If you live in close touch with nature and you have a fable for historical castellated buildings in which former monarchs could have lived, with high rooms and lovely balconies as well as saunas and health spas? – Yes, you are totally right in Bad Gastein, Austria. This remarkable place is a spa town in the district of St. Johann/Pongau in one of the nine Austrian states called Salzburg.
For those of you haven’t really heard about Austria yet…
Austria is a landlocked country in Central Europe with over 8.66 million citizens. It is bordered by Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, Switzerland to the west, and Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany to the north. The small but highly mountainous territory is lying within the Alps where only a third of the country is below 500 meters (1,640 ft.) above sea level. The highest point is the summit of the Großglockner at 3,798 meters (12,461 ft.).
Bad Gastein is located at the head of the Gastein valley which separates the Ankogel Group in the east from the Goldberg Group in the west, two important mountain passes rising as high as 2,000 meters above sea level. Bad Gastein was a strategic essential location in former days for people who, either on foot or by horse, transported goods from north to south. That’s probably why Romans settled Gastein Valley more than 2,000 years ago, and were probably well aware of the healing powers of the waters that bubbled up from the hot springs.
The town center is built around a giant waterfall, about 1,000 meters (3,300 ft.) above sea level and is characterized by numerous historic hotel buildings erected on the steep slopes. A nice promenade leads you along the head of the valley through all the historic buildings of the Belle Époque (the time span of about 30 years around the turn of 19th to 20th century) and reveals the view at the huge waterfall and the valley.
The name German word Bad means spa and is reflecting the town’s history as a health resort. The so called healing tunnel which carries the world-famous hot springs earned the town its early fame. During the centuries numerous illustrious guests, such as Emperor Franz Josef I and his spouse Empress Elisabeth, Franz Grillparzer, Franz Schubert, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sigmund Freud and many others, gave Gastein the reputation of a modern, cosmopolitan spa destination.
So the village is quite popular for its relaxing atmosphere and treatments since a very long time. But nowadays there is a lot more to experience in the Gastein valley than the hot springs.
So what to do?
The village is definitely not only a memory of former times but provides a lot of activities throughout the whole year. The Hohe (which means high)Tauern region is a mountain range on the main chain of the Central Alps in Austria and is a huge area for winter sports like skiing, etc. and a lot of hot springs resorts. As the Hohe Tauern region is a National Park it offers in summer more than 350 kilometers of marked paths for hiking or mountain biking and the 55 mountain huts, staffed from June until late autumn are happy to serve you with homemade products. Bathing in one of the natural alpine lakes is definitely one of the summer’s highlights. There are plenty of possibilities for young to old visitors. Check out the detailed list on the website of the region.
Something else quite special are yoga days which some hotels of the region stage twice a year (in spring and autumn). They have a great program including different kinds of yoga as well as cooking and nutrition sessions – a great chance to have perfect holidays for body, mind and soul. Especially when you enter the valley in the more quiet time of the year when the Indian summer ends the charm of the historic town takes full effect.
Where to stay?
The hotel where I spent my last stay in Bad Gastein is the Villa Excelsior a grand mansion built in the years 1895-1897. Where back then Sigmund Freud spent his summer holiday today artists, actors, authors and guests from all over the world are meeting. In 2002 the current owner started to redevelop the Villa after the original plans and still tries to furnish the house with authentic collector’s pieces. Hence every room looks different and has its own charm.
The Villa is situated on the mentioned promenade, far away from the noise of traffic. Beautiful walks on the promenade and several hiking routes start directly in front of the Villa. Within 5 min walking distance you reach the historic village center of Bad Gastein. In the garden or on the sunny terrace you can enjoy the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.
The restaurant and the green salon also have a great view of the Gastein valley and not only the location but also the food is a real pleasure.
If you are tired of all the activities you can spend your afternoon in the affectionately furnished bar with WIFI or choose a book from the library. During summer you can spend your time on their garden-terrace or at the Pool.
Further accommodations for different tastes and budgets you can find here.
How to get there?
Whether you book a flight to Vienna, Salzburg or Munich the Tauern Railway (from the north across the Alps trough the Tauern region to Carinthia in the south) is running frequently. Eurocity (EC) and Intercity (ICE) trains connect Bad Gastein with many Austrian cities like Wien, Linz, Salzburg, Villach and Graz along a single circuit within approximately 3 hours. The main Austrian railroad company provides a detailed schedule.
If you go by car you take the highway A10 from Salzburg in the north or Villach in the south and exit at the interchange 47 Pongau/Bischofshofen and follow the B311 until the sign of the B167 lead you in the Gastein Valley. Along this road you pass the lower municipalities of Dorfgastein and Bad Hofgastein before you reach Bad Gastein at the end of the valley about 1 hour south of Salzburg.
I can really recommend visiting the Austrian Alps at least once in a live time. Most of the visitors who love nature and the tasty Austrian food come regularly to harness the bunch of outdoor activities by day and the spas and delicious food in the evenings.