Herberstein castle sits on a rock in the Feistritz ravine and thus is not accessible from 3 sides. At the same time, the castle is not visible from out of the ravine and was thus naturally protected from attackers.
The oldest parts of the castle situated near the zoo stems from the 12th century. The first small castle called Herwigstein stood under the fiefdom of the Stubenberg Clan. Otto von Hartenberg could free the castle by a payment to the Stubenbergs and is considered to be the ancestor of Herberstein Castle since then.
By 1400 the castle was expanded by a massive outer bailey, which included the previously built Gothic chapel of St. Catherine. The bailey was extended in the 15th century a number times. Mid-16th century, the castle was transformed into a residential building with Renaissance elements and expanded to accommodate the numerous offspring. In the 17th century the magnificent banqueting hall was built, the deep moat was built on. Mid-17th century the Florentinerhof was constructed after an Italian model and by the end of the century St. George's Chapel, the gardeners home and the 'Maierhof' were completed.
In the 17th and 18th century about one-fifth of Styria was possessed by Counts of Herberstein. Some 1,000 farms were tributary to the castle. The castle is still owned by the Herberstein family and serves as a residential and administrative center.
Admission to the castle includes guided tours of part of the castle, access to the historic gardens, the zoo, and the Gironcoli Museum, which features works by contemporary Austrian artist Bruno Gironcoli.
The keeping of wild animals has a long tradition in Herberstein. It can be tracked back to the 17th century, the first time fallow deer were kept in Austria. At the end of 1960 Herberstein was converted into a zoo where visitors could see animals from all five continents. At that time the castle was opened to the public for the first time, too. Today the Herberstein Zoo is very well designed and has the largest cheetah park in Europe. It includes a remodeled ski-lift, forcing the cheetah to catch their food, which is hauled by the ski-lift at fast pace.
The Seaplane Harbour is the newest and one of the most exciting museums in Tallinn. It tells stories about the Estonian maritime and military history. The museum’s display, that comprises of more than a couple of hundred large exhibits, revitalizes the colourful history of Estonia.
British built submarine Lembit weighing 600 tones is the centrepiece of the new museum. Built in 1936 for the Estonian navy, Lembit served in the World War II under the Soviet flag. It remained in service for 75 years being the oldest submarine in the World still in use until it was hauled ashore in 2011. Despite its long history, Lembit is still in an excellent condition offering a glimpse of the 1930s art of technology.
Another exciting attraction is a full-scale replica of Short Type 184, a British pre-World War II seaplane, which was also used by the Estonian armed forces. Short Type 184 has earned its place in military history by being the first aircraft ever to attack an enemy’s ship with an air-launched torpedo. Since none of the original seaplanes have survived, the replica in Seaplane Harbour is the only full-size representation of the aircraft in the whole World.
Simulators mimicking a flight above Tallinn, around-the-world journey in the yellow submarine, navigating on the Tallinn bay make this museum heaven for kids or adventurous adults.
Seaplane Harbour operates in architecturally unique hangars built almost a century ago, in 1916 and 1917, as a part of Peter the Great sea fortress. These hangars are the World’s first reinforced concrete shell structures of such a great size. Charles Lindbergh, the man who performed the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, landed here in 1930s.
On the outdoor area visitors can tour a collection of historic ships, including the Suur Tõll, Europe's largest steam-powered icebreaker.