The last one still missing on my Austrian province capitals to travel to was St.Pölten. This is only partly correct because I’ve been to a music festival in the city 3 or 4 times but this was ages ago and I never really explored the city. St. Pölten is one of those cities that hardly anyone ever really travels to for tourist reasons, and I’ve never really had a good enough reason to go there. But in order to see my friend Madlene (my Russia travel buddy) we decided to (more or less) meet half way between our homes and ended up spending a few hours in St. Pölten. I finally made it to all nine state capitals of Austria! Whoop whoop!
St. Pölten is located in the northern parts of Austria, 65km west of Vienna, north of the Alps, on the Traisen river. It is the largest city and the capital of the largest state – Lower Austria. The city is the 9th biggest town in population, with only 52,700 people living there. Noteworthy though is that St. Pölten is one of the oldest official towns of Austria (which means it was given special privileges by someone in 1159) and celebrated its 850th anniversary in 2009.
St. Pölten has always been a rather sleepy village throughout history, which only changed in the late 19th century. The rapid growth & development of the Austrian Empire gave reason to extend the railway network and connect the city to Vienna. Only in 1986 was St. Pölten made capital of Lower Austria. Previously, the province was administered from Vienna but this was deemed not suitable any longer and a referendum was held in which St.Pölten was chosen as the new place to be. This also lead to the construction of the Landhaus governmental district.
Due to the size of the city there is actually not much to see or do there, but enough to spend a few hours there. The best way of exploring this small city is definitely by just walking around aimlessly and one will pass by every major sight in the end.
After arriving at the central train station we headed south and walked past the Stöhr House on Kremsergasse (the shopping lane of town, which was of course closed because of the fact that it was a Sunday). This is a Jugendstil house that was built by the same architect as the Vienna Secession building, Joseph Maria Olbrich. Stöhr derives from a local artist who was influenced by the Secession Movement. The Cathedral is one of the most prominent buildings of St Pölten. Erected on a 13th century square and associated with an Augustinian monastery, the church was actually built in the early 18th century.
The Rathaus (Town Hall) is the official landmark of the city. The house was bought by the city in 1503 (so I guess it was erected before that date) and was at a later point refurbished with a Baroque facade but still has various architectural styles united in one building (eg. a Renaissance style tower). The Town Hall is surrounded by many other great architectural pieces and is located on a big square (the Town Hall Square, surprise surprise) with the Holy Trinity column (which can be found in every major city in Austria I guess).
One of the brand-new parts of the town is the Landhausviertel Quarter. This is where one can find a more modern architecture, and the 67-metre high Klangturm (“Sound Tower”) throning over everything. Opened in 1996 this tower is a landmark for sound art, and home to an info center and an observation deck that is open 365 days of the year, free of charge! The view from up there is just great, one almost has a 360° view over the whole city and its surroundings. And there are super comfy wooden seats up there which are a mix of a deckchair and a rocking chair.
Other interesting buildings in this quarter are the Landesmuseum (the local museum of Lower Austria), the Festival Hall, and the Waterpark by the river.
There weren’t that many options for us to choose from as we did not want to eat typical Austrian food, and it had to have vegetarian/vegan options. As it’s usually very common for Austrian restaurants to be closed on a Sunday (which is really absurd if you ask me) this was another fact to consider. So we ended up going to one of the only Pakistani/Indian restaurants of the city. Rajput turned out to be quite a nice stay, the place was super interesting (with something like Christmas decorations?) and the staff was super friendly. What I especially liked about this place was that one had the possibility to make every dish on the menu vegan! So many options for me to choose from! Yay! The place was packed and we were quite lucky to get a seat, so I think it’s a very popular spot for a late lunch or early dinner on a Sunday. The food was quite good and cheap as well, but to be honest I’ve had better Indian/Pakistani food before, but to their defence I eat and cook quite a lot of Indian/Pakistani food so I know my way around this cuisine.
The bottom line
Funnily enough the whole city was dead, hardly anyone was actually walking on the streets. The only things missing were howling coyotes and tumbleweed. Especially in the Landhausviertel we only saw one or two people walking around. It felt so empty and lifeless there, which was actually great for exploring everything & taking pictures of the architecture. My favourite of the town was definitely the Klangturm – I like everything with a great view (especially if it’s free!) – and the Traisen river (it’s possible to just go there and bathe in it, perfect for summer!). There’s really not a lot to do in this small city (correct me if I’m wrong!), but I’m glad that I can finally tick this city off my list.