Most surprising to the first-time visitor is the soft, natural light that brightens meeting and exhibit space even on a rainy day. Unlike some examples of contemporary architecture that feel cold and stark, Design Center Linz projects a cheerful warmth. Its innovative glass-roof construction not only allows outside light to enter the interior, but also reflects 80 percent of it--nearly doubling the natural light level.

Just a 45-minute flight or a two-hour drive from Vienna, Linz has redefined itself as a high-tech hub, but one that preserves its history and culture. In addition to the Design Center Linz, the city offers an interactive computer museum called ARS Electronica Center (www.aec.at). Its five exhibit floors include a virtual-reality flying machine and a multimedia representation of Linz.