It has a long history as a manufacturing center, and has given its name to several manufacturers headquartered there, such as Steyr Mannlicher (a firearms manufacturer best known for the Steyr AUG), Steyr Tractor, and Steyr Automobile.
Steyr marked its 1,000th anniversary in 1980, undergoing extensive restoration of its historic architecture made the city one of the best preserved old towns in Austria. Steyr is famous for its historic town center around the "Stadtplatz" (town square), which has been very well preserved for several hundred years, and which was largely restored following World War II. Its best-known piece of architecture is called The Bummerlhaus which is considered one of the finest pieces of Gothic architecture for its size in Central Europe.
The city is very attractively situated, with two rivers the Steyr and the Enns flowing through it and meeting near the town centre in the shadows of Babenberg castle "Lamberg" and the church of St. Michael. This prominent location has been susceptible to severe flooding through the centuries until the present, one of the worst cases at last in August 2002.
To the south of city, rises a series of hills that climb in altitude and stretch out to the Alps. To the north, the hills roll downward towards the confluence of the Enns and Danube rivers, where the city of Enns is situated.
Historically, Steyr has had a number of well-known residents or visitors, including Franz Schubert who wrote his "Trout Quintet" there while on holiday, composer Anton Bruckner, was the organist for the local pfarrkirche, or parish church. Adolf Hitler spent a brief period there while in his teens. Hitler, who lived in a room at the Grünmarkt, went to the realschule of Steyr in 1904.
In 1934, the city became one of several battlegrounds between Social Democrat and Christian Social Parties (and their respective Schutzbund and Heimwehr militias) in the Austrian Civil War that brought about the fascist corporate state that ruled the country until the German Anschluss in 1938.
Because it was such a major producer of arms and vehicles during the Second World War, Steyr became a target of Allied bombing raids which tried to knock out its factories. Much of the town was badly damaged, but the factories continued to function until near the end of the war. A dark point in Steyr's history was the placement of a Nazi concentration camp, part of the Mauthausen network, in Steyr. The city was a meeting point in May 1945 when units of the 5th Guards Airborne of the Red Army and black troops of the US 761st Tank Battalion along with the 71st Infantry Division contacted each other on the bridge over the Enns River. Steyr was occupied -- divided, like Berlin -- by Soviet and American troops until 1955 when Austria officially declared neutrality.
Steyr is home of the Museum Industrielle Arbeitswelt (labour museum).