The Southern Approaches to the Austro-Hungarian Empire
August 16, 2006 4:19 AM   Subscribe

Advice on travelling to Austria, Slovenia, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Hotels, Sights, Food, General Thoughts

Just booked myself on a lovely 17-day sojurn to the above mentioned locales. Right now the plan is 4 days in Vienna then rent a car and drive around for the next two weeks. Tentatively planning on spending 3 days in Ljubljana, then a few days exploring Slovenia and the Trieste area. Finally I have already booked the last week at this place I heard about here. where I plan on spending a week just laying low and relaxing before returning back to the real world.

Wondering if anyone has hotel suggestions in Vienna, Trieste (or elsewhere in that part of the world) and Ljubljana - cost isn't an issue but I find that as someone in their 20's travelling alone big fancy five star hotels are not the best places to be. Am looking more for interesting and fun. I've already tried booking the Hostel Celica in Ljubljana but there are no cells available during the time I plan on being there.

Am exceedingly interested in Food & Wine places that are special in any of those parts of the world. Have done the standard Chowhound and eGullet searches already but looking for more input. Particular input into which Heurtgen in Vienna to go to, and vineyards in Friuli or Slovenia would also be appreciated. Also a huge cheese guy.

Also wondering if anyone has been to Graz, Klagenfurt, or other places on the way from Vienna to Ljubljana that are worth a stop?

Any must get guidebooks - especially as they relate to Friuli or Food and Wine?

Looking for the non-obvious and first hand accounts. I've already done the standard guide book and googling.
posted by JPD to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Stay in Piran in Slovenia and you'll be able to ferry across to Trieste. It's a cool little town with winding streets and small, but nice central square. It's been 10 years since I've been there, but Slovenia was one of the nicest surprises I encountered wandering around Central Europe. Have fun.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 5:40 AM on August 16, 2006

I can second Piran - was there very briefly earlier this summer, but it seemed a nice little place - worth spending a day or two certainly.
posted by jontyjago at 5:57 AM on August 16, 2006

I live in Vienna, and just returned last night from a 4 day weekend in Carinthia/Kärnten (the state in which Klagenfurt is located).

For Heuriger, I recommend going a little outside of Vienna - Niederösterreich or Burgenland. Baden and Gumpoldskirchen are both a short train ride outside of Vienna. Both are nice, and have a variety of more traditional Heurigen from which to choose. If you want the really real deal, though, you'll need a car, and you'll need to be here at the right time. (When will you be in Vienna)?

If you want to visit a Heuriger in Vienna, Feuerwehr Wagner, in the 19th, is nice. In the first district (city center), you can visit the Esterhazykeller (a Stadt or city Heuriger).

If you want a good Schnitzel, visit the Figlmüller on Bäckerstrasse. If you want a good Tafelspitz, visit Plachutta. If you want just about any good, traditional Austrian food, visit Zum Renner.

If you want a nice, central hotel, and price is not a consideration, Le Meridien is an excellent bet. It's 4 (5?) star, but is conveniently located and has a modern bar which often features dj's or live acts.

I haven't been to Graz, but hear that it's worth a short visit. Kärnten is one of my favorites - a good mix of beautiful natural scenery and quaint towns bursting with history. Check out the Salzkammergut (self link), if you have a chance. If you don't have enough time to go too far, I suggest that you either stay in Klagenfurt or somewhere else on the Wörthersee - Velden or Pörtschach. Again, it depends on when you'll be here, as Kärnten is probably more fun in the Summer.

If you're into hiking and mountains, you have plenty to choose from in Kärnten. I visited the Nockalmstrasse yesterday, and did a nice little hike to the peak at Königstuhl (2,333 meters). I saw my first Bergrettungseinsatz (mountain rescue) while coming back down - an older German man had a heart attack in front of us. Two of the people in our party of four were nurses, but there was little they could do, and the gentleman expired before the rescue helicopter arrived.

Afterwards, we hiked back down to Karlbad, where we ate an excellent, traditional meal at an authentic Hutte, complete with Blasmusik (horns and singing).
posted by syzygy at 6:43 AM on August 16, 2006

I also stayed in the Vienna Le Meridien. Five star hotel it is, but it's also among the artsiest, funkiest hotels I've ever stayed it with the most comfortable beds and awesomest showers. FWIW, we got a good deal through at the time we went.
posted by whatzit at 7:15 AM on August 16, 2006

I'm currently living in Ljubljana, more or less since April.

Celica is a great hostel as far meeting people and things to do, even if you're not staying there. There are lots of other hostels in Ljubljana (one just 1/2 mile from Celica) so you shouldn't have a problem if you make a reservation now. Fluxus Hostel is apparently very good, but I've never stayed there. If you did want to go nicer, the Grand Hotel Union (4*) is excellent, and their breakfast is amazing. For wine in Ljubljana, the Movia Wine Bar (which you've seen in your guides) is great.

There's lots of great food all over Ljubljana, but I pretty much only know how to get there, not the names. I'll ask the wifey later and get back to you.

Bled and Bohinj are both nice to visit if you like lakes and hiking. Bled is more touristy.

Maribor, Slovenia's 2nd largest town and very near Graz, comes highly recommended from most of the Slovenians I've spoken to, although I've only been there once. The Črnko winery is award-winning (and deservedly so) and is near Maribor.

Izola is a town on the Adriatic Sea which I also enjoyed and is on the way to Piran, so maybe you could stop there.

The highways in Slovenia will have you constantly stopping to pay tolls. In the ~80 miles between Ljubljana and the Austrian border (Graz) there are 4 tolls. They'll accept Euros or Tolars, as will pretty much any store or restaurant (although the smaller ones won't be as happy about it.)

If you don't pass Trieste, I don't think you'll pay a toll on the Autostrada. In Austria, you're supposed to buy a toll sticker "vignette" for 29 Euros. Your rental car may already have one, depending on whether you're starting in Italy or Austria.

Okay, *incredible* places I've eaten, now with names! Kamrca (expensive, you need to drive or taxi there, it's not near the center, but worth it), Pri Škofu (breakfast and lunch, no written menus, amazing), Skaručna (closes at 8pm).

Email's in my profile if you have more questions. Have a good trip!
posted by cactus at 7:34 AM on August 16, 2006 [2 favorites]

Awesome! My wife and I are leaving in six weeks for ten days in Slovenia and the Istrian peninsula (Croatia). We have booked a few hotels that look nice and have had some positive reviews.

Hotel Mons in Ljubljana
Hisa Franko in Kobarid
Pension Berc in Bled
Hotel Filipini in Porec (Croatia)

I've also found TripAdvisor and VirtualTourist to be useful sites for finding real reviews of places (and in the case of VT, finding local people to connect with).

Have a great trip!
posted by jmcnally at 8:34 AM on August 16, 2006

I haven't been to Ljubljana since just before the war (about 15 yrs), but back then the Grand Hotel Union was a good place to stay. Then again, the classiest joint in town was the Holiday Inn, and the best restaurant was Chinese, so go figure. (I suspect things have changed.)

Lake Bled is lovely, and at the time, you could eat lunch at Tito's personal lakeside villa, served by his former valets. (I also remember some great Ljubljana beer gardens, but it's all a little fuzzy.)

Slovenia is a beautiful country, and the people have a fascinating historical perspective -- one foot in the West, one in the East. Do a lot of talking (and learning) while you're there.
posted by turducken at 8:35 AM on August 16, 2006

Just noticed your interest in wine. I work in the wine business and have heard nothing but praise for Movia (web site in Slovenian only). We're going to try and visit. Also, they have a wine bar (vinoteka) in Ljubljana that is a must-see. Near Maribor, we're also going to visit the Dveri-Pax winery, located in a 12th century monastery.
posted by jmcnally at 8:49 AM on August 16, 2006

Hey JPD, i just stayed at the Hotel Mons on a trip through Ljubljana - it's not downtown, but it seemed like one of the nicest hotels in the area (we looked around a bit), and about a 5-10 minute drive to city center. I was only there for a day, but there seemed like plenty to do in Ljubljana - the castle and the three-bridges area in particular always seem to have something going on.
posted by jba at 12:25 PM on August 16, 2006

Response by poster: Hey thanks everyone - Hotel Mons is booked for Ljubljana and I will def check out a ton of the places suggested.

Anyone who has been to Vienna with a suggestion in lieu of Le Meridian. I'm sure its a nice hotel, just that I fell like I spend half my life inside big business hotels like that. Plus 350 a night when I am paying, and flying solo I just can't justify unless its really unique.

BTW for those who asked I will be there from Mid September through the first week of October.
posted by JPD at 6:52 PM on August 16, 2006

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