Mention Austria as a tourist destination and Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck immediately come to mind, along with the Tyrol for winter sports enthusiasts.
However Linz, Austria’s third largest city, doesn’t seem to feature prominently on the tourist map except as a break for Danube cruises, and often then only as a jumping off point for visits to Salzburg or Český Krumlov.
Yet Linz would seem to offer much with an historic old town beside the Danube framed by rolling hills.
I must admit I’ve passed by Linz many times when travelling to Eastern Europe, but never stopped – until now! I finally I decided to check it out as a Short Break destination.
My Highlights of Linz
• The Altstadt (Old Town) on the south bank of the Danube has impressive Renaissance and Baroque architecture plus good cafés and historic shops. This central area is fairly compact and flat, so quite relaxing to wander around.
• Dominating the Hauptplatz (Main Square), the white marble Trinity Column, dating back to 1723, commemorates deliverance of the citizens of Linz from war, fire and plague.
• There are several fine churches within or near to the Altstadt, but most impressive is the massive New Cathedral, also known as the Mariendom, with its beautiful stained glass windows. Completed in 1924, it is the largest church in Austria.
• The Trinity Column is the starting point for the Pöstlingberg Tramway which travels across the Danube and then steeply up a hillside to the pilgrimage church of Pöstlingbergkirche.
The panoramic views over the city from in front of the church are magnificent, even on the misty day when I visited, and the church interior is exquisite.
The tram journey takes about 20 minutes with a single fare of 3 Euros. As a fairly sprightly senior traveller, I decided to take the tram up but walk down – a good decision as the ever-changings views of Linz as we descended were superb.
• I always check out botanic gardens wherever I visit and the Botanical Garden Linz proved to be a real gem. Although only 10 acres in size, it packs in more than 8,000 plant species arranged in complete landscapes on a hillside.
The five glass-houses include the finest cacti display in Europe. Seniors 60+ get a 33% discount on the entry charge to the Gardens.
I can recommend the Café Orchidee within the Botanical Gardens which served excellent coffee and cake.
• Linz has a plethora of museums, including the Castle Museum in Linz Castle, which displays the art and cultural history of Upper Austria, and the unusual Ars Electronica Center, which features “innovative projects and current issues at the interface of art, technology and society”.
Both museums give discounts of about 25% on entry charges for seniors, although it is worth considering the purchase of a Linz Card for 15 Euros, as this gives free entry to all museums and free use of city transport including the Pöstlingberg Tramway.
Mozart visited Linz several times, even naming a Symphony after the city, but all I could find to commemorate him was a small plaque on the wall – no tours of Mozart’s House as in Salzburg. Adolf Hitler was also a resident of Linz in his youth, but the city has no desire to remember this.
Few of the major hotel groups have properties in Linz other than the Accorhotels Group which has two Ibis hotels.
I opted to stay at Harry’s Home, the number one choice on TripAdviser. The room was minimalist in style, one might even say basic, but clean and quiet. The breakfast was excellent featuring local produce such as jams and honeys.
So what is my opinion of Linz as a Short Break destination? I don’t rate it as highly as the nearby cities of Salzburg or Passau, and certainly it is not as magnificent as Vienna or Prague.
However, for a relaxing day or two, then Linz has plenty to offer in a gentle unspectacular way. Certainly I would recommend that cruise passengers consider lingering to explore Linz, rather than taking excursions to neighbouring tourist hotspots.
Posted 4th May 2015 by Steve Hanson