What comes to your mind when I speak of winter magic in the Austrian Alps? Yes, snow covered mountains and picturesque little towns nested in between high mountain ranges. Well I can offer you all of that in today’s post. Maybe not as much snow as expected, but I’ll top that with fantastic sunshine and stark blue skies. How about that deal? So if you are ready for a very sunny winter magic getaway to the Austrian Alps, follow me to the quaint town of Kitzbühel in Tyrol, western Austria.
Kitzbühel is small town in Tyrol with roughly 8,500 inhabitants and is located a fair 2-hours train ride from Munich. I set off on Friday evening and spent a full weekend in this little town known as one of the most popular ski and winter resorts in the Alps. Kitzbühel is known internationally for its annual World Cup ski race, the Hahnenkammrennen (rooster’s comb race), one of the most difficult race courses worldwide. But Kitzbühel is also known for its glamorous lifestyle with top notch hotels, restaurants, luxurious shops and wealthy guests. But these are only two aspects of Kitzbühel – the beautiful little town has way more to offer and caters to every tourist: breathtaking landscapes, picturesque architecture, a vivid tradition and outdoor activities for everyone, in winter and in summer.
My Kitzbühel weekend was above all a very sunny one. I checked-in in the famous Sporthotel Reisch which used to be one of the hotels of some of the biggest ski legends. The rooms have been recently renovated and are named after ski legends, the design is very contemporary with details pointing to the rich sport history and local tradition. And the hotel’s restaurant is fantastic – I had the best dinner in a long time last Saturday (a fantastic tuna sashimi with avocado purée, a roast saddle of venison with chestnuts, mushrooms, cranberries and semolina dumplings and Brussels sprouts, and crepes filled with apricot jam). Another fantastic hotel is the Kitzhof. I visited its lobby and lounge area and loved the modern design with Alpine details.
The town is pretty compact and small and you can easily walk everything. The center is dotted with small squares and lovely alleys, shopping streets and medieval architecture. Three churches are in walking distance from each other, a museum features relics from the settlement’s long history, contemporary art from local artists (I loved the exhibition of the local painter Alfons Walde) and currently a special exhibition about the Alpine World Cup.
December is a wonderful period to be in Kitzbühel. The city center features a lovely Christmas market with mulled wine, gingerbread and local handicraft and the last weekend was very special as the annual Saint Nicholas event took place. The Austrian Santa Claus in Saint Nicholas and pulls into town on a horse carriage followed by hordes of Krampus, a sort of devilish companion who punishes naughty kids. The tradition is very old in the Alpine region and all places have their own ceremonies and guilds creating ghastly masks and costumes for this event.
Beside the town itself and its rich tradition, it is certainly the surrounding landscape that captivates its visitors most. Kitzbühel is nestled between the Kitzbüheler Horn (1,996 m) and the Hahnenkamm (1,712 m) with stunning views of the rocky mountain range named Wilder Kaiser. No matter if you visit in summer or winter, if you ski or if you just walk around, I strongly recommend a ride up to the Hahnenkamm peak with the cable car – the views are magnificent and you can enjoy great food and drinks at the restaurant ‘Bei Tomschy’ with one of the highest wine cellars in Austria. Another highlight is a drive up to the opposite side of the mountains and a visit to ‘Rosi’s Sonnbergstuben’, a restaurant and guest rooms on 1,200 m altitude overlooking Kitzbühel and the southern mountain ranges with one of the probably sunniest terraces – so be warned, on a sunny day it can get really packed up there but the view is so worth it! Another good address is the Steuerberg Inn with green meadows and beautiful panoramic views of the Kitzbüheler Horn and the Wilder Kaiser mountain range. Take it all in!
As you can see, Kitzbühel has lots to offer. And it is beyond the common clichés – it is a fab place to spend either relaxed or active days, in winter or in summer, taste delicious traditional Alpine food (don’t forget to taste the yummy Kaiserschmarrn, a cut-up pancake with icing sugar and apple sauce). Kitzbühel is a gem in the Austrian Alps and if you ever end up in this corner of Europe, I recommend a visit. You won’t regret it.
Thanks to Kitzbühel Tourism for the invitation to discover their wonderful little town. My opinion remains my own and I truly enjoyed every bit of it.
Photography by Igor Josifovic
This blog post has been brought to you in collaboration with Kitzbühel Tourism