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by Kathy Arnold, The Daily Telegraph, July 28, 2016
Tucked away in Austria’s far west – bordering Switzerland Liechtenstein and Germany – the Vorarlberg is one of the country’s smallest but most charming regions. Better known among skiers, the scenic mountains are also enjoyable in summer. Between the 3,000m peaks and the blue waters of Lake Constance are lovely valleys, rich pastures and pretty villages. Start your break on the lake, in Bregenz, the provincial capital known for its summer music festival (July 20-August 21; bregenzerfestspiele.com/en ). James Bond fans will have seen the spectacular floating stage that featured in the film Quantum of Solace; tickets are still available for the operas.
Exploring Vorarlberg is a pleasure, from driving quiet roads with spectacular views, to staying in family-run hotels. From Bregenz, visit the world’s biggest Rolls-Royce Museum en route to the Brand Valley. Next up is Lech am Arlberg. Favoured by Diana, Princess of Wales for its skiing, it offers mountain adventures in summer. The postcard-pretty village of Schwarzenberg hosts the Schubertiade festival, dedicated to Franz Schubert (August 23-31; schubertiade.at ). Tickets are still on sale, especially for lieder recitals. As well as offering opportunities to buy local cheeses and wood carvings, this itinerary allows time for hiking. So, don’t forget your boots and sun cream.
Rent a car at your arrival airport and drive to Bregenz. Check in to the Hotel Messmer in the heart of the city at 16 Kornmarktstrasse. Stroll along the lakeside promenade, tour the KUB museum at 1 Karl Tizian Platz ( kunsthaus-bregenz.at ; €9/£7.50) to see where art is going in the 21st century, then walk to the Upper Town and poke about in its quiet lanes. At No 29 Kirchstrasse, you will find what must be Europe’s smallest house – just 57cm (less than 2ft) wide. Return to the Lower Town, stopping for dinner at the Gasthaus Maurachbund (0043 557 445 029; dinner around €30): its chef, Heino Huber, is one of Austria’s best.
After breakfast, take the E60 to Dornbirn Sud, Vorarlberg’s largest town. Follow the B204, then Gütlestrasse for 4km up a quiet valley to the Rolls-Royce Museum at 11a Gütle ( rolls-royce-museum.at ; €9), the largest collection of these vehicles in the world. Each car has a story to tell: the 1934 Phantom II, for example, has secret compartments that held the precious stones of its former diamond-dealer owner. Return to Dornbirn. Back on the E60, follow signs for Feldkirch; continue on the A14 to Bludenz. Turn on the L82 up the beautiful Brandnertal (the Brand Valley) to Bürserberg and your hotel for tonight, the Alpinresort Schillerkopf at 1 Tschengla. Take a stroll in the surrounding meadows before dinner.
Start with a visit to the Alpe Rona dairy, a few minutes’ walk away, to learn how mountain cheese is made. Return to the A14 via Bürs; pick up the S16, then the B197 and B198 for Lech am Arlberg. Stop for refreshment at Hûs Nr 8 at 8 Omesberg (0043 558 333 220; hus8.at ), a charming old Walser-style chalet. Check in to the Hotel Austria Lech at 287 Omesberg, then ride up the nearby Rüfikopf cable car to the 2,350m summit. Enjoy lunch and treat views from the terrace of the Panoramarestaurant (0043 558 323 36 278), then take the easy 2½-hour hike over the Alpe Monzabon to the Trittalp and down to the village of Zürs. From there, catch the bus back to Lech for a swim in the hotel’s indoor pool followed by a well-deserved dinner .
Drive along the B198 road to Warth, another attractive mountain resort. Turn on to the B200, which follows the Bregenzer Ach river down to the village of Schwarzenberg – a gorgeous drive, with Alpine meadows, hamlets and mountains galore. Schwarzenberg itself is picture perfect, so take the opportunity to stretch your legs. Enthusiastic hikers can follow well-marked trails for a two-hour workout; otherwise, stroll around the village to see the historic shingled houses. Don’t miss the Angelika Kauffmann Museum at Brand 34 ( angelika-kauffmann.com ; €7), devoted to a local 18th-century painter. Your base for the night is one of Europe’s most romantic hotels, the Gasthof Hirschen at 14 Hof.
After breakfast, return to Bregenz. Park by the Pfänderbahn cable car station, and ride up to the 1,064m summit for a final, glorious vista taking in Lake Constance to the west and Vorarlberg to the east. If time allows, have lunch outdoors at the Pfänderspitze restaurant (0043 557 443 066), visit the wildlife park, and walk back down to town (about an hour). It’s time to leave Vorarlberg and drive back to the airport.
Our recommended hotels
Hotel Messmer, Bregenz
This family-run hotel is right in the pedestrianised centre of Bregenz. With a bar, bistro and 80 comfy bedrooms, it’s a good base for the city and beautiful Lake Constance. Doubles from £80. See our detailed review at: telegraph.co.uk/tt-hotelmessmer
Hotel Austria Lech, Lech am Arlberg
On a sunny hillside, steps from the heart of Lech, the Hotel Austria Lech has been owned and run by the Strolz family since 1964. Guests return for the comforts, cheerful service, extensive facilities (especially for families), great value for money – and, of course, the surrounding mountains. Doubles from £95. See our detailed review at: telegraph.co.uk/tt-hotelaustria
Hotel Austria Lech
Hotel Gasthof Hirschen Schwarzenberg, Schwarzenberg
The current owner of this hotel, in the pretty village of Schwarzenberg, traces his connections with the Hirschen back some two centuries. For romance, stay in the 18th-century main building, which has welcomed artists and royals. Today, panelled walls and parquet floors are matched by modern art and home comforts. Doubles from £80. See our detailed review at: telegraph.co.uk/tt-hotelgasthofhirschen
Hotel Gasthof Hirschen Schwarzenberg, Schwarzenberg
Alpinresort Schillerkopf, Bürserberg
Above the village of Bürserberg, high up on the Tschengla plateau, is this family-run, totally revamped hotel offering oh-wow mountain views. Guests come to hike from the door, ride the endless mountain bike trails, relax in the spa – and do nothing at all. Doubles from £125. See our detailed review at: telegraph.co.uk/tt-alpinresortschillerkopf
Alpinresort SchillerkopfThe best hotels in Vorarlberg View all
- Alpinresort SchillerkopfBürserberg, Vorarlberg, Austria
9Telegraph expert ratingWhat a difference a 10-minute drive makes. Above the village of Bürserberg, high up on the Tschen... Read expert reviewFrom£126inc. taxCheck AvailabilityRates provided byBooking.com
- Hotel Weisses KreuzBregenz, Vorarlberg, Austria
8Telegraph expert ratingIn the centre of Bregenz, the Weisses Kreuz is handy for sights in the city’s Lower and Upper Tow... Read expert reviewFrom£100inc. taxCheck AvailabilityRates provided byBooking.com
- Hotel Austria LechLech am Arlberg, Vorarlberg, Austria
8Telegraph expert ratingOn a sunny hillside, steps from the heart of Lech, the Hotel Austria has been owned and run by th... Read expert reviewFrom£96inc. taxCheck AvailabilityRates provided byBooking.com
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This article was written by Kathy Arnold from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.