Vorarlberg: Inspiring, Vibrant and Open to the World
Inspiring, vibrant and open to the world: that is the feel of life in Vorarlberg.
Supremely located in Austria’s very west, between Lake Constance and the high alps at up to 3,000 metres, Vorarlberg shares borders with Germany, Switzerland and the principality of Liechtenstein.
If you have ever taken a ride on a ski lift or cable car, anywhere in the world, you will probably have come across a product made in Vorarlberg. Firstly, Vorarlberg is a pioneer of alpine skiing, and secondly, Doppelmayr, the world market leader in ropeway construction, is headquartered here. Though small in size, Vorarlberg is an economic powerhouse and home to companies such as Wolford (bodywear), Rauch and Pfanner fruit-juice manufacturers, Blum GmbH (fittings), Alpla (plastic packagings) and Zumtobel (light design). Vorarlberg is famous also for innovative architecture and crafts, original festivals, first-rate skiing resorts and excellent hospitality.
“Ever so beautiful“. That is how Vorarlberg has been described by its 383,000 inhabitants and visitors alike. The quality of living and the recreational amenities are superb:
Vorarlberg boasts great scenic diversity within a relatively small area. From the beautifully landscaped shores of Lake Constance it is just an hour’s drive to the towering mountain peaks. Along the way, verdant meadows, forests and lovely mountain vistas catch the eye.
Many sites around the international Lake Constance in Germany and in Switzerland are simply waiting to be discovered. From the Vorarlberg capital of Bregenz, vessels and cruise boats head for the major destinations.
Six different holiday regions invite visitors for an inspiring stay:
▪ The Bodensee-Vorarlberg region, with Bregenz, Dornbirn, Hohenems and Feldkirch as major towns.
▪ The Bregenzerwald with its 22 picture-pretty villages and the Bregenzerwald Cheese Route, known for its interesting architecture and innovative crafts.
▪ Alpenregion Vorarlberg featuring the Brandnertal and Klostertal valleys, the Grosses Walsertal biosphere park and Alpenstadt Bludenz, which is highly popular among families.
▪ The Kleinwalsertal, a high-alpine valley that is lined by mountains, an ideal place to reenergize in the great outdoors.
▪ The Montafon with Schruns as the main village, a rallying point for hikers and mountain bikers in summer, where skiers and freeriders flock to the slopes and runs in winter.
▪ Lech-Zürs am Arlberg, the cradle of alpine skiing and one of the most legendary ski resorts of the world. In summer, you can hike across blooming pastures and meadows and enjoy utter peace and tranquillity.
Vorarlberg offers rich pickings for lovers of art and culture. The cultural venues are all over Vorarlberg, from the floating stage on Lake Constance to concert halls in villages and exhibition halls in alpine settings. Vorarlberg boasts some 60 museums showcasing varied themes from contemporary art to the secrets of nature. Some have attracted European-wide attention.
Each summer in July/August – with the exception of 2020 owing to the coronavirus situation – the Bregenz Festival stages open-air opera productions on the floating lakeside stage of Lake Constance. Opera performances at the Festspielhaus, concerts by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and other events complement the high-carat programme.
Schubertiade Schwarzenberg and Hohenems
Schubertiade, the world’s largest Schubert festival, takes please each summer in August/September – with the exception of 2020 – in the storybook village of Schwarzenberg in Bregenzerwald. Star-studded artists will perform chamber music, lieder, piano recitals and hold master classes in the Angelika-Kauffmann hall, which affords magnificent panoramic views of surrounding nature. At given dates from April to October, the village of Hohenems hosts the Schubertiade concerts.
Bregenz Spring Festival in Autumn
Bregenz Spring Festival presents modern dance at the Bregenz Festival House. Usually this event takes place in Spring, this year it will be from October to December.
Montfort Zwischentöne in Feldkirch
On three occasions during the year, the Montfort Zwischentöne features concerts, talks and performances at the contemporary Montforthaus in Bregenz.
Poolbar Festival in Feldkirch
For over 25 years now, the poolbar festival has been celebrating pop music, fashion, architecture and design. The main site of the festival, which will run from July 23 to August 30 in Feldkirch, is the old indoor pool. An architecture contest is staged each year redesign the rooms and the immediate surroundings on a temporary basis.
FAQ Bregenzerwald, the latest series of events in Bregenzerwald, will be hosted for the fifth time from 1 to 6 September 2020. Designed as a brain and foodie festival, the forum will feature talks, discussions, concerts and walks. FAQ Bregenzerwald sheds light on socially relevant issues from different perspectives. All venues in the villages and on the mountains, between Andelsbuch and Bezau, have been carefully chosen. Taking part in it is to inspire local residents and visitors to reflect on and have a say in matters, but first and foremost, to have fun. FAQ Bregenzerwald wants to unearth “potentials for having a good time”. FAQ Bregenzerwald is accessible all year round as an online platform, for questions and answers, inspiration and food for thought.
Designed by the renowned Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, Kunsthaus Bregenz (KUB) is one of Europe’s leading museums of contemporary art. The programme features varying exhibitions, and the museum frequently accommodates solo exhibitions devoted to one single artist who designs works specifically for KUB.
Vorarlberg museum in Bregenz
Integrating listed parts, the vorarlberg museum building was designed by the multi-award winning Vorarlberg architects Cukrowicz Nachbaur. Apart from the eye-catching facade featuring 16,656 concrete flowers – actually nothing more than the imprints of commercial PET bottles – visitors will stand transfixed in the jaw-dropping 4th floor “viewing room” designed by Austrian artist Florian Pumh.sl. From the room which is panelled in dark colours, they can marvel at the ever changing scenery of Lake Constance beneath them through floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows. In modern-design exhibitions, the museum depicts the history and present of Vorarlberg and the Lake Constance region.
Jewish Quarter and Museum in Hohenems
Jewish Quarter and Jewish Museum Hohenems For centuries, Hohenems used to be home to a small Jewish community. The Jewish quarter has undergone a careful facelift in recent years. Guided visits are organised on the first Sunday of the month. The stations visited include the former synagogue, today the concert hall named after Salomon Sulzer, the mikwe (ritual bath) and the cemetery. In its permanent exhibition, the Jewish Museum Hohenems is pays tribute to the town’s Jewish community and the various ways it contributed to the development of Vorarlberg and the Alpine region. Special exhibitions showcase contemporary Jewish life in Europe, coexistence and migration.
Werkraum Building in Andelsbuch
Designed by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, the Werkraum Building in Andelsbuch in Bregenzerwald hosts changing exhibitions on various aspects of craftsmanship. During the changing exhibition, a spacious entre where snacks are offered and which features cosy furniture and objects created by the Werkraum partner businesses invites visitors to take a seat, engage in conversation, use the furniture, and linger.
Women’s Museum im Hittisau
The Women’s Museum in Hittisau is Austria’s only women’s museum and makes the creative work and life of women visible in changing exhibitions. The museum is accommodated in a modern timber building in the village centre.
Angelika Kauffmann Museum Schwarzenberg
Winner of the Austrian Museum Quality Seal, the Angelika Kauffmann Museum in Schwarzenberg is accommodated in a historic, 16th century building with contemporary showrooms. It derives its name from the famous classicist paintress Angelika Kauffman, who had close family ties in Schwarzenberg.
James Turell Skyspace in Lech
As of late 2018, a work of art has become accessible in Oberlech. Designed by US artist James Turell, who is well known for his light-space installations, the Skyspace is a walk-through piece of conceptual art. Accessible through a 15m tunnel, an exhibition room with special light features has been built into a hillside. Up above, a large movable skylight affords a view of the outside world, opening up new ways, with every visit, to perceive the sky and the way the light penetrates into the room. When it is dark outside, a light installation makes the room appear totally different.
The Great Outdoors!
Recharge your batteries walking, cycling, swimming or skiing.
Let the magic of nature work its wonders. There are several trails leading to sites of exceptional beauty, complete with information about the region and the people who live here.
Up on the mountains, perspectives are never the same. Uniformly posted trails and guided tours take you to gently rolling hillsides or towering mountain peaks, along brooks and rivers, to mountain lakes and alpine farmsteads, where cows and dairymen spend the summer. Those preferring things more easy-going, or wanting to shorten their way up, can always opt for a ride up the mountain by cable car.
The mountain scenery can ideally be explored on a mountain bike or e-bike. All regions offer guided tours and an extensive network of trails.
In an all-Austrian comparison, the residents of Vorarlberg cover more kilometres by bicycle than any of their compatriots. This may be attributable to the well-developed network of cycling trails. On easy trails, you can bike on the shores of Lake Constance or along the plains of the Rhine river. Bregenzerwald, Alpenregion Vorarlberg and Montafon also have leisurely cycling trails without steep ascents.
Vorarlberg not only features natural lakes and natural bathing facilities with maximum water quality, it also boasts beautiful bathing lakes. As it is free of chemicals, the natural water is perfect for a refreshing dip. Lake Constance is the perfect spot for surfers and stand-up paddle boarders.
The thrill of adventure
Paragliding, climbing or gorge discovery? If you are in for adventure, Vorarlberg’s outdoor operators are a perfect choice. In addition, the climbing and forest rope parks with zip lines in several regions offer thrilling terrain for a taste of adventure.
On slopes and runs
In winter, people flock to the slopes for skiing and snow- boarding in many different ski areas. Free riding and ski touring is an excellent way to explore deep-powder terrain, ideally in the company of a professional guide. The ski schools offer courses for beginners and advanced skiers.
Laid-back winter pleasures
The magic of winter can also be explored on a winter hike, snow shoe ramble, on a toboggan or skiing cross country. All of Vorarlberg’s regions offer guided activities.
Hiking in Vorarlberg
Sunrise or Sunset Walks
Themed hikes individual culture hikes
Bike, e-bike or mountain bike: Discover the region in style on two wheels
Outdoor: From canyoning and canoeing to tandem flying
Lakeside holidays in Vorarlberg
Skiing in Vorarlberg
Exploring Winter Wonderland
Check the “Experience & Discover” section on the website of the tourism board for more details.
Must-Sees and Must Dos
There are many things waiting to be explored in Vorarlberg and around the international Lake Constance.
There is so much to see when you take a stroll through small, historic towns, picturesque villages, scenic mountains and many a gem.
Vorarlberg’s cosy small towns invite visitors to explore the cafes and shops, visit museums and soak up the lively atmosphere. Bregenz, the capital city of Vorarlberg, enjoys a privileged location between Lake Constance and the local Pfänder mountain, famous for its lovely views you can enjoy taking up the cable car. The second largest city, Dornbirn, is a popular shopping destination. Twice a week, the bustling and colourful fruit and flower market is held on market square.
The town of Hohenems is famed for its majestic past and a Jewish community. In Feldkirch, you can stroll through narrow lanes with arcaded courtyards, passing medieval city towers. Above the city, there is the towering Schattenburg fortress with a museum and a look-out in the keep. Bludenz captures visitors with its medieval flair. In summer, it doubles as venue for the chocolate festival.
Vorarlberg’s villages have retained their original character. In the centre, you will find the church as a landmark, framed by residential buildings, inns, shops, hotels, workshops and farms. The mix of traditional and modern architecture catches the eye. Locally sourced timber is used in old and new buildings.
Hiking trails and ski runs are literally at your doorsteps or within easy reach on hiking and ski buses.
The natural scenery between Lake Constance and the high alps is surprisingly diverse. The nature reserve in the Rhine estuary on Lake Constance is characterised by sandy shores and reed, and home to many bird species. Ravines such as Rappenloch gorge near Dornbirn and Breitachklamm gorge in Kleinwalsertal make you understand the power of water hands-on. Cable-cars whisk visitors to lofty summits from where they can take in magnificent views.
Nostalgia trains and boat trips
On two historic trains, you can travel like in the olden days: The Rheindamm nostalgia train runs to where the Rhine flows into Lake Constance. And the Bregenzerwald railway operates between Bezau and Andelsbuch-Bersbuch, occasionally with steam engines.
From the modern harbour in Bregenz, the Lake Constance vessels set off for various excursions. The most popular destinations on the German shores of Lake Constance are Friedrichshafen, with the Zeppelin museum, and the flower island of Mainau near Constance on the lower end of the lake.
In the footsteps of building culture
Vorarlberg is a genuine hotspot of modern architecture in Austria.
Take a look around! Vorarlberg is considered a pioneering region of modern architecture and cutting-edge craftsmanship in Europe. Architecture lovers will find rich pickings!
Trad & Mod
If you want to explore what important role contemporary (timber) architecture and innovative craftsmanship can play in the Alpine region, go to Vorarlberg. Nowhere else in Austria will you come across such a wealth of contemporary design. At the same time, the new buildings fit in seamlessly with the traditional homes.
Timber & Crafts
Timber has always been used as building material, both in the past and in present. The new buildings, eye-catchers amid the natural scenery, stand out for uncluttered lines and blend harmoniously with the surroundings. Inside, they impress by their smart functionality. Energy-efficient construction is a matter of course, as is fitting rooms with ecologically sound furniture and materials.
And this is where the craftspeople come in again. They design tables and chairs, beds and sofas, shelves and cabinets, based on age-old techniques, with innovative spirit, to blend in seamlessly with contemporary architecture. The result is spaces that are pleasing to look at and pleasant to live in.
Exploring building culture
Especially in the towns, you will come across eye-catching modern buildings. It is definitely worth while strolling through the streets and lanes with an open eye.
Exceptional architecture is a feature offered also by hotels, holiday homes and apartments. Most were either newly built recently or stand out for a harmonious blend of old and new. The website vorarlberg.travel/holidays-and-architecture/ informs about 30 hosts who provide a hands-on experience of contemporary architecture and innovative craftsmanship.
Ten carefully selected themed architectural tours by the name of Architectours invite you to individually explore building culture all across Vorarlberg. Depending on the itinerary or the selected theme, the tours last half a day or a full day.
“Umgang Bregenzerwald“ are themed village walks which take visitors to architectural highlights in Bregenzerwald. A folder accompanying the tours is available at the local tourist offices.
Places to take a breather in Vorarlberg: In Vorarlberg, imaginative design concepts show up in the least expected places. Each building is in dialogue with the surrounding nature and each one reveals facets of Vorarlberg’s contemporary building culture.
Original: Architects from all over the world were commissioned by the village of Krumbach to design seven bus stops under the motto Bus: Stop Krumbach.
The Werkraum Building in Andelsbuch in Bregenzerwald showcases innovative craftsmanship, hosting changing exhibitions and works by the Bregenzerwald Werkraum craftspeople.
Some hotels and apartments have been redesigned in recent years, combining traditional and modern elements. Whenever rooms or holiday apartments are upgraded or renovated, this is mostly done in cooperation with craftspeople from the region.
Treats and Delights
Regional delicacies: from cheese to fine brandies
Whether you opt for a rustic inn or an award-winning restaurant: Vorarlberg has pleasant surprises in store for foodies, offering impeccable quality and excellent value-for-money.
The recipe for success subscribed to by Vorarlberg’s chefs is a longstanding close collaboration with local producers. As much as possible, they rely on seasonal and regional delicacies to serve up hearty traditional fare or light dishes with a creative twist.
Vorarlberg’s most popular speciality is cheese, notably the spicy Alp and Bergkäse, a hard mountain cheese. It is manufactured on many small dairy-making farms, partly on high-alpine homesteads during the summer. Other delicacies include Emmental, and tender cream cheese made of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk. Creamy camemberts round off the product line. Sura Kees, a mildly aromatic low-fat cheese, is typical of the Montafon region.
For a selection of typical recipes – from Kässpätzle to Riebel – take a look at vorarlberg.travel/en/recipes-from-vorarlberg/
Food and Drink in Vorarlberg: Selected Tips
Buy directly from farmers:
Are you after food and treats that taste just great and are made with love and attention by family farmers? Then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a list of recommended shops where you can buy produce directly from the farm.
Fresh regional produce – weekly markets in Vorarlberg:
The markets of Vorarlberg offer a feast for all the senses almost every day of the week.
Culinary tips for summer:
Celebrating food is part and parcel of the Vorarlberg way of life. At restaurants or inns, mountain lodges, Lake Constance cruises or outdoor dining: the ingredients are sourced regionally wherever possible and used in the preparation of tasteful specialities.
Meal with a view – Recommendations for enjoyment with panoramic views:
Admire Vorarlberg’s mountain world from way up high, experience moments of maritime bliss lakeside, or enjoy hours of relaxation in a fairytale environment. At these Vorarlberg establishments, the prospects for delicious food and good views are guaranteed.
Good to Know
Arrival by car, rail, coach and plane
Vorarlberg is within easy reach on all routes. The local public transport network is highly developed. Like in a major city, all rail and bus services as well as tariffs are dovetailed within the Vorarlberg transport network. In some regions, hiking buses operate in addition to scheduled services. Visitors in the Kleinwalsertal may use the Walserbus free of charge. The nearest airports are Zurich (CH) and Munich (D). vorarlberg.travel/en/how-to-reach-vorarlberg/
Regional Inclusive Cards
All of Vorarlberg’s six holiday destinations offer their own Inclusive Card. Depending on the region, the cards are valid on public transport, cable-cars and lifts, museums, recreational facilities and enrolment in different programmes.
In Kleinwalsertal, Brandnertal, Klostertal and in Alpenstadt Bludenz, the card is included in the price of accommodation for visitors staying one night or longer at partner businesses, in Bregenzerwald (including Fontanella, Faschina and Sonntag in the Grosses Walsertal biosphere reserve), it is included for visitors staying 3 nights or longer. As of summer 2019, the guest cards in Brandnertal, Klostertal and in Alpenstadt Bludenz are readily accessible via the “Clara” app on your smart phone.
In the Lake Constance-Vorarlberg region (Bodensee-Vorarlberg leisure card), in Montafon (Montafon Brandnertal Card) and in Lech (My Lech Card), the cards are on sale at a bargain all-in rate.
Curious and Fascinating Facts
From alpine skiing to cutting-edge innovation
Vorarlberg grabs people’s attention in many different ways. Small in size, the region surprises with many curiosities and products which are known all over the world.
Did you know that …
The first ever ski course for guests in the history of skiing was held in 1906 in Zürs am Arlberg?
In 1881, Emperor Francis Joseph inaugurated the first telephone in the Austro-Hungarian empire? This telephone has been preserved for visitors to marvel at at Gasthaus Gütle.
The sun protection factor was developed in Vorarlberg? We owe this invention to Franz and Marga Greiter, founders of the “Piz Buin“ sun lotion manufacturing company, which derives its name from Vorarlberg’s highest peak, the 3,312 m high Piz Buin.
The finest Baroque churches and monasteries in the Lake Constance area were built by builders and craftspeople from local Bregenzerwald? A builders‘ guild formed in the 17th century in Au in Bregenzerwald whose artistry and skills were in wide demand.
The European watershed between the Rhine and the Danube runs through Vorarlberg?
The export share of Vorarlberg’s companies stands at 60% and is thus the highest of all Austrian states?
Ropeways all over the world are designed and partly manufactured in Vorarlberg? Doppelmayr, the world market leader in ropeway technology, is headquartered in Vorarlberg.
Heated chair-lift seats are an innovation from Vorarlberg? They were developed by the Doppelmayr company.
The overwhelming share of all Red Bull cans sold worldwide are filled in Vorarlberg? This is a job done by Rauch, a company manufacturing fruit juices, which is also based in Vorarlberg.
Plastic packaging from Vorarlberg is used all over the world for drinks, foods, cosmetic and sanitary products and a lot more? They are produced by Alpla, the technology leader when it comes to packaging solutions.
Furniture and kitchen designers all around the world rely on fittings from Vorarlberg? A company with world-wide operations, Blum has its seat in Vorarlberg.
Wolford, manufacturer of premium tights, bodywear and women’s fashion is based in Bregenz? They also run a factory outlet there.
The first design hotel to open in Austria is located in Dornbirn? Designed by architects Baumschlager Eberle, Hotel Martinspark opened in 1996.