Nestling among the low hills of southern Carinthia, sedate and prosperous KLAGENFURT may lack the cultural pedigree of Salzburg or Innsbruck, but it's an absorbing provincial capital nevertheless. A small, easily digestible city, its appeal lies mostly in its proximity to Wörthersee, just 3km west of the centre – the lakeside Europapark, site of the much-visited Minimundus, is a major tourist draw. In addition, a fairly absorbing provincial museum and a varied choice of restaurants and nightlife make this a good urban base for touring much of rural Carinthia.
Founded in the twelfth century by the Von Spannheims, a family of soldier-aristocrats from the Rhineland, Klagenfurt grew in importance when Emperor Maximilian I ordered its redevelopment as provincial capital in 1518. Italian architect Domenico dell'Allio (who also worked on the Landhaus in Graz) was responsible for the town's layout, creating the gridiron street plan still very much in evidence today. As was the case with so many Austrian cities, the town walls were demolished in 1809 on the insistence of the victorious Napoleon – their outline is traced by a quadrangular ring road today. Despite heavy damage in World War II, Klagenfurt's city-centre buildings retain many of their inner courtyards, now harbouring cafés and boutiques, which lend the place considerable charm.