The capital of Vorarlberg, Austria’s alpine region, Bregenz lies sandwiched between Lake Constance and Pfänder mountain. It’s the combination of lake and mountain that gives the city such a distinctive feel – and makes it the ideal location for exploring the astonishing natural beauty of the Bodensee-Vorarlberg region.
If you’re looking for a city that’s full of culture but also close to nature, Bregenz is the ideal choice. And yet many people have never even heard of it – which means you won’t find the overrun with busloads of tourists. If all that doesn’t tempt you, here are six more reasons to visit Bregenz…
Image copyright: Vorarlberg Tourismus
This is probably the biggest draw in the region. The enormous, sea-like Lake Constance sits right in the corner of Austria and is bordered by three different countries. Using the ferries that traverse the lake, it’s possible to visit all three in one day, or to pop across to Germany for lunch before returning to Austria for dinner.
Austria’s portion of the lake has plenty of gorgeous public beaches, too, and there are loads of opportunities for enjoying the lake. Walk along the banks, explore the marshy-filled Rheindelta nature reserve at Hard, or take to the lake itself for watersports like kayaking or SUP.
In summer, the green hills and rich alpine forests round Bregenz are a paradise for hiking and biking. If you fancy a real challenge, you can cycle around the whole of Lake Constance. The 260km cycle path passes through Austria, Germany, and Switzerland and offers up some amazing views of the lake. If you don’t quite feel up to a multi-day bike trip, the short ride from Bregenz to Hard is a lovely way to pass a morning. The cycle path is flat, wide, and well-kept – and the views along it are sublime.
Hit the Hills
Hiking is fantastic all across the Bodensee-Vorarlberg region. Bregenz itself is ideally situated on the slopes of the Pfänder, a mountain 1064m above sea level which overlooks the city and the lake.
Take the Pfänderbahn cablecar up to the top, or walk up if you fancy a challenge. Along the mountain there are plenty of hiking trails to tempt you, from a 30 minute nature trail to more challenging full-day hikes. Pick up a hiking map at the tourist office and head for the hills.
Bregenz Opera Festival
All summer long, the hills around Bregenz are genuinely alive with the sound of music – as the Bregenz Opera Festival hits the stage. And what a stage; an outdoor theatre on the edge of Lake Constance overlooks a stunning stage built right on the surface of the lake itself.
The opera of choice changes every other year, and with it, the design of the custom-built stage. This year and next it’s Carmen, and the incredible stage was designed by British stage designer Es Devlin. It’s a true work of art, inspired by the moment when Carmen throws her cards into the air.
18th July – 19th August 2018, every night except Monday
Bodensee-Vorarlberg is a fairly small region with great public transport links. Hop on a train to the nearby city of Feldkirch, a pretty medieval town not far from the border with Lichtenstein. The city is known for its beautiful buildings and strong foodie scene – from amazing chocolate shops to traditional alpine food to quirky pizza toppings at trendy Kino Rio.
It’s also a really cultural city with loads of events on year-round. All summer long, you have the popular Poolbar Festival with an eclectic lineup of acts in a venue that was once a public swimming pool. There’s also a weekly classical music concert at Schattenburg Castle, and plenty of other concerts, markets, and events to choose from. During winter, Feldkirch’s Christmas market is said to be the prettiest in the region and it’s the perfect place for some festive fun.
Art and Architecture
Vorarlberg is becoming increasingly well known for its surprisingly rich modern art and architecture scene. Surprising, because this is a region that’s best known for mountains and quaint alpine towns – but the area has also really embraced modern art. In Bregenz, you’ll find the impressive Kunsthaus Bregenz, or KUB. Not only is the building a work of art in itself, but it’s also one of the most important exhibition houses for contemporary art in Europe.
Fans of architecture will find plenty else to discover, from attractive traditional buildings like the striking Bregenz Post Office, to the much more contemporary Festival House on the shore of Lake Constance.
My trip to Vorarlberg was part of a press trip organised by Visit Austria and Vorarlberg State Tourist Board. As always, all words and opinions are mine and unbiased.
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