A kiss on the hand in Semmering.

Semmering and the large houses at the foot of the mountain are preparing for their renaissance. The Sommerfrische is regaining its reputation and is making a comeback.

The words “Semmering” and “Sommerfrische” belong together. It must stay that way forever and ever. The area offers great opportunities to enjoy a unique ambience in original locations, such as the Südbahnhotel or the Kurhaus Semmering just outside Vienna. Immerse yourself in a bygone era, which is characterised by art and culture, a unique flair, lengthy conversations and long walks. All of this alone will help you to feel revived during a long weekend here.

First came the Southern Railway, ...

The history of the Südbahn (Southern Railway) was shaped by bold visionaries, first-class technicians, powerful monarchs and investors willing to take risks. Learn all about them in the World Heritage Information Centre. One of them – and possibly the most important – was Karl Ritter von Ghega. His portrait can be seen on the Austrian 20 schilling note from 1967. The reverse side of the note depicts what is surely his most important project: the Southern Railway and the gigantic 184 metre-long and 46 metre-high “Kalte Rinne” viaduct, which is embedded in the Semmering panorama. If you would like to see the scenic view from the old 20 schilling note for yourself, follow this hiking route and stop at the “20 Schilling View” observation deck.

Karl Ghega is a hero because he made the impossible possible. The Semmering railway crossing is 895 metres high, with a gradient of up to 25 percent. In 1854, he not only made history with this, but also made Austria a pioneer in the construction of mountain railways with continuous, long, and steep gradients. He also made it possible for members of the upper crust to travel comfortably to their summer residences. The “conquest of the south” resulted in the emergence of a tourist stronghold, which to this day boasts incomparable charm. No wonder, then, that an entire museum is dedicated to the railway’s creator, Ghega.

… then the hotels.

Once the Semmering region had become more easily accessible, and the influx of visitors increased, the nobility (who owned villas there) were joined by members of high society. Built in 1882, the legendary Südbahnhotel at 1,000 metres above sea level was the first hotel to open in the area. A young emperor learned to ski here. Artists met muses and patrons. Those looking for a spouse danced. And businessmen disappeared into back rooms. It was certainly a colourful and illustrious time of hustle and bustle. Sommerfrische and spa tourism was practically invented here, and turned the small community into a glamorous alpine health resort. Today the venerable house shines, after modifications and reconstruction work, and is seen as an iconic, 400-room work of art in the Semmering region. The doors remained closed from the late 1960s until the summer of 2017. Today, visitors can once again fill the Südbahnhotel and the Kultur.Sommer.Semmering (Semmering Summer of Culture) – which provides a dreamlike, nostalgic backdrop – with life. So walk in and immerse yourself in a world that is like a beautiful alpine daydream.

A similar spirit was once exuded by the Kurhaus Semmering. Embedded in the picturesque mountain scenery, it was built in 1909 as a spa. It perfectly represents the transition from late historicism to functionalist modernism. The mixture of regional-traditional, castle architecture and decorative Art Nouveau à la Otto Wagner is enchanting. It is hardly surprising that the classy spa hotel was also a Sommerfrische for great thinkers such as Max Reinhardt, Arthur Schnitzler, Gerhart Hauptmann, Peter Altenberg, Franz Werfel, and Alma Mahler. The hotel welcomed its last guests in 1988. But all that could soon change. In early 2020, Graz-based hotelier Florian Weitzer bought the property. The historic original structure will be preserved during the renovation, and the traditional building is to be reopened as the Hotel Grand Semmering.

And finally: Relax and enjoy.

Hiking is a wonderful experience, and people like to make the route as long as possible. For example, there is the Railway hiking route from Semmering to Payerbach, which leads along the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Semmering Railway. Tip: You should definitely plan a visit to the Hotel Looshaus am Kreuzberg – either to eat or to stay overnight. Let’s be honest - who wouldn't want to be a guest in a property designed by the famous Adolf Loos? Or you can stay close to the centre of Semmering, in keeping with your status. The Villa Antoinette (including its pool) can be privately rented for up to 13 people. It is worth every cent! The Magic Views of Semmering route starts just a stone’s throw away from here. It leads you past the “20 Schilling View” observation deck, to the imposing Doppelreiter lookout tower, and a number of villas on the way back. The Belvedere Hotel is a great and perfectly located stop-off point, and the Restaurant Löffler offers fine dining. The best way to see Karl Ritter von Ghega’s planned route for the Semmering Railway through Adlitzgraben is to take the Semmering - Eselstein Tour or to plan a visit to the Ghega Museum in Breitenstein. Once you have come back down the mountain, head to your holiday apartment in Villa Daheim, where the Sommerfrische ambience and excellent views are included in the price, or your room in the Frühstückspension-Landhaus Semmering – a B&B in the town centre.