Rarely at the top of the list to visit and stuck in the shadow of other Austrian cities, setting out to explore all the things to do in Linz that stem from the city’s creative arts scene might well change your perceptions about how much there is to see, and love, about Austria’s third-largest city.
Linz – the capital of Upper Austria – sets out to showcase the best of itself visually and artistically, proving that as a Federal capital, its worthy of attention.
A city proud to describe itself as future-orientated, Linz has transformed over the decades by continuously embracing change, and it soon becomes apparent that the arts form the very core of its identity.
Historically, Linz is known for its 17th Century Old Town quaintness and wealthy steel industry status. It’s a Danube river city whose artistic revival was first ignited in darker days when Hitler wanted to restructure and use it as a core European base and rebuild as the main cultural centre of the Third Reich.
Today, Linz has evolved into a designated European Capital of Culture (2009) and a UNESCO Media Arts City. It has grown to become home to educational institutions and research facilities involved in the development and understanding of media art and digital culture and further established itself as a European centre for social innovation and artistic enterprise.
I quickly saw beyond the pastel hues which come to define old Austrian towns, and in three days I was able to indulge in the multi-layers of artistic flair here. Where contemporary arts seamlessly blend with the city’s historic structures, dispersing amongst them cultural hubs, funky hangouts and artistic business ventures.
So, when you visit Linz, where exactly do you find it all?
Things to Do in Linz, Austria – Changing Perceptions of the City of Creative Arts
Things to Do in Linz Austria to See it Differently
Linz History in Architecture – Old Town and Castle
Linz doesn’t forget its history and nor it is overlooked or replaced.
On one side of the Danube River is the historic railway line that takes you to the fairy tale castle up on the Pöstlingberg Mountain; on the other are the preserved minty greens, soft blues, butter yellows and delicate pink facades of the Old Town.
They are simply some of the lovingly restored showpieces incorporated within the city’s contemporary expansion.
Enjoy the Creative Hangouts on the Riverside
It’s not just the town itself that’s humming with new ideas. One of the things to do in Linz is to delve into the social culture that has been built upon the waterfront. Riverside green spaces are accompanied by independent enterprises such as the red van ‘pay as you like cafe’ and crazy golf by the river and Salonschiff Fräulein Florentine gastropub on a boat.
Visit the City’s Core Visual Arts Centres
It’s along the river bank that I visited the bold-edged glass structures housing two of the city’s core arts centres. The visual media and technology-focused Ars Electronica Centre, which focuses on digital issues of the future (and whose ‘FutureLab’ research unit is a worldwide top 10 media laboratory), and the modern art collection that fills the Lentos Kunstmuseum.
Eat Linzer Torte at Jindrak Café
The Old Town, whilst retaining character in its residential floors, small stores, traditional culinary outlets and the Jindrak café serving the infamous ‘Linzer Torte’, is filled with boho-cool coffee shops like Friedlieb und Töchter serving up avocado toast breakfasts and international coffees. Boutique outlets reside here away from the more modern high streets.
Take a Theatre Costume Guided Tour in Linz
Theatre costume guided tours often bring the old streets and their stories to life via theatre and drama and even the Town Hall has brushed off a typical stuffy civil structure by becoming an exhibition space showcasing Linz from above. A giant aerial city view of Linz is displayed on the floor in one of the large ground floor rooms.
The South Wing of the Linzer Schloss (castle), which burnt down in 1800, is replaced by modern architectural construction and is home to the Schlossmuseum documenting the early history of Linz. Even the biggest church in Austria, the Mariendom in the very heart of Linz city, features stain glass windows displaying modern-art designs.
See Rooftop Artworks at Höhenrausch in OÖ Kulturquartier
My favourite space of all is Höhenrausch – an annual art event and creative space. It’s set within the repurposed area known as the OÖ Kulturquartier and incorporates over 30 indoor, outdoor and rooftop artworks with great views across the city, even to the point of incorporating artworks onto the front of the Ursulinen Church that’s next to it.
The wooden tower, erected amongst it all, allows you the most artistic view of all – Linz in a 360 panorama, and the perfect display of its many layers of old and new.
Mural Harbour – Linz Industrial Heritage in Art
Creative minds and hands have given the industrial heritage of Linz a makeover, showcased in the area called Mural Harbour. Urban development can be found all along the Danube, such as Tabakfabrik – a former tobacco factory turned hub for makers and designers, and soon-to-be home to an international research centre for media and performance arts (Valie Export Centre).
A boat trip on the Linz Harbour eventually takes you out to the commercial port, transformed into a giant street art space. While you can’t get off here for a closer look, the boat allows access to the art mural wall, which has become one of the world’s most extensive outdoor galleries.
Various murals adorn the industrial buildings, with works from international creatives, including Spanish street artist ARYZ whose artwork – the biggest of them all – has come to symbolise this area’s transformation. During the outdoor event known as Bubble Days, street and graffiti artists are invited to come and decorate the space, expanding Linz’s international art platforms.
‘Say Linz. Say Change’ is one of the city’s taglines – it’s not afraid to try something new as it incorporates an ultra-contemporary present into its cherished centuries-old past. When it comes to the things to do in Linz, it’s clear it is a city that likes nothing more than to treat visitors to sensory overload, both interactive and visual, in honour of the media arts and forward-thinking dynamism for which it is often rewarded.
Travel Tips for When You Visit Linz:
Getting to Linz
The city is a perfect weekend getaway and takes approximately 90 minutes by train from Vienna.
The Linz Card
The Linz Card is a 3-day card costing €30 that includes the use of all public transport within the city, a return ticket (uphill and downhill) to the Pöstlingberg Tram, admission to all museums, discounts on over 15 attractions, a €10 voucher for some concerts and theatres and a €5 restaurant voucher. A one-day card is also available for €18.
Tours in Linz
- Danube boat trips.
Plan your boat trip along the Danube which departs three times daily at 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00. Tickets cost €14.80 per person.
- Tour Linz Digitally.
Linz not only has 125 free wifi spots around the city but the ‘Let’s Go’ app allows you to embark on a digital tour of Linz in the style of a modern scavenger hunt that via puzzles, takes you to various media and art spots around the city.
Arts Festivals in Linz
Linz plays host to many annual festivals including the Ars Electronica festival, Crossing Europe Film Festival, the Pflasterspektakel street art festival, Nextcomic comedy festival and the Linzer Krone Fest of music acts.
Further Information About Planning a Trip to Linz
- For further inspiration on social media follow the hashtag #VisitLinz and visit the Linz Tourism Website.
- Are you travelling around Austria? Read more about canyoning in the alpine, climbing to a mountain backdrop and the vast choice of winter activities in Austria if you don’t want to hit the slopes.