Austria’s westernmost province of Vorarlberg lies on a narrow stretch of land sandwiched by Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein. Famous for its high peaks, deep valleys, and blue lakes, Vorarlberg also has extensive rural areas with lush pastures that help produce its famous cheeses. Like its neighboring province of Tyrol, this high Alpine region is a magnet for mountaineers and winter-sports enthusiasts. Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Vorarlberg.
We would like to let you know that our last visit to Vorarlberg was sponsored by the Vorarlberg Tourism Board (Vorarlberg Tourismus) and the Bregenzerwald Tourism Board (Bregenzerwald Tourismus). However, all our opinions are our own 🙂
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Table of Contents
Why You Should Visit Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets and is probably Austria’s most distinctive province. Due to its remote location, the province has always led a life slightly separate from the rest of Austria.
For many centuries, culturally and economically, Vorarlberg has oriented itself towards Switzerland and southern Germany. Indeed, at one point after World War I, Vorarlberg very nearly merged with Switzerland.
Vorarlberg manages to entice and enthrall visitors with postcard-perfect landscapes: picturesque villages, snaking alpine roads, emerald green valleys, shimmering alpine lakes, and meadows dotted with tiny wildflowers, all framed by the arresting snowcapped peaks of the Alps. Apart from a few small pockets of industrialization, hardly a square inch of the province is anything but exceedingly gorgeous.
While it is predominantly known as a winter sports region, Vorarlberg offers excellent facilities for summer activities as well as a world-class summer music festival. There’s also plenty more in its repertoire from lively museums, myriad cultural attractions, restaurants, and shopping,
Although innovative and forward-looking, this mountainous province has fostered a keenness to maintain cultural continuity and links with its past. Voralbergers are mighty proud of their region’s cuisine, architecture, design, and woodworking traditions.
Whether your interests lie in skiing down lofty mountain peaks, hiking, exploring charming villages, museum-hopping, munching on delectable food, or just chilling by the water, there’s something for everyone to do and see in Vorarlberg.
How to Get Around Vorarlberg
Due to the small size of the province, many of the best things to do in Vorarlberg can be done easily with the aid of the efficient Austrian public transportation system.
Vorarlberg’s public transport is extremely well organized, inexpensive, and consists of regional trains and buses. It is easy to track your progress as each stop is announced by a pre-recorded voice and all carriages display the route map, indicating the stops. Switching from one form of transport to another is very seamless.
However, due to the remote location of some of these places, they are better reached with the aid of a car. This will help you save some time and energy. Public transport will still get you there but might take double or triple the time.
Should you be visiting Vorarlberg in the summer or the warmer months, getting around on a bicycle is a fun way to see the province. All kinds of bicycles are available for rent at several sports outlets and hotels all over Vorarlberg.
If you’re planning a couple of days in Vorarlberg, you seriously consider investing in one of Vorarlberg’s Regional Inclusive Cards (Vorarlberg Card, Lech Card, Bregenz Forest Card) that are valid on public transport, cable cars and lifts, guided hikes, in museums and much more. Benefits and dates (usually April/May-October) differ from area to area.
Things to do in Vorarlberg
I have subdivided the places in the list where there are several notable attractions. In a nutshell, these are our favorite things to see and do in Vorarlberg.
1. Things to do in the Bregenz Forest (Bregenzerwald)
Although it is popular with Austrians, Swiss, and Germans, the bucolic delights of the remarkably scenic Bregenz Forest (Bregenzerwald) remain largely unknown to outsiders.
The region is made up of a patchwork of dairy-farming villages among an undulating landscape. However, there isn’t a dense proliferation of trees as its name suggests.
The true charm of the Bregenz Forest lies in exploring the little undiscovered valleys cut by the Bregenzer Ache River and the villages that have maintained much of their age-old traditions. The hills here also provide a wealth of glorious hiking and cross-country skiing opportunities. In the winter, skiers are drawn to the highlands.
The Bregenz Forest is also known for its pretty architecture and you’ll come across many traditional wooden farmhouses that are made using wood from local pine and spruce trees.
Often adorned with carved eaves and balconies overflowing with colorful flowers, these rustic shingle-clad houses are still an incredible sight set within the green valleys and mountainous backdrop.
Conveniently located beneath the rugged northwestern flanks of the famous 2044 meter Kanisfluh massif and impressively framed by mountain scenery, Mellau definitely ranks high among the most idyllic villages in the Bregenz Forest.
Mellau is one of the best places to see the famous Vorarlberg architecture as its landscape is dominated by typical, old Bregenzerwald houses with shingle-clad roofs and contemporary residential buildings. Combining glass and wood, the distinct architecture of Mellau is an incredible sight set within the green valleys and mountainous backdrop.
Sustainable and cosmopolitan, the dynamic between the existing fabric of vernacular architecture and the newly erected edifices is a joy to behold. Some of the most prominent examples of architecture in Mellau are Tempel 74, Naze’s Hus, Mellau Community Center, the cemetery, and the fire station. I was fortunate enough to be taken on a fantastic guided tour of Mellau by the town’s mayor – Tobias Bischofber.
Mellau also provides a fantastic base to explore the Bregenz Forest and from here you can embark on the Umgang Bregenzerwald, a planned walk through 12 villages. It is a great way to enjoy the region’s unsurpassed natural beauty, and beautiful flora and fauna endemic to the area, including the iconic Edelweiss.
Finally, don’t forget to hop aboard the Mellau Cable Car, which takes you uphill to the Roßstelle mountain station. After the six-minute journey to the top, visitors are accorded glorious views of Mellau and the valley below.
Located at an elevation of 1,427 meters above sea level on a shelf just above the Krumbach Valley, Damüls has garnered a well-deserved reputation of being one of the loveliest ski resorts in the Alps. It is known as “the snowiest village in Austria” and receives over 9 meters of snow each winter.
Being the loftiest village in the Bregenz Forest, Damüls is naturally an area of great scenic beauty that is perfect for numerous outdoor activities in the summer as well.
Home to the Alps, picturesque wooden huts, snowcapped mountains, clean crisp mountain air, and shimmering turquoise lakes, the more than 200 km of marked hiking trails leading from Damüls over alpine meadows and attractive peaks are a hiker’s paradise. The trails range from easy trails for solo travelers and families to strenuous paths that get you to the top of mountains for the best Alpine vistas.
Of course, hiking in Damüls is best enjoyed if you have a local guide showing you the way. I had the privilege of being escorted around by Bruno (a retired schoolteacher) & Conny (from Bregenzerwald Tourismus).
Bruno and Conny led us on an intermediate hike around Blue Lake ´(Blauer See), Portlahorn mountain peak, and Sünser Lake (Sünser See). Their compelling stories about the goings-on in the area, as well as explaining the unique culture of Bregenzerwald, made my hike an unforgettable experience.
Also worth seeking out in Damüls is the Church of St. Nikolaus (Pfarrkirche Damüls), located in the town’s cute little center. Boasting a series of vivid Gothic frescoes depicting the various stages of Christ’s life, it is an unexpected delight in Damüls.
c. Visit Werkraum Bregenzerwald
Wood has always played an intrinsic role in Vorarlberg’s culture as is evidenced by the many wooden buildings throughout the region. Given the abundance of wood in the Bregenz Forest, the locals here have acquired exceptional skills in dealing with the material.
The Bregenz Forest’s close association with wood can be further explored at Werkraum Bregenzerwald in the quaint village of Andelsbuch. Created with the assistance of skilled architects and craftsmen of the region, Werkraum Bregenzerwald brilliantly showcases centuries of craftsmanship of the Bregenz Forest under one roof.
At any time of the year, within its 700 m² space, you can expect a range of exhibitions presenting innovative works of its members. You can check the opening hours and prices of Werkraum Bregenzerwald here.
d. Marvel at the bus stops of Krumbach
You’re probably wondering how something as humdrum as a bus stop could make the list of must-see attractions in Vorarlberg. However, the seven bus stops in the market village of Krumbach are anything but prosaic.
They were commissioned as part of a project to add panache to the area’s public transport and as a means to boost tourism. Each of the seven bus stops in Krumbach was individually designed by architectural bigwigs from other nations like Sou Fujimoto (Japan), Alexander Brodsky (Russia), Smiljan Radić (Chile), and Wang Shu (China).
The architects were all invited to spend a holiday in the Bregenz Forest and found inspiration for their designs in the beautiful landscape and local culture. Arguably the most avant-garde bus stops in the world, the seven bus stops of Krumbach bring a whole new perspective to the concept of waiting for a bus.
Reflecting traditional materials and craftsmanship, the bus stops seamlessly mesh with the surrounding environment. Each bus stop design is unique and evokes a different reaction from visitors.
Two of my favorite ones were Haltestelle Bränden designed by Sou Fujimoto and Haltestelle Glatzegg designed by Wang Shu. Haltestelle Bränden resembles a forest of thin white iron rods that barely support a winding staircase in between.
Haltestelle Glatzegg is reminiscent of a folding camera in which people can sit inside. Opening up in the back in a convex shape, its frame accentuates the true gem of the area—the mountainous scenery.
A visit here comes highly recommended and if you want to see all seven stops, simply hop on the regional bus. Better yet, take a walk from one stop to the next.
e. Be intrigued at the Juppenwerkstatt Riefensberg
Just like other regions of Austria, Bregenzerwald also has a traditional women’s costume (tracht). The so-called “Juppe” is a decorative, overtly feminine dress, that is the oldest traditional costume in the Alpine region dating to the 15th century.
The festive costume is worn by women in the Bregenzerwald on festive occasions on Sundays for mass in the church. It is made up of a fitted bodice sewn onto a long, glossy, pleated skirt (usually black), which has 500 to 600 folds. Additionally, this antiquated piece of attire is embellished with elaborate headgear and an ornate belt.
Today, the best place to learn about the history and production of the Juppe is at the Juppenwerkstatt Riefensberg, which functions as both a craft workshop and museum. You get an insight into the long and arduous process involved in the creation of the Juppe. On display at the museum are various styles of Juppe.
The production and sale of the juppe are only practiced in the Juppenwerkstatt Riefensberg. Only about 30 Juppe are produced each year and given how much work goes into creating, it’s not surprising that their cost ranges from 3,000-8000 EUR per piece.
If you are considering buying the Juppe, you’ll most likely be out of luck. Its sale is strictly regulated and it can’t just be purchased and worn by anyone. You are only allowed to wear the Juppe if you reside in Bregenzerwald or marry someone from the region.
A visit to Juppenwerkstatt Riefensberg comes highly recommended as you can see one of the most beautiful and precious traditional costumes in Europe. I was lucky enough to visit the Juppenwerkstatt on an insightful guided tour that also accorded me the possibility to see a seamstress in action.
However, you can also visit the place without taking a guided tour. The Juppenwerkstatt Riefensberg is open on Tuesday (10:00-12:00) and Friday (10:00-12:00 & 14:00-16:00). The entrance costs 5 EUR.
Perched at an elevation of 650 meters above sea level, the picturesque village of Bezau is surrounded by a landscape that’s scenic throughout the year. It is a convenient starting point for numerous local walks and In the warmer months, you can hike, climb, swim, go mountaineering, or paragliding.
A great way of seeing the highland pastures is by hopping aboard the Bezau Aerial tramway (Bezau Seilbahn).
Spread across verdant knolls and girdled by pine-clad slopes, Schwarzenberg is the best-known village in the Bregenz Forest. Representing the Bregenz Forest at its most scenic, postcard-pretty Schwarzenberg has its fair share of well-preserved homes hung with wooden shingles.
Schwarzenberg is best-known as being the hometown of Angelika Kauffmann, an acclaimed Neoclassical artist who was the most important female painter of her time. You can learn more about her life and see a few of her original artworks at the Angelika Kauffmann Museum.
Another place worth exploring in Schwarzenberg is the local Holy Trinity Church (Dreifaltigkeitskirche). Here you can see Kauffmann’s paintings depicting Christ’s apostles and disciples in the nave.
Finally, Schwarzenberg also hosts the annual Schubertiade, the world’s leading festival celebrating the work of Austrian musician Franz Schubert. Taking place in mid-June and late August, Schubertiade features Schubert-penned songs performed by top international names.
2. Things to do in Bregenz
Vorarlberg’s capital, Bregenz, is strategically and attractively situated on the southeastern shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee), at the edge of the Rhine valley and the foot of the Austrian and Swiss Alps. With a population of around 30,000, it combines the laid-back gentility of a lakeside resort with the vigor of a bustling business and cultural center.
Bregenz is an alluring place boasting a broader range of sights and night-time diversions than anywhere else in Austria west of Innsbruck.
a. Explore Lake Constance (Bodensee)
The focal point of attention in Bregenz is Lake Constance (Bodensee) itself. One of the best-known European lakes, it is the third-largest freshwater lake in the European Union, and certainly one of its most scenic.
The mountains encircling Bregenz extend right up to the water, creating an astonishingly picturesque setting. An attractive promenade and a green swath of parkland with well-tended flowerbeds run along the lakefront.
The promenade along the Bodensee’s shoreline is understandably a popular hangout, especially in the summer, when hordes of locals flock here for an invigorating swim in the sparkling waters. It’s worth investing in renting a bicycle or going onboard one of the myriad cruise ships departing from the town for stunning views of the lake.
The internationally acclaimed annual Bregenz Music Festival (Bregenzer Festspiele) takes place at the western end of the park. Held annually during a four-week period in mid-July to mid-August, the festival features lavish theater and opera performances, as well as symphony concerts and fine art exhibitions.
Bregenz is undoubtedly at its liveliest during this festival. Opera-goers and music lovers flock here to enjoy many performances that take place on the famous Seebühne, an elaborately decorated, humongous floating stage that stretches far onto the lake.
Bregenz featured in the film Quantum Of Solace (2008), in the scene where James Bond (Daniel Craig) identifies members of Quantum watching the performance of Tosca on the shores of Lake Constance.
b. Wander around the Bregenz Upper Town (Oberstadt)
The formerly fortified Upper Town (Oberstad/Altstadt) is the oldest part of Bregenz and features several well-preserved historic buildings and the remains of 13th-century fortifications. It’s a lovely place to wander on foot, as many of the streets here retain their old-world charm and remain largely free of traffic.
As you wander through the Upper Town’s quiet squares and narrow cobblestone streets such as Eponastraße and Graf-Wilhelm-Straße, you’ll be transported to the Middle Ages.
One of the fascinating things to see here is the house at Kirchstraße 29, whose 57 cm wide façade makes it one of Europe’s narrowest houses. Inside, however, the house opens at an acute angle, and at its “thickest” point, the house is a whole six meters wide.
Notable attractions in the Upper Town include the inescapable St. Martin Tower (Martinstrum), the Old Town Hall (Alte Rathaus), and the Parish Church of St. Gallus (Pfarrkirche St Gallus)—a 14th-century Gothic structure with splendid Baroque interiors.
The rectangular St. Martin’s Tower is probably the most recognizable landmark in Bregenz and has become a symbol of the city. Built around 1600 as a watchtower, its muted color scheme is reminiscent of Moorish architecture.
The tower is home to a large collection of city archives, displays, and medieval ceiling frescoes. Far more interesting, however, is the view of the surroundings from the bulbous wooden dome at the top of the tower. You can find the opening hours and prices of St. Martin’s Tower here.
Finally, don’t miss the imposing half-timbered Old Town Hall in the center of the Upper Town! Now a residential building, it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. I was besotted with its crisscrossed beams and red and white shutters.
c. Bregenz Lower Town (Innenstadt)
Bregenz’s Lower Town (Innenstadt/Unterstadt) is the much newer and more modern part of town. It is home to the city’s premier shopping district. You’ll find plenty of boutiques and trendy wine bars below elegant domes, gables, and towers.
Two of the highlights of the Lower Town include the New Town Hall (Rathaus) and the Neo-Gothic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Pfarrkirche Bregenz-Herz Jesu). Also worth seeing is the small Chapel of St George (Seekapelle St. Georg) whose murky interior contains an impressive 17th-century altar.
d. Check out the museums
One of the best things to do in Bregenz is to visit not only the city’s but also Vorarlberg’s two top museums – the dramatic Vorarlberg Museum and the intriguing Kunsthaus Bregenz.
This Vorarlberg Museum provides an engaging survey of the province’s history and folk culture dating back to ancient times. Some of the highlights of the museum are the collection of portable organs and the art collection which holds many beautiful portraits by Angelika Kauffmann, a celebrated artist of the Neoclassical period.
Also of note are the museum’s Roman and Gothic sculptures, reliefs. paintings, old altarpieces, and beautiful gold and silver ornaments. You can find the opening hours and prices of the Vorarlberg Museum here.
The Kunsthaus Bregenz is one of the region’s leading museums of modern art and a must-see for art aficionados. Housed in an attractive cube of green-hued glass plates, steel, and poured concrete that resembles a giant lamp, the museum showcases revolving avant-garde exhibitions.
The building’s minimalist design and structure ensure that the museum’s furnishings present an atmospheric backdrop to the stuff on display. You can check opening hours and prices here. N.B. Try to see the building at night as well for its striking lighting.
f. Go up the Pfänder
Commanding an excellent panorama of Lake Constance to the northeast of town is the 1,064-meter-high peak Pfänder. It is a favorite destination for hikers and is roughly a two-hour trek via a steep footpath.
It is also possible to reach the top of the summit via a six-minute journey aboard the Pfänderbahn cable car. You can check opening hours and prices here.
A visit to the Pfänder comes highly recommended as the magnificent views extending across Lake Constance and the German and Swiss towns located along the lakeshore are hard to beat. On a clear day, over 200 mountain peaks are said to be visible.
At the summit, you’ll also come across a scattering of shops and restaurants along with the Pfänder Alpine Wildlife Park (free entrance), where it’s easy to spot red deer, mouflons, mountain goats, wild boar, and alpine marmots. It takes about half an hour to wander through its rocky terrain.
3. Things to do in Feldkirch
Feldkirch is the second-largest town in Vorarlberg and is also the most westerly town in Austria. Often overlooked by most travelers, this charming medieval market town is devoid of any blockbuster attractions but certainly deserves a quick stopover.
a. Explore the Old Town
The best thing to do in Feldkirch is take a leisurely stroll through the Old Town, which is largely pedestrianized. Much of the activity in the Old Town revolves around two parallel arcaded market squares, Neustadt and Marktgasse, that are bounded to the south and west by a succession of medieval towers and gates.
Keep your camera close by as you walk around the cobblestone streets. Take some time to admire the numerous late-Gothic townhouses, many of which are graced with large bay windows and frescoed facades.
One of the highlights of the Old Town is the Gothic Feldkirch Cathedral (Domkirche St. Nikolaus). Take a peek inside to admire its double nave, exquisite kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows, and Wolf Huber’s Annenaltar, which features the Lamentation of Christ. The church is open daily from 08:00-18:00.
Other notable sights in the Old Town include the ornate 14th-century Chur Gate (Churer Tor) and the spindle-shaped Cats Tower (Katzenturm), which gets its name from the lions’ heads that once adorned the defense cannon housed here.
While you’re walking, take time to browse the shops or stop for a coffee at one of the cafés.
b. Pay a visit to Schattenburg Castle
Make the trek up to the Schattenburg Castle, which sits majestically above Feldkirch. Dating back to the 12th century, Schattenburg is one of Austria’s best-preserved medieval castles.
Today, Schattenburg Castle houses a museum devoted to history with a collection of medieval weaponry, peasant crafts, furnishings, religious art, and costumes from the period. You don’t have to be a medieval nerd to enjoy a tour of the castle and museum.
From the castle precincts, you can also enjoy panoramic views of Feldkirch and the Rhine Valley. You can find opening hours and entrance prices here.
4. Things to do in Dornbirn
Located in the heart of Vorarlberg, Dornbirn is the province’s commercial hub and largest town. Famed for its many textile companies, the town acquired the moniker “city of textiles.”
Dornbirn’s main market square is graced by a 19th-century neoclassical parish church and by an attractive 17th-century building – the Red House (Rotes Haus). The town has little tourist appeal except for a few notable attractions in its environs.
a. Go Hiking up Karren Peak
Karren is to Dornbirn what the Pfänder is to Bregenz. The 976-meter peak is extremely popular with locals and tourists and makes for an enjoyable excursion.
If you’re in good shape, you can make the climb in about 2 hours. Otherwise, the summit can be reached via a five-minute journey aboard the Karrenseilbahn cable car. You can check opening times and prices here.
From the 12-meter balcony of the “Karren-Kante” viewpoint, you can not only treat yourself to spectacular views of the Rhine Valley, the Swiss mountains, and Lake Constance but also get the impression you’re floating in the air.
b. Be Thrilled at the Rolls-Royce Museum
If you’re a car buff and have a penchant for vintage beauties, you shouldn’t pass up a visit to the Rolls-Royce Museum, the world’s largest museum dedicated to one of the world’s most prestigious automobile makers.
A dazzling array of around 70 swanky cars, many of whom were once owned by the glitterati, are on display at the museum, along with engines and accessories. Although virtually all the cars are stunningly gorgeous, the highlight of the collection is the various Phantom-model Rolls-Royces.
Look out for the white 1927 Phantom I that Peter O’Toole drove in Lawrence of Arabia; the 1932 Phantom II driven by actress Rita Hayworth; and the elegant 1936 Phantom III, which belonged to the late Queen Mother of the British Royal Family.
You can check the opening hours and prices of the Rolls-Royce Museum here.
c. Visit the Rappenloch Gorge
Lovers of the outdoors should head out to the Rappenloch Gorge (Rappenlochschlucht), one of the largest gorges in the Eastern Alps, with the gushing Ache River flowing through it. Another highlight of this scenic area is the smaller but by no means less fascinating Alploch Gorge (Alplochschlucht).
The area features a number of well-marked trails. Hiking between the untamed waterfalls and craggy cliffs is an unforgettable experience for any hiker.
5. Feast on hearty Vorarlberg Cuisine
One of the best things to do in Vorarlberg is sampling the province’s hearty cuisine. The cuisine of Vorarlberg is a little distinct from other regions in Austria and is more closely aligned with eastern cantons of Switzerland and Upper Swabia in Germany. Cheese, of course, features prominently in many dishes.
One of the most popular foods from Vorarlberg is Kässpätzle (Käsknöpfl). The rustic dish, which is a combination of egg pasta with cheese and roasted onion, is very much a local staple. Jacky and I are both huge fans of Kässpätzle and consumed copious amounts of this delicious dish.
Another popular traditional dish from Vorarlberg is Riebel – a porridge made with a combination of cornmeal, milk, butter, and salt. Traditionally a working class meal, Riebel can be eaten as both a sweet and savory dish. It can be served with stewed fruit, sugar, or applesauce, and may also be enjoyed along with local cheese and mushrooms.
If you enjoy soups, I definitely recommend trying Flädlesuppe (pancake soup). This clear soup is served simply with strips of pancake ribbons and a sprinkling of fresh chives or parsley.
Another culinary specialty of Vorarlberg is Sig, a round brownish dumpling that is made from caramelized whey. Popularly referred to as “Bregenzerwald Chocolate”, Sig actually is an interesting mix of sweet, sour, and salt, coupled with a very intense whey-like taste. Give it a shot, you may actually like it!
Finally, a visit to Vorarlberg wouldn’t be complete without sampling the region’s famed and delicious cheeses. Cheese is a way of life in Vorarlberg and is enjoyed throughout the day as a delicacy in its own right. If you’re a cheese lover, You’ll get your money’s worth.
There are more than 60 cheese varieties to choose from and each has its own individual flavor, texture, and aroma.
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Beer is the drink of choice in Vorarlberg and most beer from the region is a high-quality brew of the light, continental-lager, or pilsner type. Popular beers that you’ll encounter throughout Vorarlberg are Fohrenburger, Mohren, and Frastanzer.
6. Be bowled over by the beauty of Lech and Zürs
Straddling Vorarlberg’s border with Tyrol, the dramatic Arlberg massif is home to mountainscapes of desolate beauty. Here, you will find the beautiful mountain village resorts of Lech am Arlberg and Zürs am Arlberg.
Situated on a large plateau at an elevation of 1,440 meters above sea level Lech is the archetype of a snug alpine ski village. It offers a large number of ski options that challenge intermediate skiers as well as professionals.
Such is its reputation as a high-society playground that many celebrities and royals spend their winter holidays in Lech. Similarly, the neighboring village of Zürs has a well-deserved reputation as an elegant and cozy resort.
Once the snow has melted, both Lech and Zürs are truly stunning places to be in the warmer months. Their high-altitude climate, fresh mountain air, pristine drinking water, and brilliant scenery are favored by those seeking a relaxing break.
Thanks to the lush mountain meadows, deserted mountain lakes, emerald green peaks, and incredible array of walking trails, the area is a paradise for demanding hikers, bikers, climbers, and those seeking adventure.
You can also take a cable car to the 2350-meter Rüfikopf, which towers above Lech to the east. The ride up and down provides breathtaking panoramic views of the Upper Lech Valley.
Lech has still managed to preserve some of its rural charms thanks to some attractive alpine wooden log houses, and a dainty Gothic Parish Church (Pfarrkirche). Overlooking the village center from a small hillock, the church boasts some faded 14th-century frescoes.
If you’re in the area, it’s worth checking out Skyspace Lech – a walk-in art installation by maverick American artist James Turrell whose work mainly focuses on the delicate relationship between light and space. Try to go either at sunrise or sunset. You can find opening hours and prices here.
7. Explore the Montafon Valley and Bludenz
Presided over by the Rätikon, Verwall, and Silvretta ranges, the Montafon Valley stretches some 40 km and is one of Vorarlberg’s most scenic landscapes. This narrow valley, with its flurry of postcard-perfect mountain villages, is so photogenic and scenic, that it is hard to believe that such beauty still exists in the world.
The Montafon is a magnet for winter sports enthusiasts and liveliest in winter between November and April. Besides skiing, other winter activities possible in the area include cross country skiing, tobogganing, as well as sleigh rides, and ice skating.
Although known for its winter sports, the Montafon Valley is also popular in summer. The warm-weather allure here revolves around walking, hiking, and climbing in the alpine majesty of Vorarlberg.
Montafon Valley locals pride themselves on the proximity of Piz Buin, the highest peak in Vorarlberg at 3,312 meters above sea level.
Two of the best-known villages in the Montafon Valley are Schruns and Tschagguns. Schruns is the largest resort in the Montafon Valley, lying on the right bank of the Ill River while the smaller Tschagguns lies to the southwest of Schruns.
Take a relaxed stroll through the historical center of Schruns and admire the local architecture. Also worth seeing is the Parish Church St. Jodok (Pfarrkirche St. Jodok), whose elegant onion spire is a sight to behold.
Although it appears relatively plain and unadorned from the outside, the church surprises on the inside with its rich decoration of pictures and statues.
The influential American literary icon Ernest Hemingway hiked to this region in 1925, attracted by the beauty of the area, the proximity to the pistes, and the copious amounts of alcohol in local bars. He stayed at the Posthotel Taube and penned a couple of chapters of The Sun Also Rises during his time spent in Schruns.
We really enjoyed exploring the Montafon Valley for its gorgeous scenery and cultural attributes. One of the pleasures of visiting the Montafon Valley is getting an opportunity to see some of the locals sporting traditional attire, which is predominantly made of fine, black wool fabric.
The town of Bludenz is beautifully situated at the confluence of five alpine valleys. Aside from being a regional transport hub, Bludenz is probably best-known for being home to the Milka Chocolate Factory and a popular resort with excellent skiing areas in its vicinity.
However, the small town is worthy of a quick stroll through its center and has some historic sights including rows of 17th-century townhouses. It is worth checking out the Upper Gate (Oberes Tor), a former city gate that now houses the town history museum.
The big draw in Bludenz is the 16th-century Parish Church St. Lawrence (Laurentiuskirche), which is noted for its impressive 48-meter octagonal tower. Inside are two original altars made from black marble and paintings showing the Marriage of the Virgin Mary and the Visitation.
8. Pay a visit to the Rankweil Basilica
Majestically surveying the town of Rankweil from a crag, the imposing Rankweil Basilica (Basilika Rankweil) looks straight out of a fairy tale. The church itself dates from the 8th century but gained its current late-Gothic appearance from an extensive face-lift in the late 15th century.
The main object of veneration for pilgrims to Rankweil is the 13th-century silver-plated cross that bears a tender relief of the crucified Christ. In addition, people also come here to see the Baroque altar, which has a Gothic Madonna and Child as its centerpiece.
Various miracles have been attributed to the cross that has turned Rankweil into the main pilgrimage center for the Roman Catholic population in this region of Europe.
The wooden parapet outside the church offers excellent panoramas of the Rhine Valley and the Swiss Alps. Rankweil Basilica is open daily from 07:00-20:00. The entrance is free.
9. Go for a scenic drive on the Silvretta Hochalpenstraße
The Silvretta Hochalpenstraße deserves to be on any list of the world’s most scenic drives. No matter how many mountain roads you have driven before, the serpentine Silvretta Hochalpenstraße in southern Vorarlberg will take your breath away.
Stretching a little over 22 km in length, the spectacular private toll road runs just beyond the village of Partenen to the Silvretta Reservoir and Bielerhöhe Pass at the southeastern end of the Montafon Valley over 34 hairpin bends. Along the way, you can gawk at the stupendous Alpine scenery that makes this part of Vorarlberg so appealing.
Don’t miss the incredible lookout point from which you can see a large stretch of the road! Seeing the hairpin bends from above is arguably even more impressive than driving them.
It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vorarlberg, so if you can, try to come early in the morning or late in the evening. The road is open from around May to October, though it will stay open or open early if conditions permit. You can check prices and more information here.
Where to Eat in Vorarlberg
Two of the best places I had the pleasure of experiencing traditional Vorarlberg cuisine were Naze’s Hus in Mellau and the excellent restaurant at Biohotel Schwanen in the town of Bizau. Both establishments are housed in traditional alpine houses whose oak floors, beams, and charming historical furnishings are a throwback to earlier times – with modern comfort that leaves nothing to be desired.
Overseen by the fifth-generation owner and skilled chef Emanuel Moosbrugger, the cozy restaurant of Biohotel Schwanen offers creative dishes and 5-7 course gourmet menus. There is also a daily changing lunch menu and a daily special. Game is featured in season, and Austrian classics, including Tafelspitz, are always served.
During my visit there, I was treated to a heavenly feast of veal fillet, roasted nuts & ragout of locally sourced lamb, and vanilla ice cream with delicious blueberries from Damüls. If you do go there, I’m sure that whatever you eat, you won’t walk away disappointed.
From the excellent kitchen of Naze’s Hus, you can experience typical Austrian favorites such as Kässpätzle, Zwiebelrostbraten (slices of roast beef liberally covered with fried onions), and Flädlesuppe.
Besides these two places, there are numerous quality places to experience both traditional and international cuisine in Vorarlberg, especially around the main towns of Bregenz, Dornbirn, and Feldkirch.
Where to Stay in Vorarlberg
Whether you are looking for a hotel in a city center, at a leading winter resort, on the edge of a lake, or in unspoiled countryside, Vorarlberg offers accommodation that favors all tastes and budgets. The small size of Vorarlberg makes it possible for you to set up camp in one place and conveniently travel from there.
Budget: Hotel Ibis Bregenz. This centrally-located hotel is one of the best value for money hotels in Bregenz. Located adjacent to the main train station, there are plenty of shopping and dining options nearby.
Mid-Range: Hotel Bären Mellau. We stayed at this cozy hotel for four nights. Located in the charming village square, there are plenty of shops and restaurants in the vicinity of the property.
The comfortable and spacious rooms at Hotel Bären are equipped with a kitchenette including a refrigerator and feature en-suite bathrooms. Additionally, most rooms here boast views of the Mellenbach mountain stream and surrounding mountains.
The hotel has an in-house cafe-restaurant that serves an excellent breakfast buffet. One of the best breakfast buffets we’ve gorged on, Hotel Bären’s opulent spread offers everything that makes your heart beat faster and your palate desires: fresh fruit, healthy yogurt, muesli, riebel, pastries, cakes, home-made jams, regional ham and sausage, eggs, many delicious kinds of cheese, and juices.
Luxury: Hotel Alpenstern Damüls. One of Vorarlberg’s best luxury hotels, we stayed here for two nights. Recently refurbished, this 4-star superior resort hotel is owned by the amiable Bischof-Steinfeld family. It is the perfect setting for a calming getaway due to its idyllic location at the Damüls-Mellau ski slopes.
Hotel Alpenstern is furnished with swish designer rooms and guests will be pampered with breathtaking mountain views, fabulous service, and exquisite culinary delights. Head chef Peter Bischof and his team ensure that the food at the hotel’s two restaurants is always regionally and creatively cooked. Bar manager Oliver Polster and his attentive staff guarantee that the hotel’s sleek bar is a great place for enjoying innovative cocktails and soothing drinks.
The Wellness Zone features an indoor pool, saunas, a sunbathing deck on the roof, comfy loungers, and there is even an infinity pool that makes for the ideal spot to watch the sunset. Equipped with a vitamin bar, there’s a full range of facilities here to help you decompress and recharge.
Now, what do you think? What are some of the best things to do in Vorarlberg? And is Vorarlberg on your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!