Intrepid tastebud adventures await. With mesmerising scenery and heritage-rich cuisine, Sophie Ritchie shares how to explore the two regions of St Johann in Tirol and Kaiserwinkl for a weekend of Tyrollean fun
A voluptuous landscape filled with towering mountains, carpets of forest and achingly pretty skylines, Tirol in Austria is a picturesque playground for any adventurous foodie – even when the snow’s long gone.
A destination placing strong focus on local produce and preserving Austrian heritage, Sophie Ritchie shares how to explore the two regions of St Johann in Tirol and Kaiserwinkl for a weekend of cheese tasting, active hiking and charming alpine accommodation.
1 The Wordrobe’s Guide to St Johann in Tirol
Located in a valley basin between two mountains awaits St. Johann, pronounced “Sankt yo-Hahn'” by locals. A bustling historic town at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser Mountains, St. Johann’s streets are lined with independent shops, charming cafes and stunning archaic buildings.
Pay a visit to the weekly market and leave with an armful of the region’s wares. On Fridays, the main square is abuzz with stall-keepers offering everything from savoury speciality cheeses and brightly decorated biscuits to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Mark your diary: Take your place at the annual St. Johann Dumpling Festival for a three-day feast of 26,000 dumplings served upon an enormous 500-metre table setup in the centre of town. With 26 recipe variations to try, tradition has never looked so tasty.
Where to stay
1 Gasteiger Jagdschlössl
If you like your stays both soothing and simple, then book a room at the Gasteiger Jagdschlössl. A traditional hotel filled with charm (and the occasional taxidermy animal) this family-run property is ideal for sampling local produce, lounging on the terrace or simply playing a spot of alpine golf. jagdschloessl.at
2 Angerer Alm
Starting on the edge of town, hike your way (or catch the cable car) to 1,300ft to spend the night at Angerer Alm. A picturesque guesthouse nestled into the beauty of the Tyrollean mountains, staying here has the cozy feel of spending the night at someone’s home – with the added benefit of a wine cellar stocked with over 6,000 bottles.
The views are impressive (particularly in the morning, when the clouds hover above the valley below like silvery blankets) but it’s owner Annemarie Foidl’s welcoming aura and vast wine knowledge that’ll leave a lasting impression.
As president of the Australian Sommelier Association, you know you’re in capable hands when it comes to a glass of the good stuff. angereralm.at
Don’t Miss: catching the nearby gondola one stop up to the very top of the mountain. Step out to see adorable mountain goats, mesmerising views and and additional glorious hiking opportunities.
Three of St. Johann’s best foodie pitstops
1 Best for cheese: Wilder Käser
Cheese fanatics can head to the Wilder Käser factory to find out more about the Tyrollean cheesemaking process – there’s also a menu brimming with savoury sharing plates to try after. wilder-kaeser.at
2 Best for Schnaps: Aggstein Schnaps distiller
This family-run Schnaps distillery is perfect for a taste of Austria’s most famous tipple. Whether you like it berry-scented or even laced with chilli, peruse the plethora of flavours on offer in the shop for a boozy memento. aggstein.co.at
3 Best for beer: Huber Bräu brewery
Somewhat of a St. Johann landmark, the 30m tower of the Huber Bräu brewery can be spotted for miles around. Sample the flavours of different beers produced by this 300 year-old family-run business and drink in the surrounding views at the same time.
2 The Wordrobe’s Guide to Kaiserwinkl
A speedy 20-minute drive from St. Johann awaits Kaiserwinkl, a holiday destination designed for relaxing and rendezvousing in classic Austrian style.
A hiker’s paradise set in the East of Tirol with an almost inexhaustible number of trails to explore, these scenic surrounds will have you running for the hills – quite literally.
Where to stay
A spacious hotel separated by carpeted underground tunnel into two main buildings, this four-star stay is set next to the tourist hotspot of Lake Walchsee with swimming, waterskiing and pedalo trips galore.
The beds are comfy, the views are lovely but it’s the new 4000m spa area that’s the true jewel here. Steam or sauna the afternoon away with the small village of treatment rooms – the Tyrollean sauna, infrared room and soothing chill-out zone are our personal favourites. seehof.com/en
What to do
1 Hike to the Bergeralm hut
Take on this thigh-burning 10km hike to find out more about the craftsmanship behind butter and cheese. If you keep your eyes peeled (or hire a guide) on the way up, you can even take secret shortcuts made by farmers over hundreds of years ago.
Grazing on the lush meadows around this hilltop hut are herds of cows which provide the milk needed for dairy products – a whopping 45,000 litres of it every summer.
The Berheralm hut turn this into several different types of cheese, including the famous “Adler Gold” soft cheese which can be sampled (and purchased, so save room in the rucksack). As well as the dairy, there’s also plenty of coffee and beer to whet your appetite once you’ve reached the top. tyrol.com
2 Bike around Lake Walchsee
Pitstop at Hotel Seehof’s friendly reception to borrow one of their many mountain bikes and head to the nearby signposted trails for a scenic swirl around Lake Walchsee. With the soaring mountains around you, it’s a relaxing way to squeeze in some cardio and enjoy amazing views at the same time.
3 Catch a gondola at Unterburg
Hop on a gondola at Unterburg to be zipped up the mountain to spectacular viewing points and multiple hiking trails. As well as the scenery, you’re likely to be treated to the sight of adventure junkies paragliding off the mountain and descending into the valley below.
Mark your diary: Enjoy one of the region’s annual highlights at the week-long “Alpin Ballooning” festival, held every January. More than 50 balloons in starkly different colours take to the skies above Kaiserwinkl for a series of competitions and races – with bookable balloon rides too.
Start the adventure
Ready to make it happen? To find out more and plan your Tirol trip, please click here.
Words by Sophie Ritchie