Guidebooks for Austria:
Travel Literature Reviewed
As a very popular travel destination, there are plenty of travel guidebooks available for Austria or specific destinations within the country. They target different groups of potential travellers, and not every book will be suitable - or best - for your specific kind of trip. I went to a bookshop and a library and had a look at a few common books by big publishers - here some of the thoughts I have about them.
Rough Guide Austria
Starting with the winner: I have used the Rough Guides only once before and found them alright - the guide to Austria, however, is extremely well done with a vast amount of information, a good mix on sightseeing, activities, background and practical travel advice. It targets independent travellers and therefore, gives fares and advice on transportation. The information seems accurate and well-balanced, my recommendation from the books I've seen so far. ...more on this book
Lonely Planet Austria
Generally, the Australian lonely planet, the classic among the independent traveller guides, is my favourite guide book. The one on Austria, however, is somewhat concise and not as detailed as I would expect for a medium-sized country. It will be fully sufficient for a short trip or if you plan to stay in the main destinations.
It also follows the new "interactive" approach with lots of references to online sources and more suggested itineraries than I am used to from older LPs. Similar to the Rough Guide, the LP gives a balanced mix on sightseeing, background, activities and travel practicalities. ...more on this book
The Eyewitness guide books concentrate on art, architecture and the history of both. They are a tad pricey, but do an exceptional job in visualising information. I found the binding a bit annoying (hard to keep that thing open), but there's no other guide that will give you all highlights of arty Austria with less text.
The general travel advice is not very extensive and independent travellers will require other material for planning the itinerary (how about this website?). Verdict: Great for a specialist interest in quickly accessible art and architecture information! ...more on this book
Apparently published in German with some English instructions, the Michelin guide on Austria will keep the hungry among you happy. One of the World's leading restaurant guides, it makes a useful supplement for gourmet travellers, but also an essential source for "lucullic" (=feasting) vacations. It is supposed to be particularly good for Austria. ...more on this book
Let's Go Austria
The guide produced by Harvard brats offers a lot of useful information on practicalities. I have never used Let's Go guides myself, but since an acquaintance of mine co-wrote the one on Austria, I felt I had to add it to the list. It targets mostly an American audience, as one can tell from the style and approach to different attractions. Looks generally fine for independent travellers. ...more on this book
Rich Steve's Austria
Rick Steve's guide books target a middle-aged, middle-class, American audience travelling independently in Europe. The Austria guide is no exception and will guide straight to the main attractions and tell you why you will take a picture of it. If you don't want to be bothered with unnecessary information about the country you travel through, this book is for you (this website isn't, though). ...more on this book
Baedecker Guide Austria
The oldest German guidebook has a somewhat old-fashioned, but nonetheless charming approach to presenting travel information. Structured alphabetically by communities, the Baedecker guide provides lots and lots of facts and information on towns, sights and regions. Its weak spots are in the practicalities section, it clearly does not target young, independent travellers - rather the "rent a car and follow an itinerary" type. At least it comes with a fancy and detailed map of Austria.
Frommer's is yet another guidebook with bits and pieces of everything - I couldn't spot anything bad or erroneous in the book, nor could I find anything particularly special about it. Since I lack experience with this publisher and feel neutral about the book, I'd better say nothing. ...more on this book
The British TimeOut guides do a pretty good job for a well-rounded approach to major cities, with lots of inside and "behind the scenes" information. They target mostly a young-ish audience, but satisfy the curiosity not only of independent travellers. As far as city guides make sense for your trip, I can recommend TimeOut. ...more on this book
If you want to go to Austria for particular activities, you might want to look for specialist guides. This applies in particular for hiking holidays and cycling vacations. You should put a lot of thought on planning ahead; a general guidebook might give you a clue where you want to go.
Once you know the region, you can look for hiking or cycling guides and maps. They will also advise you on gear and specific issues that general guides don't cover.
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