Historic Towns in Austria
You can experience some of Austria’s history yourself when you visit the various historical sites in Austria:
The Wachau Region, for example, is the site of one of the most famous archaeological finds in Austria, a famous figurine named the Venus of Willendorf, which was created around 25,000 BC.Hallstatt, a picturesque lakeside town, was the main site of an Iron Age culture with the same name.
The Roman civilization left its traces as well. You can visit excavation sites in Vienna, or at the nearby Open Air Museum Petronell, the site of a former Roman army camp and important civilian town.
While the remnants of ancient Rome are impressive to visit, the medieval castles that are scattered all across the country will transport you back to a time when knights in shining armor were supposed to defend their ladies and peasant servants from hostile invaders. Mostly though, they fortified their castles, not only to ward off Turkish armies, but also to protect their interests from equally ambitious political enemies. The ruins of Duernstein Castle, where Richard the Lionhearted was held captive, overlook the picturesque Wachau Valley, which was then a major thoroughfare for knights on their way to some Crusade or other.
Castles, however, are not the only remnants of the Middle Ages worth visiting. Hall in Tirol, for example, used to be an important mining town and the site of the royal mint. Here the first Thaler was minted, in its day, it was one of the most important coins in Europe. Learned monks vast libraries in abbeys and monasteries, which held vast libraries. Many of those monasteries have been altered over time, but original structures can still be made out, and the libraries, such as the one in the imposing Melk Abbey, display examples of particularly valuable hand-painted manuscripts.
When the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Franz II, pronounced himself Emperor of Austria, the hereditary Austrian Empire was established. Our cities still display the splendor and romance of these times. You can visit the palaces, where the ruling families lived, treaties were signed, and history was made. The spires of impressive cathedrals give the skylines a distinctive look, and the stucco facades of Biedermeier houses reveal glimpses of earlier lifestyles.
The prime example for a city that has preserved its historical character to this day is, of course, Vienna. By the turn of the 21st century, Vienna has established itself as a trendsetting metropolis with a cultural life that shows its influence all over Europe. When you visit Vienna today, you can tour Schönbrunn palace, the summer residence of the Imperial family, or have a look at the formidable Neoclassical buildings, such as the State Opera or the Parliament, which stand where the former city wall used to be. You can walk past the Viennese Secession buildings of Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner, visit exhibitions of Wiener Werkstätte furniture, or dance to Johann Strauss’s waltzes at one of the countless Viennese balls. You will notice that the Viennese live and love their traditions as much as they embrace innovation and change.