If you love fresh air, wide-open spaces and spectacular alpine scenery, then the small town of Spielberg in the Styria region of Austria could be your ideal destination. Topographically the area is defined by craggy mountains, rolling hills and lush green meadows. As such, the region has long been considered a haven for sportspeople, from skiers and snowboarders in the winter to hikers and mountain bikers in the summer. But it’s not just the potential to indulge in outdoor activities that attracts visitors to the area; it’s also the renowned hospitality of the locals.
As you might expect for a track situated at over 600m above sea level, the Spielberg circuit is particularly undulating and provides fans with the opportunity to see cars racing flat out against what is arguably the most breath-taking natural backdrop on the F1 calendar.
Did you know? The Styria region in which Spielberg is located is the greenest in Austria, with around 60 percent of the land covered by forest.
Visitors are most likely to fly into Austria’s capital, Vienna, which is about two hours’ drive from Spielberg.
The smaller airport in Graz (Austria’s second-largest city and the capital of the Styria region) is closer to the circuit and is a possible arrival point for visitors arriving from central Europe, whilst those with private planes may opt to land at Zeltweg right next to the track. From Graz there are regional rail links to most of Styria, but a hire car might prove to be a more convenient way to get around. But don’t forget, the region is just as used to catering to visitors who simply want to walk or cycle.
The circuit offers many excellent viewing opportunities for spectators, but perhaps the best is from Turn 1. Sitting on the outside of this corner fans are afforded an incredible scenic view of circuit - not only can they see cars come down the start/finish straight, take Turn 1 and then climb the hill towards Turn 2, they can also watch them come back down through Rauch (Turn 4) and Wurth Kurve (Turn 5).
Where to go?
There are numerous places of interest and fun things to do within a distance of the circuit. Those who enjoy the great outdoors are advised to take a hike in the hills surrounding Spielberg to the Tremmelberg watchtower which provides uninhibited views of the area. Alternatively, the Ingeringsee - an idyllic lake framed by mountains - is the perfect place to relax and unwind in natural splendour.
Culture vultures will enjoy paying a visit to the nearby town of Judenberg with its picturesque and historic centre and well-preserved walls, whilst the beautiful Benedictine monastery in Seckau is also well worth a visit. And when out and about don’t forget to try one of the local delicacies such as verhackert (made from bacon) and pumpkin seed oil.
Where to stay?
If the weather is good then camping is a fantastic, cheap option for visitors. There are several sites situated within walking distance of the circuit, so fans spending the night under canvas won’t have to walk far to get to the track in the morning. If camping’s not your thing, there are a host of B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels in Spielberg and the surrounding towns and villages, many of them very traditional in appearance. For those who’d rather stay in a city, Graz is just an hour’s drive away.
Those with longer to spend in the region would be well advised to visit Graz, the cultural capital of Europe in 2003. The scenic old town, with its various examples of traditional architecture, was designated a UNESCO world cultural heritage site in 1999, whilst the forest-clad Schlossberg hill - replete with its iconic clock tower - is also well worth visiting for brilliant views over the city.
Aside from the Spielberg circuit, the only other significant motor racing venue in Austria is the Salzburgring, which is found in the North West part of the country. The venue was a former home for world championship motor cycling, but these days fans of two-wheeled motorsport in Austria are more likely to flock to Erzberg, just over 50km from Spielberg, for the Erzbergrodeo, an extreme enduro event which attracts 1,500 competitors a year.
Projekt Spielberg GmbH & Co KG
Red Bull Ring Straße 1
Main image © Harry Schiffer Photodesign