Bad Gastein, Austria, is a famous health spa, casino and ski area, much of which dates back to the 1500s. It is set in the spectacular Gastein Valley 50 mi/80 km south of Salzburg. From the train station, the town plunges into a steep valley with church spires and rustic lodges stacked one on top of the other and wooded peaks arranged overhead.
Although the town is overbuilt, it is still easy to see why past guests have included such famous people as Franz Schubert, Constanze Mozart (the composer's wife), Kaiser Wilhelm and Emperor Franz Josef.
Winter activities include excellent skiing, tobogganing and horse-drawn sleigh rides; summertime attractions include hiking and horseback riding. There's good shopping year-round. Bad Hofgastein, just down the valley, also offers nice scenery and spas. It is quieter and not as well-known, and it can be more relaxing than Bad Gastein.
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