10 Top Tourist Attractions in Villach & Easy Day Trips
Villach, the second largest town in the state of Carinthia and the seventh largest in Austria, lies near the frontiers with Italy and Slovenia in the heart of the country's mountainous south. Surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery - the Villacher Alpe to the west and the Karawanken chain to the south, together with the Julian Alps to the rear - the town attracts many visitors on their way to the Carinthian lakes for their thermal springs. There was already a bridge and fortified camp here in Roman times, and by 1007, the town had passed into the control of the Bishops of Bamberg, eventually becoming part of Austria in 1759. Its location makes it the perfect spot from which to explore the spectacular Alpe-Adria area, a designated bioregion encompassing parts of Austria, Italy, and Slovenia.
1 Villach Main Square
Straddling the River Drau and connected by several bridges, Villach's old town center is one of the most picturesque in southern Austria. A good place to begin exploring is the long Main Square (Hauptplatz), which cuts across the middle of the old town, linked by the main bridge over the Drau at its northern end with the parish church at its southern end. The Trinity Column from 1739 stands in the middle of the square, which also boasts a number of fine old merchant's homes, notably the Alte Post and the 16th-century Paracelsus Hof.
2 Villach's Fine Churches
Villach is home to a number of fine old churches, one of the most impressive being the Holy Cross Church (Heiligenkreuzkirche), a coral pink edifice constructed in the 18th century and popular among photographers for its ornate twin towers. Highlights of the church's attractive interior include the excellent frescoes in the vaults added in the 1960s. Another Villach church of note is the Parish Church of St. Jakob, a three-aisled 14th-century Gothic hall church with a narrow choir and a 95-meter tower linked to the main building by an arched gateway. Interior highlights include the splendid Baroque canopied altar from 1740 with its large early 16th-century Gothic crucifix, and a huge fresco of St. Christopher also from 1740. The oldest artifacts include a stone pulpit from 1555 and, in the baptistery, a Gothic font and choir stalls from 1464. The Parish Church of St. Martin is also notable for its Baroque high altar with a Late Gothic Madonna, while the 18th-century Parish Church of St. Kreuz boasts an unusual three-story façade with twin towers and is notable for its richly decorated altars and pulpit.
3 The Carinthia Relief Model
In the Schillerpark at the south end of Villach along Peraustrasse, the spectacular Carinthia Relief Model (Relief von Kärnten) is a must-see attraction for model lovers along with those interested in geography. Built in 1913 and famous as the largest plastic relief model of a landscape in Europe, this huge 180-square-meter model of the state of Carinthia, laid out in scales of 1:5,000 and 1:10,000, is so big, it's been given its own dedicated building. The highlight of a visit is undoubtedly the opportunity to experience a stunning 3D birds-eye view of this mountainous region in all its splendor.
Address: Peraustraße, Schillerpark 9500 Villach
4 Museum of the City of Villach and Finkenstein Castle
Founded in 1873, the Museum of the City of Villach (Museum der Stadt Villach) is one of the largest and oldest municipal museums in Austria. It boasts a large collection of regional artwork and artifacts from prehistoric to modern times. Highlights include its collection of rare gold and silver coins, as well as its fun tour of the reconstructed battlements along a section of the old town walls. Other old battlements worth exploring are those of Burgruine Finkenstein, a 12th-century castle overlooking nearby Lake Faak. Now largely ruins, this old fortress serves as a spectacular backdrop for the Burgarena, a 1,150-seat amphitheater used for concerts and theatrical performances.
Address: Widmanngasse 38, 9500 Villach
5 The Villach Alpine Road and the Dobratsch
The best way to see the Villacher Alpes up close is via the Villach Alpine Road. This spectacular 17-kilometer toll road winds its way from Villach high up to the 2,167-meter Dobratsch, the region's highest peak. Along with the dramatic panoramic views of Villach, the road leads to the 1,732-meter Rosstratte with its views from the Julian Alps all the way to the Karawanken mountains and the Carinthian lake plateau. From here, a number of excellent hiking trails of various length spread out across the landscape. A highlight for kids is the mountain top adventure playground with its fun observation towers, tunnels, climbing area, and slides. Chairlifts are available to take walkers further up the Dobratsch, where an hour or two climb (depending on how often you stop to admire the views) will take you to the summit.
Address: Villacher Alpenstraße 11, 9500 Villach
6 Warmbad Villach: Kärnten Therme Spa
Just three kilometers from Villach, on the old town's southern outskirts, lies the famous spa of Warmbad Villach. Sitting at an elevation of 501 meters, the spa's warm mineral springs are noted for their treatment of rheumatism, circulatory disorders, and nervous diseases. The newest and most luxurious of Warmbad's spas is the Kärnten Therme Spa, a stunning state of the art facility that includes a large thermal swimming pool with a treatment complex, an open air pool with a sauna, a fun pool with numerous leisure facilities and slides, as well as a thermal pool.
Address: Kadischenallee 25, A-9504 Warmbad-Villach
7 Lake Faak
Lake Faak (Faaker See) is an easy drive seven kilometers southeast of Villach. At the foot of the 2,143-meter Mittagskogel, the lake measures 2.6 kilometers long and 1.7 kilometers wide and is notable for its crystal clear turquoise waters, which drain into the River Gail. It's a favorite spot for sunbathing due to its average summer temperatures of 27°C. Motor boats aren't allowed on this pretty little lake, ensuring its popularity for canoeing and kayaking, as well as for fishing, sailing, and windsurfing. Other popular activities include horseback riding, climbing, and walking, as well as cycling (a variety of bike tours are available). In the area are a number of quaint resorts, hotels, and restaurants, as well as numerous camping and picnicking spots.
8 The Village of Ossiach
On the southern bank of Lake Ossiach (Ossiacher See) lies Ossiach, the largest village in the area and home to an 11th-century Benedictine abbey that was rebuilt in the 16th century. The former Abbey Church of the Assumption is now the local parish church, and was remodeled in Baroque style in the 18th century. Highlights include its superb stucco decoration and wall and ceiling paintings from 1750, as well as the Late Gothic winged altar in the northwest chapel depicting the Madonna with Child. In addition to the old village and beautiful Lake Ossiach, the other big draw is the popular two-week long Carinthian Summer music festival held each August with its many operatic, choral, orchestral, and chamber concerts set in one of the most picture-perfect settings imaginable.
Address: Ossiach 1, 9570 Ossiach
9 Lake Ossiach
Lake Ossiach (Ossiacher See) is another wonderful stretch of water worth visiting and is famous for its outstanding natural beauty. Just ten kilometers northeast of Villach, the lake is 11 kilometers long and one kilometer wide and reaches depths of up to 47 meters, making it the third largest lake in Carinthia after the Wörther See and the Millstätter See. Surrounded by wooded hillsides and mountainous peaks including the Ossiacher Tauern in the south, this warm lake has long been a popular holiday spot, thanks in part to its many quaint lakeside villages with facilities for water sports such as rowing, waterskiing, sailing, and windsurfing. Opposite the small village of Ossiach, on the north side of the Ossiacher See, is Bodensdorf, a family resort with parks and many sports facilities and home to many traditional festivals and events for kids.
10 Villach Automotive Museum
Although not particularly well-known outside of Europe for its automotive industry, Austria has had its successes in this field over the decades. A good place to learn more about the country's automotive history is the Villach Automotive Museum (Villacher Fahrzeugmuseum), a vintage car museum with a particular focus on European autos and motor bikes of the 1950s. Highlights include perfectly preserved examples of German and Austrian made machines including such rarities as the Bavarian made Goggomobil, the Messerschmitt bubble car, and rare Porsche vehicles, as well as mopeds and motorbikes from once-famous Austrian manufacturer Puch.
Address: Draupromenade 12, A-9500 Villach
Day Trips from Villach
Sankt Peter in Holz and the Millstätter See
Just 49 kilometers northwest of Villach is the quaint village of Sankt Peter in Holz, built near a former Celtic (and later Roman) settlement known as Teurnia. After 600 AD, Teurnia was evacuated, its stone buildings torn down to build a defensive wall around the hilltop. Excavations have since brought to light a Roman forum with thermal baths, remnants of the old walls, and the foundations of numerous houses. Teurnia was also the see of a bishop and the walls of the old church, along with their old paintings, can still be seen. A guesthouse (hospitium) was also uncovered, along with a marble tablet and parts of a cross. A museum in the village provides an interesting account of the old settlement and its eventual demise. A pleasant side trip is the popular tourist town of Döbriach on the Millstätter See, a large alpine lake. You'll be rewarded with a chance to visit a Late Gothic church with splendid tracery windows and fine Baroque altars, as well as the opportunity to enjoy a number of pleasant walking trails.