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Grand tour of the Bregenzerwald

Sightseeing by bus

Vorarlberg Magazine

Experience report

Public transport enjoys an exceptionally high status in Vorarlberg, with locals and guests alike placing their trust in the highly synchronised network that makes getting around in cities and rural areas very easy. As a visible sign of the region's interconnectedness, all vehicles, stops and signals have been integrated into consistently well-designed concepts that are as carefully and clearly coordinated as the timetables that have been put in place by the various operators involved.


The bus driver gently hit the brakes, stopped again and the double doors swung open with a hiss. A glance in his rearview mirror had told him that two huffing-and-puffing latecomers were trying to catch up with him. He accepted our profuse thanks with a friendly smile: “Bei üs luagt ma ufanand.” (“We look after each other here.”)

We’d decided that day to leave the car behind for a change, to ditch our worries and let ourselves be chauffeured around by the operators within Vorarlberg’s public-transport network. We wanted to relax and have a chat on the way and take in the scenery without having to concern ourselves with planning our route, annoying sat-nav instructions or parking.

We’d travelled from our starting point in Dornbirn and, after a short train trip through the Rhine Valley’s orchards full of trees heavily laden with ripe apples and cherries, we’d arrived in the festival city of Bregenz. And the magnificent view from the station overpass across Lake Constance with its metallic shimmer in the morning light almost became our undoing.

Rigoletto, Lake Stage, 2019 (c) Anja Köhler / Bregenzer Festspiele
Bregenz im Herbst, Skulptur von Herbert Albrecht (c) Petra Rainer I Bodensee-Vorarlberg Tourismus GmbH

The Hop-On Hop-Off principle makes it easy to discover Vorarlberg with inexpensive day tickets.

From Lake Constance to the Bregenzerwald.

But now we’re sitting in the lemon-yellow rural No. 25 bus and winding our way over long and twisting roads across the sunny terrace of the state capital towards the Bregenzerwald, which lies around 300 metres above the lowest point of the valley.

Our chauffeur coolly steered his vehicle around the hairpin bends and, whenever one of his colleagues approached us, both raised their hands in a relaxed manner as they passed each other by a hair’s breadth with elegant turns of their wheels. We held our breath the first time that happened but then relaxed and remained as calm as the men and women in charge. This is where Vorarlberg precision work is performed.

Once at the top, our views swept across a vast cultivated landscape that was dotted with compact settlement structures. Torn wisps that remained of the morning mist were still drifting across the deep depressions between the mountain and hill ranges that presented themselves in the dark shades of blue created by the shadows that were being cast by spruce and fir trees. Those who know where to look are able to discover the signs of the region’s agriculture that traditionally takes place at three levels – valley farm, Maisäss (middle level) and alpine pasture – and that UNESCO lists as part of the intangible cultural heritage.

The first tentative rays of sun streaked across the carefully maintained buildings in front of which duvets were already being hung out to air and where colourful flower boxes on the balconies were already being watered. Beans, white cabbage and rhubarb in freshly raked beds peeked through the gaps in the picket fences.

Early morning in the Bregenzerwald


Our first destination was Krumbach, which is primarily built up around a long street. That’s where the multi-award-winning BUS:STOP project was conceived and implemented in close dialogue with the residents. Seven internationally renowned architects, working in conjunction with local colleagues and craftspeople, realised the bus shelters with the unusual designs, which are, of course, particularly easy to get to using public transport.

We were already able to recognise the glass pavilion by Chile-based Smiljan Radic from afar by its roof structure for design-loving breeding birds at the Zwing stop and got ready to jump off. We simply walked along the road from there until, after an extensive stroll through the historic village centre and visiting all the other architectural highlights, we arrived at Bränden’s white steel-rod forest by Sou Fujimoto from Japan and, after exactly two hours and seven minutes, got back on the bus to continue to Hittisau. So much culture creates an appetite and it was time for lunch.

Half an hour later, we were stretching legs out under one of the wooden tables in the light-flooded lounge at the traditional Gasthof Krone, which was carefully rebuilt and expanded over multiple phases by the architect Bernardo Bader. Several regular guests had already recommended this location to us because not only was the food and accommodation here outstanding but the two hosts really put their hearts and creativity into how they ran the family business.

Bus:stop Krumbach, Zwing

Bus:stop Krumbach, Bränden

Bus:stop Krumbach, Bränden

Krone in Hittisau

The proprietor Dietmar Nussbaumer joined us at our table for espresso and devilishly good plum tiramisu once we’d finished enjoying the fresh trout, a great pleasure which left us feeling slightly guilty as they had still been swimming merrily around in the fish tank when we arrived. We chatted about the reading salons and Marcel Proust days organised at the venue, contemporary building culture and regional crafts, visual arts and chamber music. We had long come to understand why people feel so at home here … even before he’d handed us a carefully designed booklet – an in-house edition – as a parting gift.

He told us that Austria’s only women’s museum on the opposite side of the village square was definitely worth a visit. It is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary with an excellently curated show about the culture of giving birth. The multi-layered exhibition also invited us to both explore its science and experience it with the senses; the most diverse aspects of the topic have been cleverly and yet playfully interwoven. On our way back to the bus stop, we passed a mysterious clay object clad in blood-red wooden shingles, it was the Raum für Geburt und Sinne (Room for Birth and the Senses) by the young architectural artist and midwife Anka Dür, which she came up with as a prototype for a holistic birthing house.

We allowed ourselves to make a small detour to Andelsbuch on the next stage of our adventurous round trip, even if that did mean changing buses twice within 30 minutes. But, as we had already assumed, all the connections were made on time and we swung our way through the network of Vorarlberg’s perfectly scheduled public transport like daring trapeze artists.

The route we’d chosen allowed us to take at least a quick look at one of the most prominent sites of pilgrimage in the realm of international architectural tourism. The increasingly frequent appearance of serious-looking wearers of horn-rimmed glasses and black turtle-necks finally told us that Peter Zumthor’s hallowed halls were not far away. The exceptionally consistently designed structure built for the regional Werkraum Bregenzerwald trades association then caused us to catch our breath too; the skill of the master was apparent from the powerful synthesis of casual generosity and precision detail work.

Frauenmuseum Hittisau
Ausstellung 2021 Geburtskultur (c) Frauenmuseum Hittisau - Angela Lamprecht

Exhibition 2021: "birth culture. of giving birth and being born" in the Frauenmuseum Hittisau (Women's Museum Hittisau)

In the late afternoon, the bus finally arrived at the village square of Schwarzenberg, which is lined with stately burgher and farm houses. We got to the Angelika Kauffmann Museum, which is to be found in one of the traditional courtyards, just in time for us to register for the last guided tour. The theme of the current exhibition, of course, appealed to us as explorers in particular: the Grand Tour!

The friendly receptionist was already regaling us with exciting stories about the life of the idiosyncratic artist before her colleague turned up to accompany us through the carefully laid-out exhibition. Besides many oil paintings and sketches, the exhibits also included showcases, one of which contained the antique flintlock pistol from times when travel was still associated with considerable risk. That gave us cause to pause for a moment and reflect on how lucky we were that our Grand Tour through the Bregenzerwald was, in contrast, so peaceful.

We concluded our trip by treating ourselves to creamy mushroom risotto and succulent salsiccia at the cosy bistro that has found its home at the historic Gasthof Hirschen. And, since we had no problem with placing the responsibility for our safe return to Dornbirn in the hands of the experienced bus drivers in the region, we thought it was probably a good idea to sample the delights of the well-stocked wine cellar while we were there.

Häuserensemble in Schwarzenberg Oberkaltenberg (c) Johannes Fink - Bregenzerwald Tourismus
Angelika Kauffmann Museum, Schwarzenberg © Kristina
Hirschen Schwarzenberg Gaststube © Angela Lamprecht / Vorarlberg Tourismus

Arrived in Schwarzenberg

Angelika Kauffmann Museum

Last stop: Letzter Stop: Hirschen in Schwarzenberg

More info

The region


Popular with skiing and hiking enthusiasts, Bregenzerwald is the place for those who appreciate the finer things of life. It’s famed for the surprising juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary architecture, innovative handicraft and the KäseStrasse. Exceptional: the Werkraumhaus in Andelsbuch. International: the Schubertiade Festival in Schwarzenberg.

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