The baroque old town of Schärding is considered the most beautiful in Austria and, with its historic town houses, a modern event hall and a multitude of restaurants and cafés, offers an ensemble worth seeing for those interested in culture and gourmets.
The picturesque town of Schärding is located in Upper Austria on the border to Germany and, with its excellently preserved town centre, is considered the most beautiful baroque town in Austria. With markets, festivals and cultural events, the pretty little town on the Inn manages to strike a balance between tradition and modernity. The magnificent old town of Schärding is on the list of our top 10 sights of Austria.
Making a pilgrimage through Schärding on your own is just as recommendable as booking a guided tour of the town. Various themed tours, such as the night watchman tour or the curiosity tour, where even die-hard Schärding fans can learn something new, show Austria's most beautiful baroque town from many different angles.
The sightseeing tour through the old town of Schärding ideally starts at the Linzertor. As guild signs still show today, many trades were settled in front of it to banish dirt and fire hazards from the town.
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Directly behind the Linzertor begins the Silberzeile, probably so called because the rich merchants who had their pockets full of silver pieces once lived here. The street leading up to the town square is lined with pastel-coloured house fronts from the 16th to 19th centuries and is considered Schärding's showpiece. Its blaze of colour dates back to the medieval guilds.
Upper Town Square
Oberer Stadtplatz is the heart of Schärding's old town and with its cosy cafés, restaurants and numerous shops an attraction for young and old.
At the end of Silberzeile, the Sparkasse building borders the Oberer Stadtplatz. Once Schärding's town hall, the building was erected in its present form in 1824. The fresco depicting a lady with a savings bank and an Innviertel dancing couple dates from 1952.
11 years later, the Christophorus Fountain was erected, symbolising shipping, abundance of water, spa tradition and water power, but also Schärding's danger of flooding.
St. George's Church and Holy Spirit Church
St. George's Church is the Catholic parish church of Schärding. Its gate hall dates back to 1307, but it received its current baroque appearance in 1725 by the master builders Jakob Pawagner from Passau and Johann Michael Fischer from Munich. Its bells are the only ones in Upper Austria to have survived both World Wars.
The former Holy Spirit or hospital church with its ornate stone portal is the most important Gothic building in Schärding. It was completed in 1498 with the former Bürgerspital and converted into a hotel after restoration in 1961.
Innlände and Granite Museum
Through the Passauer Tor, along Passauer Straße and the Leohnhard-Kaiser-Weg with the Leonhard-Kaiser monument, the route leads to the Innlände, from where the boats depart for the popular Inn boat trips between Schärding and Passau.
From the Innlände, the view falls to the other bank of the Inn, already in Germany. Here, the Neuhaus monastery with the secondary school of the English Misses offers a picturesque photo motif. It was built in 1724 as a Gothic moated castle and rebuilt after a fire in 1752 - this time in Baroque style.
Passing the Götzturm, which was converted into a residence by Ludwig Götz in 1844, you will reach the free Granite Museum, which is especially known for its interesting model of Schärding Castle.
Right next to the Granite Museum, the Water Gate leads from the banks of the Inn back to the Lower Town Square. Various markings remind us of the flood disasters that Schärding has already experienced. Above the passage to the Inn, you look through the glass floor into a restaurant.
Castle Gate and City Museum
Via the lower town square back towards the centre, past hotels, restaurants, cafés and cocktail bars, you will find the Schärding town office opposite the Sparkasse bank.
Afterwards, a road leads to the right to the castle gate dating from 1436, which today houses the Schärding town museum. In former times, the ducal castle keeper lived in the once four-storey building made of tufa stone. Until 1809 it could only be entered via the bridge over the outer moat. Today it provides information about the history of Schärding.
Behind the castle gate, Schlossgasse leads directly to Kubinsaal, Schärding's most important venue. The modern cultural hall was built in 1997 according to plans by the Upper Austrian architects Schaffer and Sturm and named after the Austrian illustrator and writer Alfred Kubin.
The audience of up to 300 people in the Kubinsaal looks out over part of the historic circular wall, which has been integrated into the new building without being plastered.
The secluded castle park of Schärding extends around the Kubinsaal. This was once the site of the castle courtyard, which was transformed into a green oasis in 1895. Shady trees and the magnificent view from the viewing pavilion over the Inn with the old Inn bridge invite you to linger. The replica of a cannon on the north bay reminds us of the defensive function the castle once had.
The castle well dating from 1225 is also worth seeing. The 26m-deep shaft was only rediscovered in 2003. Under the original replica of the well house, you can listen to the well legend of the rescue of the castle lord's daughter.
A staircase leads from the castle park to the moat, at the upper end of which is an impressive war memorial. The apocalyptic horseman from the Secret Revelation of John was created in 1958 by the Linz artist Prof. Walter Ritter and is intended as a reminder of the horrors of war.
Kirche am Stein (Protestant parish church)
Innbruckstraße leads around the castle park and branches off again towards the centre at the Schärding tourist office. If you follow this and turn into Sebastian-Kneipp-Gasse, you will reach the Protestant parish church.
The church, also known as Kirche am Stein, was built on the granite rock in the 17th century to ward off the plague and dedicated to the plague saints Sebastian and Rochus. Before its restoration in 1954, it also served as an armoury and theatre.
Orangery with Baroque Garden
Behind the row of houses on the other side of Sebastian Kneipp Gasse lies the magnificent baroque garden of the Orangerie. Walkways wind past fountains, trees and flowerbeds to the former greenhouse, which was built in 1884 by the agronomist Georg Wieninger. Today, the building, renovated in 2004, houses one of Schärding's most popular restaurants.
The small lane "Im Eichbüchl" separates the baroque garden of the orangery from the green area of the Schärding Kurhaus. A 17th century Capuchin monastery once stood on the small hill. The spa was established by the Brothers of Mercy in 1928. The former monastery church is allowed to continue its function today as the spa house church.
Via Schmiedweg to the north, the route returns to Linzertor.
History of Schärding
The area of today's Schärding was already settled in the Neolithic Age and the Celts and Romans also knew how to take advantage of the favourable location directly on the Inn. In the late Middle Ages, Schärding developed into a trading centre where mainly salt, ores, wood, wine, glass, grain and fabrics were handled.
At the end of the 18th century, Schärding lost its importance again, as trade traffic increasingly shifted from the river to the railway. The townscape of that time was thus not further developed and therefore still exists today in the typical style of Inn-Salzach architecture. Visitors can learn more about the history of Schärding on the Via Scardinga, an interactive theme trail for young and old.
In the approximately 50 inns, cafés and bars, enjoyment is writ large with regional and international cuisine. Gourmets meet over a glass of beer, for example, which is brewed on site at the Baumgartner brewery - including on Europe's first brewery ship on the Inn.
PICTURES: Old Town of Schärding
Official website of the town of Schärding