Hohensalzburg fortress in Salzburg, Austria: The best-preserved castle in Central Europe
Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg, Austria, is the biggest and best-preserved castle in Central Europe, and definitely a must-see when visiting Salzburg.
Hohensalzburg Fortress was by far, my favorite attraction in Salzburg. It’s impossible not to be amazed by its impressive architecture, which shapes the city’s skyline and becomes Salzburg’s iconic feature.
I remember taking the short walk along the river from our hotel, catching that mesmerizing glimpse of the fortress perched above the city with the sun gleaming off its façade. And wait until you can actually visit the fortress: the 360-degree view of the city of Salzburg from above will take your breath away. All in all, I could spend hours taking photos from different angles, spending time walking through the corridors and admiring its stunning views.
Sitting atop the Festungsberg hill at an altitude of 506 meters, the fortress was constructed in 1077 serving as protection for the archbishops and principality from any hostile invaders. What’s more, the fortress is an example of power being flaunted – its impenetrable walls are a demonstration of the political authority and power the Salzburgian archbishops held at that time.
Hohensalzburg Fortress has never been captured or sacked by foreign troops, proving the defensive capabilities of this fortification’s walls. In order to erect such a powerful structure, the fortress was constructed in three phases, and continued to be expanded under the succeeding archbishops until 1500 when it evolved into today’s form.
What to do
Visiting Hohensalzburg Fortress will give you the chance to travel back in history as you meander along its stark walls and fortifications; you can’t help but get the sensation of a Renaissance era soldier keeping solitary watch over the city.
There are a couple of museums within the fortress which are worth visiting such as the Fortress Museum, which preserves the history behind the building and its grounds showcasing exhibits on the lives of prince archbishops; the Marionette Museum which has charming exhibits on the puppets used for one of Salzburgian’s favorite pastimes; and the Museum of the Rainer Regiment.
Museum of the Rainer Regiment: This museum preserves the history of Salzburg’s former home regiment, the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Infantry Regiment “Archduke Rainer” No. 59. This museum houses eight rooms which give a chronological account of the famed regiment’s history since its foundation back in 1682 to the first World War.
The Fortress Museum: Get immersed in the Salzburg’s history and check out the exhibits featuring selected objects highlighting the museum’s vast medieval collection along with visitor firendly large-scale media installations. This museum illustrates different aspects of the Middle Ages and how that impacted the art, culture, and history of Salzburg.
The Marionette Museum: This museum houses several exhibits from the world-famous Salzburg puppet theater in Schwarzstraße. This was one of the local’s favorite pastimes, and is worth checking out.
Armory: The armory was used to store fortress’ canons, guns and other weapons. However, in 2019, it was converted into an exhibition area where visitors can enjoy a tour of the entire array of armaments including weapons, explosive gunpowder, the sophisticated defensive fortress construction, and the shot and cannonball mills.
Prince’s Chambers & Magic Theater: Where you will learn about the life and work of Salzburg rulers.
Panorama restaurant: If you are hungry, head to the Panorama restaurant and enjoy traditional Austrian cuisine. The view alone is worth any time spent here, but so is the schnitzel. This is what I called eating with a fantastic view!
Tickets & opening hours
When you visit the fortress there are two types of tickets available: the basic and the all-inclusive. The basic ticket gives you access to the castle area (courtyards, bastions, and chapel), the panorama tour, along the Fortress Museum, Rainer Regiment Museum, Marionette Museum, and Armory. This ticket also includes the ascent and descent on the fortress railway (saving you the walk). The ticket costs €12,80 (US$15.8) for adults and €7,30 (US$9) for children.
The all-inclusive ticket includes all the above attractions plus the magic theater and princely chambers. This ticket costs €15.90 (US$19.4) for adults and €9.10 (US$11) for children. Family tickets are also available, if required. For up-to-date prices please visit the official website.
May – June: 9.00 am – 6.00 pm
July – Aug.: 9.00 am – 8:00 pm
Sept. – Dec.: 9.30 am – 5:00 pm
Accessing the fortress
You can choose between two different ways to access the fortress, either on foot or by taking the funicular located in the Festungsgasse. As we like to exercise during our trips, we decided to walk up and enjoy breath-taking panoramas along the way. The funicular runs every 10 minutes and the ride is very short, lasting only a minute. Either way, you’ll also be able to enjoy marvelous views of the city and surrounding mountainous landscape.
Best places to photograph the fortress
Because of its size and high altitude, Hohensalzburg Fortress dominates the city of Salzburg. For this reason, there are several spots where you will be able to capture the fortress from different angles. Here are my favorites ones:
Makartsteg Bridge: This bridge, open exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists, provides a great spot to photograph the Hohensalzburg Fortress. When taking the picture, you will be able to capture the fortress in the background, the Salzach River, as well as the colorful locks that lend a lively appearance to the bridge.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens: The Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 and today is home to both the municipal offices and the residence of Salzburg’s mayor. The gardens offer a stunning photo: the gardens and Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background dominating the skyline.
Kapuzinerberg: This hill offers a magnificent spot to capture the several towers of Hohensalzburg Fortress. Since you will be climbing up the Kapuzinerberg, this spot will allow you to capture the fortress from a similar height with the mountains in the background. Put your sneakers on and get ready for a heck of a walk to capture this amazing photo!
Mönchsberg: Located in the heart of the city, Mönchsberg offers forest paths and green areas drawing crowds of people who want to enjoy nature. There are several vantage points offering panoramic views above Salzburg’s rooftops with Hohensalzburg Fortress protecting the city.
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