoy the beautiful train ride from Kitzbühel to Feldkirch. The train should have a dining car for you to enjoy a meal en route.
You can make a shorter connection time than shown below, but we indicate a schedule to allow time for sightseeing in Innsbruck.
9:29 am Leave Kitzbühel by train
10:35 am Arrive Innsbruck
2:39 pm Leave Innsbruck by train
4:51 pm Arrive Feldkirch
As the train leaves Kitzbühel, the scenery is dazzling. Gigantic mountains soar into the sky, their jagged peaks scratching the clouds. The sullen grandeur of the mountains is intensified by the softness of the meadows in the foreground. It is so beautiful that you will be thankful you are on a train with no driving distractions. About an hour after leaving Kitzbühel the train makes a stop in Innsbruck. If you wish to do some sightseeing in Innsbruck, either check your suitcases directly through to Feldkirch or deposit them in the baggage room at the Innsbruck train station.
As the train approaches, Innsbruck looks like just another large city, but within a few minutes’ walk of the station there is a colorful town snuggled within medieval walls. In this inner heart of Innsbruck you find many stunning old buildings, splendid churches, and a majestic central pedestrian square. To enjoy Innsbruck, walk around the charming city, have lunch in one of the enticing sidewalk cafés, and then take one of the later trains to Feldkirch.
Feldkirch has not yet become “touristy.” It is tiny, but reminiscent of Salzburg with its beautiful setting, maze of streets, and colorful old buildings. The mountains rise at the edge of town and, if you look up, you see a large castle commanding a rocky perch. Feldkirch still retains some of its old walls, old gates, and towers. The two main streets are lined with picturesque arcaded houses with oriel windows, turrets, and towers. Pretty shops stretch up and down the network of pedestrian streets, and outdoor cafés offer refreshments. This 13th-century town is truly a gem.