While staying in Upper Austria for three weeks, I ended up venturing across the river to the oldest town in Austria: Enns, Austria. This charming town is perfect for anyone looking for a relaxing morning or evening in a charming Austrian town.
While sitting on the train, I overheard a proud Austrian man (wearing the most beautiful tratchen) telling my seatmate about Enns with a smile. I was inspired by the lovely stories about Enns and ended up going together with my husband after putting on our finest trachten.
History of Enns, Austria
People started settling at the point that the Enns and Danube river met about 4,000 years ago. It was settled by the Celts in 400 B.C. and called Noricum at the time. This became part of the Roman empire in 15 A.D. About two centuries later, Lauriacum, a Roman military camp, was established where the modern town sits today. The nearby settlement Lorch received municipal privileges in 212. (Today Lorch is part of Enns.)
Another integral part of Enns history is Saint Florian. This commander in the Roman army became a Christian and was drowned in the Enns river for his beliefs in 304. (Today, there is a nearby abbey built in his honor where his body is buried.) Shortly after, the Edict of Milan allowed for religious tolerance, which allowed an early Christian basilica to be built. In 1212, the Duke of Austria gave Enns town privileges, which makes it Austria’s oldest town.
What to do in Enns
Enns is a charming city that is perfect for walking around on a nice day. We spent a relaxing afternoon browsing the shops in the town. Enns is a nice stop-off and I’d recommend spending the morning here if you’re considering heading to Mauthausen to visit the memorial after.
The castle was part of the fortifications against the Hungarians, however the first castle build here fell apart. In 1483, a new castle was built, however it was rebuilt after it fell into a state of disrepair. The current castle was built between 1565 and 1570. The castle was intended as part of the city fortification.
The castle park today has an English-style garden that was built in the 1840s. Within the arcade of the courtyard, you can view architectural finds from Roman times. If you have the chance, consider taking a tour of the castle, which has a chapel that was built in a former defense tower. It has elaborate frescos although part of the castle was damaged severely during the World War II.
Be sure to explore the gardens and stop for a coffee in the charming cafe. There’s a Italian restaurant that we heard about that is housed within a beautiful part of the castle if you’re looking for a romantic dinner in Enns.
Stadtturm (Enns Clock Tower)
The highlight of Enns is certainly the Statturum, which doubles as a unique hotel. The sixty meter tall tower was built in 1564 to serve as a watchtower and to house bells. From the top, you can have panoramic views over the valley and views of the Alps in the distance. It costs a few euros to climb the tower to reach the viewing platform just a bit above the clock tower.
Be sure to note the Habsburg coat of arms, the Imperial Eagle. As soon as you enter Enns, it’s hard to ignore the the tower, which can be seen as you drive into Enns. You can hear the bells at 7am, 12pm, and 7pm daily. It also served as a fire tower at another point in history.
The tower has a legend worth telling. The builder intended to build the tallest freestanding tower in Austria, so 156 stairs were cut. However, the builder found that the stone would not cooperate. It’s said that a giant helped with the construction, which is why a giant’s rib remains there today… Whether or not you believe it, look for the bones.
Explore the hidden courtyards of Enns (if you dare!)
Enns is full of medieval courtyards that you can peek into. One kind resident let us into her beautiful white and wooden courtyard (on the right), however as you wander around the historic center of Enns, you’re likely to want to look behind those large doors.
Basilika St. Laurenz
The Basilica in Enns was built on top of an early basilica in Enns from the Roman period. The church today was first built in 1300 in the Gothic style although it was rebuilt about fifty years ago following archaeological digs. If you purchase a ticket to the Lauricaum Museum, you can receive a tour of the church, which is only accessible with a guided tour. The tours are daily at 11am and 4pm.
Stadtpfarrkirche St. Marien
The city church of St. Marien was first built in 1270 although it became the parish church in the medieval ages. Inside, expect beautiful Gothic details, elaborate windows (including one showing the clock tower), a small courtyard and a fair amount of space. The main church hall is not always open, however you still can admire the windows and the courtyard for free.
To learn about Roman history, head to Museum Lauriacum. This museum showcases the Roman history of Enns as well as other historical artifacts. A ticket allows you to receive a tour of the Basilica with the cost of admission. You can view many artifacts as well as see their collection of weaponry.
Have a relaxing beer in the town square
If you’re looking for a more relaxing time in Enns, stop for a beer (or a radler if you’re driving) at one of the many cafes along the main square. We ended up stopping at Hotel zum Goldenen Schiff, which has a lovely cafe overlooking the main square as well as the clock tower. (They accept credit cards.) Here, you can taste local cellar beer that is brewed in town that we both really enjoyed.
Go for a relaxing and romantic lunch/dinner
When I asked two locals from the areas about Enns, both raved about the Italian food. You’ll find several restaurants perfect for a romantic date (or a relaxing family dinner). My friend recommends la tavola e castelloteca, which is part of the castle, and Pizzeria Salvatore.
Stop for a pastry at the local bakery
I stopped off at “Kardelen” Bäckerei for a delicious poppy pastry. Especially if you’re coming here around breakfast, Enns is a great place to try Austrian food in a beautiful setting!
How to visit Enns
It’s possible to take the train from Linz if you’re looking for a day trip from Linz. The journey from Linz to Enns only takes fifteen minutes and this line continues towards Mauthausen. It’s also possible to take a ferry over from Mauthausen.
Alternatively, you can drive to Enns. Shortly outside of the city center, you’ll find a Parkplatz near the castle although we ended up parking at parkplatz theater im hof, which was free during our visit.
Where to stay in Enns, Austria
For a unique experience, consider staying in the clock tower for panoramic views of the town. This modern hotel room fitted with wifi, coffee, and television is housed in the clock tower dating back to 1564 where the tower guardian lived for many years. You’ll need to be comfortable with stairs, however if you want to be the tower guardian for the night, you can have a truly unique experience.
Hotel zum Goldenen Schiff
We ended up stopping off around lunch at Hotel zum Goldenen Schiff . This cafe/hotel is housed in a beautiful historic building with stunning views of the clock tower for anyone looking for an ultra modern room in the area for a reasonable price.