After reading The Accidental Empress, I became fascinated with Empress Sisi and her life. Bad Ischl plays an integral role in the book, first as the site of her engagement to Franz Josef at age 15, and then as their summer residence and escape from Vienna. The Kaiservilla may have been the main motivation behind visiting Bad Ischl, but we found so much more to love about this charming little town in Upper Austria.
Bad Ischl is a 3 hour drive from Vienna, on the way to Salzburg.
Nocken Toni | Just a few kilometers outside of town, you are not likely to find any tourists here. But you will find amazing Austrian cuisine, including delicious fresh fish from the Salzkammergut region. We tried two different fish dishes, both of which were outstanding, while the little ones chose schnitzel, which was better than any schnitzel I’ve had in Vienna. Inside tends to be rather upscale, but there is a nice patio where dining with kids is a bit more comfortable.
Hotel Goiserer Mühle | About 15 minutes from Bad Ischl, in neighboring Bad Goisern, we found one of the best restaurants I have eaten at in a long time. Using only seasonal, locally grown produce and freshly caught fish from the Salzkammergut region, the food is incredible. But perhaps my favorite part is the beautiful playground just across from the outdoor patio of the restaurant, where the kids could play while we waited for our lunch.
Villa Dachstein | A very small, quaint bed & breakfast style villa right on the Traun River, Villa Dachstein was such a lovely experience. The owner and his wife couldn’t have been nicer and the location was perfect for everything that we wanted to do in town.
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SEE & DO
Kaiservilla & Park | The Kaiservilla was a wedding gift for Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth from Franz Josef’s mother, Archduchess Sophie, and became the summer residence of the imperial family. Although some of the Villa is still occupied by the family, and is thus closed to the public, many rooms are available to tour, and are left just as they were when used by Franz Josef and Sisi. Guided tours are offered in German only, but information sheets are available in English, and you can view the rooms at the Villa at your own pace alongside the guided tour. After seeing the Villa, you can spend hours walking through the gardens of the Kaiser Park. Up above the Kaiservilla lies the Marmorschlössl, an English style cottage made of pink marble, which served as Empress Elisabeth’s teahouse.
Photo Museum Bad Ischl | Housed in the Marmorschlössl in the Kaiser Park, the Photo Museum offers an impressive overview of analogue photography throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Special emphasis is placed on the importance of photography in Austria, and it was interesting to see how Vienna became one of the capitals of photography in the late 1800s, along with Paris and London. Just outside the Marmorschlössl is a collection of life sized lego-type blocks, which my girls played with for hours, giving me time to explore the photo museum peacefully.
Sisi Park | On the other side of town lies the Sisi Park, which is part of the Upper Austrian Garden Show. While the gardens are beautiful and interesting to walk through, the real draw of the Sisi Park for us was the Lippazaner Playground at the entrance to the park, and the Water Playground on the opposite end of the park. Both playgrounds were massive, with so much to play on, and are appropriate for all ages of kids. You could easily spend an entire day with kids in the Sisi Park, letting them go between the two playgrounds.
Thermal Baths | Bad Ischl is among the list of 16 towns included in UNESCO’s Great Spas of Europe, “a selected group of spa towns that is testimony to places for healing pain and disease with mineral waters generally before industrial medication developed in the Nineteenth Century.” So no trip to Bad Ischl would be complete without spending time in the thermal baths. This was my kids’ favorite part of our entire trip. We all had so much fun!
Explore the Salzkammergut | This area of Upper Austria is filled with crystal clear lakes, beautiful mountains perfect for hiking and mountain biking, and charming Austrian towns. Bad Ischl is the perfect jumping off point for exploring the region. Perhaps most well known, the fairytale town of Hallstatt is just 25 minutes from Bad Ischl.
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