As a member of our loyal community, you already know how much we adore Austria as a travel destination. Not only because it’s really easy to get there from Germany, either by car, train, or plane, but also because of Austria’s incredible nature.

None of us had ever visited Carinthia before, but that was about to change. We were quite excited about the region, especially since it’s so close to Italy and Slovenia that it makes for a perfect cross-country trip.

Are you ready to experience magical lakes, hearty cuisine, and the warm Carinthian dialect? Then you’ve come to the right place! Experience all this beautiful region has to offer in our travel report, plus get our personal tips for your very own trip.

Getting to Carinthia 

Carinthia is Austria’s southernmost state. If you want maximum flexibility when traveling around the area, the best option is to have your own vehicle or rent one. Nevertheless, Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia, can be easily reached by train from Germany, as well as some other bigger neighboring cities. We chose to fly from Berlin to Venice. If you are wondering, “Why do that?” The answer is simple: We did not want to miss out on an extra day in the “City of Water” ;). Furthermore, you can comfortably travel from Venice to Villach by train in just over 3 hours.  

Sunrise above the Alps and a foggy Venice

Accommodation in Carinthia

We stayed in Villach at the brand-new Hotel Harry’s Home. Its central location near the old town and the main train station makes it an excellent starting point for exploring the picturesque town of Villach and its surroundings. This place made us feel totally at home, and we heartily recommend it. To fit your needs and budget, you can even reserve combined rooms or small apartments with kitchens.

Villach’s Center

The 6 best things to do in winter in Villach and the surrounding area 

  1. Skiing and exploring the Gerlitz Alps 

For us, when visiting Austria in the winter, skiing is an absolute must. Just a 15 minute drive from Villach, you’ll find The Gerlitz Alps, a cozy ski resort with a fantastic view of the three local lakes: Lake Ossiach, Lake Faaker and Lake Wörth. Gerlitz also offers an unforgettable skiing experience for all skill levels. We can confirm from our own experience that both beginners and advanced skiers get their money’s worth. We particularly enjoyed the wide slopes, which were almost exclusively ours.

At Gerlitzer Neugarten, the highest point of the ski resort, you can enjoy an unmatched panoramic view including the Italian and Slovenian Alps, Lake Wörth, and a perfect postcard view of Villach.

  1. Culinary tour

Did you know that Carinthia’s Lesach, Gail and Gitschtal valleys and Lake Weissensee were the first officially recognized Slow Food Travel destinations in the world? The Slow Food movement is particularly embraced in Carinthia. The value of regional food and sustainable production is consciously promoted here. Culinary delights bring people together, allow them to experience traditions, learn about the country and its people, as well as showing appreciation for the craft of agriculture and gastronomy. Here in Carinthia, you can take notes from producers and restaurateurs during cooking classes, culinary tours, tastings, or workshops and take your newly gained wisdom from the region back home. On our next trip, we would love to make our own walnut oil, discover old fruit varieties, and sample wines at the local wineries. 
Given the short duration of our trip and the enticing offer, we opted for the culinary pleasure tour included in the Erlebnis CARD. We started at the Kaffeeteria on “Italiener Straße”. Here, the owner – and, as we soon realized, passionate coffee lover – gave us an introduction to the world of coffee beans and revealed the secret of the perfect espresso, including a short training session on coffee notes. We moved onto the Christian Berger bakery, where we were able to taste Kärntner Reindling, a handmade traditional pastry. A true insider tip, since the bakery is off the main streets. Our next stop was the weekly market in Villach, where we sampled the finest sausage and Austrian bacon – perfect souvenirs to take home. Last but not least, we couldn’t miss another visit to the Brauhof, because what would a local culinary tour be without trying the famous Carinthian Kasnudeln? Speaking of Kasnudeln, this Carinthian specialty is a top favorite on our list of foods. Imagine a divine concoction of hand-pinched noodles filled with a creamy blend of curd cheese and potatoes, all drenched in melted brown butter. The term “Krendeln” refers to the distinctive crimping of the noodle edges, a technique so entrenched within the cultural traditions among the locals that there’s a saying: “If you can’t Krendeln, you won’t get a husband!”. With a full stomach, we walked with our lovely tour guide Claudia to the final stop, a Swiss stone pine store. Also known as Austrian stone pine, or just Stone pine, this is a coniferous tree native to the Alpine regions, known for its unique properties. Products made from stone pine are frequently associated with health-promoting and relaxing properties, as the wood emits a pleasant fragrance and can be used to produce essential oils. Here, of course, we toasted to a great tour with stone pine schnapps.

The culinary tour in Villach takes place every Wednesday at 10 am with the Erlebnis CARD. Definitely a highlight that allows you to get to know the city of Villach and its people up close. If you ask us, it’s a no-brainer!.

  1. Lake Faak and Finkenstein Castle

Lake Faak is definitely worth a visit at any time of the year. This lake stands out because of its intense turquoise waters and beautiful mountain surroundings. It’s perfect for anyone who loves nature or wants to relax. In the summer, you can swim, sail, do stand-up paddling, or just sunbathe, since it’s the southernmost lake in Austria with the most hours of sun. There are also great hiking and biking paths around to see the area’s beauty. In the winter, they offer ice dipping sessions. We didn’t try it this time, but it’s a good reason to come back. Lake Faak is also famous for its annual Harley-Davidson meeting, which attracts thousands of motorcycle fans from all over the world. As we aimed to capture the entire lake in our photos, we were guided up to the Taborhöhe, where one can enjoy a spectacular view of the lake and the Mittagskogel (Midday Peak). It’s a great place to hang around for a sunset or a relaxed end to the day as it is not as crowded as the lidos. 

Those seeking another extraordinary view will find it at the Burgarena Finkenstein. The arena is a classic amphitheater-style venue, so when you visit in the summer, you can enjoy a more traditional atmosphere for concerts, theater performances, film screenings and other cultural events. Even aside from the cultural events, a trip to Burgarena Finkenstein is worth it alone for the captivating view of the idyllic Lake Faak amid the surrounding mountains. 

Those seeking another extraordinary view will find it at the Burgarena Finkenstein. The arena is a classic amphitheater-style venue, so when you visit in the summer, you can enjoy a more traditional atmosphere for concerts, theater performances, film screenings and other cultural events. Even aside from the cultural events, a trip to Burgarena Finkenstein is worth it alone for the captivating view of the idyllic Lake Faak amid the surrounding mountains. 

  1. Organic citrus garden

The citrus garden is located very close to Lake Faak and can be visited all year. Visitors can stroll through fragrant lemon and orange greenhouses, admire the colorful fruit, and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere. You really get your money’s worth in winter, when the citrus trees are in bloom. The fruit ripens from Christmas to March, and with a bit of luck, you might even be able to marvel at lemons which grow upwards of 35 centimeters long! Remarkable, isn’t it? If that still doesn’t impress you, delicious souvenirs can be found in the in-house organic store, ranging from citrus marmalades to limoncello. For those with some extra time, citrus farmer Michael Ceron offers guided tours where you can taste your way through jams, citrus honey, and lemon iced tea.

  1. Dobratsch Nature Park

Active vacations are our jam, so Dobratsch Nature Park had to be on our list of Carinthian destinations. Once again, we took the Naturpark-bus to Dobratsch directly from our accommodation by the train station in Villach. You can easily find the bus times on Google Maps or at the reception of your hotel. We arrived about half an hour later and, as expected, were welcomed by a winter wonderland. Snow-covered landscapes as far as the eye can see, tranquility, and the majestic mountains are often all you need. It’s a fantastic place, especially for children and families. Children can enjoy sledding or take on the easier hiking trails up to Dobratsch. Be prepared – the path up to the panorama restaurant can take 2.5 – 3 hours, but is generally not difficult to manage with appropriate hiking footwear and the stamina required for a moderate hike.

  1. Carinthia Thermal Spa Warmbad Villach

For those looking for some relaxation after a long day on the slopes or after a lengthy hike, look no further. The Villach Thermal Spa is the perfect place to fully unwind your mind and body. At first glance, a thermal spa might not seem like a hidden gem, but Kärnten Therme captivated us in its own unique way. For starters, during ski season, you can purchase a combined ticket. This allows you to spend the morning burning off some energy on the slopes and later enjoy a trip to the saunas or the more open area of the thermal spa in the afternoon. As far as sauna-related activities go, Kärnten Therme offers an event that was a first for us: the “Double Trouble” sauna infusion, led by our two sauna attendants, Maria and Robert. They put in a tremendous effort to provide an intense yet amazingly pleasant experience. Another distinctive feature is that the infusions at Kärnten Therme are set to music. This was, without a doubt, the highlight for us. The combination of a melancholic song by Lana Del Rey, followed by atmospheric Austrian music, was truly unforgettable and unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.

Restaurants in Villach

When it comes to culinary delights, everything related to dining in Villach is also easily accessible on foot. We practically only had to step outside our accommodations to find ourselves at the cozy Villacher Brauhof. Here, you can enjoy everything that delights the Austrian heart, from homemade Kasnudeln to Kaiserschmarrn. Beyond its Austrian specialties, the traditional brewery also stands out for its uniquely brewed beer.

On our second night, we had a fantastic fine dining experience at LAGANA Restaurant im Voco Hotel. An elegant setting and a menu that combines classic dishes with innovative creations awaited us there. In all honesty, we have rarely eaten as well as we did here. So if you’re a foodie and enjoy a fine dining atmosphere, exquisite cuisine all with impeccable service, then you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to LAGANA.

P.S.: Our final insider tip isn’t a traditional restaurant but rather a charming spot that sweetened up our afternoon in a unique way. As we strolled along the Drau in Villach, we stumbled upon the delightful Café “biest”. The lovely owner served us delicious coffee and some delightful cake as the warm sun kissed our faces. Sometimes all you need to make all your troubles go away is to sit in the sun with some coffee and cake.


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