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From Bad Ischl to Wolfsberg, the Austrian Association of Small Historic Cities brings together 17 historic and charming places. A colorful group and, above all, a fantastic source of inspiration for everyone looking for ideas for alternative city trips. At the end of August, we visited Bludenz and Kufstein, the two closest small towns to Switzerland. In this article I explain why Bludenz is ideal for a short trip and show you our favorite places in and around the Alpine city. Because one thing you quickly notice in Bludenz: The next natural experience is only a stone’s throw away.
Bludenz – historic, charming and surrounded by mountains
With just under 15,000 inhabitants, Bludenz is the smallest of the five cities in Vorarlberg. However, with its convenient location at the intersection of various valleys and alpine passes, the traces of the local settlement can be traced back to the pre-Roman Iron Age.
Even today, many people know Bludenz either from the passage over the Arlberg to Tyrol or as a transfer point for a detour to the Brandnertal, Montafon, Klostertal or the Grosse Walsertal. It would be worthwhile to take the ten-minute walk from the train station to the slightly higher old town. Lively, spruced up streets with pretty arcades and carefully restored buildings await you here. Correct jewelry! And perfect for an extended stopover. Be it before or after wellness or hiking days in one of the surrounding valleys or just like that – as the basis for an enjoyable and at the same time sporty weekend.
Check-in in historic walls
We arrive in Bludenz on a sunny Friday evening. The sun makes the colorfully painted old town buildings shine in a warm light. The seats in the restaurants and cafés between Josef-Wolf-Platz, Kirchgasse and Werdenbergstrasse are well filled. The traffic-calmed old town is full of life. Fortunately, we reserved our table in advance in the restaurant of the boutique hotel of the same name, Das Tschofen. I couldn’t imagine anything nicer on this late summer evening than enjoying a delicious dinner in this secluded place directly opposite the Nepomuk fountain.
As part of the renovation of the old town, the Tschofen was converted from a former commercial building into a hotel, restaurant and café. A project that was successful from A to Z, even if there was certainly more than one challenge to overcome behind these listed walls during the renovation phase. The casual – for Bludenz almost cosmopolitan – concept is convincing! I think it’s great that the café / bar on the ground floor is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to at least 6:00 p.m. (or from Monday to Saturday until 10:00 p.m.).
Stroll through the old town on Saturday morning
After a nightcap in the Cocktail bar Mr. Muk What feels like ten paces from the Tschofen, we fall tired into bed. The next morning the old town is already full of life early. The weekly market takes place here on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The ideal opportunity to purchase one or two local delicacies. While you can of course have an excellent breakfast in Tschofen, this morning we test our way through the breakfast menu of the nearby one coffee fritz.
Then we walk from Untersteinstrasse, where only a wall painting reminds of the former city gate, along Werdenbergstrasse and Kirchgasse to the upper city gate. While the Montafon or Kapuzinertor was demolished in the middle of the 19th century in the course of the onset of modernity for the construction of the suburb, the Upper City Gate and the Lower City Gate at the southern end of Mühlgasse have been preserved to this day. That City Museum Bludenz, which is housed in the premises of the Upper City Gate, is being completely renovated and is therefore currently closed.
Instead we take the stairs to the St. Laurentiuskirche, which shapes the cityscape of Bludenz with its distinctive onion dome. Right next to it is the Gayenhofen Castle as a successor to the former Bludenz Castle. Anyone who takes part in one of the weekly city tours (Tuesday mornings) or books a private city tour will benefit from an “extra” at this point. The ascent to the steeple of St. Laurentius Church with a phenomenal panoramic view of Bludenz and the surrounding area is only possible with a guided tour.
As a reward, afterwards we treat ourselves to two scoops of the homemade ice cream from the «Eisprinza». The ice cream creations are a bit too sweet for my taste. But if you can get the proud fourth place in the Falstaff public voting of the most popular ice cream parlors in Vorarlberg, you seem to be doing a lot right.
Afternoon excursion to the Muttersberg
So, we used the morning to have a nice breakfast, to explore the sights of the old town and to eat ice cream. Now it is time for a detour into the countryside. The Muttersberg is Bludenz’s local mountain and a popular local recreation destination or starting point for long hikes. Today we are walking with light shoes and primarily want to enjoy the beautiful view. This project can be excellently carried out on the sun terrace of the Alpengasthofes Muttersberg realize.
Then we follow the signs of the Alpine Art Circular route. The 2.5-kilometer circular route leads past six stations created by well-known artists – all with a connection to Vorarlberg – at a few meters altitude. Some of the works of art are surprising, stimulate thought and deal with different perspectives on life in the mountains. The circular route can be completed in around an hour. Make sure that it is not designed to be barrier-free and that it leads over steps and along narrow, rooted forest paths.
Dine with panoramic views over the roofs of Bludenz
Returning from the Muttersberg, we don’t dive straight back into the old town alleys, but head for another promising location for our second dinner in the alpine town. The sun terrace of the Schlosshotel Dörflinger above the old town gives us the third panoramic view of the day. The clearly laid out two-sided menu card features modern interpretations of classics from Austrian cuisine.
Discover the side valleys of the Alpine city on foot
If you book two nights in Bludenz, you have enough time for a detour to one of the side valleys that come together here. A hike that connects Bludenz with the Klostertal is the cultural-historical “Sunna Path”, which was opened in 2019. The themed trail takes about 5 hours from Nüziders via Bludenz to Braz in Klostertal and can also be walked in stages and / or in the opposite direction. And that’s exactly what we have in mind. For this we take the bus to Braz, where we meet hiking guide Anna.
Before we follow the “Sunna-Weg” towards Bludenz, we pay a visit to the Mottnerhof owned by the Dünser family. Saskia Dünser is not only a farmer and hostess of a holiday apartment with heart and soul, but also acts as chairwoman of the Klostertaler Bauerntafel. The Klostertaler Bauerntafel is an association of local producers and aims to increase the added value of products produced in the valley through direct marketing. So there is, for example, also in Braz, a few steps away from the Bus stop Traube a self-service refrigerator, where you can find all the ingredients for a fine picnic on the side of the «Sunna-Weg».
Packed with a loaf of bread, eggs, cheese, sausage and vitamins in the form of tomatoes and lettuce from Anna’s grandmother’s garden, you then go over hill and dale along the “Sunna Path”. The hiking trail leads from Braz over sun-drenched meadows and through the foothills of the Klostertal mountain forests – a European protected area. At various points, information boards reveal exciting facts about the surrounding nature and local customs.
There is also no lack of nice resting places. Anyone who, like us, is out and about on a sun-drenched day shouldSound rest area»Circle in bold on the hiking map. The perfect spot to try out the variety of products on the Klostertal farmer’s table.
Shortly after the sound service station, a path branches off towards Rungelin. Rungelin belongs to the municipality of Bludenz, but forms an independent and pretty pretty town center. A worthwhile variation for everyone who would like to get to know other facets of Bludenz.
Practical tips for your stay in Bludenz
- You can reach Bludenz from Zurich in less than 2.5 hours by train (around six direct connections daily).
- From the first overnight stay you will receive the guest card, with which you can use all means of transport of the Vorarlberg transport association at no extra charge.
- The guest card also offers various discounts on mountain railways (e.g. 10% on the Muttersbergbahn) and leisure businesses.
- You can beat the rainy weather with a detour to Val Blu (indoor pool / sauna).
- Anyone walking through the alleys of Bludenz will discover a “unicorn” here and there. The mythical creature appears in various myths and legends and is also the mascot of the traditional Bludenz brewery Fohrenburger.
- The Alpinale takes place in Bludenz at the end of August. The winners of the short-term festival will – who’s surprised – be awarded a golden unicorn.
- In addition to Fohrenburger, Milka is another culinary institution in Bludenz. In the Milka-Lädele on Fohrenburgerstrasse you can stock up on chocolate as you wish.
- Not far from Bludenz is the Formarinsee – one of the most beautiful places in Austria.