I love visiting Austria. I have since my first visit to the country. Lots of people are fans of it for cities such as Vienna and Salzburg. Having been to both, I understand why. They’re great cities. But I think that lesser-visited places such as Seefeld, Innsbruck and Vorarlberg are what really help this country shine. And I want everyone to know and love Vorarlberg as much as I do. After two visits, I feel confident sharing 17 ways to enjoy Vorarlberg that you can use when it’s safe for you to visit. In random order, they are:
- Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg Outside
- Cultural Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg
- Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg's History
- Tasty Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg
- Take in the Views to really Enjoy Vorarlberg
17 Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg
Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg Outside
1. Go out in a boat on Lake Constance
Go for a small boat that you can rent yourself, and paddle around not far from shore, in Bregenz. Or get a ticket for one of the historical rides or tour boats to let someone else do all the work; while you sit back and enjoy the views! Check out info from Visit Bregenz here, from Vorarlberg at this link and at this link from Bodensee to book.
2. Hike in any village
Villages like Mellau are full of trails leading straight out of hotels that can be anywhere from very easy to quite difficult depending on how much you want to take on. There’s no shortage of hiking available in Vorarlberg. Or people willing to help you enjoy a hike, as walking is very much part of Austrian life.
3. Go for a bike or e-bike ride
From the Vorarlberg website: “Four e-bike rental stations and 30 charging or battery exchange stations have been set up in recent years in Montafon. Using this environmentally friendly way of transport, you can either choose your own route or take part in guided daily tours. An example of a particularly awesome trip would be the e-mountain bike tour to the far end of Gauertal valley, one of the most picturesque spots in the Alps, with the Drei Türme mountain range towering above.” You can also take guided e-bike tours in Bregenzerwald and Kleinwalsertal.
4. Do the Green Ring Hike
June through September is the ideal time to complete this stunning hike. I would advise that it’s for those well acclimated and in shape for strenuous hikes. Though the site says it’s easy. And certain parts of it are! Alas, prepared I was not. Yet I was still able to complete one portion of the hike with some pain during some portions. I felt very accomplished nonetheless and one day I’d like to train and return to do the whole ring. Stopping for a fresh glass of alpine milk and snacks high up on the mountain was a highlight for me. I also loved the art installation involving doors and the views over the surrounding valleys.
5. Go to the Sunset steps on Lake Constance
In Bregenz, there are steps adjacent to the Promenade known as the ideal place to watch the sunset because of where it sets. These reminded me of Zadar in Croatia. There wasn’t a whole lot of light on the night I did this. But the photos I have seen, make it clear this really is a thing that’s worth the time to do! And I still enjoyed it even without the world’s most amazing sunset.
Cultural Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg
6. Attend an Opera in Bregenz at “James Bond theater”
The movie Quantum of Solace, made this iconic Austrian venue famous worldwide. Yet Seebühne Bregenz, and its Bregenzer Festspiele, was already beloved in its own right. COVID kept performances from occurring for two seasons. But my understanding is the performances will be back and better than ever in 2022. Which is why I’d like to go back to Bregenz again! But even taking a walking tour when performances were not going on, made it easy to see why it is so cherished. It really is unusual and so interesting. You’re sitting on land, watching a performance on the water. How many places in the world can you do that?
7. Visit the Modern Art museum in Bregenz
Kunsthaus is one of the most unusual modern art museums that I have been to anywhere in the world. And I have been to a great many art museums. The building is photogenic and a draw in and of itself. However, it’s the exhibits that are the real draw as they’re never the same twice and often take over all floors with immersive experiences that really give that buzz phrase a run for its money.
10. Go to the Women’s Museum in Hittisau
From the Vorarlberg site: “The museum was founded in the year 2000 by Elisabeth Stöckler. Since that time, it has housed more than 45 exhibitions on topics related to women in culture, society, the arts or architectural history. The museum highlights both regional and international aspects. To complement the exhibitions, the Women’s Museum in Hittisau offers a substantial number of specially organised custom tours, lectures, workshops, concerts, readings and film presentations.”
9. Do the Umgang Trail
My favorite walks in Vorarlberg are almost all part of the Umgang Trail. It can be difficult to explain until you have actually experienced it. But suffice to say, you look for time-worn, rust-colored poles next to interesting buildings and homes. Get close and you will see you can look down into these poles. Inside, a display will tell you why the building or home you are standing near, is significant. There are twelve themed hikes that you can do at your own pace. I found it intellectually stimulating. Yet it was also relaxing to be able to walk the trails at a pace of my own choosing. I recommend getting the Umgang Set to help guide you along the way. It makes a great keepsake. I still cherish mine! When you’re on the Umgang Trail, make sure you don’t skip Werkraum Bregenzerwald.
10. Go see Bus:Stop Krumbach
Just like it sounds, this is a series of bus stops in the area of Krumbach. But it’s so much more. From Bregenzerwald site: “Architects from 7 different countries designed 7 different bus stops in Krumbach: small usable spaces for the public good. And yet this is just one side of this bold project. It was also an opportunity to engage the town in a dialogue about Vorarlberg’s traditions, building culture and craftsmanship. Seven architectural firms from Russia, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Japan, China and Chile were invited to design […]” the bus stops that range in design from an overlook on a tennis court to a scaffolding-like structure and even a camera obscura. They’re absolutely incredible to see and as their use suggests, you can indeed take a public bus to see all the stops.
Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg’s History
11. Walk around Old Town Bregenz
Unlike any other Old Town I have been to in any other European city, the one in Bregenz is almost entirely and completely residential-only. There is one small cafe adjacent to a tower, hugging the old wall. But even it could be said to be perhaps just outside the wall of the Old Town? It was confusing. Yet also, wonderful. Spend some time walking around, drink clear alpine water from the village fountain, talk to friendly residents. Just enjoy being in a place with a complete absence of commercialism. A rare find these days!
12. Take the Countess Tour of Feldkirch
At first, I thought of the cosplay culture when we joined a tour with Countess Mechthild. She was dressed so much like a character from some of my favorite fantasy shows and movies. But I was also infatuated with her enthusiasm for the history of “Austria’s Medieval City.” She so effortlessly brought the past alive in the present! Book a tour with her, or her colleagues, at this link.
Tasty Ways to Enjoy Vorarlberg
13. Shop the Markets in Dornbirn and Bregenz
They are some of the best markets I have been to in Europe. And they’re worth visiting for so many reasons. Pick up souvenirs for loved ones back home. Or flowers for the kitchen table in your VRBO or AirBnB. Buy food for a picnic lunch on Lake Constance. Or at the top of the mountain after you take a cable car ride. Just visit the markets! You won’t be disappointed. [You can also purchase food directly from farm shops in Vorarlberg.]
14. Visit or buy from a craft distillery
While staying at Hotel Bären in Mellau, I discovered Vorarlberg has artisan distilleries. Their gift shop is an excellent place to shop for bottles to take home with you! Vetterhof is a farm shop making shrubs and syrups that are for sale at the hotel. They’re a superb compliment to a gin & tonic. The Ginger, and the Cucumber & Lemon were superb. Löwen Distillery & Inn is a distillery and guest house in the beautiful Bregenz Forest creating Gin. Die Imkerei makes a London-style dry Gin & Honey that I did not get to taste but just hearing about it made my mouth water to own a bottle. See if you can find it when you visit! Broger is a family-run craft distillery making whisky, gin, and fruit & root spirits. Finally, the Keckeis Distillery in Rankweil produces whiskey, rum, gin, and more.
15. Enjoy Vorarlberg through its cuisine
There is no shortage of extraordinary culinary experiences to be had in Vorarlberg where local, in-season ingredients are prioritized. In random order, these are the places I think you simply must dine and drink:
- Rote Wand in Lech am Arlberg is excellent for any meal.
- Weiss in Bregenz has the best cocktails and appetizers!
- Tempel 74 in Mellau
- Hotel Bären is wonderful even if you’re not an overnight guest. Terrific breakfast!
- Johann Gasthaus in Lauterach
- Gasthof Krone in Hittisau
- Hotel am Holand in Au
Take in the Views to really Enjoy Vorarlberg
16. Cable cars
I’ve been in a few cable cars now in the Vorarlberg region. Each has afforded wonderful views while going up and when at the end of the line. Whether you eat or hike, or just enjoy the view, once the ride concludes – I highly recommend a cable car ride. These are the ones I have done:
- village of Mellau, Mellaubahn
- not far from Dornbirn, Karrenseilbahn
- Bergbahnen Diedamskopf cable cars Au-Schoppernau
- Bezau cable car
This is a more comprehensive list that includes cable cars I have not yet been in.
17. Paraglide off a mountain
I still haven’t done this. But I watched it happen many times from the Andelsbuch ski area [in summer]. And every time I longed to run with them and soar into the sky. Please do this for me and let me know if it’s as magical as it seems!
- Buy a Bregenzerwald Guest Card or a My Lech Card. With one purchase, they will allow you free or discounted access to many of the things I have mentioned like the public buses and the cable cars, even the public pools in summer. During my first visit to Vorarlberg, I used mine so much I almost wore it out.
- Book a yoga session with Alina Stadelmann or a spot in one of her retreats with Hotel Bären. The latter is what I did, and the room in the Town Hall that we practiced in had a view of sunrise over the mountains with the children walking to school in front of us. I think my heart melted from sheer happiness during the session. She’s a delightful, sweet person and an excellent yoga teacher.
- Spas! I haven’t personally gotten the chance to do this yet in Vorarlberg. The photo below is of the facilities at Hotel Bären that I, sadly, never had time to use. But I want to go back one day and do a proper spa visit! Please do it for me and let me know how it is!
- Look for a cheese vending machine and buy some cheese to tuck away in your backpack that you can enjoy later! In Mellau, there’s one just across from the supermarket, close to the river. My colleague Lisa includes that in her post about Mellau.
And please, no matter what you do while in Vorarlberg – make sure to get to know the people. They are what really make it special.
What do you think of this list? If you’ve been to Vorarlberg, what would you add?
If you have not, will you visit Vorarlberg to experience any one, or more, of these things?