Since the middle of the 12th century the main square has been the lifeline of the city; fairs and markets were held here. The Second World War has left visible traces, as many post-war buildings close the gaps between the historical facades that were torn by the bombs. The decision taken in 1988 to declare the square a pedestrian zone has brought a lot of quality of life: when the inviting street cafés fill up on warm sunny days and the city vibrates with joie de vivre, nobody can escape the southern flair.
House no. 1:
Where the Hotel "Goldenes Lamm" now resides, the bridge toll was collected until 1903 - because here, where the Lower Gate once bordered the city, was the seat of the Princely Toll Station.
House no. 7:
The magnificent "Grottenegghaus" with its Gothic blind window, which has been saved over time between the younger arched windows on the second floor, dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Noble patrician families and even counts - namely the counts della Grotta - were at home here before the noble building took over public functions: it functioned as an Imperial and Royal House. Toll - and customs office and finally as tax office.
A narrow alley takes its exit at house no. 9. Typical of the narrow side streets of the main square are the Schwibbögen, which were intended to support the facades, especially during earthquakes. At the entrance there is an old coat of arms stone.1589 walled in by a pharmacist named Gregor Höll.
Also here the past greets with stone witnesses: In the entrance hall the renovator of the house, a certain Dr.Hedenegg has immortalized himself in the year 1579.
House no. 13:
The terracotta-coloured "Neumannhaus" was once the town house of Anna Neumann von Wasserleonburg (1535 - 1623). In the courtyard a stone double eagle survived the time, which for a long time led to the mistaken belief that Charles V was also a guest here...
House number 18:
On the opposite side of the square, a memorial plaque next to Seilergasse marks the entrance to a carefully restored Renaissance courtyard. Here the famous doctor and pharmacist Paracelsus spent his childhood and here father and son - Wilhelm and Theophrastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus - are immortalized on the east side in marble medallions.
House no. 20:
Behind the sober post-war façade of house no. 20 is an arcaded courtyard with Tuscan columns, the so-called "Hirscheggerhof".
A photogenic eye-catcher in the upper third of the slightly rising main square is the column from 1606, from which the city hoped for heavenly protection. In 1713 the statues of Mary, St. Florian and St. Rochus, the patron saint of the plague, were added in memory of the plague.
House No. 26:
The chronicle of the magnificent 16th century Khevenhüller town palace in 1552 lists a particularly prominent guest: Emperor Charles V, who escaped from Saxony to Villach on his flight from Moritz, spent seven weeks here. Between 1748 and 1875 the house served as a post office and "Gasthaus zur Post" - and even today it still accommodates visitors to the town as a romantic hotel with a courtyard worth seeing and Gothic vaults. Special attention should be paid to the pretty Renaissance oriel with the coats of arms of the owner families Widmann - Ortenburg and Khevenhüller, which further enhances the charm of the impressive façade.
Landmark and vantage point: St. Jakob's parish church
Villach's most important architectural monument, the parish church St. Jakob, is also the landmark of the city. A Romanesque basilica once stood here, first mentioned in a document in 1136, but destroyed by earthquakes. From 1360 the choir and later the nave were rebuilt in Gothic style. In 1526 St. Jakob became the first Protestant church in Carinthia, before Catholic priests returned in 1594. Inside the church, the high hall with the beautiful ribbed vault contains many works of art such as the Renaissance pulpit, which dates from the Protestant epoch of the church, the rococo high altar, the burial chapel and tomb monuments of the Khevenhüller family as well as a late Gothic Christophorus fresco. The tower, which had survived the great earthquake of 1348, did not withstand a later earthquake in 1690 and collapsed. It was rebuilt, but only finally completed in 1847. In the style of the Italian Campanile, it originally stood free and was only later connected to the church. Those who want to climb the highest tower of Carinthia with 94 metres over 240 steps can share the wonderful view with the falcons breeding here, whose family life is even transmitted by a webcam (www.villach.at).
The old market centre: Widmanngasse
Widmanngasse, one of the oldest buildings in the city, begins west of Oberer Kirchenplatz. The first markets were held here and earlier names such as Rindermarkt, Salzgasse and Leiten provide information about the nature of these trading businesses. Since 1879, the street has borne the name of the Widmanns, a respected Villach patrician and merchant family.
A detour to the old city wall:
Widmanngasse leads up to Hans-Gasser-Platz, which boasts a monument to the Austrian sculptor Gasser and several magnificent houses from the turn of the century. The only remaining part of the old town wall with a massive bastion tower has only really come into its own with the redesign of the square. The old ring wall was already mentioned in 1233, and it could not withstand the earthquake of 1348. It was later renovated until it was almost completely demolished under French sovereignty. An airy and modern bridge leads us through the gate: here, behind a grid, some anti-aircraft projectiles and a commemorative plaque can be seen, exhibits of the municipal museum to which this quiet corner belongs. Via the tiny Schanzgasse on the right we return to Widmanngasse.
House no. 38:
The town museum: if you are interested in Villach's history, plan an extensive tour here! The building itself is worth seeing: its interior dates back to the 16th century and it houses a beautiful Renaissance courtyard in which the medieval pillory of Villach has found a worthy setting. From the Neolithic Age to Roman times, from the Middle Ages and Paracelsus to the present day, valuable collections are on display. House no. 30: The "Eschey- Hof" with its inviting inner courtyard decorated with arcades of columns today houses a popular trattoria. Mariensäule: Where the so-called "Obere Leiten" used to be, a baroque Mariensäule from the year 1740 watches over the alleyway from a green island, which now slopes steeply down to the Drau.
House number 10:
The music school offers a successful ensemble of old and new: it is housed in a historic patrician house that belonged to the first mayor of the city in the 16th century. In 2008 the building was extended by a modern extension, which is best viewed from the small Kunigundengässchen. Right after the school it leads west and thus further to our next station, the so-called "Burg".
Along the river Drau and to the northern bank:
It was once the seat of the Bamberg state administration, to which Villach was subject for over 700 years. It was Empress Maria Theresa who bought back the Bamberg possessions in 1759 and the oldest building in Villach, with the integrated, now Old Catholic chapel of St. Heinrich and Cunegonda, was recently renovated and in the course of reconstruction work released valuable finds that can be viewed in a showroom.
The oldest Zunftgasse next to the Drau leads us back to the main square. Some flood marks (e.g. on house no. 25 and no. 10) remind us of the catastrophic Drau floods that hit the city - the worst of which in 1882, 1965 and 1966. Since the river was regulated in 1981, peace has returned and the banks of the Drau have become an attractive leisure area for the Villachers.
From the Lederergasse with its colourful local scene, Bambergergasse leads to Kaiser-Josef Platz, named after a monument to Emperor Joseph II from 1888. in the narrow Karlgasse at the eastern end of the square, corner house no. 10 has a remarkable late-Gothic entrance hall with a central column, then the street spanned by Schwibbögen leads us back to the main square - and northwards to Drau and Brücke.
The first documentary mention of a "Pons Uillah" dates from the year 878 - with which Villach can claim the title of the oldest bridge in Carinthia! The bridge toll, which was collected by the Landesfürstliche Mautstation (Princely Toll Station), located in Hauptplatz No. 1, brought the town good profits until 1903. Until 1858, a wooden construction spanned the Drava River and was replaced by a picturesque arched bridge, which in turn had to make way for today's construction in 1960.
On the other bank of the river we are greeted by the Nikolaiplatz with its inviting street cafés, a model of Villach from around 1649 and the bronze sculpture of a fool - symbol of the Villach carnival known across the country's borders. Another statue can be found in front of the neo-Gothic Nikolaikirche with the Franciscan monastery founded in 1649 - here St. Francis of Assisi decorates the forecourt.
Villach Congress Center:
The historic Villach in Nikolaigasse impressively gives way to the modern age: both the new Congress Hotel and the Congress Center set new accents in Villach's present. The Congress Center with its striking red cube not only offers space for conferences, but is also home to cultural and social events: Carinthia's largest and best-known music festival, the Carinthian Summer and the popular carnival sessions take place here.
Back to the old town:
Pedestrian bridge :
On the way back over the river Drau you have an enchanting view of the picturesque Karawanken mountains with the pink pilgrimage church Heiligenkreuz (built 1726 - 1738) in the foreground. It is considered one of the most beautiful Baroque monuments in Carinthia, and the Drauterrasse offers a special opportunity to explore the surroundings, as this is where the Drau excursion ship awaits its guests.
Beyond the bridge we cross the Gerbergasse (which has its name like the Lederergasse from the trade settled here in former times) and find ourselves at the Freihausplatz, which is connected with the main square by narrow lanes.
Where the Khevenhüllergasse with the old elementary school leads into the Freihausplatz, there is the back of the town hall towards the main square, which had to replace the bombed "Khevenhüller Stadtpalais" after the war. Only the sublime portal of the registry office from the 16th century recalls the past splendour of the palace.
The Freihausgasse leads us further to a very stately building, the legendary Parkhotel from 1911. It has not been a hotel for a long time - since its renovation in 1997 it has housed offices and event rooms. The traditional Caféhaus with its magnificent old park quickly became an indispensable meeting place for Villach society - and has remained so to this day!
About the 8th May Square, which since its redesign in 2008 has been decorated with the sculpture of a bronze couple in traditional costume (erected on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Villach Bauerngman, the initiators of the famous Villacher Kirchtag), we return to the main square and thus to our starting point.
Who has time and desire, walks from the 8th May Square not towards the main square, but to the south through the 10th October Street, which is lined by imposing buildings and green front gardens. At the end it opens to the city park with the beautiful neo-Gothic evangelical church (built 1901 - 1903). On the way back, it is worth making a detour from 10 October Street to the right past the Peraugymnasium building complex and stately villas from the 19th and 20th centuries to the small Schillerpark. There are busts of the poet prince Friedrich Schiller and of Thomas Koschat, a famous Carinthian singer and songwriter. But the main attraction of the Schillerpark is the relief of Carinthia: Europe's largest geoplastic provides an informative three-dimensional overview of Austria's southern province at a scale of 1:10,000.
Tips, hints and linksRegion Villach Tourism
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