The town at the foot of the Schlossberg can look back at an eventful history: at the end of the 12th century, Alt-Ems castle was one of the largest castle complexes in the whole of southern Germany. It was in 1562 that the Counts of Hohenems started building the Renaissance palace at the foot of the Schlossberg. Back then, they were related to the Medicis in Milan. The half-brother of Countess Hortensia, the famous counter-reformer, Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan Charles Borromeo, even paid a visit to his sister in Hohenems. Two of the most important manuscripts of the Niebelungenlied were found in the castle library in the 18th century. A Jewish community established itself between the 17th and 19th centuries under the protectorate of the Counts of Hohenems, bringing with it cultural as well as economic stimuli.
Vorarlberg’s first printer’s was in Hohenems. It is also where Vorarlberg’s first coffee house opened in 1797, with a reading society soon becoming established in “Kaffeehaus Kitzinger”. The further course of history is well known: like the rest of Europe, Hohenems sank into a state of cultural dormancy which, however, has clearly ended by now. Not only the Schubertiade, with its international audience, has been a fixture in the town for decades – the careful review by the Jewish Museum and the restoration of the former Jewish buildings provide a stimulating cultural life in Hohenems. The fact that it is picturesquely nestled at the foothills of the Schlossberg and on the banks of the Old Rhine also makes the small town into a valuable recreation area.