The Hohensalzburg fortress was top of our list of things to see in Salzburg, as it seemed to be mentioned by practically everyone who gave me a Salzburg recommendation. When travelling with the family I’ve learned to visit the thing that you really want to see at the start of the day, while you’re full of energy and then go with the flow as the fancy takes you.
It’s hardly surprising that so many people mentioned the castle to me, as wherever you are in the town it looms over you, dominating the town and all the inhabitants. It was above all a symbol of power of the Prince Archbishops who ruled over Salzburg, their wealth founded on the salt that was mined in the mountains around the city and brought down the river Salzach into the city.
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With our Salzburg card we skipped the queue at the ticket booth and took the funicular that’s included in the ticket price, up the rockface to the castle at the top, rising higher and higher above the rooftops and church spires of Salzburg. Apparently, back in the 16th century there was a type of railway here so that freight could be hoisted up to the castle. If you prefer to walk you can take the path for a 30 minute stroll up to the top, or better still, save your legs and take the funicular up, then walk all the way down.
On reaching the top we followed our noses along the battlements, pausing only to take a few photos of the view and then climbed the steep steps to the small doorway higher up the wall. The castle was never conquered, although the townspeople had a go in the Peasant’s war of 1525, but if it had come under siege, I imagine this stairway would have been taken away, leaving the castle entrance virtually impregnable. The building of the castle began in 1077 with a wooden structure and developed over the centuries to defend the power of the ruling Prince Bishops, although they mostly lived in comfort in the Residenz in the town at the foot of the fortress.
Through the doorway and there was another courtyard behind the lower one – with layers of defensive areas and courtyards behind the thick towering walls. Our first stop was the room where you started the audio tour – after waiting in line for 10 minutes or so we went through the turn style as a group and were each given an audio-guide, then were taken through as series of rooms by the guide. We passed through the richly panelled apartment rooms, in one of which was a model of how the castle had been built up over several centuries reaching it’s current form around 1500.
Next there was a dark, stone walled room known as the torture chamber, not so much because of what had gone on there but because the torture implements that were stored there – well that’s all right then! Next we climbed up to the watch tower for a panoramic view over the city of Salzburg. From here it was easy to work out the geography of the city, encircled by a series of rocky outcrops on one side and bounded by the river on the other.
After the tour we sat a while in the spacious courtyard with a couple of shady old trees, just like a village square before taking a look around the museum. There was some medieval furniture, household objects and armour on display as well as some of those torture implements including what looked like a spiky pair of underpants – ouch! and a jester’s mask that I’m sure was no joke to wear.
After a while wandering through the succession of museum rooms, I managed to lose the two men in my life, my husband and teenage son. Once I had finished photographing everything that took my fancy, I went out of the museum through the turnstile but then couldn’t find them anywhere.
I retraced my steps through all the courtyards, down as far as the funicular but they were nowhere to be seen. Half an hour later, by which time I was feeling tired and frustrated, they emerged from the museum where they had been sitting at the exit waiting for me – Grrr.
We all made friends again, but after all my racing around I felt I’d seen enough of the fortress, despite there being a very inviting outdoor cafe with a fabulous view. We descended on the funicular and established ourselves outside the beer tent at the bottom and soaked up the atmosphere of the brass band and the May Day festivities with a plate of Bratwurst and a Weiss-bier.
More fun in and around Salzburg
Visitor Information for Salzburg
- Find more information about the Hohensalzburg fortress on the Salzburg Tourism website
- The Salzburg Card will give you free entry to all the major attractions as well as free public transport in Salzburg
- For more information about things to do in Salzburg, visit the Official Salzburg Tourism website
- Check out this great video about Salzburg, Innsbruck and Graz as well as the other videos about Holidays in Austria
- For more information about Holidays in Austria visit the Austrian Tourism Website and follow them on Twitter @Austria_UK
My thanks to the Austria National Tourism Office UK for sponsoring our trip to Salzburg and Wolfgangsee
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