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The Best of the West in Austria

© by Arnold Weisz

Spectacular views, medieval castles, Buddhist temples, cosy historic small towns and sunsets by the sea. We experienced the Best of the West when we visited the Rhine Valley in Vorarlberg in western Austria.

We used the small town of Feldkirch at the foot of the Alps as a base for exploring the Rhine Valley. The river Rhine makes up the border with Switzerland, and as far west you get in Austria. The city is ideally located on the main road that runs through the state. Hence, it’s quick and easy to get around. Vorarlberg is the smallest state in Austria (about 110 x 150 km), and the distances are minimal. Check out the Best of the West!

Market days in Feldkirch

The main reason to visit Feldkirch is the lovely old town and castle. Both are typical of the Middle Ages, with towers, parts of a city wall and cosy streets with historical architecture. Before you head out exploring the town on foot, get a map of the old town at the tourist office. Then, start your tour on the main square (Marktplatz) and venture into the narrow side streets. We were fortunate to visit Feldkirch on one of the weekly market days (Tuesdays and Saturdays). Consequently, the town centre was extra lively on these days. Local trading companies had filled Marktgasse with stalls, which sold everything from food, and clothes to ornaments.

Shopping in historic surroundings

You will still find plenty of shopping opportunities if you’re not in town on a market day. The curved vaults on either side of Marktgasse are also filled with shops and eateries. You will also find streets with attractive historical buildings outside the old town. Take a trip over the river (the bridge at Wasserturm) to Gilmstrasse and return to the other side via Liechtensteiner Strasse. On both sides of the bridge, you will find several beautiful houses from different eras. When you have done some rounds down in Feldkirch, you should also take a trip up to Schattenburg.

< Click on the images to enlarge >

Castle Schattenburg

Feldkirch arose in the 1300s in the shadow of Schattenburg, the medieval castle. The castle has an excellent museum that gives you insight into life at the castle over the centuries. Moreover, the castle has an extensive weapon collection, stretching from the Middle Ages to the Second World War. Schattenburg was built in the early 1200s and is well worth a visit. You can visit the museum on your own or with a guide. If you prefer to wander around at your leisure, bring an audio guide for information about the exhibits. We spent about 1 ½ hours touring the museum on our own.

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The mountain monastery

You don’t have to venture far from the castle to much more peaceful surroundings to enjoy nature and spiritual experiences. The link between Buddhism and beautiful mountain scenery is, after all, not unfamiliar. Colourful prayer flags weave in the wind towards the backdrop of the mountains. Well, it indeed reminds me of the Himalayas. The Buddhist Temple Tashi Rabten is located on the hill south of Feldkirch. If you announce your visit a day or two before, you can have a guided tour and attend a meal at the temple. Afterwards, we recommend going to Stadtschrofen (see Google Maps) for a beautiful view of Feldkirch. The trail begins just behind the temple, and the hike takes about 15-20 minutes. Nonetheless, if you are unsatisfied with this view, come with us to the next sightseeing destination for some spectacular views.

Tri-country views

Whether you have a snack with a view or maybe a little hike, we recommend a trip to Karren by Dornbirn (see Google Maps and the picture at the top of the page). The mountain is only a 30 km / 35-minute drive from Feldkirch. Take the Dornbirner Seilbahn to the top at 976 m. The view from the platform, which almost seems to hang in the air, is indescribable. The view includes the western tip of Austria, Switzerland at the horizon and across the lake, Germany. The restaurant is open all day as well as evening. Hence, you can have a snack after a hike, hearty lunch or a nice evening dinner on the mountain. However, if you want to enjoy an afternoon or evening by the water, continue to the seaside town of Bregenz.

Seaside fun in Bregenz

The seaside promenade in Bregenz is perfect for enjoying a drink or a glass of wine at the Fischersteg – Sunset Bar. Or you can relax and take in the beautiful sunset on Lake Constance at the pier, which is popular among the locals. More on “Best of the West” in our article about Bregenz – seaside fun in the Alps.

For more info, check out the website of Vorarlberg Tourism
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Written by Ana Lucia Marcos

Ana Lucia has traveled the world, but fell completely in love with Austria. She loves the dramatic mountain landscape, the phototastiske lakes and the captivating castles. Moreover, a real Wienerschnitzel is always on the menu when she explores the alpine country.