Austria’s westernmost state Vorarlberg is home to perhaps one of its best-kept secrets, Bregenzerwald. Bordering Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein this small alpine destination is packed with bucolic mountain charm.
Disclosure: This was a hosted trip with Visit Vorarlberg and Propel, however, all views and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links whereby I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps with the costs of running my website so I can keep my content free for you. Thanks as always for your support! See my disclosure policy here.
The luscious rolling hills, majestic mountain ranges and picturesque quaint villages is not all the smallest province in Austria has to offer either. Bregenzerwald, also known as the Bregenz Forest is where 22 villages lead the way in merging tradition with innovation. Alongside creating extraordinary design the area champions the sustainable concept of farm to fork dining. It’s far from being a new trend here, but a way of life. Restaurants and cafes rely on local produce for their menus and the lifeblood of their business.
If you’re a lover of nature, architecture and gourmand at heart, this place needs to be on your radar. Come and check out some of the best things to do in Bregenzerwald:
Places to Visit in Bregenzerwald
Visit The Werkraumhaus
Well-known for its craftsmanship and innovative handicrafts, the Werkraumhaus in Andelsbuch is a space for local artists, designers and craftspeople. The striking venue with its broad sweeping timber roof and huge floor to ceiling glass panels eradicate the borders between the inside and out. It enables the landscape to flow straight through the building for a stunning perspective. Within this exhibition space, the region’s centuries-old traditions from carpenters to ropemakers and light designers to plumbers are celebrated.
Not only can they showcase their work but also create and collaborate with over 90 craft members with an aim to promote craftsmanship locally and internationally. Don’t miss the local handicrafts and quirky wares on sell as well as the onsite cafe for a bite to eat.
Follow the KrumbacH BUS:Stop Trail
In quite a rural destination perhaps a flourishing art scene is not something you’d expect, but that’s exactly what you get in the tiny Austrian village of Krumbach. Splashes of architecture in this quaint green landscape is in the form of seven cool and quirky bus stops. All extraordinarily designed by renowned architectural firms around the world.
The Bus:Stop project was initiated to help boost tourism in Krumbach. The designs had to reflect the traditional materials, craftmanship and landscape of the region. In order to help tell the story of the architect but also the beautiful region of Bregenzerwald.
No monetary exchange was made during the project, instead, the architects were offered a holiday in the area for their work. All the designs were radically different and came from Japan, Chile, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Russia and China. and the results are remarkable. The village now has a wooden lookout point, an angular steel tent, a forest of steel poles, an overlapping pair of shingle-clad boxes, a jagged pile of oak planks, a glass cubicle with a bird box on top and a wooden camera obscura. It’s certainly helped place Krumbach on the map.
Walk Sections of the UmGang routes
Another great way to admire the stunning architecture in the area is to take a walk along the Umgang Bregenzerwald routes. These are a series of marked trails leading through 12 villages and depending on your time constraints and stamina can be anywhere between 90 minutes to four hours.
The self-guided tours uncover the architectural highlights of each village from homes and commercial structures to public buildings. All the routes are clearly marked out by rust-coloured interactive informational columns. It’s a lovely way to immerse yourself in the local culture and explore the scenic villages.
Wander through Mellau
Mellau is one of the 12 villages part of the Umgang Bregenzerwald and sits at the foot of the striking Kanisfluh massif. During wintertime, visitors arrive to enjoy access to the blanketed white slopes of the Damüls ski areas. Once the snow has melted, a lush green forest returns with wildflower meadows echoing sounds of tinkering cowbells. There are plenty of guided hikes and mountain bike tours to enjoy come summer.
The Mellaubahn cable car is also a great option if you prefer to shorten journeys. It takes just six minutes to travel from Mellau to Rossstelle mountain station, whilst enjoying spectacular views of the valley below. From the top choose any of the well-marked trails to either the Kanis or Wurzach mountain pastures or to the 2,000-metre peak of Kanisfluh massif.
There is also an opportunity to dine in an original Bregenzerwald house at Naze’s Hus. The only listed building in the village serves up authentic Austrian cuisine. You can’t leave without trying the Kässpäztle. It’s the most comforting egg noodle dish of buttery cheesy goodness topped with caramelised onions. The traditional Vorarlberg dish is also a classic in the neighbouring countries of Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Summer in the Damüls-Faschina alpine region is a paradise for hikers and one of the most beautiful hiking regions in Bregenzerwald. It offers more than 300 km of well-marked trails ranging from easy circular walks to impressive hut tours with breathtaking panoramic views. The diverse hikes will take you past crystal-clear mountain lakes surrounded by delicate alpine flora and the most magnificent peaks. At points depending on which direction you’re facing looking out to mountain ranges in a different country.
The mountain peak of Portlerhorn is 2,010 metres above sea level and a relatively easy hike to undertake. Grasslands surround the mountainous terrain and at the foot is Blauer See the Blue Lake. Depending on rainfall the size of the lake changes, regardless the still waters resembles more a piece of glass beautifully reflecting the landscape around.
Further down is the larger Sünser See. The area around the lake is dominated by the striking Sünser Spitze the highest mountain in Dornbirn. The best tip is to make sure you take some mountain cheese to enjoy in the glorious surroundings. It will be a mountain experience you will remember for a long time.
Visit St. Nikolaus church in Damüls
St Nikolaus Church stands solitary on a hill in the village of Damüls. During the summer months, the white church with its red onion dome is a stark contrast against the blue skies and surrounding emerald green hills.
Built-in the 15th-century it’s a highlight of Vorarlberg’s art history with walls adorned with late medieval murals. In later years it was redesigned in the Baroque style you see today. The rustic charm of this small parish church is not to be missed.
Discover Juppenwerkstatt Riefensberg
The small village of Riefensberg is the only place where Bregenzerwald’s traditional folk costume the Juppe is manufactured. One of the oldest costumes in Europe, its origins date back to the early Middle Ages when it used to be simple and white. Today, the costume which is allowed to be worn only by the women of Bregenzerwald consists of a tightly pleated high skirt, bodice, shirt, apron, decorative belt and headgear.
The Juppenwerkstatt is a craft workshop and museum where visitors on guided tours can see the centuries-old process of the dark, dyed, glistening linen with countless pleats. It’s fascinating to see the ancient practices still in use with machines and equipment that date over 100 years. Custom-made to fit, there is a separate artisan for each part of the elegant costume, such as the seamstress, embroiderer, weaver, hat maker and goldsmiths for the intricate buckles on the belts. The centre also provides a place for courses in these crafts to help keep the old-age tradition alive for future generations.
Dine at BioHotel Schwanen
The Biohotel Schwanen is a family-owned organic hotel located in Bizau in the picturesque Bregenz Forest. It’s also home to a renowned restaurant where Antonio Moosbrugger and her wilde weiber (wild women) create delectable dishes with regional and seasonal produce. Most of the vegetables on the menu come from the hotels garden which is directly opposite the hotel. Diners can watch their food grow and eat the freshest food straight from the garden to the plate.
Throughout the hotel, the contemporary style blends well with the historical fabric of the building such as the old Bregenzerwald parlour giving the place a modern country inn feel. The a la carte features Dinkel Fladlesuppe, a clear broth traditionally made with beef stock but swapped for vegetable stock in this instance with strips of pancake and a sprinkling of chives. Who knew something so simple could taste so good.
With an onsite garden, vegetarian dishes are aplenty like the Mangold Winkel, a type of Swiss Chard stuffed with a cream cheese mixture with a crispy breadcrumb coating served with carrots two ways roasted and pureed. The restaurant is also home to the first female Kaiserschmarren in the world. Why? Well, the batter for the traditional shredded pancake dessert is made by the wilde weiber. Credit where credit is due. So, Kaiserschamarren is Kaiserinnenschmarren in this little corner of Bizau.
The medieval town of Feldkirch is the second largest in Vorarlberg dating back to the 1200s. Quaint cobblestone streets, narrow passageways and traditional painted facades characterise this charming town. The murals on the Rathaus (Town Hall) include the crests of the cities and towns in Vorarlberg and Feldkirch’s famous residents.
Old and new architecture sit side by side in this historic town with the centuries-old Schattenburg Castle looming over the ultramodern cultural centre Montforthaus. Schattenburg was once the home of the Dukes of Montfort, followed by the Habsburg’s. Visitors today can wander the beautifully restored castle as well as enjoy the onsite museum, restaurant and incredible views of the Feldkirch from the keep.
Marktgrasse and Marktplatz square is the hub of the town with weekly market days (Tuesday and Saturday). The curved vaults are also filled with shops and eateries. It also makes a cheap and ideal base to visit Liechtenstein as it’s only five minutes away from the border. Anything for another stamp in the passport!
Take a look at an in-depth guide on the best places to visit in Feldkirch, it’s full of gems you wouldn’t want to miss when visiting the city.
Catch a cable car from bezau to Baumgarten
From the town of Bezau board, the Selibahn cable car stops at two stations. The first is Sonderdach followed by Baumgarten mountain station. Both stations are the starting points for some varied hikes and some well-paved paths suitable for prams. The magnificent panoramic views of Lake Constance, Bregenz Forest and the Swiss mountains are dotted with paragliders floating around the mountain and across the valley.
Lunch at the modern Panoramarestaurant Baumgarten with a spacious terrace and roof viewing platform is a must. The Käsknöpfle is not to miss. Well, when in Austria. It’s the perfect dish in the most stunning natural surroundings.
How To Get to BregenzerwalD in Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg is bordered by Liechtenstein, Germany and Switzerland which makes it within easy reach of many routes. When travelling from the UK flying into Zurich is a far better option than Vienna. Zurich is around a 1.5 hours drive, whereas Austria’s capital is a fair distance at the other end of the country. Other close airport options are Innsbruck, Munich or Stuttgart from there continue your journey via Austria rail to Bregenz or Feldkirch or by hire car.
The area is well connected by motorways if driving from a different country. Driving is the best way to see Vorarlberg and its myriad of small villages as the roads are well developed and the distances short.
WHere to Stay in Bregenzerwald IN Vorarlberg
The luxurious Alpernstern Panoramahotel is all about rest and relaxation, whether it’s after an active day on the slopes or hiking through the hills. Stylish and modern yet cosy and homely it’s the perfect place from which to explore the Damüls.
Awake each morning with incredible mountain views. Take advantage of the large spa and wellness centre including an infinity pool after a day in the mountains. During summer the sun terrace is perfect for catching the rays and in the winter season the hotel offers ski-to-door access too
Hotel Baren Mellau
Hotel Baren is a laidback boutique hotel located in the centre of Mellau. The modern designed rooms are full of alpine charm, spacious and crafted by local craftspeople of Bregenzerwald. An onsite cafe deli serves breakfast, regional and organic products alongside a restaurant serving Italian-style pizzas and a bar.
For relaxation, the yoga studio offers classes and retreats, followed by a sauna and downtime in the relaxation room with views of the Bregenzerwald mountains.
The Bregenzerwald Guest Card is available to all travellers who stay at least three nights in Bregenzerwald and Grosses Walsertal. Its included in the accommodation price and gives free and discounted access to cable cars, buses and swimming pools in the summer. Helping you to discover the Bregenzerwald region with ease.
PIN AND SAVE FOR LATER