Pillnitz Castle is located on the bank of the River Elbe in the former village of Pillnitz. It was the summer residence of many electors and kings of Saxony.
The castle complex consists of three main buildings, the Riverside Palace (Wasserpalais) on the riverfront; the Upper Palace (Bergpalais) on the hillside, both Baroque with Chinoiserieelements; and the later Neoclassical New Palace (Neues Palais), which links them together on the east side. The buildings enclose a Baroque garden and are surrounded by a large public park.
Today, the palace houses the Arts and Crafts Museum of the Dresden State Art Collections and a Palace Museum. The buildings surround a Baroque flower garden, whose centrepiece is a pond with a large fountain. From this, a chestnut-lined allée approximately 500 metres long runs parallel to the river bank, flanked by small rectangular hedged parterres.
As early as the 14th century, a modest residential fortress existed on the site of today' castle. It was enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries to a four-winged building. The château was acquired by the Wettin dynasty in 1694 when Elector John George IV of Saxony bought it as a present for his mistress, Magdalena Sibylla of Neidschutz. Both died soon afterwards. In 1706, John George's brother Augustus II the Strong gave the facilities to one of his numerous mistresses, Anna Constantia of Brockdorff, only to rescind the gift after she fled to Berlin in 1715. Augustus II then ordered the château to be converted into an oriental summer palace for riverside festivities, necessitating extensive rebuilding.
Starting in 1720, the first church and buildings were replaced by elaborate Baroque palaces designed by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann and Zacharias Longuelune. First, in 1720/21, the Riverside Palace (Wasserpalais) was constructed on the river bank to plans by Pöppelmann. The upper staircase built on the Elbe side in 1722 was supplemented in 1725 by water stairs forming a gondola dock, designed by the French architect Zacharias Longuelune. In 1723/24, an almost identical complement to the Riverside Palace, the Upper Palace (Bergpalais), was completed. At the same time, a garden was laid out between the two palaces. Construction continued until 1725, with a focus on the Chinoiserie style. Augustus apparently then lost interest in his renovated palace, shifting his focus to other locations.
In 1765, Elector Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, a greatgrandson of Augustus the Strong, made Pillnitz his summer residence. At the time, an English garden with an English pavilion, a Chinese garden with a Chinese pavilion and an artificial ruin were added. When the Countess' palace at Pillnitz Castle burnt down in 1818, Frederick Augustus asked his architect, Christian Friedrich Schuricht, to design a new palace at the same location. The NeoclassicalNew Palace (Neues Palais) was completed in 1826.
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.