Between the two famous Danube capitals Vienna and Budapest is a third one, less well-known: Bratislava, which is still called Pressburg in Austria. Although the city is at the very edge of Slovakia and only 50 kilometers from Vienna, it is the economic and cultural center of the country. In the small old town you get the impression of its historical importance.
Initially, the Romans had settled in the area where the Danube meets the Little Carpathians. Later Bavarians came, traders from Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary, which gave the city its multicultural character. Above it all, on a green hill, lies a majestic castle which was built 1000 years ago during the war against the Hungarians.
The capital of Styria is situated on the River Mur at the point where it leaves a narrow valley and flows into the fertile plains of Lower Styria. Schlossberg Castle, a partially preserved fortress perched on a hill in the center of the city, was never captured by an invading army and is therefore listed in the Guinness Book of Records as history's strongest fortress. The main sites in the old town huddled at the bottom of the hill are the Gothic cathedral, the Jesuit University, a castle complex called the "Burg", and the Clock Tower, the city's most famous landmark. The entire ensemble was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The most popular site in Graz is Schloss Eggenberg, a Baroque palace on the western side of the city with an English park that is home to a flock of peacocks. An open-air museum called Stübing containing historical farmhouses from all around Austria is situated just outside of Graz. Thanks to its geographical location south of the Alps, the city named Europe's Culture Capital in 2003 enjoys a partially Mediterranean climate.
The Upper Alpine Road (Hochalpenstraße) that begins in Heiligenblut at the foot of the Großglockner is one of the most magnificent mountain stretches in the world. The 22 km long highway leads through the Glockner Massif up to a height of over 2,500 m (8,200 ft.). Although the route around Austria's highest mountain was already used by the Romans, the road wasn't built until the 1930s. Today most traffic across the Austrian Alps uses other passes, leaving this route relatively quiet. Car parks are available at most viewpoints, and marked hiking paths lead off into the mountain terrain. In good weather a trip along a side road called "Glacier Road" (Gletscherstraße) is a must.
The capital of Tyrol is located in the Inn Valley at a junction of the north-south route connecting Germany to Italy with the east-west route between Switzerland and Vienna. The only major city in the Alps has a medieval core and numerous examples of Gothic architecture, the most famous of which is the house with the Golden Roof. The city that has twice hosted the Winter Olympics (1964, 1976) is famous for its scenic setting amid soaring Alpine peaks such as the Patscherkofel. The cable car to the summit also runs in the summer months.
The capital of Upper Austria straddles the Danube. The heart of the 2,000-year-old city is the central square (Hauptplatz) lined with stately Baroque and Renaissance buildings. In recent years Linz has managed to change its image as a grimy industrial center thanks to new environmental regulations governing steel production and the increased promotion of cultural activities. Indeed, Linz was named the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2009.
The city located at the northern boundary of the Alps is one the most beautiful in central Europe. The backdrop of the Alps to the south contrasts with the rolling plains to the north. The closest Alpine peak - the 1,972 m Untersberg - is only a few kilometres from the city centre. The inner city, or old town, is dominated by baroque towers and churches. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is Salzburg's most famous son. The houses where he was born and lived are popular tourist attractions. His family is buried in a small church graveyard in the old town, and there are many monuments to "Wolferl" in the city.
The city located at the northern boundary of the Alps is one the most beautiful in central Europe. The backdrop of the Alps to the south contrasts with the rolling plains to the north. The closest Alpine peak - the 1,972 m Untersberg - is only a few kilometers from the city center. The inner city, or old town, is dominated by baroque towers and churches. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is Salzburg's most famous son. The houses where he was born and lived are popular tourist attractions. His family is buried in a small church graveyard in the old town, and there are many monuments to "Wolferl" in the city.
The region south and east of Salzburg was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997, both due to its indescribable beauty and its cultural-historical importance as a source of salt. The valuable mineral has been mined in the area for over 7,000 years. Many of today's most important Alpine passes were used in the Middle Ages to transport salt from the city that still bears the word in its name (Salzburg = Salt Fortress). The oldest salt mines in the world are found in Hallein just south of Salzburg. A tour of the Hallein Salt Mines is one of the highlights of a visit to the region. Other popular activities include water sports of all kinds, lake cruises, cycling and hiking. The Salzkammergut is dotted with incredibly beautiful mountain lakes, such as Hallstättersee, Attersee, Wolfgangsee, Fuschlsee and Traunsee, just to name a few.
The region known as the Wachau occupies a 30 km strip of the Danube Valley between the cities of Krems and Melk. The area was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000 due to its natural beauty in harmony with its architectural landmarks, which include numerous castles, monasteries and ruins. Along this stretch the Danube flows through a narrow valley sandwiched between the Bohemian Massif and the Dunkelsteiner Forest, lined with terraced vineyards and dotted with historical towns and medieval villages. High night-day temperature fluctuations contribute to the special aroma of the wines and this is where Austria's most famous wines, including Grüner Veltliner, are produced.
The largest lake in Carinthia is located west of Klagenfurt. In the north, the main Alpine ridge protects it from cold winds; in the south the Karawanken tower over the rolling hills. Due to the mild climate Lake Wörthersee is one of the warmest alpine lakes. Water temperatures up to 28 ° are not uncommon in summer. On the north side of the lake the idyllic town of Pörtschach is located on a picturesque peninsula with many promenades.
The city on the Danube is much more than the capital of Austria. For many centuries Vienna was the center of a powerful empire covering much of southeast Europe. The city's illustrious past is reflected in its stately palaces and other majestic landmarks along the ring surrounding the old town. Vienna was the seat of the powerful Habsburgs who ruled from the Middle Ages to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Today Vienna is a modern, cosmopolitan city with a touch of nostalgia for the glorious days of old. It is the mecca of classical music with the world's largest music conservatory, the most famous concert halls and countless music events each year.