For our family summer holiday, we decided to head to the mountains and travelled to Alpbach in Austria. Not being the usual beach holiday, none of us really knew what to expect and the kids were very excited, if not a little curious.
We are a family of 5 which can be awkward in finding something that will please them all. Especially with their variant ages (Holly is 14, Harry is 12 and Alfie is 6). All three of them have very different expectations of what they want from a holiday, and I hoped that a trip to Alpbach in the Austrian Alps would tick all boxes.
Voted Austria’s most beautiful village and at 1000m above sea level, Alpbach is a small town in the Tirol region of Alpbachtal, surrounded by the glorious Austrian Alps. The town has strict building restrictions and all the buildings are traditional wooden chalet style. If you can picture the stereotypical postcard image of mountain wooden chalets, complete with overflowing boxes of flowers brimming with colour at every window, then you get an idea of what I mean.
A lot of ski resorts spend big budgets on marketing themselves as a summer location but feel lacklustre with atmosphere. Alpbach, in contrast, is bustling with activity with a good choice of restaurants and bars.
Food and drinks are inexpensive with a wide range of choices from authentic Austrian dishes to a wide range of pizzas. The restaurants are relaxed and family orientated with kids well catered for. The kids size schnitzel, a traditional Austrian dish, was a particular favourite with my youngest son Alfie.
Getting Around – The Alpbachtal Seenland Card
Instead of hiring a car, we got an airport transfer from Munich with Four Seasons Travel. This proved a good move as we easily travelled around utilising the Alpbachtal Seenland cards we were given allowing us free travel on the buses. The cards are given to anyone who books accommodation in the region. We really found the cards useful as the bus network is efficient, easy and free!
One bit of advice is to use the free vvt.at website or app to plan your journeys in advance.
Wiederbergerhon – Lauserland
Just one stop on the bus from Alpbach will bring you to the Wiederbergerhon 6-seater gondola, which is free to use with the Alpbachtal Seenland Card. It was a beautifully sunny day and the views from the top were simply breath taking. Looking from above the few whispery clouds, we could see Alpbach below and miles beyond.
Just below the gondola station at the top is Lauserland; a free kids adventure play area. The big attraction is the Mini-Hochseilgarten which is a tree rope adventure course suited for kids from 5 upwards. Having said that, I did have to support Alfie (aged 6), but it is not high off the ground so I could walk alongside him.
There are plenty of other games and playground attractions for the kids to enjoy including a huge 44m² bouncy cushion. One of the most popular areas is the pond which has stepping stones across it. There are also other water features such as a mini water wheel and pumps to send the water down wooden open pipes. This is a great area to let the kids cool off on a hot day.
Reith – Bathing Lake
Reith is the next town from Alpbach, so only a few stops away on the bus. It is a small and quaint place with a large bathing lake by the centre of town. The Seenland card gives you free admission and the lake is a perfect place to unwind as it has a large grass area to sunbathe, with plenty of trees to offer shade.
It was a particularly hot day when we visited and swimming in the lake was the perfect remedy to keep cool. It is reasonably shallow around the edges so toddlers can have a paddle and there is a long diving board so you can practice your double somersaults (or belly flops in my case!). We enjoyed swimming over to the large floating platform in the middle of the lake. It is ideal for catching your breath and admiring the scenery, before diving back in and swimming to shore.
Being in the mountains the lake is clean enough to swim in and you are joined by small fish, although they do not bother you at all. There are also good facilities with toilets, changing rooms and a pleasant café for ice creams and drinks.
The centre of Reith is very small but pretty, with not too much going on apart from the lake. The lake is not very well signposted but it is situated down a lane opposite the bus station.
Reith – Reitherkogelbahn
From the top of the gondola there is the Juppi Zauberwald, which is a reasonably distanced mountain trek cleverly disguised as a fantastic children’s adventure trail.
As we walked down through woodland paths, it broke out into activity adventure areas where our kids had great fun exploring mini wooden forts, camouflaged shelters, climbing walls, water activities and large climbing frames.
There are plenty of places to stop en-route to have a rest and enjoy the spectacular views of the Alps with lush green valleys below, broken up only by the small towns. Believe me, I took plenty of photos!
Each activity area is very different from the other and can easily take 2-3 hours to complete. My kids really enjoyed themselves and I was pleasantly surprised that Alfie managed to go all the way around without complaining he is tired as it can be quite a trek uphill at times. We are not exactly an ‘outdoor’ type of family at home and we would struggle to get our boys to walk anywhere, let alone a mountain trek! I really think that this holiday has opened up their eyes to what they can achieve and the adventures that can be had.
Next to the gondola is a very pleasant restaurant that we had well-earned refreshments before the gondola ride down. I had a radler citron which is a very refreshing beer with lemon. I know that sounds like a lager and lime but it isn’t! It is a very popular drink in the Austrian Alps and very thirst-quenching.
From Alpbach, the gondola is only a short bus ride away and before the town of Reith. The gondola and adventure trail is free with the Seenland card.
Kaiser Gorge (starting at Kaiserhaus)
In good weather, visiting the Kaiser Gorge is a must! We travelled by bus which took roughly an hour from Alpbach, via a transfer at Brixlegg. This is easily achieved as long as you plan the journey in advance and pay close attention to the bus times, as there is only a couple of buses that travel up to the Kaiserhaus stop in the morning, and only a couple that return late afternoon.
The walk starts at the Kaiserhaus and the narrow, stony path take you upstream along the impressive Kaiser Gorge. Although the path is narrow and high up on a cliff edge at times, there is a safety rope to one side and I felt safe at all times. Alfie managed the paths fine but it may be wise to keep an eye on young children.
It is a 1km walk and takes about half an hour, depending on how long you stop to take photos en-route! The gorge path hugs the cliff all the way around, occasionally taking you through rock tunnels and over bridges. Trees and rocks offer protection from the glaring sun and the natural dampness in the air caused by the gorge was pleasantly cooling as it was another hot day. The fast-flowing Brandenberg stream, crashing over rocks below as it cuts it’s way through the gorge, is an awe-inspiring sight and simply stunning.
At the end, we sat on large boulders by the edge of the stream to have our lunch in the shade. I then took the kids to paddle in the shallow rock pools by the side of the stream. This is great fun and the water flows swiftly between certain rocks so I held Alfie’s hand. Holly and Harry enjoyed climbing from rock to rock before wading through the stream.
The water was cooling in the afternoon heat and the noise of the water crashing over rocks around us was quite an experience.
After walking back, we had an hour to kill before the bus arrived, so while Joanna and I enjoyed a drink in the gardens of the Gasthaus Kaiserhaus restaurant, the kids played in the large adventure playground, complete with rope walks, a climbing frame, pedal karts, and even a football goal.
This was an incredible day and one of the highlights of our trip as the kids absolutely loved it. As mentioned, Alfie was fine with the gorge path but if you have younger kids it may be wise to use a safety harness – these can be hired at Gasthaus Kaiserhaus.
Schwazer Silberbergwerk (Silver Mine)
This is an incredible experience, but not for the claustrophobic! We started our journey into the mine onboard a tiny mine cart that rattles its way at speed deep into the mine. The mine cart route is narrow, dark and is 7 minutes of exhilaration. We all thought this was great fun.
Once in the mine the tour begins. Our tour guide spoke in German and then gave us an English translation. Throughout the tour there are visual presentations which are translated into different languages via headsets that are available.
The tour was interesting and very professional. We really got the feeling of what a foreboding place the mine was to work in. The rock is so hard that in the early days when the mine was being constructed, the workers only managed to chip away 5mm a day! It took them well over 20 years to dig out the mine.
It was a hard life for the miners and they were very well paid for it. They were also very unpopular people in their communities and didn’t have much time to spend their money, as the average miner died at the age of 35.
As we walked along long dingy passageways, down stone steps that are hundreds of years old, and watched the impressive, and still working, waterwheel, the history seemed to seep from the very rocks all around us.
The Schwazer Silberbergwerk is well worth a visit for anyone of any age. We travelled there by bus via Brixlegg. We had to pay a little extra (about 8 euros extra for all of us) as the Seenland cards only cover up to Schwaz. Purchasing a family ticket was only about 55 euros for the mine experience and it lasts about an hour and a half.
It is best to go during the week as it can get busy at weekends. We rocked up on a Monday morning and went straight on, but I heard there were waiting times of over 2 hours the day before. It is also busier in bad weather.
Brixlegg Outdoor Swimming Pool
This is a large public swimming pool that we had free access to utilising the Alpbachtal Seenland Cards. My kids loved it here! The pool is set in beautiful mountain surroundings and has grassy knolls to lounge out on to catch a few rays.
The pool itself is very long, has a large kids section, and diving boards at one end. There is also a café, plenty of changing rooms and WCs.
We visited late afternoon after a long and hot day and it was lovely to just cool down and chill out. The pool and facilities are extremely well looked after and clean. Holly enjoyed the large pool, while Harry and Alfie enjoyed playing around in the kids section. The water was cold, but we soon got used to it.
Looking back as I write this, we would have visited the pool a few more times late in the afternoons if we had our first visit earlier during our trip. Brixlegg is the main hub for public transport for most locations and the swimming pool is only a 5 minute walk from the Brixlegg Herrnhausplatz bus stop.
Situated alongside the Inn River, Rattenberg is a small but beautiful town which is well known for its glass making. The centre of town is a pedestrian only zone and is lined by old, well-kept, tall and colourful buildings.
This is a tourist hotspot with plenty of people enjoying long lunches or drinks at the cafes that line the streets. There are plenty of the usual souvenir shops, as well as interesting speck and cheese cellars, and of course glass making shops.
We enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle as we meandered down the street towards the Inn river, while the kids enjoyed an ice cream. Holly took a fancy to a glass flower in one of the glass shops and had to buy it! We explained we had to get it back home on a plane, and the shop assistant told us not to worry as she wrapped it professionally before placing it in a stern presentation box.
Tyrolean Farms open-air Museum – Kramsach
With free entry using the Alpbachtal Seenland Card, this fascinating open-air museum hosts 37 re-erected farm houses and outbuildings, some of which are hundreds of years old. This vast museum is nestled in grassy countryside with the Tyrolean Alps as a fabulous back drop.
Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived the heavens opened and we were treated to torrential rain and thunderstorms for the rest of the afternoon. Wet, but undeterred, we not only found shelter in the buildings, but were all intrigued into this glimpse of Tyrolean farm life of years gone by. Some of the buildings projected short films acting out typical scenarios from those times. Audio headphones are available to translate into different languages.
Despite the weather, we enjoyed our afternoon walking around the different buildings. It is obviously more suited for fair weather days and I would like to return sometime to explore more. It is incredible to think that each one of the buildings was painstakingly taken down stone by stone and transported to the farm, before carefully being re-constructed and restored – quite a feat!
Aparthaus Sonnenhof – Alpbach
A large and beautiful chalet, Aparthaus Sonnenhof is only a five-minute walk uphill from the centre of Alpbach and the bus stop. It is tranquil with stunning views of the mountains from our ground level apartment. Most evenings I sat out on the patio watching the sun set whilst enjoying a cold beer – bliss!
Our apartment had two good size bedrooms. The kids’ bedroom had a single bed as well as a bunk bed to sleep all 3 of them. The lounge was large, light and spacious and included a dining table. The kitchen was part of the open plan area of the lounge. It had everything we needed but was quite compact.
Overall, we loved the apartment as it felt light and airy with plenty of space for the whole family. It is ideally situated in Alpbach with only being five minutes from the restaurants, bars, bus stop and the Spar convenience store, and the views are Instagram ready – #NoFilterRequired!
Mission Successful! After being apprehensive that it would be hard to please the whole family, I have come back home thinking a week was not long enough as there is so much to do. The kids had great fun in the activity parks at the top of the gondolas, with their highlight of the week being our trip to the Kaiser Gorge.
Joanna really wanted to go to the silver mine and wasn’t disappointed. For me, I enjoyed our chill-out times by Reith Lake and the Brixlegg swimming pool.
We could have done a lot more activities and if (when!) we return, we will try out the Segway tour and hire out some e-bikes for the day.
I also believe that both Harry and Alfie, despite their age gaps, really bonded well on the holiday. It is amazing what can be achieved once you get them up in the mountains and away from the Xbox and tablets. The real world can be far greater than a virtual one!
I recommend a mountain family holiday as an alternative to following the herd to a beach destination, and Alpbach has it all. Not only is it a beautiful village with stunning views, but it acts as a convenient gateway to the Alpbachtal region.
We also hardly spent any money while we were there, as the Alpbachtal Seenland card gave us free bus travel as well as free entry to almost all the activities we did.
Using the free bus and gondola service with the Alpbachtal Seenland Card
Aparthaus Sonnenhof – Alpbach, Alpbachtal Region, Austria
www.alpbachtal.at – Alpbachtal website
Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)