© Foto: Oberösterreich Tourismus GmbH/Robert Maybach: Landschaft im Mühlviertel
Grüne Hügellandschaft im Mühlviertel

UNESCO World Heritage in Upper Austria

To be counted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a title of nobility. In Upper Austria, the Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut region, the pile dwellings at Attersee and Mondsee and the former Roman Danube Limes belong to the illustrious circle of cultural sites, the beech forests in the Limestone Alps National Park are a World Heritage Site and many customs are on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Romans, Salt and Pile Dwellings

The core of the Salzkammergut, the "Inner Salzkammergut", as it has always been called, extends around Hallstatt and the Dachstein. The Dachstein, with its primeval karst landscape and widely ramified caves, shapes the natural conditions. The "white gold" from the Hallstatt salt mountain attracted people to this alpine landscape thousands of years ago. After all, Hallstatt is the patron saint of an entire era in human history, the Hallstatt period. Both together, the nature and culture of the Salzkammergut, prompted UNESCO to include this region in the World Heritage List. The roots of the second Upper Austrian World Heritage Site are also prehistoric: Lake Attersee and Lake Mondsee are among the rich sites of the pile-dwelling culture. The remains of the pile dwellings at Lake Attersee and Lake Mondsee are part of the "Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps" cultural heritage, which is spread over six countries.

The most recent World Heritage Site in Upper Austria is the Danube Limes, the once fortified northern border of the Roman Empire. Traces of antiquity have survived on the Upper Austrian Danube, for example in the form of the Roman castle in Oberranna near Engelhartszell and in Schlögen. The Lauriacum Museum documents the Roman period in Upper Austria at the only site of a legionary camp in the former province of Noricum.

Intangible Cultural Heritage: Blueprinting, Jew's Harps and the Bell Ringers

The treasures of a civilisation also include its customs and crafts. These traditions, which cannot be grasped with the hands, are protected by the "Intangible Cultural Heritage". Most recently, the traditional "Grüngeflammte" decoration of Gmundner ceramics was added to this list in spring 2021 and the "Fuhr" at Lake Hallstatt in autumn 2020. Only a few people now master the craft of making the traditional flat boats that are rowed from the side.

The craft technique of blueprinting also received international recognition as an "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity", as did the Linz cathedral building lodge most recently. For only in a few countries in Europe is this old technique of fabric printing still kept alive. In the Mühlviertel there is still a blueprinting workshop in Bad Leonfelden. In Gutau, the Dyer's Museum reminds us of bygone times when this craft was still widespread in the Mühlviertel.

Many other traditions, customs and crafts from Upper Austria are also on the national list of intangible cultural heritage. The "Steyrer Kripperl", one of the last rod puppet theatres still in operation in Europe, was also included in this select circle.

Other forms of intangible cultural heritage in Upper Austria include dances such as:

  • the Innviertler Landler,
  • the "Rudentanz", which is performed on Shrove Tuesday in Sierning.
  • or the "Aberseer Schleunige" at Lake Wolfgang.

Carnival customs are numerous here, such as the annual performance of the "Traunkirchner Mordsgschicht" or the Ebenseer Fetzenzug. Ebensee is represented a second time with the Glöcklerlauf.

Customs such as the "Liachtbratlmontag" in Bad Ischl, the setting up of the large landscape nativity scenes in the Salzkammergut and the associated "Kripperlroas", Liebstattsonntag in Gmunden or the unique "Niglo-Umzug" in Windischgarsten are also honoured with entries on the UNESCO list. The Wirlinger Böllerschützen from the Wolfgangsee region and the bird catchers of the Salzkammergut are also there.

Old craft traditions, such as

  • the making of the Linz gold bonnet, 
  • reverse glass painting in Sandl,
  • jew's harp making in Molln,
  • the burning of pitch oil in the eastern Mühlviertel
  • and the Trattenbacher pocket fiddle from the Enns Valley 

also belong to the intangible cultural heritage. By the way: Even "Silent Night! Holy Night!", probably the most famous Christmas carol in the world, is also on the list of Austria's Intangible Cultural Heritage. Its melody was composed by an Upper Austrian, Franz Xaver Gruber.

UNESCO World Natural Heritage: Beech Forests in the Kalkalpen National Park

The Kalkalpen National Park in the south-east of Upper Austria is a forest wilderness straight out of a picture book. This UNESCO World Heritage Site stretches over the densely wooded mountain ranges of the Reichraminger Hintergebirge and the Sengsengebirge. With an area of 209 square kilometres, it is the largest forest national park in Austria, three quarters of which is wilderness. More than 5,000 hectares of ancient beech forests in theLimestone Alps National Park - together with similar natural areas in 10 European countries - have been placed on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List.


© Foto: Buchenwälder Nationalpark Kalkalpen_Mayrhofer
Foto: Buchenwälder Nationalpark Kalkalpen_Mayrhofer

Customs and cultural sites in Upper Austria