Castles and fortifications in Austria

Hartheim Castle

Hartheim Castle was built by Jakob von Aspen in 1600, and it is a prominent Renaissance castle in the country. The building became notorious as one of the Nazi Euthanasia killing centers, where the killing program Action T4 took place. Until the middle of the 14th century the site consisted mainly of just one tower, subsequently a residence was added and it was surrounded by a small wall with ramparts and ditches. After ...
Founded: 1690s | Location: Eferding, Austria

Ehrenhausen Castle

Ehrenhausen Castle is well-preserved three-story and four-wing building from the 12th century. The castle was first mentioned in 1240. The current castle was built by the Eggenberg family in the 16h century. It was one of Austria′s numerous fortifications that secured the South and the East of the country against the Turks. On the castle hill there is also the mausoleum of Ruprecht von Eggenberg (1546-1611) and his ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ehrenhausen, Austria

Pürnstein Castle

Pürnstein castle, towering high above the valley, was built in the late 10th century. It was first time documented in 1170. In the 13th century, the castle became into the possession of the Prince-Bishopric of Passau. The current appearance dates mainly from the mid-15h century. The castle chapel was consecrated in 1449. Part of the ruins of the original fortifications are also preserved to this day. A fire on Septe ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Pürnstein, Austria

Landeck Castle

Landeck castle has been built in 1290 by the Counts of Tyrol as site of the court and administration. From the 14th century onward the name was also used for the castle and the entire region from the Stanzertal valley to Fliess and Zams. After 1797 is was used as a hospital, casern and accomodation for workers. However, nowadays in Landeck Castle there is the Regional Museum Landeck featuring a permanent exhibition, illu ...
Founded: 1290 | Location: Landeck, Austria

Groppenstein Castle

First mentioned in historic documents in 1254, Burg Groppenstein was built in a particularly beautiful place, where the River Mallnitz flows into the River Möll. In the 15th century it was turned into a defence in the style of the late Middle Ages. In 1872 the castle was renovated by the Viennese architect Adolf Stipperger, and its exterior design has since been unchanged. The Romanesque wing was replaced by Gothic ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Semslach, Austria

Starhemberg Castle

The first small Starhemberg castle was built by Ottokar III, Margrave of Styria between 1140 and 1145. At the time, the Piesting river was the border between Styria and the March of Austria. In 1192, Styria—and, thus, the castle—was acquired by the Babenbergs. The last Babenberger duke of Austria, Frederick II the Warlike, expanded and fortified the castle, leaving Starhemberg as one of the most important cast ...
Founded: 1140 | Location: Dreistetten, Austria

Persenbeug Castle

The first historical mention of the Persenbeug Castle dates from 970 AD when Bavarian Count of Semt and Ebersberg took possession of site and fortified it. Until 1593 it was owned by the Austrian imperial house. Then it went to the Hoyos family. The current appearance dates mainly from the 16th century. In 1800 Emperor Franz I of Austria bought the castle and the Persenbeug estate as a free private property. Today Persen ...
Founded: 970 AD | Location: Persenbeug, Austria

Neuhaus Castle

Neuhaus castle was constructed in the mid-14th century by the House of Stubenberg. Records from 1375 document the name 'Hans from Neuhaus'. Later, the Drachsler family and the counts of Wurmbrand owned the castle. The counts of Wurmbrand reinforced the castle as the Turks threatened the area. Administration of the castle was later relocated to Altschielleiten. Around 1800 the castle was destroyed almost totally ...
Founded: c. 1350 | Location: Stubenberg, Austria

Neu-Ems Castle

Neu-Ems (also known as Schloss Glopper) is a medieval castle in Hohenems. It was the fortification of the Lords of Ems. The castle is in the mountainside east of the town, in its mountain village Emsreute on a crest above the Rhine valley. Approved by Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian, Ritter Ulrich I. von Ems (Knight Ulrich I of Ems) in 1343 built a new castle to have a comfortable home for his large family in dangerous tim ...
Founded: 1343 | Location: Hohenems, Austria

Moosham Castle

Possibly built on the foundations of a Roman castrum fortress, the Moosham castle was first documented in a 1191 deed. It was seized by the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg about 1285 and from the 14th century onwards served as the residence of an episcopal burgrave. Under the rule of Prince-Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach from 1495, the castle was rebuilt and extended. In 1520 it became an administrative seat of the Lun ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Unternberg, Austria

Bernstein Castle

Bernstein Castle was first mentioned in the 13th century. In 860 the whole region was part of the archbishopric of Salzburg. The village name Rettenbach was not mentioned yet, but the old Slavic name of the nearby hamlet Grodnau is a sign of the existence of a nearby castle, identifiable with castle Bernstein. Since 1199 the castle was part of Hungary. It is not exactly known when the castle was handed over to Frederick ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Bernstein, Austria

Finstergrün Castle

Burg Finstergrün consists of two castles. The old castle, today in ruins, dates probably from the 12th century. The new castle, built around the old castle was completed in 1908. However, it looks very similar to a historical castle because it was built in the style of the 13th century. Today Finstergrün is a youth hostel.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ramingstein, Austria

Niederfalkenstein Castle

Niederfalkenstein Castle is part of the larger Falkenstein fortification complex; while the main fortress of Oberfalkenstein today is a ruin, the lower barbican of Niederfalkenstein is largely preserved. The fortification was erected on a rocky promontory on the southwestern slopes of the Reisseck Group in the Hohe Tauern mountain range. The ruins of Oberfalkenstein comprise a Bergfried keep with surrounding moats and th ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pfaffenberg, Austria

Dürnstein Castle

Dürnstein castle was documented first time in 1144. It belonged to the Dürnsteiner family until 1192. The castle fell in to disrepair in the 16th century and was abandoned in 1610.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Neumarkt in der Steiermark, Austria

Freundsberg Castle

Freundsberg castle in Tyrol was constructed in 1150 by the lords of Freundsberg. Originally the castle consisted out of a single keep, which is still intact up to this date. The chapel next to it was built afterwards in the year 1117. In 1467 the castle was sold to Archduke Sigismund of Austria, who rebuilt the castle and called it Sigismundruh for the duration of his reign. From 1634–37 on, the castle was remodifi ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Schwaz, Austria

Altpernstein Castle

Altpernstein castle is situated on a steep dominating promontory. The castle was built between 1007 and 1055 and enlarged in the 12th century by the lord Pilling von Pernstein.
Founded: 1007-1055 | Location: Altpernstein, Austria

Laudegg Castle

Laudegg Castle stands on a beautiful rock spur in the village of Ladis. The tower house was built in the Early middle ages and is first documented in 1239. However, a local Ministerialeship of Laudeck (an earlier form of Laudegg) is documented even earlier (1232) in the court diary of Duke Otto von Andechs in Innsbruck. In 1406 Oberinntal became involved in the Appenzell peasant uprising under Ital Reding the Elder. Ladi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ladis, Austria

Senftenberg Castle

Senftenberg Castle was mentioned first time in 1197. In the 13th century it belonged to the Zebringer family and between the 14th and 15th centuries to the Wallseern family. The castle was destroyed during the rebellion in 1407-1409 and rebuilt later. It was a refuge place during the Siege of Vienna in the Ottoman Wars. The castle was finally destroyed by the Swedish troops in the Thirty Years' War in 1645. Today still im ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Senftenberg, Austria

Krems Castle

Krems castle history dates back to the 11th or 12th century. It was built by the Archbishop of Salzburg and mentioned first time in 1248. In the 16th century it was expanded and remodelled in Renaissance style. After 1730 the castle lost its position as administration residence and was left to decay. Today Krems ruins are well preserved. A small museum room opened in May 2015 exhibiting the history of castle.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Voitsberg, Austria

Ottenstein Castle

The mighty shingle-covered cone and hipped roofs of Ottenstein Castle are an impressive sight. Antique fairs, art and other special exhibitions are regularly held in the castle. Of particular interest to art-lovers is the Romanesque castle chapel with vaulted ceilings decorated with monumental frescos dating back to about 1170. There is also a restaurant. One of Ottenstein family members was first mentioned in 1177, but ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ottenstein, Austria

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.