In a continent brimming with intellectual history, Linz, the third largest city in Austria, takes a forward-looking approach to the challenges of culture. Founded in 1979, the Ars Electronic Centre is at the heart of the city’s cutting edge arts and media scene. Its innovative multi-media exhibits fuse art and technology to explore themes like biotechnology, genetic engineering, neurology and robotics. Its permanent collections include ‘New Views of Human Kind’ and ‘What Machines Dream of’, and they tend to explore human relationships with the world.
The city’s reputation as a dynamic centre of culture is cemented by plentiful colleges, concert halls, private art galleries, music clubs, and exhibition centres, as well as Lentos – an important museum of modern and contemporary art. Housed in a light-filled glass building designed by Swiss architects Weber and Hofer, its collection includes graphic arts and photography from the 20th century, and some 1600 paintings and sculptures.
Linz’s love of edgy urban art is closely connected to the presence of a large steel works in the city. The creatively rendered and award-winning Voestalpine Stahwelt is a modern museum of industry that explores the properties and manufacture of steel with a host of informative and artistic exhibits, as well as bold, beautifully lit architecture like giant steel spheres, rotundas, towers and glass elevators.
Fortunately for traditionalists, Linz boasts a formidable Old Town too. The main square, Hauptplatz, dates from the 13th century and remains one of the largest urban squares in Europe – look for the Baroque-style trinity column, 20 m high and forged from white marble, as well as St. Mary’s Cathedral, the spiritual heart of the city with interesting stained glass windows. Overlooking the city, Linz castle dates from 799 and the rule of Charlemagne. Only its walls and bastion remain and in commemoration of Linz becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2009, the Upper Austrian Provincial Museum was erected on top, now one of the largest museums in Austria. It documents the artistic, cultural and social development of the region from Neolithic times to the present.
Linz has plenty of historic buildings, but some might say its best treasure is the Linzer torte – a very delicious sweet cake made in modern bakeries using a 350 year old recipe, probably the oldest recorded cake recipe in the world!