Too many cities want to claim the title ‘Pearl of the Dolomites’, but the Austrian town of Lienz (not to be confused with Linz!) is a good candidate. The Lienzer Dolomites frame the town like a natural amphitheatre, creating a truly spectacular effect.
As one of the most beautiful mountain resorts in Austria, it is not surprising that Lienz’s thriving tourist industry is based mainly on the numerous opportunities for outdoor sports such as skiing, hiking and mountain biking.
Its marvellous landscapes are the setting for sports challenges such as the Dolomitenrundfahrt, the Tour of the Dolomites on a racing bike, or the more extreme Red Bull Dolomitenmann, which combines activities as diverse as mountain running, paragliding, downhill and kayaking.
However, Leinz is not just an active holiday destination: it is a town rich in history with interesting evidence of its thousand-year-old past, elegant Biedermeier palaces and a gastronomic tradition that mixes elements of Tyrolean and Italian cuisine.
Located just 40 km from the Italian border, this city of Roman origin nestled between some of the most beautiful mountains in the Alps is an ideal destination for a weekend or a longer holiday, both in summer and winter.
For being essentially a mountain resort Lienz can boast some interesting historical attractions. The jewel in the crown of cultural tourism in Lienz is Schloss Bruck, the medieval fortress that dominates the town from above; it can be reached on foot from the centre in about 15 minutes.
Once home to the Counts of Görtz, this castle is now home to a local history museum where you can admire a curious mix of Roman artefacts, Gothic artwork, Tyrolean costumes and objects from the Cold War period. The tower houses temporary exhibitions, while the art gallery is entirely dedicated to Albin Egger-Lienz, an important Austrian artist who lived at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and was born in Lienz.
A fascinating way to learn more about this artist and enjoy the beautiful Lienz landscape is to follow the Albin Egger-Lienz Trail, an easy 5.3 km hiking trail divided into seven stages that mark the most significant places in Egger-Lienz’s life and works.
The start is at the Antoniuskirche church on Hauptplatz and the finish is at Schloss Bruck; allow about two hours. The route is easy and also suitable for families.
A family-friendly attraction is the Assling Wildlife Park, an 80,000 m2 green area just outside the city where more than 30 different animal species live.
A valuable testimony to Lienz’s thousand-year past is Aguntum, a modern glass structure protecting the remains of the ancient Roman municipium. The museum includes a reconstructed villa and the remains of the thermal baths and the craftsmen’s quarter; children will also enjoy the numerous interactive activities.
In Lienz, you can enjoy all the activities that have made the tourist fortune of Austria’s mountain towns.
In winter, the area’s hotels are filled with skiers, beginners or experts, all attracted by the modern lifts and spectacular views of the Dolomites. Join them and you will have 40 km of downhill runs plus 100 of cross-country skiing, with altitudes ranging from 1600 to over 2200 metres. Make a note of Zettersfeld and Hochstein, where the best lifts are located; for beginners and families with children, we recommend Haidenhof.
As the snow melts, it is hikers and mountain bikers who make up the largest share of holidaymakers in Lienz. Get a hiking map at the tourist office and set off to explore the most beautiful trails and climbing routes in the area.
A walk not to be missed is the Water Trail in the Galitzen Gorge (Galitzenklamm), 3 km from Lienz. You will walk along a path that climbs up steep rock faces, passing alongside the river and thundering waterfalls. For an even more exciting experience, opt for the via ferrata route, which takes you through the gorge twice hanging from ropes.
Do you prefer two wheels to a walk? There is no shortage of opportunities for you to enjoy the beautiful alpine landscapes while practising your favourite outdoor activity. You can choose one of the many signposted mtb routes (a total of 600 km!) or ride a section of the famous Drava cycle path, a 366 km long route that crosses three countries (Italy, Austria, Slovania) and also passes through the town of Lienz.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can try other activities such as rafting, canyoning, kayaking or climbing, while an experience that the little ones will definitely enjoy is the llama tour (yes, the animals of the Andes).
Lienz is not a particularly expensive destination, at least as far as accommodation is concerned: there is a wide choice of rooms with private individuals at good prices, as well as family-run boarding houses and medium- or low-cost hotels. However, it is advisable to book in advance, especially if you are travelling during the high season.
If you are coming here for a special reason or simply want to treat yourself well, there are luxurious hotels housed in elegant historic buildings and modern design hotels with spas from a thousand and one nights and splendid views of the Dolomites.
Lienz is not well connected by public transport, so the best way to get there is by car.
What's the weather at Lienz? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Lienz for the next few days.