Carinthia’s capital, Klagenfurt, in Southern Austria is a pretty and laid-back town perfect for a weekend getaway. Its location right at the Lake Wörthersee makes it especially attractive in summer when sunbathers and water sport enthusiasts hit the city beaches. But even when it’s too cold for swimming the city and its surroundings have enough attractions to keep you busy. Check out the must sees in our guide, including museums, viewing points and foodie hotspots.
Take a Cruise on Lake Wörthersee
Klagenfurt sits right at the West side of the famous “Wörthersee” and for many tourists the lake is the main reason to come. Even though a sightseeing cruise might sound a little touristy, it really is the best way to see the lake (and its cute little towns around). You can choose from different types of cruises, ranging from water ferries taking you from one place to another (e. g. nearby Velden) to guided boat trips around the lake. There’s even brunch and dinner cruises if you fancy a meal on the water. Either book online or get your tickets right at the piers.
If you come in summer, make sure to bring your swimwear and enjoy some beach time a short walk from the city center.
See World Famous Landmarks at Minimundus
A 15-minute drive West from Klagenfurt (or a short train or bus ride) is Minimundus, a miniature world opened in 1958, showing more than 150 sights from around the world. Favorites include the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal. All models were made by hand at a scale of 1:25 and are spread around a 280,000-square-foot (26,000-square-meter) theme park. The highest one is the CN Tower rising 75 feet (23 meters) into the sky and weighing 20 tons. The most expensive model is St. Peter’s Dome which took six years to complete and cost 730,000 euros. There are numerous little trains and moving plans between the models and a miniature space shuttle launches into the sky every hour. Take pictures in front of your bucket list sights, learn how the models were made and—if you want some hands-on experience—sign up for a workshop.
Minimundus is open from 9 a.m. daily and entrance is 19 euros for adults and 10 euros for kids.
Stop for a Selfie at the Dragon Fountain
The city’s most famous landmark is a massive Dragon (“Lindwurmbrunnen”) spurting water from its mouth on Neuer Platz (“New Square”). The sculpture was carved by Ulrich Vogelsang in 1590 from a single block of chlorotic schist, a local greenstone that gives it its distinct color. The Hercules figure along with the statue of Maria Theresia were added in the 17th century. The fountain was moved several times facing different direction before it found its permanent place in 1972. The 6 ton heavy sculpture is a reference to the city legend, claiming Klagenfurt was built on a swap inhabited by a dragon.
Other points of interest on Neuer Platz include the new city hall and the Trinity Column (“Dreifaltigkeitssäule”), dating back to 1689.
Walk the Oldest Part of Town
Only a stone’s throw from Neuer Platz is Klagenfurt’s oldest part, called Alter Platz (“Old Square”). Despite its name it’s rather a street than a square, nowadays a pleasant pedestrian zone. It’s surrounded by some of Klagenfurt’s most stunning Baroque buildings including the Old Town Hall with its three-storied arcaded courtyard and the 17th century St. Egid Church, famous for its frescos and stunning views from its tower. The Haus zur Goldenen Gans (“House of the Golden Goose”) is a picturesque building dating back to around 1500, featuring some fine old arcades and a nice café to stretch your legs.
Visit the Klagenfurt Cathedral
Constructed between 1578 and 1591, the basilica with its distinct white washed walls and green tiled roofs has served as a cathedral for the Prince-Bishop of Gurk (who lives in Klagenfurt) since 1787. The interior is pretty impressive with three large galleries, rich stucco decoration and wall and ceiling paintings from the 18th century. The painting on the high altar showing the church’s patrons Petrus and Paulus was created by Austrian artist Daniel Gran in 1752. Entrance to the cathedral is free of charge, the crypt is 2 euros.
Just next door is the Gurk Diocesan Museum showing church vestments and religious art dating from 1170 to today. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is 8 euros for adults.
Marvel at Renaissance Art at the Landhaus
Klagenfurt’s parliament is situated between Alter Platz and Heiligengeistplatz. The so-called Landhaus, built between 1574 and 1590, is impossible to miss thanks to its two impressive onion-domed towers, its fountain and flowerbeds. Visit the Great and Small Emblem Hall built in 1740 and home to almost 1.000 coats of arms and check out the spectacular frescos and Renaissance architecture. Landhaus is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is 4 euros.
There’s also a restaurant inside the Landhaus serving traditional Austrian cuisine.
Try the Famous Kasnudeln
If you are in Carinthia you just have to sample its most famous dish, "Kasnudeln." The warm pasta pockets stuffed with cheese, potatoes, onions, mint and chervil are especially beloved during colder months. But you can really have them all year round. The pasta is served with browned butter or crispy crackling and is so rich you will probably be full for the whole day. You can get the Kasnudeln pretty much everywhere in Klagenfurt, but local favorites are Weidenhof right next to the lake, Zum heiligen Josef (Osterwitzgasse 7) and the restaurant inside the Landhaus.
The most famous dessert is "Kärntner Eisreindling," a delicious mix of ice cream, cinnamon, raisins, and rum or egg liqueur.
Relax at the Botanical Gardens
For plant lovers, the Botanical Gardens a short walk from the inner city are a must. Open all year round, they feature both flowers and trees from Carinthia (like its official flower Wulfenia Carintiaca) and tropical regions. There’s also a waterfall, several wetland biotopes and a Cactus collection. The surroundings are fantastic with views of the mountains. Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to relax and take in some sun at lunch time or after a long day of sightseeing.
The gardens are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May to September and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the year. Entry is free.
Check out Artists From Carinthia
If you like arts, don’t miss Klagenfurt’s Museum of Modern Art. The gallery showcases an extensive collection of regional and international artists, but most are from Carinthia. Those featured include Hermann Nitsch, Hans Bischoffshausen, Kiki Kogelnik, Maria Lassnig and Hans Staudacher.
There’s also a separate room called “Burgkapelle” available for upcoming artists presenting their projects and installations. Exhibitions change regularly and if you are lucky you can meet some of the artists there.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Thursday until 8 p.m. Admission is 5 euros per adult.
Sample Local Food at the Benediktiner Market
Looking for some yummy souvenirs – or just a snack to eat straight away? Make sure to visit the food market on Benediktinerplatz. You can get just about everything here from regional fruits and vegetables to jams, cheeses and local wines. Most farmers selling are from Carinthia but you will also find Italian and Slovenian stalls. The best thing of all: There’s always samples! You can also get sandwiches and ready prepared lunch, so the market makes a perfect spot to start your sightseeing day.
The farmer’s market is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 6.30 am to noon. Go early if you want to avoid crowds.
Visit Hochosterwitz Castle
13 miles (21 kilometers) northeast of Klagenfurt sits the impressive Hochosterwitz Castle, perched atop a crag some 525 feet (160 meters) above the little town of Launsdorf. The fortress, first mentioned in the year 860, is well known for its 14 gates and its steep winding access road called “Burgweg”. There’s a little chapel on the north side with beautiful frescos from 1570 and an altar from 1729. The museum inside the castle contains weapons left by Napoleon as well as an arsenal of armory, helmets, spears, lances and guns from various centuries. And last but not least, have we mentioned the views
Hochosterwitz Castle is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April 1 to May 14 and September 15 to October 31, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May 15 to September 14. Admission is 15 euros for adults and 8 euros for kids. There’s an elevator up from Launsdorf for an additional 9 euros but you can also walk.
Enjoy Breathtaking Views from the Pyramidenkogel Tower
Ever wondered where all those amazing pictures of the entire Lake Wörthersee and the Alps were taken? Chances are, it was from the viewing tower on the summit of Pyramidenkogel, about a 30-minute drive from Klagenfurt. Opened in 2013, the 128-foot (100-meter) wooden tower is the highest of its kind worldwide. You can either climb up the 441 steps or take the panoramic lift. The tower has three viewing platforms and its own “Sky box” restaurant where traditional Carinthian cuisine is served. Afterwards, a 394-foot- (120-meter-) long slide will bring you down to the ground level. There’s also a ‘FLY 100’ panorama zip wire if you are up for some more adrenaline rush.
The Pyramidenkogel Tower is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter. Admission is 14 euros for adults and 7.50 euros for kids. The panorama zip is 15 euros extra.