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Step back into the past- Castles in Salzburg region

Are you into medieval movies and books? Are you fascinated by the Middle Ages? Do you wish you could live in a castle like in Game of Thrones? Do you want to feel powerful like a king or a queen? If yes, then I have the right places for you:

The majestic Hohensalzburg Fortress

One of the top attractions in the city of Salzburg and its emblem, is the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which is one of the best preserved castle in Europe. Towering above the city, the fortress has become an integral part of its silhouette and it radiates a sense of power since the year it was founded. It sits on top of the Festungsberg which is adjacent to the Mönchsberg hill, which offers a lot of hidden natural spots. The castle is open al year long and it is definitely a must for everyone spending time in Salzburg.

History of the Fortress

The intimidating construction represents the wish of the archbishop princes of the past to prove and show off their political power. Archbishop Gebhard had the fortress built in 1077. His successors then continued to shape and improve the castle’s architecture and appearance. Around 1500 Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach completed the fortress as it can be seen today.

For ages this impressive monument was envied for its key position at the northern edge of the Alps. Originally, the aim of the fortress was to safeguard the archbishops from enemy attacks, yet the fortress never had to test its defensive function since no-one attacked Salzburg for a thousand years.The archbishop princes lived in the Salzburg Residence, a palace located in the historic center.

Attractions and highlights of the castle

Hohensalzburg Fortress was opened to the public in the 1860s by Emperor Franz Josef. The castle has many highlights in store for curious visitors with its richly furnishes rooms, wonderful salons, museums and a spectacular view.

Spectacular view from the Hohensalzburg Fortress

Courtyard and bastions

You can start your visit by walking along the exterior side of the castle in order to see the antique walls and casemates. From the Kuenburg Bastion you can snap some pictures of the views below, so take your time! Then you can go to the courtyard, which was the main square of the castle residents, a community of a thousand people who could be self-sufficient in case of necessity. In the past here you could find the shops of craftsmen, bakers and other merchants.

The panorama tour

If you go on the tour you will not be disappointed because it offers the most astonishing panoramic views of Salzburg. The tour itself is very interactive, you can play golden musical instruments or discover new legends. Look out for these little details! 

Prince’s chambers and Magic theater

If you have an all-inclusive ticket you can now see the Prince’s chambers and the Magic theater. There are several rooms you can visit:

  • The Golden Chamber with gorgeous Gothic wood carvings and walls covered with grapes, foliage, and animals. 
  • The Golden Hall, where banquets used to take place in the past, has a gold ceiling that evokes a starry sky. 
  • The Sleeping Chamber

 

Museum of the Fortress in Salzburg

Fortress Museum

The Fortress Museum provides information on the history of the fortress and it shows how everyday life looked like here throughout the years. It shows kitchen utensils from the past, torture instruments and fancy royal apartments.

Rainer Regiments Museum

The museum is dedicated to the local soldiers that fought in World War I. It displays weapons, uniforms and other relics from the past.

Puppet Museum

Last but not least you can visit the Puppet Museum which has several fun and interactive rooms which display the famous puppets from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” to “The Sound of Music”.

Time to eat and drink

How to get to Hohensalzburg fortress

After all this history it’s time for a break. If you want to try the local gastronomic specialties you have two options: the fortress brewery “Burgschenke” or the Panorama restaurant zur Festung Hohensalzburg restaurant where you can simply eat a strudel or drink an iced coffee with a spectacular view.

Hohensalzburg Castle sits on top of the Festungsberg, 200 meters above the city’s old town. It is a steep 20-minute walk from the center and if you are not in the mood for it you can enjoy a comfortable 1-minute ride up on the glass funicular (Festungsbahn). Its latest feature is the panorama window from which you can enjoy a beautiful view . If you decide to walk ( and also save money), you can follow the signs from Kapitelplatz.

The amazing Hohenwerfen castle

Less known is the Hohenwerfen Fortress in the south of Salzburg. The castle towers above the Salzach Valley on top of a 100 meters high elevation. It’ a real eye-catcher and it provides visitors with amazing views. The Hohenwerfen Fortress is definitely worth visiting: the overall experience is priceless, refreshing, a real step into the past. From the peak you can feel the peace, the breeze caressing your face, the adrenaline rushing…you are the true King in Werfen. Throughout the year there are countless events such as special falconry programs, festivals, concerts, theater performances and folklore evenings. In winter, the castle is closed to the public.

History of the castle

The powerful castle was built at the same time as Hohensalzburg Fortress, so in the 11th century, and it is of the best preserved buildings of the late Middle Ages. Over the centuries the strategic bulwark has been enlarged and renovated numerous times. For example 1524-1525.

It was destroyed during the peasant war but the uprising was crushed and prisoners of war were ordered to restore the castle. Hohenwerfen was a defensive fortification and it also served as a prison for many centuries. Rulers such as Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1611) were held captive here.

Because of the spectacular location and its splendor the fortress was used as a set for several movies, such as “Where eagles dare” and until 1987 it also sheltered a training camp for the Austrian Police. Nowadays the fortress functions as a museum.

Highlights and attractions

Hohenwerfen Castle is an adventure castle. It offers fascinating insights into architectural history and life in the fortress. Among the numerous attractions offered by the fortress are guided tours, a various special exhibitions exhibit, the historical Salzburg Falconry with the falconry museum.

Guided tour

A guided tour of the fortress includes a walk around the castle chapel, the pitch kitchen, the torture chamber, the dungeon the armoury and arsenal featuring an exhibition of the weapons over the ages. The phrase of the famous archbishop Rathenau is written on the dungeon wall: “Love is the beginning of suffering”. The tour is available by audio guide in eleven languages. Tours of Hohenwerfen Fortress are often combined with a trip through the world’s largest ice caves at Eisriesenwelt near Werfen.

Flight demonstration in Hohenwerfen

Falconry

In the summer months on the large Linden Meadow daily spectacular flight demonstrations take place with the eagles, hawks and falcons and vultures of the Historical State Falconry Center. They are an absolute magnet for visitors.

So tourists are introduced to the art of falconry. It is truly amazing because you have the opportunity to see close hand the elegance of these birds as well as their velocity and hunting skills. 

The archbishops of Salzburg used Hohenwerfen Fortress for a short period as a hunting base. The castle also houses Austria’s very first museum of falconry which also offers an educational trail for those interested in learning about birds of prey.

Middle Ages Salzburg witch trials

Exhibition of the legend of Jackl, wizards and witches in Salzburg 

There is a fascinating new exhibition dedicated to the Jackl myth and the witches and wizards in Salzburg. It provides information about one of the darkest chapters of Salzburg history, about witch trials and magical practices. Tourists can explore the 4 floors, each one dedicated to a different theme.

Interaction is the key word of the exhibition. There are a lot of instagrammable spots where you have the opportunity to take pictures and there is also a 3D holographic re-enactment of an interrogation during a witch trial.

Time to eat and shop

How to get here

If you really want to step into another time-period you need to make a stop at the fortress tavern which offers refreshments and can be rented for private medieval events.

The tavern is located in a colorful garden where there are a lot of medieval shops and games. You can finally buy the medieval costume or the sword that you have always dreamed of!

Hohenwerfen Fortress is only a 30-minute drive from the city of Salzburg on the freeway. Otherwise you can take the S-Bahn local rail service which runs every 30 minutes between the city of Salzburg and Werfen.

Then you have to options: you can walk for 30 minutes to the fortress on the “Vogel-tennweg” and reach the first and second gateway arches where the ticket window is located or you can use the elevator from the car park to the castle courtyard for an additional price. From the station Werfen you can also order a shuttle to Hohenwerfen Castle.

The walk is quite steep so we can say for a fact that the castle is breathtaking.

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