Among Austrian ski resorts, Kitzbühel is reputedly the most commercial, glamorous, and expensive. The beautiful alpine town dates back to the 9th century and has remained fairly unspoilt. In the winter holiday season, you will hear the jingle of bells as a horse-drawn sleigh is pulled through Kitzbühel's cobbled, traffic-free town centre. There is an extensive and varied skiing area offering excellent skiing and snowboarding, both on and off-piste, but be prepared for a lack of snow in places. Due to Kitzbühel's low altitude, the lower slopes are rarely open. If the skiing doesn't tire you out while on holiday in Kitzbühel, the nightlife certainly will. The atmosphere is bright, boisterous, and fun, and it doesn't stop till the not-quite-so-early hours. Kitzbühel is also Austria's winter entertainment capital and attracts performers from all over the continent throughout the holiday season. Getting to Kitzbühel is easy via Salzburg, Innsbruck or Munich airports.
Kitzbühel hosts The Hahnenkahm, one of the most treacherous and famous of all of the downhill ski races, and the publicity has made it one of the world's most famous ski resorts. The Kitzbühel ski pass includes the neighbouring but lesser known holiday resorts of Kirchberg, Aurach, Jochberg, and Pass Thurn, and offers one of the largest and most diverse ski areas in the Alps, with almost 100 miles (161km) of groomed slopes, a large cross-country ski area, and plenty of off-piste. Kitzbühel's problem is snow reliability - the holiday resort is under 800m and the highest skiing is at 2,000m, so skiing to your chalet or hotel door is rarely possible and the season is short. The resort attracts a large number of tourists from nearby countries, as well as throngs of holiday skiers and ski bums from the UK and Australia.
Kitzbühel is a shopper's paradise, with dozens of upmarket shops displaying their appealing wares in the quaint Tyrolean village stores. Ski shops dominate, but there are plenty of designer boutiques, jewellery stores, and souvenir shops in Kitzbühel too. Prices are steep but discounts are sometimes offered to those carrying guest cards from Kitzbühel hotels. Visitors can also enquire at their hotels about shopping excursions into Italy.
Kitzbühel has a wide choice of excellent restaurants, both on the ski slopes and in the town. Some of the best restaurants include the Neuwirt in the Schwarzer Adler, the Tenne Restaurant in Hotel Zur and with its young and international crowd and fantastic Italian food. For those on more of a budget, the Centro Café Bar Restaurant in the town centre is popular.
Kitzbühel is a lively ski resort with plenty of bars and nightclubs to suit all pockets and preferences. For many Brits and locals alike, the evening begins early at the Londoner - the famous après-ski bar renowned for its lethal cocktails. Take Five is a nightclub in the town square that stays open until dawn. Visitors wishing to try their luck on the tables will find the Casino Kitzbühel at the Hotel Goldener Greif. New Year is a great time for a skiing trip to Kitzbühel with one of the best fireworks displays in the Alps. Nightlife in Kitzbühel goes on very late, often not getting busy until nearly 2am.
Even non-skiers can find plenty to do in Kitzbühel, including ballooning, curling, hang-gliding, skating, hiking, snowmobiling, or even just playing billiards. There is gambling at the casino, art galleries to browse, concerts to attend, a cinema for movie-watching, and even an alpine zoo. Highlights of the winter holiday season are the Christmas Market and New Year's Eve party. Kitzbühel is also well known as a spa centre and is full of health farms, while the public baths in town offer a multitude of amenities including saunas, steam baths, swimming, and massages. The picturesque, historic town itself offers plenty to see while on holiday, with its medieval houses, stylish shops, and beautiful old churches. Visitors can also take short excursions to the museums in the area, which include the Cable Car Museum at the Hahnenkamm Mountain Station, the Farmhouse Museum, and Mining Museum.
With its sprawling layout and fragmented ski-area, Kitzbühel is not an ideal choice for families. The low altitude means that the lower slopes get slushy in warmer weather.