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Hohensalzburg Castle, Austria

Visited August 2016

Location Salzburg, Austria
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Salzburg Central
Parking City Centre
Facilities Cafe, Shop, Toilets


You could say of Hohensalzburg Castle that it is not to be missed but it would also be true to say that it is impossible to miss, dominating as it does the skyline of the city of Salzburg from every angle. Built up on the hill known as Festungsberg (Fortress Hill)  in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein, it was essential for the defence of Salzburg.  






The Archbishops of Salzburg lived like Princes because of the wealth of the city which was due to the lucrative salt mining in the nearby mountains. This often pitched them against the Royal family of Bavaria in Germany, so the castle at Salzburg was a necessary defence during the many disputes that arose between the two powers.


It started out as a simple motte and bailey castle with a wooden palisade fence. Further building work was undertaken by a succession of Archbishops, and in 1515 a primitive funicular was installed, for the delivery of freight up to the castle. This line is still in existence, although it has been updated over the centuries, and as such it is the oldest functioning cliff railway in the world. In 1892 a second funicular was built, this is the one used by the tourists today, albeit it with much updated equipment.


The castle has also been used as a prison. One of Salzburg's most famous Archbishops , Wolf Dietrich von Ratenau died here in 1616, after being captured in 1611 during yet another clash with the Duke of Bavaria, Maximilian I. It was used again as a prison during the Napoleonic wars, and remained in military use until 1861. After that it saw periodic use, especially in the 1930's when it was used to detain Nazi activists, prior to the annexation of Austria by Hitler's forces in 1938.





These days the castle is used solely for tourism and occasional music concerts. At 250 metres long and 150 metres wide the castle complex is one of the largest in Europe, and the medieval buildings are some of the best preserved. The castle can be reached on foot (about 15 minute walk) or by the funicular (about 2 minutes ) Once inside the castle walls there are courtyards and domestic buildings which were built to house the population of Salzburg in the event of a siege. The most important buildings are those once used by the Archbishops, these luxurious apartments were on the upper floors of the large keep. The state rooms used for entertaining guests of the Archbishops were richly decorated, the aptly named Golden Chamber has a gold painted ceiling and gold-embossed tapestries on the wall. The lower rooms in the keep make up the museum, with exhibits from every era of the castle's history, including some life-like recreations of WWI trenches. 


The castle is mainly free-flow, and audio tours are available. There is also a Marionette Museum in the castle, with puppets of all descriptions, including the entire von Trapp family from 'The sound of Music', who along with Mozart, are also impossible to miss in Salzburg. The puppet museum is very hands-on, and so is popular with children of all ages.





The castle gets really busy in the summer months, we visited in August and it became almost impossible to move up there after about 2pm. Early morning is the best time to visit, aim to have seen the state rooms and museum by about midday and it should not be too bad. Other times of the year are probably not as crowded. Salzburg holds an international music festival every August so that is always the busiest time of year for tourism. There is a restaurant in the castle, which is situated on the south terrace and affords wonderful views. It is more expensive than some of the restaurants down in the town, but given the location that is to be expected. The food is good though, and at midday it was not too busy, we managed to get a table by the terrace wall so that we could take advantage of the views as we were eating.


Salzburg is a cosmopolitan city with many other interesting sights including Mozart's birthplace, the Cathedral, the Mirabell Palace and gardens and numerous churches and museums. The mountains are nearby and easily reached. The shopping and eating possibilities are numerous and varied. Children are well catered for and welcomed almost everywhere. In short, it is a great destination for a visit with the added advantage of a fantastic castle at its heart!





More info:  Hohensalzburg Castle

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