Salzburg Castle

Without a doubt, the most impressive landmark in Salzburg, the Fortress looms over the city and is visible from almost everywhere.

It’s not surprising that this location was chosen as the site for a fortress given the uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside and the Salzach river. While it’s likely that the site was used as a lookout point back to Roman times, Salzburg Castle, as we know it today, dates from 1077 when Archbishop Gebhard started a project that has – so far – lasted almost a thousand years.

Over 250m long and 150m wide, this is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and certainly one with the best defensive record. Not once have the defences been breached by an invading army and the only time it ever came under serious attack was in 1525 when local miners and peasants unsuccessfully laid siege for almost 14 weeks during the aptly named ‘German Peasants War’.

The castle grew and changed over the centuries and there’s an excellent exhibition inside (included in the entrance ticket) which shows the evolution under the various Archbishops.

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The fortress served mainly defensive purposes until the end of the 15th century when Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach decided to turn it into a more formal Archbishop’s residence with some home comforts. A huge amount of money was ploughed into the castle by a city which was one of the wealthiest in the world, given the local gold and salt mining industry. The exterior we see today is largely unchanged since von Keutschachs time.

The famous (or infamous) Archbishop Wolf Dietrich, who has featured so prominently in the history of Salzburg, died in the fortress in 1617 having been imprisoned by his rival, Markus Sittikus.

The fortress was voluntarily surrendered to Napoleon in 1800 when the last Archbishop of Salzburg fled to Vienna. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars Salzburg was secularised and the fortress was used as a barracks and prison before being abandoned in 1861.

Interest in the castle was revived and renovation started towards the end of the 1800s. With the opening of the funicular in 1892 the future of the castle as a tourist attraction was assured. It was briefly used as a prison for Italian POWs during WW1 and in the early 1930s to hold some Nazi activists (long before the Anschluss which was largely welcomed by much of Austria).

The interior of the castle comprises of multiple courtyards, apartments, churches and hostelries. By the time it was complete, the fortress was a functioning village. Listed below are some of the more notable features.

Fun Fact

The peasants, farmers and miners who laid siege to the fortress in 1525 were of the belief that supplies were running out and it was only a matter of time before the Archbishop would have to surrender.

The legend goes that towards the end of the siege, the castle was indeed running low and was left with a single bull. To demonstrate to the peasants that they were wasting their time, the bull would be painted a different colour each day and paraded along the walls to demonstrate just how long the inhabitants could hold out. The plan seemed to work. The siege ended and the peasant army went back to work.

To rub their noses in it, the Archbishop brought the surviving bull to the river where he washed it, showing the townsfolk just how gullible they had been.

The Salzburg Bull

The Salzburg Bull is a huge mechanical organ-type instrument with over 200 pipes. It was installed in 1502 by Archbishop von Keutschach and was sounded several times a day to remind the townsfolk that it was time to work (more likely to remind them of the power of the Archbishop). It is the oldest still functioning instrument of its type in the world.

The Golden Hall

The Golden Hall can be found in the state apartments which were built by von Keutschach on the 3rd floor. The hall was used to receive visiting dignitaries and for state festivals. Of particular note are the sunken gold panels which decorate the ceiling. The huge beam used to support the ceiling has the von Keutschach coat of arms painted on it.

The Golden Chamber

The Golden Chamber is without doubt the most magnificent room of the castle. The walls used to be covered with gold embossed tapestry and the benches, still in place today, used to be covered in sumptuous leather upholstery.

Fun Fact

As the Prince Archbishops enhanced the fortress, they would ensure that the work was marked with their coat of arms. Leonhard von Keutschach came from a long line of wealthy turnip growers and his coat of arms naturally enough contains a turnip. As one of the most prolific builders of the castle, watch out for his turnip which can be found at well over 50 places within the castle walls.

In addition to the fortress museum and the state apartments you can also visit the Marionette Puppet Museum, the Chapel of Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach as well as his bed chamber. There are several restaurants in the castle and plenty of places to sit and rest. The castle is also home to the ‘Hohensalzburg Fortress Concerts’ which take place daily. More information on these can be found here.

Don’t Miss

If you do nothing else at the castle, at least make sure you get to take in the breath-taking views of the city and surrounding countryside from the top of the castle. The 360 degree lookout tower can be found when taking the Fortress Museum tour which is included in the cost of entry. The panorama is stunning.

Opening Hours:

January-April: 9:30 am-5 pm

May-September: 9 am-7 pm

October-December*: 9:30 am-5 pm

Dec. 24: 9:30 am-2 pm* (*last admission)

Guided tour of the interior rooms and lookout tower is with an audio guide.

The visit is difficult for wheelchair users and should be arranged in advance. Having said that, the funicular and a visit to the restaurant (with great view) is possible without advance planning.

Note that Group Discounts are available and that booking tickets online can save as much as €8.00. Check out the website here  for more details.

Check out our App or the Castle Website for more details on pricing and opening hours.

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From The Twitterverse


- February 5, 2018, 6:53 am

The colours on the #Untersberg were particularly stunning this morning as the sun rose over #Salzburg.
h J R

- January 31, 2018, 4:58 pm

If only I had a better camera. The great big moon they’ve been talking about for days is every bit as impressive as…
h J R

- January 26, 2018, 8:04 am

Who would have thought a cemetery could be such a highlight? St Peter’s Cemetery via…
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- January 25, 2018, 6:34 am

The start of another beautiful day in #Salzburg.
h J R

- January 24, 2018, 9:57 am

RT @WurldTwaveller: Lovely clear view from the #Kapuzinerberg this morning in #Salzburg. @MdMSalzburg with #Hochstaufen in the background.…
h J R

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