The hub of the Mostviertel is Austria’s youngest provincial capital with the oldest city charter, St. Pölten. On a walkman-guided strolling tour of central St. Pölten, a largely pedestrian precinct, you become acquainted with several of the most stunning jewels in this “Baroque treasure box” of a town, particularly the cathedral and the diocesan museum. The starting point is the tourist information office in the Town Hall on the main square (Hauptplatz). An interesting counterpoint is the new government quarter on the Traisen River with its arts district, including the Festspielhaus and the Shed Hall, an exhibition building.
A short distance downstream along the Traisen is the Abbey of Herzogenburg, a monastery complex designed by one of Austria’s most illustrious Baroque architects and home to a fine art collection. Directly on the Danube is Traismauer, a former Roman settlement. Of more recent vintage is Schloss Schallaburg, an impressive Renaissance pile near Melk with terracotta artworks adorning the Italianate arcades of the triangular main courtyard. It attracts many visitors every year with its major exhibitions.
Twenty miles to the south of the provincial capital is one of the most significant and beautiful monuments to medieval architecture in all of Austria, the Abbey of Lilienfeld. Tour the wonderful abbey church, the cloisters, the impressive picture gallery and library as well as the original dormitories and storage halls where a permanent exhibition on the Babenberg Dynasty is now on display.
To the west of the road that follows the old pilgrimage route over the Annaberg to Mariazell in Styria is the Ötscher-Tormäuer Nature Park. This pristine nature preserve with waterfalls and a large dripstone cave is an ideal place for hiking, mountain biking and rafting. This scenic alpine area is particularly romantic when viewed from the narrow-gage Mariazell Railway.
The western Mostviertel is lovely hill country sprinkled with hundreds of thousands of fruit trees. Its main attraction is the Abbey of Seitenstetten, a Baroque complex famous for its fine collection of paintings and cabinet of natural history and minerals. Local farmers modeled their own farmsteads on its four-sided layout. Another Baroque delight is the nearby Sonntagberg Basilica. A wonderful way to experience this harmonious landscape is on a hike over the Panorama Culture Path or on a drive along the Mostviertel highroad (Höhenstrasse).
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