Lienz, Austria: Travel Information and Photos


See the photos below, and you may understand why Lienz is known as the ‘Pearl of the Dolomites’.
Not for nothing is this town in the East Tyrol an all year round favourite with tourists:
in summer the climate is Mediterranean in character, and the outdoor life means the main square is reserved for pedestrians and those enjoying the café culture;
in winter there are three nearby skiing areas: Lienzer Bergbahnen, Hochstein and Zettersfeld. And there is an ideal place for children and beginners at the top of a ski lift called Haiderhof;
then for hikers there are plenty of waymarked paths in the Hohe Tauern National Park, where you may even see Golden Eagles.
But all year round the views of the Eastern Alps and the Hohe Tauern mountain range are superb, and the city’s position at the confluence of the Rivers Isel and Drava is unrivalled.

This ‘city’ of only 13,000 people at an altitude of 673m (2,208 feet) is well served by 5 airports, though some of them are a good few hours away by bus or train: in Austria itself, Salzburg Airport is 4hrs 50mins by train (includes a shuttle to the main station in Salzburg). In Germany, Munich Airport is 6hrs by train; in Italy, Treviso near Venice is a six and a half hour rail trip away, and Venice’s main airport, Marco Polo, is 5hrs 24mins; but Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, is only 5hrs 12mins distant. Of course you could hire a car at any of these airports: driving from Innsbruck only takes two and a half hours, as opposed to the bus which takes 3hrs 15mins.

Good hotels will put on an airport shuttle for you, and one of these is the 5-star Grandhotel Lienz. Although right in the city, many of the spacious 76 rooms and suites offer mountain or river views. In case you really want to look at your emails rather than the views, the Wifi is free. There are five different restaurants to choose from, the top one having two toques in the Gault Millau gourmet guide. This hotel makes a big thing of their Spa and Wellness Centre.

If you prefer to stay out of town, The Alpine Palace New Balance Luxus Resort (also 5-star) at Saalbach Hinterglemm, is well recommended. It has indoor and outdoor pools and a big Spa with no fewer than nine different saunas and steam baths. Although not in Lienz itself, this hotel is right next to the cable car taking you to the so-called ‘Ski Circus’ area. There are 82 rooms in this hotel, some of them suites with whirlpool baths. Breakfast is included in the room price, and Wifi is free.

If a 3-star hotel is more to your budget, the Gasthof Goldener Fisch is right in the centre of Lienz and by the Isel River. This is quite a small hotel with 28 rooms, but it still has a Spa and its own restaurant and pub garden. This hotel has been rated by its guests as one of the best in town for value for money. If you like a Bed + Breakfast style accommodation, the Pension Schoberlick, 2km out of Schlaiten and 12km from the station in Lienz, is housed in a typical Austrian building with a rural location in an Alpine meadow. They offer 11 double rooms and 1 single, and accept pets. There is a sauna and steam bath, and you can play table tennis or enjoy the views from their garden.
Finally, it is worth considering renting a flat or apartment, as there are many good ones on offer both in Lienz itself and outside in the country districts.

What to see and do in Lienz
As the photos below show, this is where Lienz really scores as a destination for travellers: apart from the skiing and hiking, this is a lovely place just to ‘be’, at the point where the Drautal, Pustertal and Isetal valleys all meet. But in addition to spectacular scenery, Lienz offers plenty of sights of cultural and historical interest. The Romans were here, and their town of Aguntum, just outside the city, now an archaeological site which you can see in the photos below, can be visited; then by 1242 this market town on the trade route from Venzone to Salzburg was granted city status. Since then Lienz has been ruled variously by the Hapsburgs (16th century), the Bavarians, the French (several times), the Italians (20th century) and the British (Second World War); and in between, of course, by Austria!

This varied history means there is plenty for those who enjoy culture with their travel. Start at Bruck Castle (shown in the photos below), which houses the city museum and Egger-Lienz art gallery, named after the East Tyrol expressionist artist. If your museum appetite is then whetted, back in the city centre there is the unusual Phono Museum, a collection of machines charting the history of recorded music. Hauptplatz is a square of interest to those who like historic architecture or just a pleasant environment to stroll in (see photos). Don’t miss the Liebburg Castle (also pictured), a 17th century former residence, now the Town Hall. There are plenty of interesting shops in the city, and in summer there is a City Market selling local products on Friday afternoons and all day Saturday. Then families and animal lovers should head for the Assling Wildlife Park outside the town, where they have about 100 animals of 30 different species. Another day, if you are there in summer, try the Galitzenklamm adventure park on the Drauradweg cycle route, for a variety of outdoor activities. (Some of the terrain is visible in the photos.)

For more information about local events, and help with travel arrangements, go to the Tourist Information office in Muhlgasse Alley, off Europaplatz. They will tell you, for example, what dance, drama or music shows are on at the theatre, and they know about sporting opportunities like the climbing gym, golf, rafting and canoeing, and canyoning. For indoor activity there is the Dolomitenbad Lienz, a warm swimming pool with a sauna, slide and beach volleyball court, as well as a restaurant serving local and international food. 

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