Why St Johann in Tirol is Your Secret Tonic in Austria

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Long name, long history. The charming market town of St Johann in Tirol in western Austria mixes food, history and outdoor adventure into a cracking summer mountain destination. Here’s our inside travel guide to summer in St Johann in Tirol.

See more on why summer in Austria is good for you here. 

Austria - Tirol - St Johann in Tirol baroque town centre

The beautiful baroque old centre of St Johann in Tirol

St Johann in Tirol, Austria

Pronounced Sankt yo-HAHn, this market town in the Leukental in Tirol, Austria set down its roots well before the Romans strolled by.

Today, it’s best known for its cross country ski resorts and Baroque architecture but it’s often overlooked for its summer character and charm.

But here is a place great for families and couples alike, with foodie haunts and hiking trails and enough fresh air to give everyone an extra dose with double on Sundays.

Lace up your boots and loosen your waistline. This is St Johann in Tirol.

Disclosure: I travelled to St Johann in Tirol as a guest of Visit Austria. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what is the point?

Video: St Johann in Tirol

Where is St Johann in Tirol?

The market town of St Johann in Tirol sits in the state of Tirol in Austria, just around an hour’s drive from each of Innsbruck, Munich and Salzburg. It’s also close to the famous Kitzbühel ski resort near the Kitzbüheler Horn.

Austria - Tirol - Abi in with car in St Johann in Tirol

Hire a car and enjoy driving around the Tirol region in Austria…

How to get to St Johann in Tirol?

You can fly into either Munich or Innsbruck and rent a car from there. Drive times are just over an hour on clear, easy to navigate roads. Traffic on the ring road around Munich can sometimes cause delays but overall, it’s an easy journey.

How to get around St Johann in Tirol?

The easiest way to get around St Johann in Tirol in Tirol is by car, for sure. That said, a number of public transport options also exist and buses connect the region well.

Within the town of St Johann in Tirol itself, you won’t need anything. It’s small enough to be covered on foot. Leave your car in any of the many car parks in town or at the base of the cable cars.

When is the best time to visit St Johann in Tirol?

St Johann in Tirol is a major ski resort in winter but in late spring and early autumn, it also showcases what makes it a great place to visit in summer: a wide range of hiking routes, stunning mountain scenery and the year round hospitality, spas, wellness facilities and high quality restaurants that make a visit here a real pleasure.

Austria - Tirol - Sauna Kaiserfels

Relax in the spa area at the Kaiserfels Sentido Alpenhotel

Where to stay in St Johann in Tirol?

The Sentido Alpenhotel Kaiserfels sits just outside St Johann in Tirol with easy access to hiking trails and great views of the surrounding mountains. It also has a large indoor pool and sauna and spa area, perfect for easing away aches and pains after a day of hiking on the slopes.

Austria - Tirol - Kaesespaetzle

Käsespätzle: cheesy paradise in the mountains

What to eat in St Johann in Tirol?

Eating is a treat in Tirol! I have a full blog post coming on the delights of Tyrolean cuisine. But in the meantime, check out this guide on traditional Austrian food and make sure you track down the following:

  • Käsespätzle – a higher class Mac n Cheese dish with crispy onions on top
  • Gröstl – fried potatoes, bacon and egg. Perfect for loading up with energy.
  • Alpine cheeses and cured meats
  • Speckknödel (or any kind of dumpling, really)
  • Zillertal Krapfen – a kind of gyoza
  • Kaiserschmarrn – a shredded pancake with berry jam
  • Decent schnapps – more about those later
  • Local beer – make sure to visit the local brewery

Austria - Tirol - traditional lederhosen

Traditional clothes in Tirol

What to wear in St Johann in Tirol?

St Johann in Tirol is an outdoors kind of place, so most of the time practicality rules. That said, Austrians do tend to dress more stylishly than their British and US counterparts. So, while outdoor sports gear is understood, sloppy shorts, T shirts and flip flops are not so much.

Make sure to pack plenty of layers, hiking boots and socks, breathable waterproofs and plenty of sunscreen. Check out our ultimate packing guide and printable list here and the handy hiking packing list here.

Austria - Tirol - Heart shaped motifs

Things to love doing in St Johann in Tirol…

What to do in St Johann in Tirol in Summer

Here’s a range of tried and tested activities for families in the mountains in summer…

Feel the need for speed with mountain carting

OK, confession time. I didn’t do this. But my husband and five year old did. In my defence, I’d just hugely overestimated my passion for thrills and spills on the world’s longest or fastest (definitely darkest) underground slide just a few weeks before.

So, this time around, I took the cable car and enjoyed the scenery of the Harschbichl mountains. The other two zipped down the mountain in a gokart.

Young children have to go on a vehicle with an adult and, as I understand it, there was a disagreement about the ideal cruising velocity.

In short, I should have taken baby Lab and we both could have enjoyed a Driving Miss Daisy jaunt around the mountains. And Mr Lab could have zoomed down as fast as he wished.

But either way, it looked fun, so give it a go – as apparently, you can go slow if you wish!

Ziplining for kids

Surrounded by forest, you can find a small zip-line that’s perfect for young primary school age kids in the delightful Moor and More loop. More about that here.

Explore the Old Town

The Old Town of St Johann in Tirol is beautiful and deserves a little attention all by itself. Look out for the baroque architecture and admire the characteristic painted facades of the inns and restaurants in the old town. You’ll find a few souvenir shops as well as some cosy traditional eateries, all surrounded by the sunshine and shadows of the mountains.

Enjoy the Food

From hot chocolate in the snow on the mountains to salad and dumplings in the sun in the Old Town, St Johann in Tirol offers up memorable foodie experiences. I’ve highlighted the best Tyrolean dishes to try here and some in depth foodie experiences here.

Follow the locals: go Hiking

This is Austria, so that means it must be time to go hiking! It’s the easiest outdoor activity going and suitable for parents with pushchairs and extreme adventurers alike. You just need to find the right route.

Since we travelled as a family with a five year old, I’m highlighting the best hiking routes for kids below…

Austria - Tirol - family hiking in the forest in St Johann in Tirol

Hiking in and around St Johann in Tirol with kids has plenty of options…

Hiking in St Johann in Tirol in Summer with kids

Not sure whether your little one is a hiker or not? Never fear. With these routes, you can always turn back home if it all turns out too much. Or, and this is the more likely option, you can get all the benefits of getting out into nature together and head back to the hotel with the satisfying glow of stretched legs and rested minds.

Hike the Eifersbacher Waterfall

A mainly forested canopy covers the walk to the Eifersbacher Waterfall, a magnificent beast of water which cools hot hikers with its spray. Look out for the small chapel along the way.

Griesbachklamm Gorge

Hike over and along clear waters through the Griesbachklamm Gorge on a family-friendly path that mixes boardwalks with bridges near Erpfendorf.

Austria - Tirol - mother and daughter hiking in St Johann in Tirol

Hiking across the area around St Johann in Tirol

Moor and More

The wonderful Moor and More adventure trail loops around the moors of the Wilder Kaiser region with children firmly in mind. Follow the path to discover zip lines, treehouses and more amid a range of landscapes and great views.

Just a word of warning – sections are steep, so although it is suitable for families, very young children are likely to need a carry at some point.

Devil’s Lane

Head through the Teufelsgasse or Devil’s Lane for a three hour adventure that begins near Kirchdorf. While not suitable for prams and pushchairs, it’s still a great hiking route for families near St Johann in Tirol.

The Schnackler Adventure Trail

Perfect for very young children, the Schnackler Adventure trail in the Kaiserbach Valley includes purpose-built wooden play areas amid the hiking trails. It’s also right by the Alpine Outdoor Gallery where you can learn about local mountaineering history.

Austria - Tirol - platter of local specialties

Enjoy tasting local Tyrolean cuisine after a good hike…

Foodie Things to do in St Johann

I’m not sure that St Johann in Tirol particularly thinks of itself as a foodie destination. But food – and drink – is a real pleasure here. The guesthouses and inns come in soft pine and centuries of tradition – and the mountain views are unbeatable. Plus, you can visit the source of some of the best local products. Places such as…

Austria - Tirol - child looking at Aggstein distillery

A child-friendly schnapps tour is possible…

Sharpening up with Schnapps

Who knew that schnapps could taste good? The Austrians, that’s who! I’d always been rather sceptical after a few bad experiences in my youth.

But a visit to the Aggstein Distillery changed my mind. For a small fee, you can take the self-guided tour that introduces the concept of distillation. Then that is followed by a tasting session.

All of the drinks are made on site and taste fresh, pure and surprisingly refreshing. Favourites include Black Moon, the Bergkauter hay schnapps and chilli and chocolate combo.

And for the kids? The ever popular orange and strawberry Schiwasser and a small but welcome play area in the museum.

Austria - Tirol - Hubler Brewery in St Johann in Tirol

Visit the Huber brewery and sip beer amid great mountain views

Becoming friends with beer

The exterior of the Huber Brewery may look a little stark, but the view from the rooftop terrace is sublime. Tuck into sauerkraut and watch clouds sashay and slice across the peaks while sipping beer made in the very same building. Lush.

Austria - Tirol - Wilder Kaeser giant cheese disc

Visit the Wilder Käser to see and taste local cheese

Chumming up with Cheese

More cheese, please, Louise seems to be the phrase of the mountains. In nearby Bregenzerwald, you’ll find a UNESCO approved Road of Cheese.

Near Kirchdorf, just a short drive from St Johann in Tirol, you can visit the lovely little Wilder Käser. The name is a play on words from the nearby Wilder Kaiser mountains, since Käse means cheese. A short video demonstration explains the cheese making process, delivered to a small audience sitting on cow hides. Through portholes, you can see the cheese maturing and the friendly gift shop and restaurant allows for a tasting session to turn into lunch, with pickles and cured meats as companions.

Look out for the names, bound to amuse any schoolchild. Our favourite was the Grosser Stinker.

Austria - Tirol - Sauna Kaiserfels-1

The view towards St Johann in Tirol from the Kaiserfels Hotel

The Wilder Kaiser

Brooding in purple and grey and rising out of the earth like a craggy shark’s fin, the mountains of the Wilder Kaiser steal the show as you drive through Tirol. They begin in St Johann in Tirol and range on to Kufstein, with the villages of Söll, Going, Ellmau and Scheffau on the southern foothills.

In contrast, the gentle, grassy hills of the Kitzbühel Alps wait opposite, making the mountains even more dramatic.

Austria - Tirol - Abi in cloudy weather in St Johann in Tirol

Pack layers for travel to the mountains…

Bad weather plans for St Johann in Tirol

The good thing about Austria is that it’s an all weather destination. People tend to lace up their boots, throw on their waterproofs and stride outside anyway. And if that sounds bleak, there are two key traditions that soften the blow.

First, the hot chocolate and schnapps in the mountain huts and villages. And second, the spas, saunas and whirlpools that await back at the hotels.

Plus, since the outdoor spirit is very much the vibe, it’s accepted, even encouraged, to head into the restaurants in your full outdoor kit for lunch. No eyeborws raised.

Still, if all else fails, I’m told that Murmis Kinderland is a big indoor softplay type area for truly bad weather days.

Is it Tirol or Tyrol?

The answer is… It depends. Take your cue from the people around you and adjust accordingly!

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