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Innovative and Traditional Austria

By: Jonathan Selzer, PhD
Posted: August 23, 2010, from the September 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
The sauna at Quellenhotel & Spa in Bad Waltersdorf.

The sauna is an integral part of the spa experience throughout Austria, as evidenced here at Quellenhotel & Spa in Bad Waltersdorf.

Legend has it that even the Neanderthals would migrate up the mountains in the summer to enjoy the healing waters and pure alpine air in Austria. That was 40,000 years ago, and the country’s people have been at it ever since.

Some Austrian spas are incredibly remote. I’ve visited some, arriving into Kleinwalsertal by driving first into Germany and then back into Austria. It is certainly well worth the trip for the smaller spa experience. The larger spas are a little higher up the mountains toward Salzburg and Vienna, and are somewhat easier to reach; here you can find the top luxury resort spas. These include the Quellenhotel & Spa in Bad Waltersdorf; Schloss Fuschl Resort & Spa, built in the year 1450, which offers wellness and beauty treatments in a landscape straight out of The Sound of Music near Salzburg; Hotel Schloss Pichlarn, a five-star spa and luxury hotel that promotes wellness of mind, body and spirit in harmony with nature; and Palais Coburg, which has provided the Viennese people with spa services for the past 600 years. These are only a few of the many fabulous Alpine spas that appear on the Austrian landscape.

The Austrian difference

There are many kinds of spas in Austria. According to Miranda Allard, CEO of, there are small mountaintop spas and glamorous city spas, but what are hardly ever found are day spas. Austrian spas are mainly resorts, allowing for several days of treatment from a holistic health approach. Guests come to them not only for the spa services, but also for the associated outdoor or cultural activities. Winter snow and summer hikes draw guests from every continent.

Although the differences between American and Austrian destination spas are becoming fewer and fewer, there are some distinct trends. American destination spas traditionally have been more oriented toward diet, weight loss, fitness, behavior modification and beauty, and Austrian spas focus more on natural health, rejuvenation, wellness and healing. You can find everything from laugh therapy to yoga at an Austrian spa, and those that do offer beauty treatments do so in a holistic fashion. For example, the Quellenhotel & Spa has its Feng Shui Beauty Center, which approaches beauty from the outside and from within. Peter Moser, from Mavida Balance Hotel & Spa in Zell am See, categorizes the difference as: “In America, you work to get better; in Europe, you let others work on you to get better.”

What most distinguishes Austrian spas from others—besides the thin Alpine air—are the thermal springs, which are scattered throughout the mountainous land. Many cities include the word bad in their names, which in English means “bath.” Boiling up from the roots of the rocky crags, these hot mineral waters have double-action health benefits: natural minerals that make their way through the skin into the circulation, and natural heat that relaxes and stimulates simultaneously.

The old and the new