12 Top Tourist Attractions in Linz & Easy Day Trips
Linz, the capital of Upper Austria and the country's third largest city after Vienna and Graz, lies in an attractive location on both banks of the River Danube, which widens here after emerging from its narrow passage through the outliers of the Bohemian Forest into the Linz basin. Famous for its fine churches, museums, and cultural activities, the city was home to many of Austria's most famous creative types, including novelist Adalbert Stifter, composers Wolfgang Mozart and Anton Bruckner, and the famous scientist Johannes Kepler. One of the most picturesque Austrian cities, its position on the Danube makes it an ideal spot for a river excursion or exploration of the surrounding countryside and attractions.
1 Schlossmuseum Linz
Overlooking the Danube, the imposing Linz Castle (Linz Schloss) has dominated the city for centuries. Records indicate the site has been home to a fortress since the early 9th century, the remains of which can still be seen around the old walls and the Friedrich Gate, while the present structure dates predominantly from the 16th century and was rebuilt after a fire in 1800. Now home to the excellent Schlossmuseum, the castle houses important art and historical collections along with displays featuring artifacts from the prehistoric, Roman, and medieval periods, including paintings, sculptures, arms, and armor. The more modern South Wing contains permanent exhibits regarding nature and technology as well temporary exhibits.
Address: Tummelplatz 10, 4020 Linz
2 St. Martin's Church
Just below Linz Castle, in Römerstrasse, stands quaint little St. Martin's Church (Martinskirche), the oldest church in Austria to be preserved in its original form. Built on the remains of Roman walls that can still be seen in the building's exterior, this remarkable 8th-century church is characteristic of the earliest Carolingian architecture. Highlights of a visit include an interior rich with 15th-century frescoes, along with the outlines of old doorways and windows in the sidewalls dating from the Gothic period. A Roman oven is visible, and many stones inside the church bear Roman inscriptions, while recent excavations have revealed the royal hall of the former imperial palace.
Address: Römerstraße/Ecke Martingasse, 4020 Linz
3 Ars Electronica Center
The excellent Ars Electronica Center - also referred to as the Museum of the Future - was founded in 1996 and moved to its present ultra-modern location on the Danube in 2009. Designed to showcase the city's reputation as a dynamic center of technology, media, industry, and art, the center features exhibits focusing on the technology shaping our modern world, including displays related to climate change and pollution, space exploration, biotechnology, and robotics. The center is also the site of the annual Ars Electronica Festival, which recognizes world leaders in computer music, animation, interactive art, and web design. Temporary and special exhibitions are held regularly at the center. Be sure to take a walk along the Danube after sundown to see the center and other area museums lit up as part of a stunning riverside lightshow.
Address: Ars-Electronica-Straße 1, 4040 Linz
4 Lentos Art Museum
Another of Linz's ultra-modern museums on the banks of the Danube, the Lentos Art Museum opened its doors in 2003 as the successor to the New Gallery and has since become one of the most important art galleries in Austria. Highlights of this spectacular museum - itself a work of art when lit up at night - are its rich collection of more than 1,500 pieces of artwork, including examples from the 19th century, as well as Classical Modernism masterpieces by the likes of Austrians Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Other highlights include a collection of important works from the German and Austrian Expressionist movement of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as international works from the postwar period. The museum also has a notable collection of sculpture, sketches, and photographs.
Address: Ernst-Koref-Promenade 1, 4020 Linz
5 The New Cathedral
The splendid New Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Neuer Dom) is a three-aisled, Neo-Gothic pillared basilica of yellow sandstone with an ambulatory surrounded by a ring of chapels. This massive building, constructed between 1862 and 1924 to the plans of Cologne architect Vinzenz Statz, covers a larger area than Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral. Highlights include a 135-meter-high tower, the great organ built in 1968, and its crypt with the grave of Franz Josef Rudigier, Linz's best-known Bishop (also worth noting in the crypt is its large nativity scene). The cathedral also includes a spectacular stained glass window (the Linz-Window) depicting the history of the town. Afterwards, be sure to visit the Bishop's Palace (Bischöfliches Palais). Dating from 1726 and originally part of the Kremsmünster monastery, it's notable for its unique iron gateway and staircase built in 1227.
6 St. Florian Augustinian Abbey
Just 20 minutes south of Linz, the St. Florian Augustinian Abbey dates from 800 AD and was built over the grave of St. Florian, a Roman official martyred in 304 AD for becoming Christian. The present Baroque structure was built between 1686 and 1751 and remains an important theological seminary famous for its boys' choir (try to plan your visit to coincide with one of their regular concerts). Tour highlights include the impressive main doorway with its massive statues of Atlas and Virtue; the imposing Abbey Church with its twin Baroque towers, stucco decoration, and Bruckner organ; and the crypt, where organist Anton Bruckner lies buried. Also of note are the Imperial Apartments (Kaiserzimmer), once used by visiting Emperors and Popes; St. Sebastian's Altar with its 14 early 16th-century paintings by Albrecht Altdorfer, a master of the Danube school; the magnificent library with its ceiling paintings and Rococo gallery; and the St. Florian art collection. A restaurant is on-site, and for a truly memorable experience, affordable B&B options are available in the guesthouse.
Address: Stiftstraße 1, A-4490 St. Florian
7 Botanical Gardens
Near the outskirts of Linz, on the eastern slopes of the Freinberg, a 30-minute walk from the city center, the splendid Botanical Gardens are considered among Europe's most beautiful gardens. Home to more than 10,000 species of plants spread over numerous attractive flowerbeds and five greenhouses, the garden features many exotic specimens, including a large collection of cacti, a superb Rosarium, numerous alpine flowers in the Alpinum, and a well-stocked Tropic House. The Botanical Gardens also hosts numerous events throughout the year, including flower shows and concerts.
Address: Roseggerstraße 20-22, 4020 Linz
8 Wilhering Abbey
About eight kilometers west of Linz on the southern bank of the Danube stands the little town of Wilhering, famous for its sprawling 12th-century Cistercian abbey. Founded in 1146 and rebuilt in the 18th century after a devastating fire, Wilhering Abbey (Stift Wilhering) is well worth taking the short trip from Linz to explore (especially if you can do it by boat). A highlight is the modern art gallery - in a former guesthouse thought to be the oldest surviving part of the complex - with a number of paintings by Fritz Fröhlich. The church is also worth visiting and boasts one of the finest Rococo interiors in Austria and a number of attractive frescoes by B Altomonte, including the Glorification of the Mother of God. Also of note are its fine choir stalls and wall graves.
Address: Linzerstraße 4, 4073 Wilhering
9 Steel World
In recognition of Linz's decades-long role as a center of the Austrian steel industry, the country's largest steel manufacturer, Voestalpine AG, has created a fascinating look at the industry. Steel World (Voestalpine Stahlwelt), in the heart of the country's largest industrial complex, gives visitors a chance to enter a full-size replica of a blast furnace, along with numerous hands-on displays showing the manufacturing process from start to finish. Also of interest are the 80 large chrome-plated spheres - some as big as two-and-a-half meters in diameter - illuminated to show the many uses of steel. (Another industry-related tourist attraction, a little more than an hour's drive north, is the Porsche Museum in Gmünd where the company had its main factory from 1944-50.)
Address: Voestalpine-Straße 4, 4020 Linz
10 Hauptplatz and Landstrasse
The 1,200-meter-long Landstrasse stretches from the Promenade towards the main railroad station and is the best place to begin exploring Linz's historic city center. On the east side stand the Ursuline Church (Ursulinenkirche) from 1772 and the Carmelite Church (Karmelitenkirche) built between 1674-1726. Another old church is the Seminary Church (Seminarkirche), a small round structure with a fine interior built in 1717-25 for the Teutonic Order. The other part of the old city to explore is the Hauptplatz, the original Market Square. This large public space, surrounded by handsome Baroque buildings, forms the center of the old town. On its eastern side stands the 17th-century Rathaus and opposite it, in the middle of the square, is the Trinity Column (Dreifaltigkeitssäule), a 20-meter-high marble column erected in 1723 in thanks for the town's preservation from plague and Turkish attack. Across from the Rathaus is the Feichtinger Haus, with a beautifully arcaded courtyard.
11 A Pilgrimage to Pöstlingberg
High above Linz's Urfahr district is the prominent hill known as the Pöstlingberg. The best way to get there from the city center is via a narrow gauge electric railroad, the Pöstlingbergbahn, established in 1898 and still carrying thousands of riders each year along its five-kilometer route. Once there, be sure to visit the exquisite Pilgrimage church. Built in 1748, its most notable features include its beautiful 18th-century Pietà of carved wood and its magnificent views.
12 The Old Cathedral
Often referred to as Linz's Old Cathedral (Alter Dom), the twin-towered Jesuit church of St. Ignatius (Ignatiuskirche) is famous for its rich Italian decorations. Also of note is its organ, famously played by Austrian composer Anton Bruckner and now known as the Bruckner Organ, as well as its high altar dating from 1683 and pulpit from 1678. Note also the richly carved choir stalls from 1633 depicting grotesque human and animal figures, as well as strange dwarfs. Also of historical significance is the nearby Landhaus, seat of the provincial government of Upper Austria, built in 1571 on the site of an earlier Minorite convent. The building's magnificent doorway bears the coats of arms of the original Austrian provinces, while its centerpiece is the fine arcaded courtyard in which concerts are still staged. The focal point of the courtyard is an octagonal Planet Fountain from 1582. From 1612 to 1626, the astronomer and scientist Johannes Kepler taught here in the college that once occupied the building.
Day Trips from Linz
The Old Town of Wels
About 35 kilometers southwest of Linz is the old town of Wels in a beautiful location on the left bank of the River Traun. A highlight of a visit is strolling around the historic Stadtplatz, a large open square that's partly pedestrianized and lined with handsome old merchants' houses and the town's symbol, the Ledererturm, a large medieval tower built in 1376 (along with the 16th-century Wasserturm, it forms part of the old medieval walls). On the southern side of the square stand two fine Baroque buildings, the stately Kremsmünsterer Hof, once part of Kremsmünster Abbey, and the Town Hall (Rathaus) dating from 1748, in front of which stands the Stadtbrunnen, a reconstruction of the original fountain from 1593. A little further south and well worth exploring is the small town of Windischgarsten, a popular winter sports and health resort in the valley basin of the River Teichlbach.
Another pleasant day trip is to the Mühlviertel to the northwest of Linz, popular for its excellent walking trails through a mix of woodland and fields past old castles and ruins, as well as many quiet little market towns and villages.