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Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, history buff or culture lover, this region offers an authentic Austrian experience like no other. Especially for those wanting to dive deep into local traditions, 2024 is THE year to visit the Salzkammergut. For the first time in the history of the European Capital of Culture, the award has gone to an Alpine region rather than a city.

The Salzkammergut aka Lake District: Where nature, culture and traditions unite

The Salzkammergut region, spanning across the provinces of Upper Austria, Styria and SalzburgerLand is renowned for its magnificent lakes, in total over 75, surrounded by mountains and forests. The eight districts, one of them a UNESCO World Heritage site, showcase the splendour of these waters. Lake Wolfgangsee, Lake Attersee and Lake Altaussee are among locals’ favourites.

Whether hiking, cycling or simply relaxing at the lakes, the region offers endless opportunities to savour its scenic background. There are numerous hiking trails that wind through forests, fantastic panoramic views when venturing to the peaks of the Dachstein Alps or various boat trips on the lakes. The Salzkammergut region also provides water sport adventures, like sailing or paddleboarding. In winter the Lake District transforms into a wonderland for gentle snow sport enthusiasts with snowshoeing and winter hiking opportunities.

Unearthing the “White Gold” Legacy of 7000 years

The name of the Salzkammergut traces back to the region’s fascinating history and identity. It literally translates to “Estate of the Salt Chamber” in German attributable to the region’s crucial role as a salt producer and supplier which started over 7,000 years ago. The salt in the mountains of the Salzkammergut was a source of immense wealth and strategic importance and is often referred to as “White Gold”. The term “Kammer” alludes to the Habsburg Monarchy’s salt chamber, which managed the extraction, processing, and trade of this precious mineral.

Summer Retreats and Cultural Inspirations

During summer months, the region’s idyllic villages – especially Bad Ischl – and cool alpine air drew in European nobility, particularly Emperor Franz Joseph I. and Empress Elisabeth “Sisi”. Not only did the Habsburg Monarchy hold a deep affection for the Salzkammergut, but it has also been a cherished location for artists, writers and composers seeking creative inspiration. Renowned figures such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gustav Klimt and Franz Schubert found artistic inspiration in this region. Hotels, coffee houses and promenades were built to function as the new playground for Austria’s high society and became the place of creation for some of their most iconic works. The tradition of “Sommerfrische” or summer holidays in the Salzkammergut was born and has been enchanting visitors for generations.

European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024

Since 1985, the title of “European Capital of Culture” has been bestowed upon various cities and regions across Europe. In 2024, this prestigious title will be awarded for the first time to a rural, inner-Alpine region. The “banner city” of Bad Ischl, in collaboration with 22 other municipalities in Upper Austria and Styria, is creating a cultural region that reimagines itself through the intersection of art, culture, business, and tourism.

Themed “Culture is the new salt”, the Salzkammergut showcases its cultural legacy combined with contemporary influence. The multifaceted program will, on one hand, celebrate the historical and artistic diversity of the towns, while on the other hand, delve into pressing issues such as overtourism, and how to create an attractive living space for young people. One standout initiative within the program is “The Big Green Project”, uniting theatres, art collectives and municipalities to explore climate change through an artistic and cultural lens. Across all program lines, the commitment to authenticity will seamlessly be integrated into everyday life and each regions’ DNA.

The magical locations, the unique cultural heritage and the vibrant array of events brought forth by the European Capital of Culture 2024 make it a destination worth exploring.