Update: This post is current as of 6/25/17.
My husband actually did Ironman Austria in Klagenfurt a few years back, so I’m going to share a few tips about travel, dining, and the race site. First, I just have to say that this is one of the most beautiful race venues you will find. The swim is on Lake Worthersee, a glass-clear resort lake, which the mayor swears you can drink out of – and he did as a show of faith.
The town of Klagenfurt and lake are in the southern province of Carinthia; Karnten to the Austrians (you will see this name around town). This race holds very special memories for me. I even wrote about it as one of The Most Romantic Race Venues (and not for the obvious reasons). Much to my surprise, a large number of people did not speak English. If you have the time, you have so many options for travel before or after the race, which makes sightseeing a really tough decision. You can even visit Slovenia!!
The only complaint I would have is the race isn’t the easiest to navigate. The race venue is a ways out of town, about 3 miles, so you have to drive and find parking, unless you are staying at the Seepark Hotel, which is right at the swim exit and is the official race hotel. Parking is plentiful, however. The bike is two loops and the run loops through town several times, but the finish is back by the lake in Europa Park.
Here are some details of my trip:
- We flew into Vienna from NYC and then took a shuttle flight to the Klagenfurt airport, where we rented a car. You REALLY need a car.
- We actually flew out 5 days before the race for my husband to get acclimated to the time change. After the race, we drove to Vienna to meet some friends from the UK and spent 3 days there before flying home. It’s a gorgeous city and just enough time to see the sites.
- In Klagenfurt, we stayed at the Arcotel Moser Verdino right in the center of town. It is convenient to shopping, restaurants, and the bike shop. We chose to stay in town for the convenience of having things to do that we could walk to, although you do have to drive to the race site. The host hotel is the Seepark.
- My husband shipped his bike from home. He used the company DB Schenker. My husband packed the bike and they came and picked it up, shipped it to Austria, got it through customs, and then delivered it to the bike shop in town, Mountainbiker. They unpacked it, checked it out, and had it all ready for my husband to pick up, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. When the race was over, he simply returned it to the shop and they took care of everything. The bike arrived home safe and sound a week or so later. It was without a doubt, a brilliant idea and took the stress of traveling with a bike out of the trip.
THINGS TO DO
This is one of the few trips where I really didn’t plan anything in terms of sightseeing. We just actually got in the car and started driving. Of course, we were also driving the bike course!! I did buy a travel guide before we left, but didn’t use it to plan. The countryside is just so gorgeous. I kept telling Carl to stop so I could get another picture; one better than the other.
We both agreed that the course was simply stunning and never saw an ugly part of the landscape. We stopped at a town on Lake Worthersee and had lunch. Apparently, in the summer, this area turns into Austria’s version of the Hamptons.
We did go to Hochosterwitz Castle, a 13th-century castle with stunning vistas. Walt Disney stayed here and it was his inspiration for Snow White. There’s a great collection of armor inside and courtyard cafe.
We also spent time just walking through town. Klagenfurt has lots of cute shops and restaurants and is actually a decent sized town and much of the area is pedestrian only. The Alter Platz is the town’s oldest square and the Neur Platz sits right in the middle of town in front of City Hall. Stop by to see the dragon and the fountain. They also have a bandstand – for lack of a better word – where they hold concerts on weekends and have a big party!
If you want to soak up some of the Carinthian atmosphere after the race, book a room at Hotel Schloss Seefels on Lake Worthersee. Or at least go for a spa treatment or a lakeside meal.
- Dolce Vita – This is one of my favorite restaurants I have been to, not just in Austria. I found it doing research and am so glad I did. It sits tucked away in a residential alley in town and has a darling outdoor garden for dining. There is no menu. Instead , the chef comes out and sits with you and asks if you have any allergies or things you don’t like to eat. He tells you what ingredients are fresh that day and then they just prepare something for you. I’m vegetarian and they easily accommodated me. Carl actually ate fresh sardines, which he normally does not like. We enjoyed the meal so much, we went back for another dinner.
- Restaurant Maria Loretto – This restaurant sits on the lake with a lovely terrace and a stunning view. It is right on the canal where the swim passes through, so you can have breakfast there on race day if you choose. It is also a romantic spot, so great for dinner. Seafood is a specialty. It’s outside of town, so you’ll need a car or a taxi.
- Karntan Hamat’le – This is a homey restaurant in a farmhouse in the center of town. They serve a Carinthian specialty called Karntner Kasnudein, that looks like a large ravioli stuffed with your choice of meat, cheeses, and veges. They also serve a special pork roast with sauerkraut on Saturdays.
- Landhauskeller – This is old-world dining at its best, so serves traditional food. They have a really nice courtyard for outside dining. It’s located in the government building called Landhaus.
- Bistro 151 – This restaurant is just a bit out of town, so again, you’ll need to drive or get a taxi. It has a great outdoor bar and is on the funky side. They serve bistro classics using seasonal ingredients.
- I’d also advise just walking around and checking out all the restaurants. We did that and stumbled upon several very cute places in plazas with decent food for lunch.
- I would suggest if you find places you like to go for dinner, to make reservations. We did see lines at some places and could not get into a few. I made reservations ahead of time for all our dinner choices.
My husband got me a VIP Package through Ironman and I never regretted the expense for a moment. Not knowing a soul at the race nor speaking the language, this just made a long day a bit easier for me. They have changed the amenities a bit. I don’t think they offer the bus trip anymore, but it’s still a nice perk. The Gold Package I had gave me:
- Breakfast at the VIP lounge
- Getting to be out on a boat for the swim (don’t think this is part of the package anymore – sorry)
- A bus trip to and from a small town to see the cyclists ride by and indulge in beer and German food.
- Access to the VIP lounge at the finish line.
The cost of the packages range from $179 to $582.
- It might help to print out the courses from Ironman so you can see where the athletes will be.
- The swim starts at 6:40am and the age groupers do a rolling start at 6:50. The finish is through the Lendkanal. Make sure you get to see this, it is so cool and you’re not going to see this anyplace else. I did not see Carl actually come out of the water as I stationed myself at the Mara Loretto restaurant and the canal. Unless you are right at the finish line, you will never see your triathlete while they swim. It is one loop and mostly in open water.
- The two-loop bike course takes place mostly outside of town. If you’re the triathlete, you’re in for some spectacular scenery, but if you’re the spectator, unless you can find a ride to one of the small towns along the course, your best option for viewing is around the transition area. The course is totally closed to cars, so you can’t get out on the course. If you can get a ride, you can enjoy a small Austrian town and drink beer, eat Austrian food, and listen to music while your triathlete is hard at work.
- The two-loop run goes to Krumpendorf and then into Klagenfurt. When Carl did the race, they had to ring a bell when they got into town and money was donated to charity each time it was rang. I saw Carl multiple times when he came back to the race site from Krumpendorf and ran along the canal into Klagenfurt. It’s a 3 mile distance between the race site and town, so you have to decide if you have the time and/or the inclination to walk/run the distance. It is flat and shaded in spots, so not bad. I did it going into town, but actually took a taxi back to the race site. There are also city buses close by. If you’re not staying in town, you really don’t have to make the journey as you can still see them around Europa Park/transition area and along the way. But, the town is filled with people watching the race, has shopping and restaurants, and is a lot of fun.
- The finish line is really something to see. They have a giant screen TV, tons of cheerleaders, and play American rock music. Of note, Carl almost gave up during the run as his plantar fasciitis was so bad and he was in such obvious pain. I encouraged him to keep going, even walking if he could, as I knew he’d be so disappointed if he DNF. He kept going and as you can see below, was a happy finisher. They have fireworks at the end of the race at midnight, so might be worth staying or going back for!
- There’s an Opening Ceremony at the IronDome at 8pm on Thursday.
- There’s a Pasta Party at the IronDome at 6pm on Friday.
- The IRONKIDS race is at 2pm on Saturday for kids aged 6-15 years with a ceremony to follow at 5pm at the IronDome. You can register online or onsite.
- The Awards Ceremony takes place on Monday at 6pm at the IronDome with an After Show Party at the Lido at 11pm if you’re still awake!
I hope you have a great time in Austria and enjoy it as much as we did. You’re very fortunate to have this experience! Be sure to check out TravelingMom for vacation ideas, if you decide to add on a few days in the area.