Built on a rock (called Festungsberg) 400 feet above the Salzach River, this fortress was never really used. That’s the idea. It was a good investment--so foreboding, nobody attacked the town for a thousand years. The city was never taken by force, but when Napoleon stopped by, Salzburg wisely surrendered. After a stint as a military barracks, the fortress was opened to the public in the 1860s by Emperor Franz Josef. Today, it remains one of Europe’s mightiest castles, dominating Salzburg’s skyline and offering incredible views.
Cost: Your daytime funicular ticket includes admission to the fortress grounds and all the museums inside--whether you want to see them or not (€10.50, €24.50 family ticket). Save money by walking up--the climb is much easier than it looks, and the views are fantastic. From the top you can opt to see the museums for €7, but many visitors are content to simply take in the grounds and views (free if you’ve walked up). If you’d rather take the funicular but want to skip the museums, head up the hill in the evening (within one hour of the museum’s closing time, it’s €6 one-way/€7.50 round-trip for funicular and entry to castle grounds; after closing time, the funicular is €3.60 round-trip).
Hours: The complex is open daily year-round (May–Sept 9:00–19:00, Oct–April 9:30–17:00, last entry 30 min before closing, tel. 0662/8424-3011). On nights when there’s a concert, the castle grounds are free and open after the museum closes until 21:30.
Orientation: The fortress visit has three parts: a relatively dull courtyard with some fine views from its various ramparts; the fortress itself (with a required and escorted 45-min audiotour); and the palace museum (by far the best exhibit of the lot). At the bottom of the funicular, you’ll pass through an interesting little exhibit on the town’s canal system.
Self-Guided Tour: From the top of the funicular, head to your right and down the stairs to bask in the view, either from the café or the view terrace a little farther along. Once you’re done snapping photos, walk through to the castle grounds and go left, following the path up and around to reach the inner courtyard (labeled Inneres Schloß). Immediately inside, circling to the right (clockwise), you’ll encounter cannons (still poised to defend Salzburg against an Ottoman invasion), the marionette exhibit, the palace museum, the Kuenburg bastion, scant ruins of a Romanesque church, the courtyard (with path down for those walking), toilets, shops, a restaurant, and the fortress tour.
• Begin at the...
Marionette Exhibit: Several fun rooms show off this local tradition, with three videos playing continuously: two with peeks at Salzburg’s ever-enchanting Marionette Theater performances of Mozart classics, and one with a behind-the-scenes look at the action. Give the hands-on marionette a whirl.
• Hiking through the former palace, you’ll find the sight’s best exhibits at the...
Palace Museum (Festungsmuseum Carolino Augusteum): The second floor has exhibits on castle life, from music to torture. The top floor shows off fancy royal apartments, a sneak preview of the room used for the nightly fortress concerts, and the Rainier military museum, dedicated to the Salzburg regiments that fought in both World Wars.
Castle Courtyard: The courtyard was the main square of the castle residents, a community of a thousand--which could be self-sufficient when necessary. The square was ringed by the shops of craftsmen, blacksmiths, bakers, and so on. The well dipped into a rain-fed cistern. The church is dedicated to St. George, the protector of horses (logical for an army church) and decorated by fine red marble reliefs (c. 1502). Behind the church is the top of the old lift that helped supply the fortress. (From near here, steps lead back into the city, or to the mountaintop “Mönchsberg Walk,” described later in this section.) You’ll also see the remains of a Romanesque chapel, which are well-described.