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Hohenems is a town in the westernmost Austrianmarker state of Vorarlbergmarker, in the Dornbirn district. It lies in the middle of the Austrian part of the Rhinemarker valley. With a population of 15,200 it is the fifth largest municipality in Vorarlberg. Hohenems' attractions include a Renaissance palace dating back to the 16th century and a Jewish museum.


The town is located at 432 m (1417 ft) above sea level, about 16 km (10 mi) south of Lake Constancemarker. Hohenems extends for 5.5 km (3.4 mi) from north to south and 8.2 km (5.1 mi) from west to east. Its total area is 29 km², of which 42 % are covered with forest. The oxbow lake of the river Rhine in the west, forming the border of Austria as well as EU to Switzerlandmarker, and the mountainside in the east implies the narrowest point of the Austrian Rhine valley. The Schlossberg ("castle mountain"), elevation 740 m (2,400 ft), depicts a distinctive backdrop of the town centre.

Hohenems is subdivided into the neighborhoods of Markt (centre), Oberklien and Unterklien (north), Hohenems-Reute (east), Schwefel (south) and Herrenried (west). It is surrounded by six other municipalities, Lustenaumarker and Dornbirnmarker in the Dornbirn district (north and east), Fraxernmarker, Götzismarker and Altachmarker in the Feldkirch district (south) and Diepoldsaumarker in the Swiss canton St. Gallenmarker (west).


Town hall, built in 1567 as lordly guesthouse
The summit of the Schlossberg, within 45 minutes walk from town centre, hosts the ruins of Alt-Ems, a castle dating back to the 9th century. From 12th century it was among the biggest fortifications of the German parts. The stronghold was very strung-out and extended up to 800 m (2,625 ft) in length and 85 m (280 ft) in width. The counts and knights of Hohenems resided there, being at the peak of fame from 13th to 16th century.

On a crest near Alt-Ems the Burg Neu-Emsmarker (also "Schloss Glopper") is located, built in 1343. In 1407 both castles were destroyed during the Appenzell Wars and rebuilt shortly afterwards. Burg Neu-Ems is still intact today and in the private property of the Waldburg-Zeil family, descendants of the counts of Hohenems.

The Renaissance palace in the centre of Hohenems
The Renaissance palace stands at the foot of the Schlossberg and dominates the main square of town, the Schlossplatz. It was built from 1562 to 1567 under the direction of Martino Longhi the Elder. In the 18th century Hohenems was noted for the discovery of two manuscripts of the Nibelungenlied, found in 1755 and 1779 in the palace's library.

The first time Hohenems received the rights and liberties of a city (German Stadtrecht) already was in 1333, but the town never made use of this municipal law. Only at the 650th anniversary of the Stadtrecht, in 1983, the government of Vorarlberg entitled Hohenems to all city rights.

Jewish heritage

Marktstrasse (market street), former Christengasse (Christian street)
With a charter in 1617 a Jewish community established in Hohenems, and among other things a synagogue, a ritual bath (mikvah), a school and a poorhouse were built. Also a cemetery was set out on the southern outskirts of town. The origination of the first coffee house (1797) and the first bank and insurance company (1841) in Vorarlberg was a result of the Jewish economic activity in the town. The community reached its peak in 1862, as 564 Jewish citizens lived in Hohenems. That corresponds to 12 % of the town's population at that time. In 1942 this chapter of Hohenems' history was violently terminated with the Deportation of the last Jewess Frieda Nagelberg.

A part of the Jewish quarter with the former synagogue
The synagogue passed the Kristallnacht without damages, although it was acquired by the municipality after the war and converted into a fire station. All elements which reminded of the synagogue had been removed or destroyed. This state lasted until 2001, when the synagogue was partly reconstructed. The Jewish quarter, which is under monumental protection since 1996, consists of numerous town houses and mansions surrounding the synagogue. Along with the former Christengasse (Christian Street), now Marktstrasse (Market Street), it forms the urban core of Hohenems.

In 1991 the Jewish Museum Hohenems was opened in a mansion in the centre of the Jewish quarter. The museum remembers the history of the Jewish community in Hohenems, the few remaining objects it presents (predominantly two-dimensional) are testament to the elimination of all Jewish traces in Vorarlberg. The Jewish cemetery in the south of the town is just as old as the first Jewish settlement (1617) and still in use today. It probably contains more than 500 graves in total, from which 370 gravestones remain preserved up to now.


Exhibit in "Stoffel's sawmill"
Apart from the historical sites, the town centre lacks urban ambience in relation to the number of inhabitants. However there is a certain number of hotels, shops and restaurants. On the outskirts near the motorway there are some branches of multinational trade chains and a ten-screen multiplex. On the way to Hohenems' mountain village Reute the Stoffels Säge-Mühle ("Stoffel's sawmill") museum can be found, which presents the history of saw milling and mill grinding technologies of 2,000 years.

Hohenems has several leisure facilities. In the mountain area there is a small ski resort (Schuttannen alp) and a rock climbing area called Löwenzähne ("lion's teeth") with walls up to 150 m (500 ft) and level 10. There also is a range of hiking and mountain biking routes. The town owns the biggest recreation and leisure centre (13 hectare) in Vorarlberg, situated at the banks of the river Rhine's oxbow lake.

Altes Krankenhaus (old hospital)
Since 1908 there is a hospital in Hohenems, when the Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Krankenhaus ("Queen Elisabeth hospital") was built in Art Nouveau. It hosts the palliative care unit of the provincial hospital today, which in 1972 was put up in form of a concrete block, contiguous to the old one. After long discussions, also the first crematory in the state of Vorarlberg was erected in 1998.


Two state roads, the Vorarlberger Strasse L190 and the Rheinstrasse L203 are crossing the municipality from north to south. The L46 leads from town centre to customs to Switzerland. Hohenems has motorway access to the Rheintal/Walgau-Autobahn (Austrian A14/European route E60) and connection to the Vorarlbergbahn railway line in directions Bregenzmarker and Innsbruckmarker, operated by the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). Within municipal borders the sole airfield of Vorarlberg is located, the Flugplatz Hohenems-Dornbirn with a 630 m (2,066 ft) runway.

Twin Towns

Hohenems is twinned with

 Bystrémarker and Poličkamarker in Czechiamarker (since 1997) 

Notable persons

External links


  1. Tiscover: Ruin Alt-Ems
  2. Jewish Museum Hohenems: The Synagogue
  3. Jewish Museum Hohenems: Jewish Cemetery
  4. Tiscover: Rheinauen
  5. Flugplatz Hohenems-Dornbirn
  6. Website of Hohenems - Sistercities: Bystre and Policka

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