Linz Nibuelungenbrücke, Neues Rathaus, Ars Electronica Center und Pöstlingberg

Linz Has Changed So Beautifully!

By Reinhard Mandl*

“Linz changes” is the slogan used by the Upper Austrian capital to attract visitors. Like hardly any other Austrian city, Linz has undergone a profound change in recent years. Since being the Capital of Culture 2009, art and culture have set the tone in the “steel city”. Linz also surprises with a lot of greenery, and the journey is surprisingly quick: The trip with the Railjet Express from Vienna to Linz only takes 74 minutes.

A visit to the "Steel City"

I have known the central station in Linz since my childhood, but I have not been to Linz by train for a long time. Today, I see the modern station district with its sophisticated high-rise buildings for the first time. The only thing I recognize on my short tour is the pair of stone lions in front of the main entrance to the new central station.

I go back to the station hall and take the escalator down to the underground tram stop. Shortly afterwards, I am sitting in a tram no. 1 toward the university. I do not need to worry about a ticket because my KlimaTicket also includes urban transport, which I find very practical.

The tram runs through the centre and crosses the Danube on the Nibelungen Bridge. I get off at St. Magdalena in the Urfahr district and walk up the Hofbauerstiege stair to the Magdalenaberg. A remarkably sturdy linden tree stands under the church and right next to it, I find what I came here for: the relics of the old horse-drawn railway, which was inaugurated here on the 21st July 1832 as the second public railway line on the European mainland by Emperor Franz I. himself. Already in 1836, the line was extended to Gmunden, to transport salt to Bohemia. In addition to freight, it was also used for passenger transport.

After reading all the information plaques, I walk for a bit along the well-preserved route of the old railway line, which was discontinued in 1872. Today, a city hiking trail runs along it, which initially leads along the horse-drawn railway promenade through a distinguished residential area. Many of the modern houses here offer fantastic views of the mountains in the south – the range of rugged peaks on the horizon extends from the Dead Mountains to the Sensengebirge and the Ennstal Alps.

Back at the main square, I board the new Pöstlingbergbahn, which replaced the old cog railway and has been running directly from the centre since its modernization. This rail pleasure is also included in the KlimaTicket. Riding through the green suburban idyll, I catch a glimpse of an architectural highlight from 2015: The building of the Anton Bruckner Private University, which hosts over 500 musical events every year. The terminus of the Pöstlingbergbahn is also housed in an extraordinary building, a former fortification tower from the 19th century. The extensive area also houses the famous grotto railway and even the viewing platform, on which I now stand, once formed a part of the former fortifications. I look down to the Danube, which describes a loop around the city to the east. Linz probably owes its name to this topographical peculiarity, which presumably comes from a Celtic word for “curvature” or “bend”. The Roman “Lentos” is also supposedly derived from this. Here, on this 539-meter-high panoramic mountain, stands the baroque pilgrimage church of the “seven pains of Mary”. Apart from the church, there are some restaurants and cafés here as well.

The Pöstlingbergbahn takes me back to Linz’s main square in 25 minutes. As I admire the harmonious baroque façades of one of the largest squares in Austria, I also notice the two bridgehead buildings that close in the main square toward the Danube. They are reminiscent of a dark chapter in Linz’s city history: The buildings date back to the Nazi era, when Adolf Hitler, who spent his youth here, had ambitious plans to develop Linz. Following their renovation, the listed bridgehead buildings have been illuminated in brilliant white. Both buildings have been the headquarters of the Kunstuniversität Linz since 2019.

From the main square, I walk to the Nibelungen Bridge, which offers me a beautiful view of the Ars Electronica Center on the Urfahr bank of the Danube. This “Museum of the Future”, in which the exciting dialogue between technology, art and public participation has been focused since the 1990s, is an integral part of Linz’s cityscape. The fact that Linz has recently been admitted to the illustrious circle of UNESCO Cities of Media Arts is mainly due to the AEC.

The second great jewel among the museums of Linz can also be admired in its entirety from the Nibelungen Bridge. The Lentos measures a proud 130 meters in length and is one of Austria’s best museums of contemporary and modern art. First, I visit the current special exhibition. After that, I dedicate myself to the permanent exhibition, in which highlights of the in-house collection are presented. In addition to the works of celebrities such as Andy Warhol or Keith Haring, a good selection of works by Austrian artists, from Klimt and Schiele to the present, can be seen here. Of course, the works of the Linz-born Valie Export should not be missed in this display.

After visiting the museum, I stop off on the terrace of the café-restaurant Lentos and enjoy the expansive view over the Danube.

I spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the small old town of Linz, which is hidden behind the main square between the promenade and the Hofgasse. I stroll aimlessly through the old alleys and at some point I end up at the castle. The castle is first mentioned in the year 799. Later, it came into the possession of the Babenbergs and finally the Habsburgs. Today, the monumental building, which has been rebuilt several times, houses the Upper Austrian Universal Museum and a restaurant. From the publicly accessible terrace of the new south wing, I look over the roofs and towers of Linz’s city centre. I would have liked to see the outdoor gallery of graffiti art in the harbour as well, but I must postpone this for my next visit to Linz!

My timetable on the 22/03/2022:
depart from Vienna Central Station at 6:28 am, arrive in Linz at 7:43 am // depart from Linz Central Station at 4:30 pm, arrive at Vienna Central Station at 5:44 pm

(CO2 emission savings compared to driving by car: 52.86 kg)

* This text is an abridged version of chapter 5 of his book Discover Austria with the KlimaTicket – 20 Trips by Bus and Rail.