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The winsome little walled town of ENNS, 6km southwest of Mauthausen, is an easy day-trip from Linz by train. Situated close to the confluence of the Enns and the Danube, it has been a strategically important site for more than two millennia. Under the Romans, the town was known as Lauriacum, and served as the civil capital of Noricum and military base of the Second Legion, who guarded this section of the imperial frontier. From 1945–55, Enns was the key entry/exit point between the Soviet and American occupation zones; today, it lies along the border between Lower and Upper Austria.
The town's Hauptplatz is very attractive, lined with pastel-coloured Baroque facades that often conceal older, arcaded courtyards. Numerous examples can be seen from the top of the colossal sixteenth-century Stadtturm (May– Oct 8am–8pm; Nov– April 9am–6pm; 1), a lookout tower and belfry which soars 60m from the centre of the square. To examine one of these courtyards more closely, check out the Alte Burg, on Wienerstrasse, or no. 4a Bräunerstr, which runs parallel with Linzerstrasse.
Back on Hauptplatz, the pink, sixteenth-century Altes Rathaus now serves as the Museum Lauriacum (April– Oct Tues– Sun 10am– noon & 2–4pm; Nov– March Sun 10am– noon & 2–4pm; 5; Web: www.museum-lauriacum.at ), housing an exhaustive display of pottery, ironware and funerary sculpture unearthed from the Roman settlement. Undoubted showpiece is the second-century ceiling fresco that has been reassembled in one of the upstairs rooms, depicting a ruddy-skinned Cupid whispering sweet nothings to a young woman. An adjacent alcove displays silver tableware from the same period, notably a beaker decorated with animated hunting scenes. Further archeological remains can be viewed at the Gothic St Laurenz-Basilika, 1km northwest of the Altstadt off the road to Linz, on the site of the Roman town. Here, the altar has been moved forward, and the chancel floor ripped away to reveal the foundations of a Romano-Celtic temple (180 AD), an early Christian church (370 AD), perhaps founded by St Severin, and a later Carolingian church (740 AD). Roman fresco fragments and the remains of a hypocaust heating system can be seen in the crypt (guided tours in German only; April– Oct daily at 4pm; 4).
Enns' train station is 1500m northwest of the Hauptplatz, beyond the St Laurenz-Basilika; buses from Linz and Steyr drop you on the main square. If you want to stay, you can get private rooms (Price: 31–45) in the Altstadt through the tourist office, at the base of the Stadtturm (May, June & Sept Mon– Fri 9am–6pm; July & Aug Mon– Fri 9am–7pm, Sat 9am–1pm; Oct– April Mon– Fri 9am–3pm; Tel:07223/82777, Web: www.oberoesterreich.at/enns ). The Hotel Lauriacum, Wienerstr 5–7 (Tel:07223/82315, Web: www.lauriacum.at ; Price: 91–110), is the top place to stay, offering tastefully decorated en suites. However, Gasthof zum Goldenen Schiff (Tel:07223/86086, Web: www.hotel-brunner.at ; Price: 61–75), at Hauptplatz 23, offers similar comforts for less money. For no-nonsense Austrian food, try the specials (around 7.50) at the Gasthauszur Stadt Linz, Hauptplatz 4.