Klagenfurt: Location, name & history

Klagenfurt is a picturesque historic city in Austria. It is situated on the shores of Lake Wörther / Wörthersee and along the banks of River Glan, surrounded by splendid wood-covered mountains at an average altitude of about 450 m. The city is the administrative centre of Carinthia – one of the southernmost Austrian federal states (lands), famous for its alpine lakes and beautiful mountains. Klagenfurt is also known for its Alpen-Adria University and as a seat of a Roman Catholic bishop.

According to some prominent local Austrian linguists the name of the city derives from an old German translation of its initial Slovene name, meaning a “fort (furt) of lament (Klagen)”, although the 17th-century historian Hieronymus Megiser, graduated with a master degree in the local university, believed that the name means “a fort on the River Glan”.

An ancient local legend tells us that Klagenfurt was founded after a brave young Carinthian man managed to defeat and kill the ferocious Lindwurm – a winged dragon, who lived in the marshes around the lake and often attacked local farm animals and even humans, kidnapping and eating virgin girls. This legend was immortalized in the famous monumental Renaissance Lindwurm Fountain, also known as the Dragon Fountain, dating back to the 16th century, which is the centerpiece of the Neuer Platz / New Square and one of the most photographed local attractions.

The city was founded as a medieval market town and a stronghold on one of the main trading routes in the Duchy of Carinthia. It was first mentioned in an official historic document as “foro Chlagenvurth” in the end of the 12th century. In the late Medieval age and the yearly Renaissance years he town survived floods, fires, enemy attacks, earthquakes and other disasters. After a total devastation by a huge fire in 1514, the Holy Roman Emperor gave the city to the control of the local nobles, who managed to revive Klagenfurt, bringing a period of new economical and cultural prosperity. A floating canal was constructed, connecting the town with Lake Wörther and bringing ships with timber materials to rebuild the new capital city of the duchy, following the new Renaissance ideas.

View of Neuer Platz
In the early 19th century the conquering troops of Napoleon destroyed the Renaissance walls of Klagenfurt. In the following years the city developed into an important cultural centre of Carinthian Slovenes. A number of prominent Slovene scientists, politicians, poets and artists studied, lived and worked here.

In the end of the World War One the city was occupied by the troops of the newly founded by the victorious great powers – Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1920 the Carinthian Plebiscite was held and the major part of the mixed local population voted the city and the region to remain in Austria.

In the 1930s Klagenfurt lived a new period of economic boom. The number of its citizens grew with more than a half. But in the following World War Two it was a victim of 41 allied Anglo-American aircraft bomb attack, killing hundreds of people and destroying or seriously damaging more than 1500 buildings. After the end of the war the Yugoslav military forces tried to gain control over the city again but they had to withdraw under the British and US diplomatic pressure. Soon after that the regions of Carinthia and Styria formed the British occupation zone in Austria, which lived until 1955.

The following years Klagenfurt developed as a prosperous modern Austrian city with rich historic and cultural heritage. It was the first city in the country, which created a pedestrian zone in 1961. The town was awarded by the pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage for the extensive restoration work in its attractive old town centre.