It all begins in Linz, as the saying goes. And it is true: the provincial capital is the ideal starting point for a tour through 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. But the early start is worth it: when you reach the top, you are treated to spectacular panoramic views of the Upper Austrian capital, still shaking off its sleep.
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 still a place where fusing steel was the primary occupation. Today, art, science and technology are fused together to create a fabulous new integrated composition. Contemporary buildings like the Lentos Museum of Modern Art, the Ars Electronica Centre for Art, Technology and Society, the Brucknerhaus and the new Music Theater, still under construction, lend the entire region a pulsating quality – but without forgetting their cultural roots in the process.
The architecture counterpart to these contemporary buildings 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 in a spectacular manner in the colossal Linz Castle (also called the Castle Museum): 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.
The Upper Austrians are a casual people who are fond of getting around by bike. And it is by bicycle that we continue on to Enns, one of the country’s loveliest historic cities. The town center, dominated by the imposing about 200-foot-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 in all of Austria is the Salzkammergut, which boasts lofty mountain peaks as well as spectacularly beautiful lakes. 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 Bad Ischl’s neoclassical Kaiservilla. Even today the unmistakable aura of imperial days can still be sensed in this building.
Bad Ischl is not only close to Hallstatt in terms of distance; both of these cities offer a unique atmosphere as well as an unforgettable cultural experience. The extraordinary composition of Hallstatt has made the city 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 ambiance.
No discussion of Upper Austrian architecture would be complete without mentioning the many monasteries, abbeys and castles that give the province 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 and nearby Kremsegg Castle.