Choosing where to stay on your holiday can be one of the hardest decisions you'll need to make and to me, recommendations from friends are always greatly appreciated. In my travels through Austria over the years, I've stayed at numerous places so I thought I'd share with you the accommodations in Austria that I've really enjoyed and which I would have no hesitation in recommending to my friends.
Hotel Kaiserhof (previously called Best Western Premier Hotel Kaiserhof)
Many hotels advertise that they offer a 'home away from home' but the Hotel Kaiserhof in Vienna really did deliver. Super-friendly staff who went out of their way to help, a superb buffet breakfast, lovely rooms and a great location are just some of the features that made my stay at the hotel so enjoyable. In fact, I've booked the hotel again for a second stay. Update August 2014 - we weren't disappointed with our second stay at Hotel Kaiserhof either, receiving the same great service as the first visit. This time we were in a 'Romantic room' with a canopied bed (lovely), and as always, the breakfast buffet was delicious.
Zell am See, Austria
Grand Hotel Zell am See
I'm a real sucker for lakes and always like to stay as close to the lake as possible so it was inevitable that on one visit to Zell am See I stayed at the Grand Hotel for a couple of nights. Set on its own promontory jutting out into Lake Zell, the hotel was completed in 1896 and still retains its 'Grand' aura today.
We booked a family room with two separate bedrooms and the rate included half-board (breakfast and dinner). Many traditional and family-owned hotels in Austria and Germany only offer half-board rates. All meals were delicious (some evenings they were buffet style and on other evenings a la carte) but personally, I'd prefer to choose where I eat dinner and wouldn't opt for a half-board package in the future if I had a choice.
The location of the hotel is definitely its main selling point - we were right next to the watersports centre which hires out electric and paddle boats, windsurfers, etc, and the town's lido (outdoor pool) is just a few metres away. Guests also have access to the hotel's private lakeside beach and a two minute walk from the hotel has you in the very heart of Zell am See so you're never far from the action.
Guest rooms have all the usual facilities (free WiFi, TV, ironing board, safe, etc) but no tea and coffee making facilities, however this makes a good excuse to shout yourself a cuppa at the hotel's lovely outdoor terrace cafe and enjoy the gorgeous views.
When you return to a destination and choose the same accommodation as you previously stayed in, that definitely says that you enjoyed your stay. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that I have loved staying at Appartement Laimgruber in Zell am See with our third visit coming up this year (2014). The apartments (of which there are three) are owned by lovely couple Helena and Karl Laimgruber and are close to Lake Zell (at least one apartment has lake views) in the thriving Austrian town of Zell am See.
The apartments are the perfect base for a holiday being just a five minute walk to the pedestrianised centre of town. Fitted out in the traditional Austrian chalet-style with lots of timber, the two bedroom apartments are fully self-contained and very comfortable. Free WiFi is available and free car parking is available for guests. If you are arriving by train, the station is an easy 10 minute walk along the lake-side promenade. Highly recommended.
Update August 2014 - we returned to Appartement Laimgruber in July this year and once again thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
Natterersee (near Innsbruck), Austria
Just like Camping Jungfrau in Switzerland, the campsite at Natterersee near Innsbruck in Austria is one of my favourites. I've stayed here twice now and have also visited the campsite on another occasion to enjoy dinner at the lovely lakeside restaurant. Natterersee (Lake Natters) is about 8 km from Innsbruck so you really need a car to get there, although a tram line runs from the village of Natters (about 2.5 km away) into Innsbruck.
A friend recommended Gasthof Draxler at Niederranna, near the Schlögener Schlinge, the famous 'S bend' in the River Danube, so I followed her advice and booked for three nights. The Gasthof (guesthouse) is run by the friendly Draxler family and is situated right on the edge of the Danube.
The guesthouse is popular with cyclists as the Danube Bike Path goes right past the front door and this was one of the reasons we chose to stay here. We also did day trips by car to Passau in Germany and Cesky Krumlov (in Czech Republic) from Niederranna.
The rooms are furnished in the traditional Austrian pine and are very clean and comfortable with a TV and desk and roomy bathroom. WiFi is available for EUR2 per day and breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, bread, cold meats and cheeses is included in the very reasonable price of EUR35 per person per night.
The family have a large supply of bikes available for guests to borrow (at no cost) and traditional Austrian fare is available in their restaurant each day for both lunch and dinner. Outdoor dining on the river's edge is possible during the warmer months.
I have personally stayed in all of the above accommodations and would gladly return for another stay. All of the stays were paid for by me except where mentioned otherwise. For more accommodation options, please visit the Holidays to Europe accommodation directory but note that I have not personally stayed in any of the properties unless specified here.