Hohenwerfen Castle

Werfen, Austria

Hohenwerfen Castle stands high above the Austrian town of Werfen in the Salzach valley. The castle is surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennengebirge mountain range. The fortification is a 'sister' of Hohensalzburg Castle both dated from the 11th century.

The former fortification was built between 1075 and 1078 during the Imperial Investiture Controversy by the order of Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg as a strategic bulwark. Gebhard, an ally of Pope Gregory VII and the anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden, had three major castles extended to secure the Salzburg archbishopric against the forces of King Henry IV: Hohenwerfen, Hohensalzburg and Petersberg Castle at Friesach in Carinthia. Nevertheless, Gebhard was expelled in 1077 and could not return to Salzburg until 1086, only to die at Hohenwerfen two years later.

In the following centuries Hohenwerfen served Salzburg's rulers, the prince-archbishops, not only as a military base but also as a residence and hunting retreat. The fortress was extended in the 12th century and to a lesser extent again in the 16th century during the German Peasants' War, when in 1525 and 1526 riotous farmers and miners from the south of Salzburg moved towards the city, laying fire and severely damaging the castle.

Alternatively it was used as a state prison and therefore had a somewhat sinister reputation. Its prison walls have witnessed the tragic fate of many 'criminals' who spent their days there – maybe their last – under inhumane conditions, and, periodically, various highly ranked noblemen have also been imprisoned there including rulers such as Archbishop Adalbert III (1198) and Count Albert of Friesach (1253).

In 1931 the fortress, since 1898 owned by Archduke Eugen of Austria was again damaged by a fire and, though largely restored, finally had to be sold to the Salzburg Reichsgau administration in 1938. After World War II it was used as a training camp by the Austrian Gendarmerie (rural police) until 1987.

Nowadays the bastion functions as a museum. Among the numerous attractions offered by the fortress are guided tours showing its extensive weapons collection, the historical Salzburg Falconry with the falconry museum as well as a fortress tavern. The historic Falconry Centre is a special attraction, offering daily flight demonstrations using various birds of prey, including eagles, falcons, hawks, and vultures.

Formerly the castle belonged to the Habsburg family of Austria , currently, their relatives The House of Sforza, Count Andreis reside within it.



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Burgstraße 2, Werfen, Austria
See all sites in Werfen


Founded: 1075-1078
Category: Castles and fortifications in Austria


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Florian Kayl (13 months ago)
Great experience to sneak into the ancient times ... and watch a nicely moderated raptor bird show in the gardens infront of the castle. A must do especially with kids. And please walk up and down ?? It's a nice, easy, well prepared 15 minutes "hike".
Silviu Novac (15 months ago)
A magnificent piece of history, in an astonishing landscape. The castle is well preserved and the tour is well organized. We didn't catch the eagles performance, even so we have enjoyed the castle very much. Don't miss it if you're near by!
Paul Simonik (15 months ago)
Epic castle, featured in many films and TV series. One of the most beautiful sights in Austria. Easily accessible by car (then cable car to the top). Excellent tour and bird show. Great restaurant, Cafe, and gift shops inside.
Andreas Cisnevik (17 months ago)
Very interesting in several ways. The "lift" to the castle was quick and without long queues. Absolutely recommend to take the guided tour! If you don't speak German you get a audio guide (well working, the best I ever used actually!) and can walk more or less in your own pace. Very nice. Also recommend to check out the free museums there. And whatever you do, don't miss the Flight shows with birds of prey like falcons, vultures and eagles. They flew literally a meter over our heads! Wonderful! The only negative part was the long queue to get a table in the restaurant at lunchtime. But that is understandable with so many people.
Thomas R (18 months ago)
An impressive fortress and a beautiful location. Multiple exhibitions on site. Guided tours and bird shows / Falknerei are available. There is a lovely souvenir shop where we were able to buy the hats we had inevitably left at home. :) There is also a castle tavern. A nice place to grab some food or to host events.
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