A day in Upper Austria can be short if you want to experience all its architectural gems. Linz is a cosmopolitan city that houses culture and arts, and the surrounding historic towns such as Bad Ischl and Hallstatt are treasure troves of splendid buildings. Venture further into the province to find countless tremendous abbeys and monasteries.
It all begins in Linz, as the saying goes. And it's true: the provincial capital is the ideal starting point for a tour of Upper Austria. It’s best to begin early in the morning, before six o’clock. This is when the first historic mountain tram goes up the Pöstlingberg. The early start is worth it, for when you reach the top you are treated to spectacular views of the city, still shaking off its sleep.
Linz: from steel city to cultural metropolis
The provincial capital has undergone a fundamental image change in recent years, due in large part to the city’s many new architectural projects. Only a few years ago, Linz was a place where fusing steel was the primary occupation. Nowadays, art, science and technology are fused together to create a fabulous new integrated composition. Contemporary buildings including the Lentos Museum of Modern Art, the Ars Electronica Centre for Art, Technology and Society, the Brucknerhaus and of course the new music theater opening in April 2013 lend the entire region a pulsating quality – without forgetting their cultural roots in the process.
The architectural counterpart to these modern establishments is Linz’s historic city centre, including the medieval cathedral known as the Mariendom and the romantic pedestrian zone with its numerous small shops. Tradition and modernity are united quite spectacularly in the colossal Linz Castle. On one side of this structure the ancient walls keep watch over the Danube, while the south wing, which was destroyed by fire in 1800, was replaced in 2009 by a modern glass-and-steel structure.
Experiencing the history of the region by bicycle
The Upper Austrians are casual people who are fond of cycling. And it is by bicycle that we continue on to Enns, one of the country’s loveliest historic cities. The town centre, dominated by the imposing sixty-metre-high Stadtturm, has been impeccably preserved. No less beautiful and unique in their own way are the small historic cities of Steyr, Schärding, Gmunden and Wels.
One of the most picturesque regions is the Salzkammergut, which boasts lofty mountain peaks as well as the most beautiful bathing lakes in Upper Austria. It is no coincidence that in the second half of the nineteenth century, Emperor Francis Joseph and his wife, Sisi, often took refuge from the worries and pressures of Vienna at the neoclassical Kaiservilla here in Bad Ischl. Even today the unmistakable aura of imperial days can still be sensed in this building.
Atmosphere and cultural highlights in Hallstatt
Bad Ischl is not just close to Hallstatt in terms of distance. Both towns also offer a unique atmosphere as well as an unforgettable cultural experience. And it is precisely this extraordinary composition that has led to Hallstatt becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The narrow western shore of Lake Hallstatt is densely lined with old boathouses featuring impressive wood architecture, and right behind them the steep mountains jut into the sky. The symbol of Hallstatt, the magnificent parish church of Maria Himmelfahrt, lends the cityscape an enchanting ambience.
No discussion of its architecture would be complete without mentioning the many monasteries, abbeys and castles that give Upper Austria such a distinctive character. One could spend an entire day just drawing inspiration from these historic masterpieces of architecture. Among the most prominent of these are the abbeys of Wilhering, St. Florian, Schlierbach and Kremsmünster as well as nearby Kremsegg Castle.