Nestled in the Salza Valley, Mariazell is an important pilgrimage destination and winter sports hub in the Styrian Alps. It is of particular significance to Austria’s Roman Catholic community, with a revered image of the Virgin Mary carved from lime-tree wood brought here in 1157. Said to perform miracles, the image is enshrined in a chapel of the Mariazell Basilica.
Things to do in Mariazell
In the winter months, you can hit the family-friendly slopes and toboggan run of the Mariazell Bürgeralpe ski resort or explore along one of its winter hiking trails. Once the snow melts, the mountain lake hosts a series of evening concerts featuring folk, pop and rock bands.
Sprawling north-west of Mariazell is the Erlaufsee, a sparkling lake that’s a popular place for swimming in the summer months. In addition to its pebbly beach and picturesque meadow, it features a children’s playground and water slides to keep young visitors entertained. Connecting to the Erlaufsee is the Museumstramway Mariazell, which is pulled by the oldest steam tram locomotive in the world.
In the heart of Mariazell is the monumental Basilica Mariä Geburt, which was originally established in the 14th century. It was redesigned in a Baroque style in the 17th century and is fronted by a Gothic-style portal. No visit is complete without paying your respects to the miraculous wooden image of the Virgin Mary in the Gnadenkapelle.
Getting around Mariazell
Mariazell is around two hours’ drive from Vienna and Vienna International Airport, which has flights to destinations across the globe. Trains connect along a narrow gauge electric railway from St Pölten to the Mariazell railway station, which is around one kilometre from the city centre. Regular buses also travel to Mariazell while ski lifts ascend the surrounding slopes.