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Winter Sunshine with a Difference
Fuschl am See - Austria
When Christmas is well and truly over but the snowdrops remain stubbornly buried underground, many of us in the UK yearn for a spot of Winter sunshine. But where best to find it?
Of course, you can travel South and find a hotel pool to lie by, if that floats your boat, but this year, that just didn’t appeal. We chose instead to turn the quest on its head and travel to Fuschl am See in Austria in search of Winter sunshine with a difference – reflected on pristine white snow. Winter sun for sure – but of an intriguingly alternative variety to the rays that shine on your average hotel pool.
Europe in Winter usually means ski-ing, but if you don’t ski, Austria has other options to offer. Fuschl am See is a quintessentially traditional little village in the Austrian Lake District. Its main season is Summer, when it fills with tourists looking for water sports on the lake.
Out of season though, it is a quiet and peaceful place offering the opportunity to enjoy snow covered scenery and Winter walking. If you are looking for a short break which offers a different sort of Winter sunshine, Fuschl am See is definitely worth considering. Its location less than an hour from Salzburg airport makes it easily reachable for a short break from the UK.
Where We Stayed
The family run hotel is friendly, warm, cosy and kept beautifully clean. The breakfast buffet has everything you would hope to find. The evening meal is very generous and features a selection of local Austrian delicacies. You certainly won’t go hungry as dinner starts with a buffet salad bar, followed by a homemade soup. In the morning, at breakfast time make, you can make a choice from 3 main courses, with a vegetarian option always on offer. If you have enough room left, there is dessert to tempt you too.
Lakeside walks can be made right from the hotel’s front door. A real bonus of the hotel though is that it has a lovely lake facing indoor swimming pool and a series of saunas. When you return from a long Winter Walk, a sauna is a lovely way to relax. If you are brave enough, you can open the swimming pool door and take a dip in the lake, if it’s not frozen (1 year in 3). I wasn’t brave enough – but it was good fun watching the few people who were!
If there is enough snow, the hotel can also help you organise guided snowshoeing walks, ice skating and tobogganing.
A room with a serene lake view is well worth the little extra cost in my view as – with short and cold Winter days – you will inevitably spend quite a while looking at the view through your window.
In January, it was the only place in the village open for dinner on a Monday night and was not open to non residents, so if you make this trip yourself, definitely book half board if you are travelling out of season.
The Hotel Seerose operate a reasonably priced shuttle service from Salzburg airport for their guests which can be pre booked directly with the hotel.
3 Days in Fuschl am See
Day 1 - Take a Walk Around the Lake
On your first day, it’s a good idea to call in at the Tourist Office and pick up all the information you need on local bus routes and timetables. The public transport is very efficient here which makes holidaying without a car easy.
An 11 kilometre circuit of Lake Fuschl starts right from the door of your hotel. This scenic route leads all around the lake past the elegant Schloss Fuschl – a castle that is now a hotel (closed for refurbishment at the time of writing).
Stop half way around for refreshments at the little smokehouse. If you want a picnic en route, be sure to pick it up before you set off on the walk as the shops close up at 12 out of season.
Day 2 - Salzburg
The local bus service passes through Fuschl am See every hour and whisks you to Salzburg in under an hour.
When you get off bus, cross the river and walk through the Mirabell gardens into the pretty old town of Salzburg where baroque buildings, elegant square and fountains await you.
Salzburg is Mozart‘s birthplace. – you can pay a visit to his house while you are in town. It is also famous for being the city where the Sound of Music was based and bus tours run around the main sights from the film at regular intervals from the Mirabell Gardens.
Other sights to look out for include:
- Residenzplatz – where you’ll find Salzburg Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace
- Motzartplatz – complete with Mozart’s statue
- Kapitelpkatz – with its giant chessboard
Salzburg - A Scenic City Walk
A nice option for a scenic walk is to take the Monchsberg trail that follows the high ridge around the west side of town which gives you some lovely views across the city. You can take the funicular up to the Modern Art Museum and then wind your way around the trail all the way back into town.
Salzburg - Pitstop
A lovely place to pause for Kaffee und Kuchen is the 300-year-old Café Tomaselli, a lovely old Viennese-style coffee house with an atmosphere as enjoyable as the delicious cakes on offer.
Day 3 - Fuschl am See - Surrounding Villages
There are a number of villages close to Fuschl am See that make good options for a day trip.
Wolfgangsee is reachable via a short bus ride. Lake Wolfgang is one of the best known lakes in the Salzkammergut region and the pretty villages of Strobl, St Gilgen and St Wolfgang lie on its shores.
Zwölferhorn – the 1,521 metre peak that towers behind St. Gilgen can be reached by cable car. It was unfortunately closed at the time we visited, so we didn’t get to see the lovely views it promised.
Bad Ischl is another option less than an hour’s bus ride away from Fuschl am See. You can visit Kaiservilla – Summer residence of the Austro-Hungarian monarchs who described it as “heaven on earth”. There are thermal spa baths to visit their too and also some tempting pâtisseries if you haven’t had your fill earlier in the trip.
Apfelstrudl – the traditional thin apple filled pastry filled with cinnamon, sugar and raisins makes a lovely accompaniment to a cup of coffee whatever the time of day.
Wiener Schnitzel – a thin, breaded and deep fried meat dish made from veal butterflied and dipped into eggs and breadcrumbs then fried to a crispy texture is also a must try delicacy all across Austria.
Tips for Future Travellers
Fuschl am See is a decidedly out of season in January which is fine if you are looking for an inexpensive, tranquil short break that definitely does give you Winter sun with a difference.
Many people choose to visit Salzburg and the surrounding area in the run up to Christmas though where you will be able to see pretty traditional Christmas markets in many towns and villages. expect higher prices and more people as a result though. The choice, as they say, is yours!