Friesach (Slovene: Breže) is a municipality with 4948 inhabitants (as of January 1, 2020) in northern Carinthia. It is the oldest city in Carinthia and is known for its medieval buildings that are still well preserved today, such as the city fortifications and the water-bearing city moat.

Silver and iron finds from the La Tène and Roman times in today's municipal area indicate that the area that the city occupies today was settled at an early age. The Roman imperial road Via Julia Augusta ran right through the middle of today's city: It ran from intermediate waters to Wildbad Einöd roughly along the current route of the B 317.

Numerous place and river names testify to the settlement of the region by the Slavs in the late 6th century; Friesach is also derived from the Slavonic Breže (place near the birches). The subjugation of the Karantan Slavs around 740 was followed by settlement by Bavarians, who came to Carinthia in particular via the Neumarkter Sattel. In and around Friesach a number of farms were built. In 860, Ludwig the German transferred several goods to the Archbishop of Salzburg, Adalwin, including the Hof ad Friesah (in front of Friesach), which is the oldest documented mention of the place.

To the south-east of this courtyard, Count Wilhelm founded a market between 1016 and 1028 on the basis of a privilege granted by King Konrad II, which was abandoned around 100 years later, between 1124 and 1130.

Due to its favorable location on one of the main trade routes between Vienna and Venice, the market quickly rose to become an important trading center in the Middle Ages. The place was a main staging area in Italian traffic. In 1215 the market was raised to the status of a city. Friesach experienced its heyday under Archbishop Eberhard II (1200–1246) and developed into the second largest city of the Archbishopric of Salzburg and the most important city of today's Carinthia. The archbishops first minted the Friesacher Pfennig in 1130, which remained a supra-regional means of payment as far as Eastern Hungary for over two centuries. The silver used in the coin was partly mined in the nearby tent chess.

Friesach was not only an economic, but also a religious center of that time. The Salzburg archbishops had a residence built in Friesach and numerous church orders also settled there. At the end of the 13th century, as a result of clashes between the Salzburg archbishops, the Habsburgs and Bohemia, the city was conquered, looted and destroyed by arson three times within a few decades. On March 20, 1292, the uprising of the Landsberg Confederation against Duke Albrecht I was temporarily ended by the settlement of Friesach in the Friesach Castle, after the town had been stormed and cremated by Albrecht's troops.


The city remained a part of the Prince Archbishopric of Salzburg until 1803, but lost its importance and could no longer build on the economic and cultural heyday of the Middle Ages.

Since Friesach was constituted as a political municipality in 1850, its scope has been changed several times. The cadastral community of Töschelsdorf (1873) as well as Zeltschach (1890) and Micheldorf (1892) split off from the original municipality. On the occasion of the municipal structural reform in 1973, the previously independent local parishes of St. Salvator, Zeltschach and Micheldorf were incorporated, the latter becoming independent again in 1992.

In the course of the emerging summer tourism in Carinthia, a beautification association was founded in Friesach in 1881, which among other things had the goal of "preventing the destruction of ruins and the dragging of antiquities". A sidewalk was built along Bahnhofstrasse, the Roman and Jewish stones scattered around the city were collected, park benches, tables and information boards were set up, and "Bengali lighting" was installed on the town square and the ruins. At the beginning of the 1890s, a swimming pool was built, which was taken over by the club in 1900. Further sports activities followed with the establishment of tennis courts and the organization of excursions by the cycling club. This created important foundations for the tourist infrastructure in Friesach during this period.

The Carinthian Provincial Exhibition of 2001 under the motto Schauplatz Mittelalter showed the city in the Middle Ages as a central theme, which should bring about sustainable impulses for tourism. In May 2009 a construction site for a castle building project based on the model of Guédelon was officially opened on a hill in the south of the city. This project was intended to show how a castle could be built using medieval working methods. In 2011, however, the project organization was fundamentally changed, the keep that had begun was blown up for static reasons and the facility continued with a more tourist focus.