What you can’t miss in Bad Ischl
What springs to mind when you think of Bad Ischl? The imperial couple Franz Joseph and Sisi, who spent their summers here? The delectable Zaunerstollen? Or perhaps the myriad of events that are part of the “European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024”? We’ve gathered the highlights that you shouldn’t miss during your visit to Bad Ischl.
Kaiservilla and Marble Palace
Emperor Franz Joseph I, the last emperor of Austria, and his wife Elisabeth (Sisi) held a deep affection for Bad Ischl. The imperial couple got engaged here, and the Emperor’s mother, Sophie, gifted them the Kaiservilla as a wedding present. They cherished spending their summer months in Bad Ischl. Today, visitors can explore the rooms of the Kaiservilla where the royal couple once resided. Adjacent to the villa, in the Imperial Park, stands the Marble Palace, a marble teahouse in Tudor style. This was where the imperial couple enjoyed breakfasts and where Sisi liked to retreat for solitude. The teahouse now hosts exhibitions on the House of Habsburg, court life, summer retreats and many other themes. In the Cultural Capital year of 2024, it will feature works by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Indulge in sweet delights at Zauner
A visit to the Zauner pastry shop is an essential delight for sweet-toothed enthusiasts, boasting a long history of crafting exquisite confections like Zaunerstollen and Ischler Krapferl, as well as delectable tarts, Kaisergugelhupf, Zauner Kipferl and Kaisertorte. Established in 1832, Viktor Zauner opened the “Café Esplanade Zauner” by the Traun river in 1927, which still thrives today. Philipp Zauner continues to lead the family business into its 7th generation. As a former imperial and royal confectioner and purveyor to the court, the house’s highest commandment is to cherish traditions and preserve time-honoured recipes while remaining open to modernity. Both the original establishment on Pfarrgasse street and the Grand Café on the Esplanade offer a nostalgic culinary experience.
Experience the European Capital of Culture
Bad Ischl and the Salzkammergut region proudly wear the title of “European Capital of Culture 2024”, with Bad Ischl as the flagship city. As an imperial city, the cultural capital of 2024, and a hub for conferences, spas and shopping, it offers an impressive array of experiences. The entire year 2024 is adorned with a rich cultural tapestry in and around Bad Ischl: from concerts and digital art to the “European Theatre Festival” and the “Åhnlroas” photo art project, culminating in the “Fête de la Musique”. Amidst these events, visitors can tread in the footsteps of Sisi and Lehár, while picturesque spots beckon for leisurely exploration and discovery.
Visit Kraul on the Siriuskogl
The Siriuskogl, a hill at the centre of Bad Ischl, offers stunning views of the city and is accessible via a 20-minute hike. Upon reaching the summit, you’re greeted by a wooden observation tower, the “Kaiser Franz Josefs Warte”, built in 1885. Right next to it is the inn run by Christoph “Krauli” Held. His creativity and passion for fresh, authentic and globally-inspired cuisine are downright infectious. Krauli’s hallmark is his simple, unconventional, yet utterly devoted approach to cooking. Known both professionally and personally as a culinary rebel, a lovingly obstinate character and a visionary, Krauli has gained recognition from numerous German-speaking TV shows.
Buy an authentic Ischler hat
At the helm of a six-generation legacy since 1862, the Bittner hat-making establishment is a testament to timeless craftsmanship. Today, Kathi Bittner handcrafts and adorns wool hats, infusing traditional headwear with new life through her own collection. Amongst only four such establishments across Austria, Bittner’s creations stand out. With their clean lines, bold colours and premium materials, these hats attract customers from around the globe. Approximately 15,000 hats are sold annually from their store. Alongside the “Kathi Bittner Selection”, the traditional Emperor’s hat adorned with chamois beard and cord is the hallmark of this family business.
Ride the Gondola up to the Katrin mountain
Step into the gondola and ascend to the Katrin mountain! The moment you board one of the charming, beautifully designed gondolas, nostalgia enthusiasts will find their hearts soaring. After a 15-minute journey, you’ll reach the mountain station of the Katrin Alm mountain pasture. At the top, visitors are greeted with a well-developed network of hiking trails: from captivating viewpoints to the mountain’s summit cross and the Rosskopf. There’s also a via ferrata (difficulty level B/C) on the Katrin mountain, ending at the summit cross. After a fulfilling hike, or simply to bask in the sun, several huts offer a cosy spot to relax. In winter, the Katrin Alm mountain pasture becomes a popular destination for ski touring and snowshoe hiking. Our tip: Take a yodelling course on Katrin for a truly memorable experience.
Shop for souvenirs at SISSIKUSS
If you’re looking for a unique souvenir from Bad Ischl, SISSIKUSS is the perfect destination. Created by Katharina Weglehner, the SISSIKUSS brand represents a novel way of bringing the rich history of the Salzkammergut region and the imperial city of Bad Ischl into the present. The shop offers trendy gifts and souvenirs, all with a modern twist. Almost all products are crafted using special recipes and processes in selected workshops and rural enterprises in the Salzkammergut region, adhering to ecological and organic standards as well as sustainable production methods. The design ideas originate from their in-house creative studio.
Spend a day at a spa
Nestled in the picturesque Salzkammergut region, Therme Bad Ischl is a regal retreat for unwinding and rejuvenating body, mind and soul with soothing wellness treatments. Boost your immune system in the Relaxium Sauna World, immerse yourself in the brine pool or take a dip in the outdoor river pool. Guests can also indulge in a diverse array of wellness and beauty treatments. Beyond the spa, Bad Ischl offers a plethora of leisure activities, including jogging paths, Nordic walking trails and the Salzkammergut Golf Centre. The luxurious 4-star Hotel Royal is conveniently connected to the spa.
Stroll through the Trinkhalle
A wander through Bad Ischl inevitably leads you past a notable landmark — the “Trinkhalle”. It stands as a testament and monument to the spa tradition of Bad Ischl. Tracing its roots back to 1829, the Trinkhalle was originally built as the “Wirerbad”, named after Dr Franz Wirer, the founder of the Ischler Heilbad spa and physician to the imperial family. Designed by Viennese architect Franz Xaver Lössl, it was fashioned in the style of a Greek temple as the “Soolenbadhaus”. Over the years, it has undergone expansions but retained its grand central entrance and pillars. Initially a promenade hall for taking therapeutic waters, its interior later served as a stage for “Kurmusik”, musical concerts held in a spa setting. Today, the Trinkhalle is the first port of call for visitors.
Marvel at the Kongress & Theaterhaus Bad Ischl
This magnificent building was erected in 1875 to host concerts and balls for the guests of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth. In 1965, a devastating fire almost completely destroyed the building, sparing only the theatre hall.
Rebuilt almost identically, the edifice underwent a complete restoration in 1997 and was renamed the “Kongress & Theaterhaus”. Today, it’s a vibrant hub for balls, cultural events and various performances of the renowned Lehár Festival Bad Ischl.
Take a Detour to the Lehár Villa
The Lehár Villa in Bad Ischl, once the summer residence of the acclaimed composer Franz Lehár (1870-1948), is a testament to his legacy. Lehár purchased the villa in 1912 and spent nearly every summer there until his passing. He cherished the solitude of his villa by the Traun river, drawing energy and inspiration for his compositions. Here, masterpieces like “The Merry Widow”, “The Count of Luxembourg”, “Paganini”, “The Tsarevich” and “The Land of Smiles” were born. The villa, impressively preserved in its original state, stands today as a museum and a striking attraction in the region, although it is currently undergoing renovation. In honour of Franz Lehár, Bad Ischl annually hosts the Lehár Festival — Austria’s largest operetta festival.
Visit the Stadtmuseum
The Stadtmuseum is housed in a building steeped in history, originally the ancestral home of the salt-producer Seeauer family and later the Hotel Austria. It was here that the young Emperor Franz Joseph and Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria celebrated their engagement. Today, the museum showcases the development of Bad Ischl, highlighting its significance in salt production and its evolution into a spa town and imperial summer residence. Exhibits include uniforms and belongings of Emperor Franz Joseph, hunting rifles and paintings. The local culture is vividly portrayed through traditional farmhouse rooms with original furnishings and objects representing centuries-old customs like the Glöcklerlauf procession or the Carnival. A section of the museum is devoted to the East Asian collection of Hans Sarsteiner. The tour concludes with a focus on Ischl at the turn of the century.