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

Aviveet Ben-Moshe (9 months ago)
A place with a lot of information about hunting birds, myths, fairy tales, and a movie that was set in the fort. Entrance to the fort courthouse is 7€ if you walk up and includes about 4 exhibitions. This place is nice mainly for people who like history and like to read. Entrance to the fort costs about 10€ with a guided tour of you walk up instead of take the elevator. Entrance costs more if you take the elevator up to the fort.
Lisa Zuniga (9 months ago)
The hike up was very doable for two adults and three kids--15, 10, & 7. We had fun on the way up. The castle itself was amazing, and the views were incredible. But not only that, the falconry demonstration was absolutely astonishing!! Make sure to get seats about 10-15 minutes early, at the very top center--you will NOT be disappointed!! The customer service was also incredible and refunded our online tickets when my husband accidentally ordered them in-person after I bought them online. The exhibits inside the castle and games at the top were also fun, and the restaurant was so tasty. Overall, a very enjoyable time was had by all.
Tal Shakked (10 months ago)
Interesting fortress. High cliffs around. Better to walk up and not using the trolley.
Jeffrey Stowe (10 months ago)
This place was amazing. Just getting there was worth the trip but the walk to the castle, the displays and events they had all made it well worth the time and effort to get there and back. We saw the witch and magic display which was both informative and fun. We went on the tour that was very good. Not for those who have issue with stairs but still very well put together. Finally the falconry exhibit and event was breathtaking. They did a very good job showing the many birds they have there and with the backdrop of the castle and the alps I damn near filled my camera. The food was amazing to boot. All in all this has been the highlight of our trip so far. Great, welcoming people and very professional and hard working staff.
Yair Nativ (11 months ago)
Very nice place but if you have been to one European castle you have seen them all, maybe with small kids it is more exciting. All clearly depends on your love to castle
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