Enns is a charming city that is perfect for walking around on a nice day.
Enns was one of the first places in Austria to receive town privileges. The town charter dates to 22 April 1212; the document is displayed at the local museum. The date is also depicted on the Town Tower, the landmark of Enns.
The municipality can be subdivided into the districts of Einsiedl, Enghagen, Enghagen am Tabor, Enns, Ental, Erlengraben, Hiesendorf, Kottingrat, Kristein, Kronau, Lorch, Moos, Rabenberg and Volkersdorf.
The first settlements in the area of the mouth of the Enns river to the Danube date back to 4,000 years ago. Celts settled the land around 400 BC. Their kingdom of Noricum was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 15 BC and was designated as a Roman province under the reign of Emperor Claudius in AD 45.
In the second and third century, the Roman camp of Lauriacum, in which up to 6,000 soldiers were stationed, was located on the site of modern Enns. The adjacent settlement (today: Lorch) received the privileges of a municipium in 212 from Emperor Caracalla. At that time about 30,000 people lived here. During the Diocletian Persecution of Christians, a commander of the Roman army, Saint Florian, died as a martyr at Lauriacum on 4 May 304, when he was drowned in the Enns river. Only nine years later, the Emperor Constantine I proclaimed religious tolerance with the Edict of Milan. About 370, an Early Christian basilica was built on the remains of a Jupiter temple and Lauriacum was the see of a bishop until 488. The present Basilica of St. Lawrence at Lorch was built in 1344 on the foundations of the old church.
About 900, the Enisiburg castle, later Ennsegg Palace, was built on the Georgenberg hill to serve as a protective fortress against Magyar invasions. The surrounding settlement prospered from the 12th century onwards, when Ottokar II, Margrave of Styria established a market here. In 1186 the Georgenberg Pact was signed, an inheritance contract between Ottokar IV, Duke of Styria, who lacked a male heir, and the Babenberg duke of Austria, Leopold V. Following the death of Ottokar IV in 1192, his Duchy of Styria — then significantly bigger than the contemporary state, reaching from present day Slovenia to Upper Austria — fell to the House of Babenberg. Thus, Enns became Austrian.
As Leopold VI, Duke of Austria, endowed Enns with town privileges in 1212, it is now considered Austria’s oldest town (apart from the Roman municipal status). The landmark of Enns, the belfry (Town Tower) on the Main Square, was erected between 1564 and 1568 as a bell tower, watch and clock tower during the reign of emperor Maximilian II.
The castle was part of the fortifications against the Hungarians, however the first castle build here fell apart. In 1483, a new castle was built, however it was rebuilt after it fell into a state of disrepair. The current castle was built between 1565 and 1570. The castle was intended as part of the city fortification.
The castle park today has an English-style garden that was built in the 1840s. Within the arcade of the courtyard, you can view architectural finds from Roman times. If you have the chance, consider taking a tour of the castle, which has a chapel that was built in a former defense tower. It has elaborate frescos although part of the castle was damaged severely during the World War II.
STADTTURM (ENNS CLOCK TOWER)
The highlight of Enns is certainly the Statturum, which doubles as a unique hotel. The sixty meter tall tower was built in 1564 to serve as a watchtower and to house bells. From the top, you can have panoramic views over the valley and views of the Alps in the distance. It costs a few euros to climb the tower to reach the viewing platform just a bit above the clock tower.
BASILIKA ST. LAURENZ
The Basilica in Enns was built on top of an early basilica in Enns from the Roman period. The church today was first built in 1300 in the Gothic style although it was rebuilt about fifty years ago following archaeological digs. If you purchase a ticket to the Lauricaum Museum, you can receive a tour of the church, which is only accessible with a guided tour. The tours are daily at 11am and 4pm.
STADTPFARRKIRCHE ST. MARIEN
The city church of St. Marien was first built in 1270 although it became the parish church in the medieval ages. Inside, expect beautiful Gothic details, elaborate windows (including one showing the clock tower), a small courtyard and a fair amount of space. The main church hall is not always open, however you still can admire the windows and the courtyard for free.
To learn about Roman history, head to Museum Lauriacum. This museum showcases the Roman history of Enns as well as other historical artifacts. A ticket allows you to receive a tour of the Basilica with the cost of admission. You can view many artifacts as well as see their collection of weaponry.