Villach: Carinthia′s Spiritual Capital
Carinthia′s capital Klagenfurt might be a tad bigger than Villach in terms of population, but in terms of atmosphere and things to do, Villach wins the competition. A town ever since Roman times, it became an important centre of trade in the Slavonic kingdom of Carantania. Later, when the Germanic descendants of Bavarian tribes settled increasingly, the significance of Villach and its surroundings were ensured due to the good connections to both the Mediterranean area and the northern parts of today′s Austria.
If you start exploring Villach at the Hauptplatz or Main Square, you will see the many late Medieval and Renaissance courts and burgher houses that tell the story of Medieval success. Later, many of these houses got Baroque facades, but the much older core can usually be easily recognised. Most of Villach′s town centre is pedestrianised, therefore, it is quite enjoyable to explore it with a quick stroll around. Don′t miss out on the 14th century parish church St Jakob and its cemetery.
Castles & History to Explore
There are several interesting tombs of local noblemen in the church, including the rulers of the nearby castles Landskron and Finkenstein. The church tower or Stadtpfarrturm is open to visitors and will provide you will a stunning vista on the surrounding mountains - you will have to for serious hiking to get a better view. The nearby Stadtmuseum or town museum will teach you that the history of Villach reaches back even further than Romano-Celtic times, and started in fact in Neolithic days.
If your stay is constrained to Carinthia, you might want to see Schillerpark for the pavilion and the nice array of late-19th century neo-Classical manors. If you make it to a proper city in Austria, however, you will have plenty of opportunities to see this kind of lying-in-state-imperial architecture. The most important attraction of Villach is probably the local spa, called the "Warmbad Villach" and covered in the separate article on the spas of Austria.
Hiking, Skiing & other Sports near Villach
In terms of traditional events, there are two occasions at which the attention of Austria moves upon Villach: The Villacher Fasching or carnival is a series of costume celebrations, parades and cabaret. The latter one is particularly famous and usually quite political and of rather national interest, not so cool for tourists from abroad. The other event is the Villacher Kirtag on the first weekend of August, with a lot of drinking, folk music, drinking, folk dance, drinking, traditional costumes, drinking and drinking. The biggest event of its kind in the region, it tries to emphasise the connection between Carinthia and Italy as well as Slovenia.
Villach is an excellent spot to explore some of Carinthia′s most scenic spots. The lakes Ossiachersee and Faakersee (pronounced: "fucker-say", I′m afraid…there is also a town called "Faak", near the village called Egg) are great for all sorts of water-related sports and activities. The castle Schloss Landskron offers great views on the region as well as Lake Ossichersee and has a show on falconry, featuring - you might have guessed - birds of prey and people in dodgy medieval-like costumes. One of the most popular hiking destinations in the area is Mount Dobratsch.