A sleepy Austrian spa town where WWI began: Bad Ischl

Bad Ischl, AustriaOn a trip last summer through Austria, while driving through Upper Austria (Oberösterreich) when we passed near Bad Ischl and decided to stop and stretch our legs.

Bad Ischl was well-known among court society in the past centuries. the saltwater springs located here were discovered back in the 16th century, but it only became a fashionable spa resort in the early 1800s, when a court doctor recommended saline treatments for the Archduchess Sophie, who was having trouble conceiving.

Apparently, the salt water did the trick. During her time at Bad Ischl, she conceived the future Emperor Franz Joseph I.

Bad Ischl, AustriaEmperor Franz Joseph would later spend his holidays here, alongside his wife, Empress Elisabeth, in the Kaiservilla – which can still be visited.

It was here in the Kaiservilla where Emperor Franz Joseph signed the declaration of war with Serbia on 1 August 1914, thus setting off  a chain of events that would spark World War I…. and lead to the post-war dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

So this sleepy little spa town held an important place in 20th century history.

Bad Ischl, AustriaIt was also a center for artists and musicians, who would spend time here during the fashionable season. The Hungarian composer Franz Lehár (1870-1848) long called Bad Ischl home, and died here in 1848.

Lehár had studied at the Prague Conservatory and was encouraged to pursue a career in music by the talented Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

His operettas were fashionable at the time, perhaps his most famous was the fabulous Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow). This worldwide success introduced a new style of Viennese operetta, with the use if waltz tunes and Parisian cancan dances. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time on this visit, but Bad Ischl has a small Lehár Museum in his former residence. Next visit!

So, when in Upper Austria, enjoy your time in the pretty spa town of Bad Ischl. For more regional tips, see my earlier post on visiting Freistadt.


  1. Emma on May 10, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    We are thinking of going to Austria later this year – a place I’ve never been. Looks gorgeous.

    • kimberlysullivan on May 11, 2016 at 8:08 am

      You’ll enjoy your trip to Austria, Emma. Such a beautiful place and so much to see. This last visit was a hiking trip – wish I were back there now!

  2. […] tips about towns to see while passing through Upper Austria, see my earlier posts about visiting Bad Ischl and […]

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