Ala's Travel Guide to Austria

Ala’s go-to spots in this beloved family destination.

My father was Austrian, my mother American and I was born in Munich, Germany.We moved across the border to Kitzbuhel, Austria when I was very young. And, even though my family moved us to New York just a few years later, Austria continues to play a big role in my life. I travel there almost every year to visit family and friends.

Austria lakeside

When my children were small, we used to do more family friendly activities in Austria. Now that they’re older, my husband and I have changed our routine a bit to include a trip to the Lanserhof, a med spa just outside the city of Innsbruck that’s affiliated with the University Hospital of Innsbruck and follows the Mayr technique. The doctors and technicians are amazingly supportive, friendly, and knowledgeable. I come away each year knowing something new about my health and armed with ways to improve it. You can make your stay there as basic or as medical as you see fit. In its simplest form, it’s a place to fast and detox while giving your body the vitamins and support it needs.

Ala Isham wearing feather printed silk shirt and reversible vest with microsuede brown pants in Europe
HIllside in Austria

While there, I stay blissfully busy by taking beautiful walks in the mountains, swimming in an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, working out in its beautiful gym, and enjoying an array of spa treatments. I also participate in medical tests of my choosing.

Ala Isham in Austria

No visit to the Tyrol would be complete without stopping by Kitzbuhel for a little retail therapy. I love to wear traditional Austrian jackets, and Trachten Eder in the town center always has the perfect things. I love to take the walk of my childhood by the 1,000 year old family farms. The noon day church bells and the smells of the farmers fertilizing their fields always take me back to my younger days. (I have always waxed nostalgic about this smell, but my children love to remind me that it’s just manure, which is true, of course.)

Ala Isham in Austria
Austria store

Halfway through my spa time I make a little side trip to Innsbruck to buy paint supplies and just walk around town. Growing up, my children would always say, “Here she goes again,” as I have tortured them so often over the years, dragging them to anywhere I find interesting. No visit to Innsbruck is complete without a quick look at the famous Golden Balcony built by the Emperor Maximilian in the Middle Ages on the occasion of his marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza.

Most recently, I arrived as the town was erecting its famous Christmas market, which sadly opened one day after I left. It’s incredible, complete with a Fairy Tale Street in the middle of the market with life-sized dolls depicting characters from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. They’re at once magical yet frightening and evocative in this small medieval city. It’s a sight not to be missed if a European Christmas is on your list.

Store in Austria
City of Austria