Kitzbühel – a 750-year-old city
Kitzbühel is the town that gave its name to the town in the middle of the beautiful mountain world of the Kitzbühel Alps in the north-east of Tyrol. In summer, it is an ideal starting point for walks, hikes and mountain tours. In winter, it lies in the middle of a huge ski area, which is accessible by numerous comfortable lifts.
The town is internationally known as the venue of the Hahnenkamm Races, the annual highlight of the Alpine Ski World Cup season. Kitzbühel can look back with some pride on its foundation in 1271 and a history that is as long as it is varied.
The medieval old town with its late-Gothic facades, Gothic churches and Baroque works of art impressively demonstrate the economic and cultural flowering of early modern and Baroque times associated with the mining of silver and copper. They stand for a long urban tradition and an urban awareness that can hardly be found anywhere else in the Alps and which contribute greatly to the unmistakable charm of the 750-year-old Kitzbühel.
Crisis and new beginnings in the 19th century
With the decline of mining and the slackening of baroque building activity, an epoch of economic decline began at the end of the 18th century. After the closure of the “Rerobichl” in 1772, the mines on the Schattberg and Sinwell in the immediate vicinity of the town remained in operation until the beginning of the 20th century.
Their comparatively modest dimensions and their increasing unprofitability, combined with the problems of traditional agriculture and the decline of traditional craftsmanship, led to a veritable crisis during the 19th century. Kitzbühel became a modest rural community where, according to reports from contemporaries, poverty was no exception. A certain boom only began in the last two decades of this century, when travellers discovered the beauty of the landscape around Kitzbühel.
The connection to the Austrian railway network, achieved in 1875 through the efforts of Kitzbühel’s mayor Josef Pirchl, laid the foundation stone for the development of tourism in the town. Two years later the local Alpine Club section was founded, making the Kitzbühel mountains accessible to a wider public.
Tourism success story
The pioneering work of Franz Reisch, who can be regarded as the founder of skiing in Kitzbühel, was to prove of the greatest importance for tourism and thus for the economic (re)rise of the town.
It was on his initiative that the first winter sports activities took place in the 1990s, which very soon attracted guests from home and abroad. The summer resort was joined by winter sports: the Grand Hotel, built in 1902-1903, was the first address in the city for a long time and opened its doors a few years later in winter as well.
In the 1920s and 1930s Kitzbühel was home to an international, particularly English, clientele, the most famous of which was the English heir to the throne and later short-time king Edward VIII. This first heyday of international tourism came to an abrupt end with the seizure of power by the National Socialists, who were represented in Kitzbühel in above-average numbers, and the Second World War.
The new beginning that became necessary after that time gained enormous momentum with the economic miracle of the 1950s, which is reflected on a sporting level in the successes of the Kitzbühel “Ski Wonder Team” around three-time Olympic champion Toni Sailer. Kitzbühel regains its position as a tourist metropolis, as which it is still known today.
An old Bavarian border town
Kitzbühel’s location on a hill above the Kitzbühel Achental valley, which runs from south to north, makes one think of times long past. Times when the flatter surrounding countryside was uninhabitable floodplain and defensive capability was the most important requirement profile. In the Middle Ages, Kitzbühel and its surrounding area formed the south-easternmost part of the Duchy of Bavaria, surrounded by foreign territories to the east, south and west.
This very exposed location from a Bavarian point of view is probably also the reason why Duke Ludwig II raised the town in 1271. Kitzbühel was provided with a city wall and became a firm base of Bavarian interests. The policy of the dukes of Bavaria brought some success. Kitzbühel did not become part of Tyrol and Austria until 1506, when the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian was able to exploit Bavarian inheritance disputes in his favour.
Mining centre and cultural flowering in modern times and baroque
Even during the Bavarian rule, mining was developed in the late Middle Ages as a means of earning a living, and Kitzbühel owed its first great prosperity to this. At the end of the 15th century, smelting works in which the ores could be further processed are attested.
The really big boom, however, began around 1540, when the silver and copper deposits of the “Rerobichl”, a few kilometres north of the town, were discovered. In a very short time and sometimes without permission, a large number of shafts were driven into the ground, reaching depths of up to 900 metres and long considered the deepest in the world. The enormous financial expenditure involved, however, caused the yields to decline rapidly.
The peak of mining activity was already passed before 1600. For the following period, mining nevertheless remained a guarantee for the economic well-being of the city, which was to be followed somewhat later by an intellectual and cultural boom. In the Baroque era, Kitzbühel became a centre of art, which radiated as far as the Salzburg Pinzgau and Tyrolean Inn Valley.
Grassy mountains typical of the town – agricultural basis and powerhouse
The region around Kitzbühel was already settled 3000 years ago due to its geographical location in the middle of the typical local grass mountains. These grass mountains are not only significant for the appearance of Kitzbühel. The high alpine pastures and alpine pastures that are green all the way to the summit are the basis of the region’s important agriculture and tourism. The Grasberge offer a unique hiking paradise, for a wide range of activities from enjoyable walks, panoramic hikes to trail running. In winter, a thin surface of snow is enough to unpack the boards that mean the world to many.
Alfons Walde – an eye for beauty
Alfons Walde (1891-1958) shaped the image of Tyrol as a snowy mountainous region with paintings such as “Aufstieg” and “Auracher Kirchl”. On 250 m² 60 paintings and 100 graphics in the Kitzbühel Museum pay tribute to his work. The Aurach church becomes a symbolic image of Walde and the tourist term “Tyrol”. In the middle of the farmhouses rises the tower with the onion dome. Two farm women meet at the Kirchweg. The glistening sun spans the entire picture area up to the snowy slopes above the shady part of the forest. The farm is idyllically embedded in the snow field in the background.
Particularly appealing, however, is his early work, influenced by Gustav Klimt and the confrontation with Egon Schiele, represented by a few small-format, almost square pictures such as “Gasslrennen”, “Skierinnen” and “Skilanglauf”. The local landscape with idyllic atmospheric images, striking sacred and profane buildings in Kitzbühel, scenes from religious life and the world of sport are among his impressive early motifs.