Sommerfrische since 1890.

The Vienna Alps are the ultimate Sommerfrische hotspot. Not far from Vienna, and yet in a different world – this is how holidays in Lower Austria should be. The experience is made better still if your accommodation is at the foot of the Rax.

The region around the beautiful Rax is currently experiencing something of a renaissance. Its reputation for Sommerfrische has been restored, and the picturesque villas, stories from days gone by, and new art and cultural offerings all have a chance to shine. It has always been a perfect place for emperors, artists and bons vivants alike. You can treat yourself to unforgettable evenings, and explore both the nature and the cosiness of Lower Austria.

High society at the foot of the Rax.

There are countless historic villas, castles and residences in Reichenau. It is undeniable that Wartholz Castle is an architectural jewel, which casts a magic spell on its visitors. You just have to stand in the castle’s gardens to understand why Emperor Karl and Empress Zita loved it so much – the view of the Rax mountains says it all. Enjoy the castle’s gardens over a milky coffee – or on an evening in the Wartholz SommerSalon, which, as the venue for various events, is always abuzz. The Wartholz Literary Salon, where pop culture meets literature, and the secluded summer cinema in the gardens, which offers a varied programme, also stimulate the mind and soul.

Just a stone’s throw away from Wartholz Castle is Rothschild Castle, which is built in the style of an English country manor. It was originally planned to be much bigger, to outshine Wartholz, but the view is just as fabulous – as are the works in the contemporary Rothschild Castle Gallery. Tip: If you are planning to visit the gallery, you should check the opening hours in advance. They are irregular, and so the gallery is not always freely accessible for visitors! Reichenau an der Rax is also home to the monarchy's first heated swimming pool. In as early as 1911, the Reichenau swimming pool could be warmed to 28 degrees C. It has since been modified, but the water is still warm.

On the trail of Freud and civilisation

Even in days gone by, great spirits were drawn to the Rax, including Sigmund Freud, to whom a memorial has been created in the Hotel-Restaurant Knappenhof. You can still enjoy fine dining and stay overnight here, and hike to the Ottohaus inn, to further follow in Freud’s footsteps. That was all he needed to do, to recover from his exhausting everyday life as a doctor and therapist. It was in Ottohaus where, in 1893, a young woman called Aurelia (who was the inn-keeper’s daughter) turned to the doctor for help and told him about her fears. This was Freud’s first psychoanalysis, and he described it two years later in his work “Studies on Hysteria”, a psychoanalysis case book, as “The Case of Katharina”. The Rax can also be ascended in a thrilling way, by riding on Austria’s oldest public cableway, the Rax cableway. As you will notice, the Rax has been attracting visitors since 1925. The Raxalm Berggasthof (mountain inn) in the Rax cableway mountain station is usually the backdrop for annual guest performances by the Theater in den Bergen theatre company. Unfortunately, this will not be the case this year. The great Reichenau Festival, which normally takes place in the spa resort every summer, has also been cancelled. Experience cool summer nights and inspiring days in Thalhof, against a fresh, summery backdrop at the foot of the Rax.

Sommerfrische in Payerbach.

Travelling by Semmering Railway will give you that summer feeling. Particularly worth seeing, in addition to the beautiful views, is the historic Payerbach train station, where the Habsburgs had their own waiting room, in keeping with their royal status. Not far from here, you will come across the 228 metre long, 25 metre high and immeasurably beautiful Schwarza Viaduct, with 13 arches. It is home to the Vinodukt wine shop, a fully-stocked winery with an impressive multimedia exhibit about the Semmering Railway. A hike to the Looshaus am Kreuzberg also starts in Payerbach. When you set out along the beautiful path to this masterpiece, which is in typical Loos style, you will be reminded of the words of the architect: “Construction is not picturesque. Leave all of that to the walls, the mountains and the sun”, as you enjoy the view. There's a lot of meaning in that, because his architecture is based on a special kind of magic. In the Looshaus hotel and restaurant – which is a listed building – you can enjoy not only excellent food, but also a good night’s sleep.

Just like Payerbach, the historic Küb post office will take you back to a bygone era. Those who requested it allegedly included the then Empress Zita, who wanted to correspond with a confidante in Küb. It was opened in 1905, and still continues to fascinate.

It is only natural for a Sommerfrische area to have an open-air museum. The Gut Gasteil Gallery in Prigglitz spans 16 hectares. The sculptures which populate the landscape were specially designed by the artists for this location. For 1.5 hours they are quiet – and yet very stimulating – companions on a freshly mown hiking route.

Comfort in the Rax area.

There is so much art and culture at the foot of the Rax, but you also need time to clear your mind a little. Head to the banks of the Schwarza, find a beach chair, and indulge in sweet idleness. Our top tip: Order a picnic basket online. People have enjoyed winding down like this since 1928. That was when the Edlach Lido opened. Like the Reichenau swimming pool, it could be heated; but the real attraction, besides the coffee shop and hairdressing salon, was something completely different: An authentic Adriatic-style beach in a high alpine location. For this purpose, sand was purchased from Grado (on the former Austrian Riviera) and equipped with beach chairs. Maybe Heimito von Doderer swam here during his stay at the nearby Riegelhof in Prein, where he wrote his novel “The Strudlhof Steps”? The house and study are still there, and can even be hired!

On the way back down the mountain, we recommend taking the short circular route through the Breitenstein Gorge. You won’t regret following this route… It can be combined with a visit to the Ghega Museum – also in Breitenstein.