Wels Tourist Attractions
The old town of Wels lies on the left bank of the Traun in the Alpine foreland region southwest of Linz. In Roman times it was the chief town of a district (Ovilala), and is now the industrial and agricultural heart of the fertile Welser Heide area to the north of the town. The long Stadtplatz is one of the finest town squares in Austria.The town includes a former Imperial Castle, a Parish Church and a local Museum. It also hosts a popular agricultural trade fair.
The historical Stadtplatz, partly pedestrianized, lined with handsome burghers' houses and shaped more like a street than a square, forms the central axis of the town. At the western end stands the Ledererturm (1376), the town's symbol; like the Wasserturm (1577) it forms part of the old medieval walls, parts of which remain. On the southern side of the square stand two fine Baroque buildings, the stately Kremsmünsterer Hof, once the town house of Kremsmünster Abbey, and the Rathaus (1748), in front of which stands the Stadtbrunnen, a reconstruction of the original fountain of 1593.
From the Wels Stadtplatz there is a narrow lane southward to the former Minorite Church (1283), one of the first Gothic churches in the country. On the southern side of the church, entered from the street called Am Zwinger, is the Sigmarkapelle (now a memorial chapel to the dead of the two world wars), with fine frescos of 1480-90.
Salome Alt House
Opposite the Wels Parish Church stands the House of Salome Alt (1568-1633), mistress of Prince-Bishop Wolfdietrich of Salzburg, who retired to Wels after his downfall.
The parish church of St John at the eastern end of the Wels Stadtplatz is a Late Gothic building with a tall tower surmounted by an onion-dome (1732). Of interest are the two fine stained glass Gothic windows in the choir (14th C.), the beautiful Romanesque inner doorway and the marble tombs of the lords of Pollheim in the porch under the tower.
A little way east of the House of Salome Alt in Wels the Burggasse winds down to the Burg, in the southeastern corner of the old town, the castle where the Emperor Maximilian I died on January 12, 1519. It is now used mainly as a cultural center (festival hall and art gallery); in summer concerts and theatrical performances are held in the courtyard.
The Burg houses several museums. The Agricultural Museum displays a variety of farming implements, rural furniture and household effects as well as models of typical Lower Austrian farmsteads. Also to be seen are collections covering the town's history, the Upper Austrian Museum of Bakery and Confectionery and the Museum for Austrian Exiles, showing examples of rural customs and costumes. There is a lapidarium (stones with Roman inscriptions) in the rose garden.
The Wels old town is bounded on the west by the Ringstrasse. The western end of this street, adjoining No. 2, incorporates a relic of Schloss Pollheim, with a tablet commemorating the shoemaker Hans Sachs, who wrote his first poems at the mastersingers' school here in 1513.
Opposite the Schloss Pollheim in Wels, at Pollheimer Strasse No. 17, stands the Municipal Museum (Stadtmuseum), with Roman finds and antiquarian exhibits. The pièce de résistance is the "Wels Venus", a Roman bronze statuette, one of the many archaeological finds from the area. Temporary exhibitions of contemporary art or current themes are also held in the Stadtmuseum.
Zoo and Exhibition Grounds
To the southwest of the old town of Wels, beyond the Mühlbach, lies the Volksgarten, with a zoo. Open all the year round, it is home to mainly indigenous animals. Farther to the southwest, mostly beyond the railroad, lie the Exhibition Grounds (Messegelände), where the Wels International Agricultural Fair is held in even years, together with a popular festival.
Schmiding Bird Park
Some 7km/4.5mi northwest of the town of Wels, in Schmiding, there is an extensive Bird Park, where thousands of different species of birds from every continent can be seen. Particulary interesting are the Tropical House and the Birds of Prey Reserve.
To the northwest of Wels lies Bad Schallerbach (303m/994ft), a spa with a hot sulfur spring (37.2 deg C/99 deg F; open air and indoor swimming pools), recommended for rheumatic problems. The spa grew up after 1918, when the hot springs were discovered while boring for oil was in progress. 10km/6mi to the southwest is another little spa, Gallspach.
The Puppet Collection in Wels will prove a delight to youngsters and parents alike.
Map of Wels Attractions