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Kitzbuhel: A Tyrolean Alpine Gem

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By Margot Black

On our journey to experience the best of the Alps and bucket-list hiking opportunities we visited Kitzbuhel for three glorious days. This stylish mountain resort is located 20 miles south of the German-Austrian border in the western Austrian province of Tyrol. As a member of the distinguished "Best of the Alps" collection, Kitzbuhel has been one of the most renowned international year-round destinations for sports and recreation for decades.

Situated against the majestic backdrop of the Kitzbuheler Horn, Wilder Kaiser and the Hahnenkamm mountains, it's where we discovered some of Austria's most stunning alpine scenery. This is a postcard-pretty land where you can explore undulating hills and rugged peaks interspersed with lush pastures and serene sun-drenched lakes.

Our family was grateful to be introduced to Kitzbuhel's deeply rooted sports tradition. In the wintertime it is a posh mountain escape where jetsetters can enjoy some of the most legendary skiing in the Alps. But even after the snow melts there's a unique mixture of sports and activities to keep you entertained. With more than magnificent hiking trails -- the first in the alpine region to be awarded a European hiking quality seal -- Kitzbuhel is a natural wonderland for hikers. Lake swimming, golfing, paragliding and cycling are more ways to enjoy this alpine adventure playground in the non-winter months.

We also had the pleasure of getting a deep cultural immersion into the Tyrolean way of life. In the Tyrol region of Austria, traditions have been preserved over centuries, and Kitzbuhel infuses these authentic traditional influences into its modern lifestyle. This captivating blend of contemporary sophistication with rustic Tyrolean hospitality is at the very core of the real Kitzbuhel experience. This medieval town also graciously maintains a rich cultural heritage, and nowhere is this Tyrolean charm more evident than in its 750-year-old historic town center.

We stayed right in the center of town at its most historic hotel, the Gasthof Eggerwirt, where Tyrolean hospitality reigns supreme. Originally established in 1658, this famous family-run hotel dates back four generations. Interestingly, you can see parts of the hotel's original structure when you check in, a testament to the Gasthof Eggerwirt's authentic Old World character. We loved our room, which had plenty of space for everyone in addition to a lovely terrace filled with flowers.

On our first day we enjoyed some relaxing old-fashioned lake fun at Lake Schwarzsee, one of the Alps' most picturesque swimming spots. We rented a small pedal boat and had a fantastic afternoon taking a refreshing dip in the lake's crystal-clear waters. Then we headed back to our hotel for some traditional Tyrolean cuisine at Restaurant Eggerwirt. We dined outside on their quiet flower-covered terrace with spectacular views of the mountains. Their Austrian menu features dishes such as wienerschnitzel and goulash with dumplings.

The next morning we took a golf lesson right under the Alps at the Golf Course Kitzbuhel-Schwarzsee-Reith. Brushing up on our golfing skills in such an idyllic location between the Wilder Kaiser and Kitzbuhel Horn was a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors in this Tyrolean land of craggy peaks and rolling foothills.

Next we hiked the "Panoramaweg" panoramic circular trail on the famous Hahnenkamm Mountain. Towering at 5,550 feet elevation, the Hahnenkamm peak gives its name to the world-famous annual Hahnenkamm skiing race. We took the Hahnenkamm gondola up to the mountaintop station and stopped for some lunch in this old-fashioned mountain hut called Hahnenkammstuberl. This is a great place to try some traditional dishes such as Kasespatzle cheese noodles and fried sausage. We enjoyed our afternoon on that mountain, especially watching some tandem paragliders bravely take off for flight on the Hahnenkamm peak.

We spent the rest of our afternoon strolling around town and grabbing a coffee. Wandering through the historical old town's center feels like exploring a storybook realm where pastel-painted medieval buildings adorned with vibrant flowerbeds are perched along cobbled streets. Moreover, Kitzbuhel's bountiful display of flowers everywhere you turn was remarkable.

Our dinner that night at Goldene Gams was culinary perfection. Some of their signature dishes include Tyrolean mushrooms, pork schnitzel and specialty dumplings. Additionally, this restaurant boasts a prime location in the middle of the town's center, offering some of the best people-viewing imaginable from its sun terrace.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the Hotel Eggerwirt inside their beautiful solarium. Then we visited Wildpark Aurach, the largest wild animal outdoor enclosure in Tyrol and home to more than 250 animals. This family activity was probably one of my favorite animal experiences to date since it affords you the opportunity to experience and pet some of the animals up-close. We saw myriad free-roaming animals, including deer, goats, donkeys and even a herd of cows traveling down the road that greeted us at the entrance. We made some fluffy new friends at the petting stall with some alpacas, llamas, ponies, sheep and rabbits before grabbing some local fare at the park's restaurant, Branderhofstube.

Whether you're exploring a wildlife park, flying down the mountains on skis or simply exploring the town's medieval streets, Kitzbuhel is a year-round destination that has it all.

 

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WHEN YOU GO

Kitzbuhel: ww.kitzbuehel.com/en

Hotel Gasthof Eggerwirt: www.eggerwirt-kitzbuehel.at/en/welcome.html

Wildpark Aurach: www.wildpark-tirol.at/en

Panoramaweg Hiking: www.kitzbuehel.com/en/tours/panoramaweg

Goldene Gams Restaurant: www.hotel-tiefenbrunner.at/en/dining

Best of the Alps: www.bestofthealps.com

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Margot Black is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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