Bad Ischl in the Upper Austrian Salzkammergut is a well-known spa town and former popular summer residence of the Habsburgs. The traces of Sissi and Franz are still omnipresent in the picturesque old town.
The small town of Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut region of Upper Austria is a famous spa resort and engagement venue of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph with his famous wife Elisabeth, better known as Sissi.
The self-proclaimed "imperial city" of Bad Ischl is best explored on foot. On your walk through the town you will pass a multitude of historically valuable houses, pretty alleys and magnificent buildings.
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The Trinkhalle in Bad Ischl was built by Franz Lössl from 1829 to 1831 and is a listed building. Today it functions as a venue for concerts and theatre performances, a small tourist information centre and a starting point for guided tours of Bad Ischl.
St. Nicholas Parish Church
St. Nicholas Church in Bad Ischl was first mentioned in a document in 1320 as "Kirch zu Ischl". Its current appearance dates from the 1770s, when Maria Theresa had it rebuilt in the classicist style.
At the time of Emperor Franz Joseph, it was called the "Court Parish Church". In 1880, on the emperor's 50th birthday, the new interior was solemnly consecrated. The church now had artistic frescoes by Georg Mader, altarpieces by Leopold Kupelwieser, new altars and the most modern organ in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy with 3,700 pipes.
10 years later, the magnificent wedding of Archduchess Marie Valerie, the youngest daughter of Sissi and Franz, to Archduke Franz Salvator took place in St. Nicholas Church. For this spectacle, 21 wagons brought the floral decorations from Vienna to Bad Ischl. The imperial court composer Anton Bruckner played on the imposing organ. A memorial plaque on the church still commemorates the famous composer's stays in Bad Ischl.
Since 1947, the "Emperor's Mass" has been celebrated every year on 18 August on Franz Joseph's birthday. Up to 500 uniforms from Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia gather for this special occasion.
The inconspicuous old Viennese coffee house in Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Straße dates back to 1826. In imperial times it was a popular artists' meeting place, where Johann Strauss, Johannes Brahms, Helmut Berger and Ludwig Bösendorfer were guests.
Café Ramsauer with its nostalgic flair is Bad Ischl's oldest coffee house and serves breakfast, lunch, coffee specialities and sweet delicacies from morning until late afternoon.
Lehár Film Theatre
The Lehár Film Theatre was built in 1827 and was originally called the Kurtheater. Its most famous patron was Archduke Franz Karl, the father of Emperor Franz Joseph, who bought up the tickets for the empty seats at some performances in order to secure the show.
In 1921 it was converted into a cinema. Today the Lehár Filmtheater is used for cabarets, concerts, readings, cinema and theatre performances and is the fourth oldest theatre in Austria still in operation.
Tip: Haus Rosenstöckl was Franz Lehár's home before he moved into his villa in 1910 after his breakthrough with "The Merry Widow". Today it can be rented as a holiday home.
Congress and Theatre House
The Kongress- und Theaterhaus am Stadtpark in Bad Ischl dates from 1875 and was built by the architect Hyazinth Michel. Imperial balls and receptions used to be held here.
Since its restoration in 1997, the Congress and Theatre House has functioned as a venue for banquets, receptions, concerts and is also the venue for the Lehár Festival and the Operetta Weeks.
Hotel Austria, City Museum
The Hotel Austria, formerly the "Seeauerhaus", is considered to be the summer home of Emperor Franz Joseph. In August 1853, he became engaged here at the age of 23 to the then 15-year-old Sisi. From 1880 to 1970 the building was used as a hotel, until it was finally converted into the Bad Ischl town museum.
Right in front of the former Hotel Austria, the promenade "Sophiens Esplanade" runs along the Traun. This pretty street is lined by the salt manufacturers' houses. At that time, these were responsible for the logistics of the salt trade on the Traun.
Three rows of trees were planted for the Landgartenschau 2015 - just like in Sissi's day. Via the Richard Tauber footbridge, you reach the other side of the Traun and find yourself at the foot of the Siriuskogel, where there is a miniature prater to visit.
Hotel zur Post
Today's Posthof was opened in the late 1820s by Franz and Magdalena Koch as the first hotel in the Salzkammergut. In 1988, hotel operations were discontinued and the striking sunny yellow building now houses private flats, office space, surgeries, restaurants and even an underground car park.
Hotel Elisabeth and Café Sissy
The yellow building of the Hotel Elisabeth was built by the Italian entrepreneur Felix Tallachini and was formerly also called "Hotel Tallachini". The archducal family stayed here at the time of their engagement to Sissi. Today the building is called "Hotel Elisabeth". In the Café Sissy on the ground floor you can enjoy the flair of the 19th century.
The famous Café Zauner in Bad Ischl was founded in 1832 by Johann Zauner, a native of the Weinviertel. He completed his apprenticeship as a confectioner in Vienna and was a friend of Dr. Wirer, who took him with him to Bad Ischl. This is how Bad Ischl's first confectioner's shop came into being, which was soon also the imperial and royal purveyor to the court. Incidentally, there is an entry by the composer Anton Bruckner in the guest book of Café Zauner.
Today, Café Zauner has up to 100 employees during the peak summer season and sells mainly handmade delicacies, of which the Zaunerstollen made of nut and nougat and the Nestroy-Semmerl made of white chocolate are among the most famous.
PICTURES: Bad Ischl, Austria
History of Bad Ischl
Bad Ischl was most likely already settled in the Hallstatt period from 800 BC and belonged to the Roman Empire from 15 BC. After several blows of destruction by Romans, Slavs and Hungarians, Bad Ischl was able to recover from around 1,000 AD. At this time, the salt trade was resumed and Bad Ischl became increasingly prosperous.
In 1466 Ischl was granted market rights by the Habsburg Emperor Friedrich III. In 1571, Ischl's first own salt works was built with the Pfannhaus on the Traun, which meant that from then on Ischl made a profit not only from the salt trade but also from salt mining.
Spa town Bad Ischl
However, the real economic blossoming of Ischl began in the 19th century. Back then, in 1821, the Viennese doctor Dr. Franz Wirer came to Ischl. Together with the salt works physicist Dr. Josef Götz, who had been investigating the effects of brine baths since 1807, the native of Korneuburg founded the spa town of Bad Ischl, which is still popular and well-known today.
By the end of the 1820s, the number of spa guests from outside the town had already reached 1,000 and soon Bad Ischl was a household name among physicians throughout Europe. However, Bad Ischl was not officially recognised as a health resort until almost 100 years later.
Imperial City of Bad Ischl
Probably the most famous spa guests of Bad Ischl were the archducal couple Franz Karl and Sophie, who eagerly wished for a child. And lo and behold - after their third stay at the spa in Bad Ischl, their son Franz Joseph was born - the future Emperor of Austria.
But this is not the only thing that connects the Habsburgs with Bad Ischl. From 1849 to 1914 Bad Ischl was the official summer residence of the Austrian imperial family from Vienna. Franz Joseph spent most of his summers here as a child and became engaged to Elisabeth in Bavaria, better known as Sissi. The influence of the Habsburgs and the imperial family can still be clearly felt today in every nook and cranny of Bad Ischl.
City of artists Bad Ischl
From 1863 onwards, the famous composer Anton Bruckner was present every year for the emperor's birthday celebrations and other occasions as imperial court organist.
Johann Strauss, Franz Lehár and Johannes Brahms also regularly spent their summers in Bad Ischl, partly because of Ischl's beauty, but probably also to be close to the imperial family. Even today, the Bad Ischl Operetta Weeks are held annually in memory of the world-famous artistic scene of the time.