culture, food, tips, travel, Uncategorized

Why you should visit Villach, Austria

villach austria

villach austria If you happen to be friends with me on Facebook than you probably already know that me and t-man decided to escape January boredom and visit a picturesque town near the Italian border in Austria – Villach.  T-man has been talking about this town for some time so I finally took him up on this offer even if I wanted to be on a beach in Thailand {one day}. Wanting to make a road trip out of our four-day weekend, we hopped in our trusty peugeot and drove six hours {more like 7 with how many stops for un caffe at the many autogrills} before arriving in this charming town of 60,000 – second largest in the region of Carinthia.

We ended up staying at the Holiday Inn because of its central location – also because we always end up deciding on traveling very last-minute thus minimizing choices. Usually I prefer a characteristic B&B that includes breakfast or rent an apartment but honestly the hotel itself was awesome, very modern, central with friendly staff and a really nice spa with sauna, turkish bath & fitness gym for guests. Apparently you had to be “nude” while in the sauna/spa area but I just pretended I was using a towel. However, the men didn’t seem to mind being nackt {nude}.

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We quickly dropped our bags as soon as we arrived and hurried to take a first look around the pretty (and small) center of town. We soon came across the {above} skating rink with it’s pretty incredible light fixture that transported me into another world where dreams are made of cotton candy and the soundtrack from the sound of music. I couldn’t help but be jealous of the local kids as they happily strapped on skates like they do this every day, and very well may do.

Villach is a walker’s paradise, in fact we walked all over probably about 10 million times just to explore every side street and we needed to ‘digest’ after some good heavy meals. I loved the colorful buildings, funny statues, bustling warm cafes, cozy local bars, and laughing teenagers. It just felt very… lively which I kind of didn’t expect considering the small size of the town itself. The Church of  St Jakob was an illuminated focal point and everywhere you looked lights covered the cities streets making it seem almost fairy-tale like in the winter.

Some noticeable sites located in this town is the Museum der Stadt Villach where you can learn about the history – it was almost destroyed by a few earthquakes, fires and was heavily bombed during WWII , probably due to the strategic location.On top of a hill is Landskron Castle – after all, what is a european town without at least one historical castle?  Nearby are natural hot springs at Warmbad Villach and the beautiful Faaker See Lake. The city is famous for carnival and”Villacher Kirchtag”  – a week-long summer festival.

We heard Italian almost everywhere we went, being so close to the border I am guessing this a frequent stop for Italiani wanting to escape to Austria for a few days.

The bell tower of St Jakob (pictured on the left) is the tallest in Carinthia and dates back to the 1800’s. The view from the top offers gorgeous panoramas of the city. We even came across a nearby memorial for victims of WWII noting who had been deported or killed at Auschwitz or Dachau.

Very close to the city is a really cute place to ski/snowboard/sled called Gerlitzen. The first time I had ever seen snow, I was 19 so needless to say it still holds somewhat of a mystical appeal to me. Luckily Gerlitzen is only 20 minutes away and has a free ski/bus leaving from busbahnhof close to the train station or you can just take bus 50. We took the gondola/cable car mid-way up the mountain since it was cheaper. The view going up was incredible, offering beautiful views of the forests and Lake Ossiach. Why are all of the lakes so awesome here? We also had a lovely lunch of spaetzle – yummy cheese-egg noodles with crunchy onions on top. I also noticed only me and other Italians were sporting ‘moon boots’ {a type of snow shoe} while the locals just wore their ski shoes everywhere.

picisto-20130106184321-569583About the food. Well, of course I wanted to try everything so the first night we stopped by Gasthof Hofwirt,  cute place in the center serving traditional local dishes. We went for a creamy garlic soup, goulash dumplings & salad – and of course beer. Massive portions and everything was tasty, thankfully T-man can speak pretty fair German since all I know how to say is  sadly”Gutenmorgen” and “fruhstuck”.

picisto-20130106164900-648507The second night we went to this place I read about a little outside the center (about an 8 minute drive) – Kreuzwirt Wirtshaus. This place rocked my socks off, everything about it was perfect! Wonderful ambience and a very friendly server who joked with us in broken Italian. The menu was small and seasonal with a unique take on traditional dishes. I ordered local white wine {fab} and apple-curry soup as a starter. Um, yeah t-man had seriously food envy. We also got fried pork with a red berry sauce and a delicious steak with cispy potatoes. Dessert was a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake with fresh fruits. Portions were a reasonable size, we each got soup and an entrée while sharing dessert. Price for everything was 25 euros a person and it was worth every penny. If you are in Villach – you need to go to this restaurant.

picisto-20130106170014-431430We also spent a fair amount of time walking along river drau, enjoying the non-freezing January weather and staring at the clean water, something the arno river in Florence can only dream about in 2013.

I really can’t wait to visit this town again and nearby Klagenfurt. Its close access to Slovenia made it easy for us  to go on a half-day trip to Lake Bled once again {expect a post soon!}. Visiting Villach has made me see Austria as more than just Vienna, and I will certainly be back.

If you’ve been here or nearby, let me know your experience. I am always on the hunt for new tips & travel recommendations.

*PS. Don’t forget that if you plan to drive in Austria you need to purchase a vignette/sticker to place on your windshield or you can be fined 120 euros. The cheapest one is valid for 10 days and is only Eu7.90. We narrowly escaped this fate! (other than that – there are no toll roads in Austria – or at least that we had seen). Read this to get more info on how to get it.

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11 Comment

  1. Reply
    newmexicotoitaly
    07.01.2013 at 21:20

    GREAT photos! Brava!

    1. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      07.01.2013 at 21:26

      thank you!!!!!

    2. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      08.01.2013 at 11:23

      thank you! 🙂

  2. Reply
    Gil
    08.01.2013 at 0:49

    Really enjoyed this great post and all the beautiful photos.

    1. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      08.01.2013 at 11:23

      thank you Gil! 🙂 it was really fun to write while still fresh in my mind

  3. Reply
    Manwithbeard
    16.12.2013 at 17:09

    I’m thinking of visiting Villach next weekend.

    Your blog is very informative (and inspiring), I’m almost convinced ;).

    Thanks :).

    David

  4. Reply
    Tricia
    04.02.2016 at 17:14

    Thanks for posting! I’m off to Kärnten this month to visit my host family and just added Kreuzwirt Wirtshaus to my itinerary! 🙂

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      04.02.2016 at 17:54

      You will have a lovely time Tricia, I really liked this city 🙂

  5. Reply
    paulo
    23.05.2016 at 22:42

    Thank you so much for this article. It really helped me a lot. We are planning to go to Villach this summer (tho only 1 day, its a “stop” in our trip) , and you got all the essential information we needed. Thanks a lot.

  6. Reply
    Meagan Browno
    13.10.2016 at 8:28

    Fantastic experience after reading your outstanding blog about Austria! I must add Austria to my bucket list. By the way, Your photos are great. Thanks, dear and keep it up!

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      19.10.2016 at 9:31

      Thank you so much! I’m working on a post about a visit to Salzburg too and I am just falling ever more in love with Austria as a whole.

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