Bregenz (German pronunciation: [ˈbʁeːgɛnt͡s] (About this soundlisten), (Vorarlbergian ['breagɐts]]) is the capital of Vorarlberg, the westernmost state of Austria. The city lies on the east and southeast shores of Lake Constance, the third-largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, between Switzerland in the west and Germany in the northwest.

Bregenz is located on a plateau falling in a series of terraces to the lake at the foot of Pfänder mountain. It is a junction of the arterial roads from the Rhine valley to the German Alpine foothills, with cruise ship services on Lake Constance.

It is famous for the annual summer music festival Bregenzer Festspiele, as well as the dance festival Bregenzer Spring.

The first settlements date from 1500 BC. The Brigantii are mentioned by Strabo as a Celtic sub-tribe in this region of the Alps.[3] In the 5th century BC, the Celts settled at Brigantion, which became one of their most heavily fortified locations. After a series of battles in 15 BC, the Romans conquered Brigantion and the city became a Roman camp. It was conferred the status of a municipality (Brigantium) around 50 AD and was the seat of the Roman admiralty for Lake Constance. In 259/60 Brigantium was destroyed by the Alemanni, Germanic peoples who settled in the area in around 450.

From 610 to 612 Saint Columbanus and Saint Gall worked as missionaries in Bregenz. From 917 onwards the castle served as a residence of the Udalrichinger (ruling dynasty of Vorarlberg), who called themselves Counts of Bregenz. The house died out around 1150. The son of the first Ulrich was Saint Gebhard, born in 947. He became the Bishop of Konstanz. In around 1170 Hugo of Tübingen (Montfort) founded a town settlement (first documented in 1249), enlarged it in the 13th and 14th centuries and from 1650 to 1652.[4]

The city was sold in 1451, and again in 1523, to the Habsburgs and continued under Austrian rule, with a brief occupation by Swedish forces under Carl Gustaf Wrangel during the 30 Years' War, until the 19th century. Bregenz was under Bavarian rule from 1805 to 1814. From 1842 to 1850, the harbour on Lake Constance was built, then enlarged in 1883 and from 1889 to 1891, and Austrian ship service was inaugurated in 1884. Railway services have existed since 1872, and since 1884 across the Arlberg massif.

Since 1726, Bregenz has been the main seat of Austrian administration in Vorarlberg (Obervogtei, in 1786 Kreisamt, since 1861 seat of the Landtag, since 1918 seat of the Landeshauptmann). Rieden-Vorkloster and Fluh were incorporated into Bregenz in 1919 and 1946, respectively. The town was bombed by the Allies in 1945, and 72 houses were destroyed.

Sights in the district of Vorkloster include the Maria Hilf parish church (1925–1931, by C. Holzmeister, interior from 1980) and the Cistercian monastery of Mehrerau.

On the Gebhardsberg rock are remains of the fortress of Hohenbregenz (destroyed by the Swedes in 1647).

Bregenz is the seat of the Vorarlberg State Assembly (Landtag), and of most of the provincial authorities/institutions of Vorarlberg (e.g. school superintendent, police headquarters, department of human resources development (AMS), Office for Environmental Protection, Chamber of Labour, Economics Chamber, Chamber of Agriculture, Chamber of Pharmacists, military regional headquarters, military garrison, one of the main hospitals of the province (Landeskrankenhaus), as well as a sanatorium, farmers' health and social insurance office, VLV (Mutual Fire Insurance Institute).

A consulate-general of Turkey,[6] and honorary consulates of Belarus, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, and Switzerland are located in Bregenz. Honorary consulates of Finland and the United Kingdom are located in nearby Lauterach, and an honorary consulate of Brazil in nearby Hard.[7]

Bregenz is home to four Gymnasium secondary schools, a commercial college (HAK), a technical college (HTL), upper secondary business schools (Höhere Lehranstalt für wirtschaftliche Berufe), three Berufsschulen (vocational schools), crafts colleges, the Academy of Social Sciences, and a nursing school. Others include: an adult education centre, school boarding houses, state archives, a state library, a state museum, Kunsthaus Bregenz (modern arts centre), Künstlerhaus (art centre), Thurn und Taxis Palace, five monasteries, Heimatwerk (autonomous institution fostering the manufacturing of traditional craft products), and various newspapers.

Festival and Congress centre, Theater am Kornmarkt, casino, harbour for sailing boats and yachts, cable car up onto the Pfänder mountain.

The economy is mainly dominated by small businesses in the services, trade and industry sectors: these include the textile industry (Wolford AG), fittings manufacturer Julius Blum GmbH, glass processing and machine construction.

Bi-seasonal tourism is important; a major attraction is the Bregenz Festival (since 1946, floating stage since 1949, modernised in 1979, Festival and Congress Hall in 1980), winter sports on the Pfänder mountain.

The annual summer music festival Bregenzer Festspiele is world-famous, taking place in July and August each year on and around a stage on Lake Constance. This festival attracts more than 150,000 people every year to Bregenz (2011: 166,453, 2016: 159,172) and has a budget of around EUR 20 million.[8] The program changes every two years. In 2016 the main opera performed was Turandot by Giacomo Puccini, in 2017 and 2018 Carmen by Georges Bizet. In 2021 the opera will be Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi.

In addition to playing on the lake stage, orchestral concerts and operas also take place in the adjacent festival theatre. There is also a children's and youth program during and before the beginning of the festival.

The lake stage (Seebühne) is the largest open-air theatre in the world, with an audience capacity of around 7,000.[9][Needs better, independent reference.]

Since 2014, the Bregenz Jazz Festival has been held every year in June at the Kornmarktplatz. It is the successor of the New Orleans Festival, which took place from 1999 to 2013, during the early summer, in the inner city of Bregenz, and which was no longer supported by the initiator Markus Linder. In addition to the change of name, there was also a musical genre change from blues to jazz. The location and the timing stayed roughly the same.[10]

Since 1987, Bregenzer Spring, a dance festival, has been held every year between March and May in the Festival Hall of Bregenz. Dance ensembles from all over the world perform their new productions, along with Austrian premieres. With a budget of around EUR 500,000 and up to 10,000 visitors, Bregenzer Spring is one of the most important dance festivals in Austria.[11]

Bregenz is twinned with:


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