10 reasons to visit Kitzbühel, the Austrian mountain town surrounded by nature

Best known for its incredible skiing opportunities, the Austrian town of Kitzbühel is surrounded on all sides by wild, uninterrupted nature; an adventure playground for outdoor enthusiasts that can be enjoyed year-round.

With crystal clear water and stunning mountain panoramas, the lakes around Kitzbühel are the perfect place to enjoy a dip.

Photograph by Georg Überall
By Kitzbühel Tourism
Published 10 Feb 2022, 15:00 GMT

‘Kitz’ is one of Europe’s golden resorts where glamour meets a clamour for the ski slopes — all 145 miles of them. But winter isn’t the only wonderland: this is a year-round Austrian delight, a mountain town filled with smart restaurants and ornate architecture and surrounded by mountains alive with invigorating activities. The summer offers splendid weather, where swimming in a remote lake is just one of the many alternatives to lazing by a hotel pool. Anyone who wants to commune with nature yet never be far from the sophistication of one of Europe’s finest Alpine towns, should visit Kitzbühel.

1. Feast on the local food

From traditional dishes to haute cuisine, the magic of the mountains can be found in this cosmopolitan town. Much of the produce is organic and a huge amount comes from local producers. There are hearty local favourites in the stubes and mountain huts and exquisite offerings in top-notch hotels and restaurants. And, every Saturday from March to November, the local farmers’ market is heaped with delicacies like ham, cheese and sausages, as well as fiery schnapps, perfect for picnics in the great outdoors.

Every Saturday from March to November, the local farmers’ market is heaped with delicacies such as ham, cheese and sausages.

Photograph by Kitzbühel Tourism, Michael Werlberger

2. Hike a mountain — by day or night

Sun or snow, there’s hiking here 365 days a year on 620 miles of paths, from verdant meadows to more challenging fare. Take a gentle stroll in a pretty valley, hop on one of the year-round cable cars to marvel at the views then wander down, or attempt a strenuous trek up or around the summit of a mountain. Don’t miss the area’s high points: the 6,500ft Kitzbüheler Horn or the 5,500ft Hahnenkamm, the peak that gives its name to the famed ski race. Guided hikes feature sunset, torchlight and full moon specials and there’s always a hut for a reviving drink.

There’s 620 miles of hiking routes in Kitzbühel, from verdant meadows to more challenging mountainous routes.

Photograph by Kitzbühel Tourism, Artfabrik

3. Soar high above a ski slope

Soar down Kitzbühel’s notorious Streif ski slope — one of the most challenging of the Alpine Ski World Cup — from a wildly different perspective at a dizzying height. Tandem paragliding is easier than you might imagine and surprisingly comfortable. It all starts, heart in mouth, on the Hahnenkamm peak at the Mausefalle where ski racers take the jump but eventually land instead of soaring upward. Just hang in there (and the parachute) while your instructor makes it all happen, twisting and turning to show you the region’s finest sights. Whether the summer sun is high in the sky or the snow is thick on the ground makes no difference, except to the view. From €130 (£110).

Tandem paragliding is easier than you might imagine and surprisingly comfortable.

Photograph by Kitzbühel Tourism

4. Sit back and relax in a spa

Sample true Alpine relaxation in one of Austria’s finest spas. You don’t have to stay in a luxury hotel to enjoy a treatment — many hotels offer daily spa access with year-round facilities and each is an attraction in itself. The Kempinski Hotel das Tirol Jochberg has a heated outdoor saltwater pool and swimming pool with stunning views, along with 12 treatment rooms (full day €70/£59, morning €25/£21). The A-Rosa Resort Kitzbühel, resembling a Tyrolean castle, has extraordinary mountain panoramas from the saunas and a wellness area in a grand, pillared hall (full day €75/£66, morning €35/£30). Meanwhile, the Mountain Design Hotel Kitzhof's spa is cool and contemporary with a reclaimed timber ambiance, plus a winter garden (full day €49/£42).

Experience true Alpine relaxation in The Kempinski, one of Austria’s finest spas.

Photograph by Kitzbühel Tourism

5. Horse ride Austrian style

Sitting astride a horse and ambling across mountain meadows carpeted with wild flowers is the perfect way to experience the ambiance of Kitzbühel. Various stables offer lessons and trail rides over ridges and peaks, with expert instructors leading groups or individuals around some of the most dramatic riding scenery in the world. Picnics and barbecues are often on the menu during summer, and in winter, hacking is possible through waist-high snow on native Tyrolean Haflinger ponies. 

6. Snowshoe through a winter wonderland

Skiing isn’t the only way to admire the snowy landscapes in the mountains surrounding Kitzbühel. Snowshoes can be rented from sports shops and makes walking far less strenuous. Wander across snowfields, cut between banks of mighty trees and take in the lofty views passing through charming villages on the way. Free guided tours are available at set times through the tourist board or book a private tour with prices from €30 (£25), including equipment but not lift pass. 

Kitzbühel’s notorious Streif ski slope is a must for adrenaline seekers.

Photograph by Kitzbühel Tourism, Michael Werlberger

7. Swim in a lake or by a waterfall

With crystal clear water and stunning mountain panoramas, the lakes around Kitzbühel are the perfect place to enjoy a dip. Schwarzsee is one of the Alps’ most beautiful swimming spots and its moorland setting warms the waters in spring. Gieringer Weiher is another popular wild spot or pack a swimsuit and take a hike to reach the gushing 278ft Sintersbacher waterfall in Jochberg or the 200ft Kitzbühel Schleierwaterfall. Families with young children may prefer to head to Waldschwimmbad Jochberg, a swimming pool with huge sunbathing lawns, picnic area, beach volleyball and café. Entry €5 (£4). 

 

Anyone who wants to get out into wild, uninterrupted nature should visit Sintersbacher waterfall in Jochberg.

Photograph by Kitzbühel Tourism

8. Cycle to a mountain hut for breakfast

For those who don’t fancy the challenge of pedalling up the Kitzbüheler Horn, Austria’s steepest mountain pass for bikers, there’s a wide choice of cycling routes around Kitzbühel with 500 miles of mountain biking and 750 miles of roads. And while there’s a route for every level, there’s always the option of an e-bike. Pedal along rivers, up mountains (or just down them if you use the lifts), through forests, around lakes — and past mountain huts, with perhaps a Tiroler gröstl (potato fry-up) to refuel. There’s a bike tour (including e-bikes) for everyone, including families. One day’s bike rental from €31 (£26), half-day tour €60 (£51). 

Cycle mountain paths and stop to refuel on hearty local dishes like potato fry-ups from mountain huts along the route.

Photograph by Kitzbühel Tourism, Michael Werlberger

9. Play golf on a top course

Kitzbühel has two spectacular 18-hole courses and two equally impressive nine-holers. Golf Course Kitzbühel-Schwarzsee-Reith, between the Wilder Kaiser and Hohe Tauern mountains, has views of snowy peaks and snakes between rock faces and deep gorges. Golf Club Kitzbühel, nearly 70 years old and set in the grounds of Kaps Castle, is rated Austria’s best nine-hole course, with the final two featuring daunting water hazards. There’s a choice of golf hotels and you don’t have to go far to find another 12 courses with prices from around €52 (£44).

10. Relax — and be spontaneous

You don’t need to do anything other than soak up the Alpine ambiance in the sun, stroll the town’s pretty medieval streets and make it up as you go along. Browse the many smart boutiques and museums or take a cable car up the mountain for a lofty lunch. Visit the neighbouring villages of Reith, Aurach (with its wildlife park) and Jochberg. Kitzbühel has it all, whenever you want it…

Essentials

The nearest airports to Kitzbühel are Salzburg (37 miles), Innsbruck (51 miles) and Munich (70 miles).

For more information on Kitzbühel, visit kitzbuehel.com

Published in the December 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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