The Bavarian spa town of Bad Ischl is one of Austria’s secret gems, a gentle oasis on the Traun River in the heart of the country’s Salzkammergut region. Home to an Imperial Villa and many health spas, the town has an atmosphere of romance and is surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks. The Salzkammergut region was where The Sound of Music was filmed and looks just as enchanting as it did on the big screen.
A series of historical buildings line the town’s central streets, giving it a pleasant sense of grandeur. The imperial Kaiservilla is the largest and most impressive, while the Kongresshaus and Kurhaus also reflect Bavarian mountain styles in the late 19th century. Although Bad Ischl is no longer a part of Bavaria, it has retained the carefree atmosphere synonymous with the region. Most visitors are in Bad Ischl for the spas, and there are plenty to choose from. Skiing is possible in the surrounding mountains throughout winter while a gondola runs from the city to ruins of Wildenstein Castle. From here it’s possible to walk a little further and enjoy views over the mountains from Katrin alpine pasture.
The town is 50 kilometres east of Salzburg, a journey that takes just over an hour by road. By public transport from Salzburg or Vienna, travellers will need to change trains in Attnang-Puchheim. Bad Ischl is also a gateway to other destinations in the Salzkammergut region, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Hallstatt village and the DachsteinIce Cave.
Bad Ischl has long been a getaway for royalty, and the Kaiservilla “Imperial Villa” was given to Emperor Franz Joseph I as a wedding present from his mother, back in 1854. Franz Joseph went on to be the catalyst of World War I. His villa is open to the public, and the grounds are particularly impressive, with flourishing gardens gazing out over the rest of Bad Ischl.