Market town in Carinthia
Völkermarkt is a market town in the very south of Austria, situated in the province of Carinthia. Völkermarkt is not to be confused with Vöcklamarkt, which is a small village in Upper Austria. In fact, I had a friend who lived in the latter village and he told me that it happened to him once that somebody asked for directions - and it turned out that he had actually planned on going to Völkermarkt, some 300 kilometres further south and once over the Alps.
Make sure you don′t misspell the name if you use a navigation device. Völkermarkt is a county town (Bezirkshauptstadt) with slightly more than 11,000 residents. As a county town, Völkermarkt plays an important role as administrative, economic and educational centre for the region.
Tourism is a big deal in Völkermarkt. All of Carinthia enjoys a two-seasonal tourism culture and due to its access to many lakes and mountains. With St. Kanzian am Klopeinersee essentially around the corner, Völkermarkt has access to one of the most touristy areas of Austria. Völkermarkt itself attracts approximately 20,000 tourists per year, mostly because of the lakes south of the town. Fishing, hiking and all sorts of water-sports are main reasons for spending a vacation in the area. Skiing is not very well-developed, but with the Mount Petzen, there is a small skiing area appropriate for families.
Sights & Attractions of Völkermarkt
In terms of attractions, Völkermarkt offers limited delights: Note the very pretty market square with the old city hall (Rathaus). A column for the Trinity Column (Dreifaltigkeitsäule) is the focal point. Note the parish church of Pfarrkirche St. Ruprecht. And the church in St. Michael ob der Gurk, a hamlet of Völkermarkt. Probably the least expected site is a huge pagoda - the "Internationales Meditationszentrum Österreich" (International Centre for Meditation Austria).
Since 2005, the city of Völkermarkt emphasises the many markets that are held in the town. The Herzogburg is a former administrative court which now serves as the new city hall. There are several other attractive burgher houses around the market square.
Note also the ruined castle of Burgruine Haimburg not far from the town; and several nice countryside hamlets and churches. For a "Burgruine", Haimburg is actually in pretty good shape, situated on an exposed hilltop and well worth a visit. The gate-tower and the keep of the castle are essentially undamaged and thanks to a 20th century renovation very well-preserved.
History of Völkermarkt
Finally, a few words on the history of Völkermarkt: Since Celtic times and the era of the Roman Empire (province of Noricum), the area was rather important due to mining and iron ore trade. This significance survived the collapse of the Imperium Romanum and persisted in Medieval Carinthia, which was populated by Slavonic tribes. Later, the Slavonic population was progressively supplemented with a Bavarian elite.
In 1090, the tradesman Volko aus Rheinfranken was put in charge with erecting a trading post with a settlement by Count Engelberg von Spanheim. To take care of the spiritual needs of the trader folk, the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg (to whose diocese Carinthia belonged) had the Ruprechtskirche built (see above).
That made the settlement a proper village, which developed well: In 1217, a bridge was built over the River Drau, later in the 13th century, Völkermarkt became a city. At least since 1309, Völkermarkt held markets. Throughout the late Middle Ages, Völkermarkt was the "second city" of Carinthia after St. Veit. But its economic confidence ceased after the reformation over the course of the 16th century. Since the construction of railroads and the rise of summer tourism in the late 19th century, Völkermarkt now flourishes again for more than a century.