Leaving Switzerland behind our armchair travels take us to neighboring Austria. The first city we’ll take a look at is Linz, which is the third-largest city in Austria. It is the capital of the state of Upper Austria. Linz is a lovely city that lies on both banks of the Danube River. The city is well-known for its museums, fine churches and cultural activities. It was home to many famous people among them novelist Adalbert Stifter, composer Wolfgang Mozart and scientist Johannes Kepler.
An ultra-modern museum the Lentos Art Museum is a rectangular glass and steel structure that sits overlooking the Danube. The art gallery is considered to be one of Austria’s finest modern art collections which include artwork by Warhol, Schiele, Klimt, Kokoschka and Lovis Corinth. One of the highlights of this museum is the building itself which looks like a work of art when lit up at night. The art collection consists of over 1,500 pieces of art among them masterpieces from the 19th century and Classical Modernism. There is also a collection of artwork from the German and Austrian Expressionist movement of the 1920s and 1930s and international works from the postwar period. You can also see a collection of sculpture, sketches and photos.
Spotlighted at the Ars Electronica Center are the technology, science and digital media of the future. In the laboratories here you can interact with robots, animal digital objects, convert your name to DNA and virtually travel to outer space. The center opened its doors in 2009 and its new Treusch-design makes it look like a futuristic ship near the Danube after dark as its LED glass skin kaleidoscopically changes color. It is also the site of the annual Ars Electronica Festival honoring world leaders in computer music, animation, interactive art and web design. You can also catch temporary and special exhibitions here.
For entertainment and relaxation head for Hauptplatz. At this square visitors can see street performers and watch the locals gather. You can also relax at one of the pavement cafes, This is the city’s centerpiece square, which is framed by ornate Baroque and pastel-colored Renaissance houses. Tourists are drawn by the impressive Trinity Column made of white marble and rising 20m into the air. It is a symbol of the Baroque period and was erected in gratitude by those who had survived different kinds of disasters. The column should protect the residents from war, fire and plague. It has a prominent place in the center of Hauptplatz, which has been one of the largest urban squares in Europe since the 13th century.
Visit the new Musiktheater, a geometric opera house that was designed by London architect Terry Pawson. Here Linz proudly features operas, operettas, ballets, musicals and children’s productions.
The Landesgalerie has found its home in a late 19th-century building. It highlights 20th and 21st century paintings, photography and installations. The exhibitions are rotating and often focus on artwork by Upper Austrian artists like the expressionist fantasies of Alfred Kubin and the shocking Viennese Actionist-inspired artwork of Valie Export. There is also a fascinating open-air sculpture park.
For panoramic views of Linz climb to the hilltop castle and visit the Schlossmuseum. The museum features works of art gathered together from abbeys and palaces over the centuries. You’ll feast your eyes on art, archaeology, historical weapons and instruments, technology and folklore. A special high light are the Gothic ecclesiastical paintings. The Linz Castle sits looming over the Danube. It was home to a fortress from the early 9th century and you can still see the old walls and the Friedrich Gate. The present structure dates from the 16th century and was rebuilt after a fire in 1800. The more modern South Wing has permanent exhibits regarding nature and technology and some temporary exhibits.
A little below Linz Castle, in Romerstrasse you’ll find the quaint little St. Martin’s Church, which is the oldest church in Austria that has been preserved in its original form. It was built on the remains of Roman walls. This is an 8th century church built of the earliest Carolingian architecture. Highlights here include the 15th century frescoes, outlines of old doorways and windows in the sidewalls dating from the Gothic period. You can see a Roman oven and lots of stones inside the church bear Roman inscriptions. Recent excavations have uncovered the royal hall of the former imperial palace.
An impressive sight against the Linz’ skyline are the twin towers of the 17th century cathedral Altar Dom or Old Cathedral. It has incredible stucco-work, a pink-marble altar and gilt pillars. Austrian composer Anton Bruckner once served as an organist here from 1856 to 1868.
The Neuer Dom or New Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is an impressive three-ailed neo-Gothic pillared basilica. It was constructed of yellow sandstone with an ambulatory surrounded by a ring of chapels. The huge building was built between 1862 and 1924. It is the creation of German architect Vinzenz Statz. It features a 135m tower, a great organ built in 1968 and the crypt of Franz Josef Rudigier, Linz’ best-known Bishop. The crypt has a notable large nativity scene. The cathedral also has a fascinating stained glass window known as the Linz-Window depicting the history of the town. Take the time to visit the Bishop’s Palace dating from 1726 which is notable for its unique iron gateway and staircase that was built in 1227.
Even though it is located 20 minutes south of Linz it is well worth a visit to St. Florian Augustinian Abbey. The abbey dates from 800 A.D. and was built over the grave of St. Florian, a Roman official martyred in 304 A.D. for becoming a Christian. The present Baroque building was built between 1686 and 1751. It is an important theological seminary famous for its boys’ choir. Highlights here include the fascinating main doorway with the massive statues of Atlas and Virtue; the Abbey Church with its twin Baroque towers, stucco decorations and Bruckner organ. In the crypt lies organist Anton Bruckner. Visitors enjoy seeing the Imperial Apartments that were once used by visiting Emperors and Popes; St. Sebastian’s Altar with 14 early 16th century paintings by Albrecht Altdorfer, who was a master of the Danube School; the impressive library with ceiling paintings and Rococo gallery and the St. Florian art collection. For relaxation there is a restaurant and there are B&B accommodations available in the guesthouse.
Standing high on the left bank of the Danubein is the 539m hill known as The Postlingberg. It has a wonderful viewing platform over the city and has become a popular tourist destination. It is also the site of the Postlingberg Pilgrimage Church and the Linz Grottenbahn. The Grottenbahn is an underground dragon train that rides through the Land of Dwarfs and has a walk-through model of historic Linz. Halfway up the hill you’ll also find the Linz Zoological Garden.
The Botanical Gardens on the “Gugl” are among the most beautiful in Europe. Here you can see over 10,000 different types of plants. There are five greenhouses with lovely exotic specimens and these gardens have a unique collection of cacti which are the finest in Europe. The exhibited plants are grouped in complete landscapes so visitors can see how they would grow in their natural conditions. There are also special shows and exhibitions offered all year long.
Quite a sight is The Franz-Josef Tower offering wonderful views over Linz, the Danube, Urfahr and the Postlingberg. This is the highest point of Freinberg mountain and is located in a spacious park. You will discover breathtaking views once you have climbed the 100 steps to the top.
There is much more to see and delight in, in Linz.