Prepare for your stay in this Middle European gem of a country with our Austria travel guide. First question - how long have you got? For an ideal long weekend, immerse yourself in the Viennese way of life: while away the time people watching in cafes eating Viennoiserie pastries, enjoy a concert at the Musikverein, a ballet at the Opéra National, or another type of choreography entirely at the Spanish riding school, where the dazzling Lipizzaner horses dance pirouettes. And then there are the Palaces, living reminders of Austria’s imperial past from Schönbrun to the Secession Palace; and paintings by locals such as Klimt and Schiele, but also by Brueghel, Caravaggio and Bosch. In this excellent shopping city you can discover a master silversmith on the Zieglergasse; buy a hip hat at master milliners Mühlbauer; or jewellery from Köchert,
whose diamonds adorned many Austrian Empresses. An alternative to Vienna? Salzburg, a baroque beauty and birthplace of Mozart. Wander around the medieval fortress of Hohensalzburg, the pretty pedestrianised Getreidegasse street, countless churches and monasteries, and, of course, Mozart's birthplace, the cathedral where he was baptised and the house where he grew up. By then you will have earned a Mozartkugel, a delicate handmade chocolate ball with a pistachio and marzipan core bought from Fürst. Accept no counterfeit version! If you have time, you can combine Vienna and Salzburg, or you could consider a hiking trip through the Tyrol region; a week’s skiing in the superb Arlberg ski area (home to St Anton, Lech, Zurs and others); a cruise on the Danube Valley, or time in the village of Hallstatt, a gem on the shores of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lake Hallstättersee, from where you can climb the surrounding mountains to explore ice caves. To finish preparing for the trip, listen to the Blue Danube and Strauss waltzes on repeat.