If you’re looking for a break that offers something a little different to the beach resorts of Greece and the Med, why not consider a trip to the mountains and lakes of Switzerland and Austria? Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, outdoor adventurer or prefer something more relaxed, you won’t be disappointed.
Switzerland and Austria may be best known as fabulous ski destinations, but they also offer a stunning choice for a summer getaway. Glistening lakes are surrounded by towering mountains and breath-taking scenery, where summer temperatures typically range between 18-28 degrees.
Despite being one of Europe’s smallest countries, Austria boasts 24,000 km of marked hiking trails and an extensive cycling network just waiting to be discovered. Not to mention a wealth of historic sites. Despite being land-locked, thrill-seekers will still be delighted by the choice of water sports and outdoor pursuits. Or, for a more leisurely trip, why not travel along the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river.
In the capital, Vienna, you can visit the Hofburg Palace. Its ornate architecture mixes influences from Gothic through to Rococo. You can take a stroll through the beautiful gardens, view the Imperial Silver Collection and take in some of the 2600 rooms!
Horse lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to the famous Spanish Riding School which dates back to 1562 and take the opportunity to view one of the famous riding displays in the Baroque Winter Riding School.
Salzburg Altstadt (Old Town) is home to St Peter’s Abbey, infamous for its role as the filming location for the Sound of Music. Whilst there you can also pay a visit to Mozart’s birthplace which is now a museum.
If you prefer to explore the natural wonders Austria has to offer, a visit to Hallstatt is a must. Located in the Dachstein Salzkammergut region, a UNESCO World Heritage site, you will be in awe of the underground salt lake in the Hornerwerk Cavern. Whilst in the area, a trip to the Dachstein Caves is a must. One of Europe’s most impressive cave networks, the caverns reach up to 1174m deep in some places, highlights include the Giant Ice Cave with sub-zero temperatures even in summer and stunning frozen waterfalls.
If you are in search of a wellness retreat, the thermal baths and hot springs coupled with clear mountain air makes it easy to see why Austria has long been hailed the perfect destination for a restorative break. You can be sure that you’ll return home relaxed and rejuvenated.
A short hop to the West, across the principality of Liechtenstein, is Switzerland. Look beyond its chocolate, banking and, of course, the infamous cuckoo clock, and you will find a beautiful country of lakes and mountains, steeped in tradition and ready to give you a memorable holiday.
As you might expect, lake resorts often enjoy warmer weather than higher up in the mountains, which means that you will always have plenty of outdoor activities to choose from. If you’re looking for an active break, why not explore the extensive hiking trails, take a cable car ride, experience the thrills of the summer toboggan runs or take a family trip on a pedalo. Alternatively, visit one of the alpine cheese or chocolate factories and enjoy some tasty treats!
The Swiss capital of Bern’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and will leave you feeling you have been transported back to the 16th century. If you are feeling energetic a trip to the top of the tower in Europe’s tallest cathedral will result in some of the most breathtaking panoramic views you can imagine. Art lovers can immerse themselves in the many galleries including the Bern Museum of Art.
Interlaken is located between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and is one of the most popular summer destinations. Visit Hohematte’s flower gardens, hotels and cafes and enjoy breath-taking views of the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau mountains which surround the town. You can get active with hiking, climbing and kayaking, or take a relaxing cruise around the lakes on a paddle steamer whilst you watch paragliders soar above.
Lucerne’s car-free old town is a medieval gem with beautiful buildings, covered bridges and quaint plazas that offer the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by whilst you enjoy the gentle sounds of the water fountains. History lovers should be sure to visit the Swiss Transport Museum and the famous Lion Monument. For the best views of the town, the lake and the Alps, ride the funicular on the north side of Lake Lucerne or take a trip to the famed lookout point, Rigi. Just don’t forget your camera!
For a stunning summer must-see, take a trip to Rhine Falls and Schaffhausen – the largest falls in central Europe. Visitors during June and July will enjoy the most spectacular scenes as the mountain snow melts, increasing the volume of the falls over the 21m high ledge you can choose between viewing platforms or a riverboat trip for the best views.
Whether you choose Austria or Switzerland, you will receive a warm and hospitable welcome at the many family-run hotels and restaurants, offering wonderful facilities for families, couples or solo travellers.
The lakes of Austria and Switzerland are just a short flight from the UK. You can fly to Geneva from Southampton and Bournemouth making it a convenient choice if you live on the South coast. Alternatively, you can travel by rail via Paris or Strasbourg.