There’s something magical about historic European cities in winter. A dusting of snow, twinkly lights, crisp chilly nights and the smell of glühwein and Christmas biscuits make everything seem extra special. So when Jet2Holidays asked me to try out one of their city break packages, I couldn’t resist a wintery weekend in Salzburg.
Like most girls I went through a horse-obsessed phase – but foot-high jumps and managing to cling on when we got to a canter were the extent of my horsemanship. It’s years now since I was last on a horse, but I’m still in awe of their power and grace, particularly when someone else is doing the riding. So when I visited Vienna, I thought I’d see how it was really done at the city’s Spanish Riding School. Unfortunately it turned out that I wasn’t the only one on holiday in July.
Walking through Vienna is a bit like walking into the pages of a fairytale, as a horse and carriage trots past one ornate palace after another. The Austrian capital is bursting with Imperial history and Baroque architecture, with a musical accompaniment by Mozart and Strauss. But there’s also a more modern side, with Art Nouveau and modernist art, and a darker side to the city as depicted in The Third Man.
Just outside the centre of Vienna, Schloss Schönbrunn one of the city’s most famous and impressive buildings. It’s sometimes called the Austrian Palace of Versailles – and after I’ve failed to visit the French version in all my trips to Paris, I was determined to see the Austrian one. Schönbrunn is set on an area of land which had been owned by the Habsburg family since 1569, and gets its name from a ‘beautiful well’ in the grounds.
With four of us travelling together on our European rail trip this summer, it made sense to rent an apartment instead of booking two hotel rooms when we were in a city for a few days. But as we only had a couple of nights in St Anton – and one was my mum’s birthday – we decided to splash out on a bit of luxury in the lovely Valluga Hotel.
Every winter, the town of St Anton am Arlberg in Austria’s Tyrolean Alps becomes a mecca for skiers and snowboarders. Rated as one of Europe’s top resorts, winter sports fans come from around the world to take advantage of its fantastic pistes and the serious après-ski partying after hours. But what happens when the snow melts and the skiers head home?