One can visit over 100 Palaces, Fortresses, and Castle in Austria, making it truly a land of fairy tale castles. We help you pick to see the best and most memorable castles.
Here you will find 15 of the best castles, palaces and forts to visit when in Austria. Combine this with our guide to the best places to see in Austria and you are all set for a magical Austrian experience!
Table of Contents
🌷 Schönbrunn Palace
The Schönbrunn palace in Vienna served as the imperial summer residence of the Habsburg family, the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The massive rococo palace has more than 1400 rooms which are all lavishly decorated and well maintained. The palace and gardens welcomes every year over 8 million visitors from all over the world.
The palace in its present form was renovated during the times of empress Maria Theresia between 1740 and 1750. Visitors today can visit all the rooms that are part of the museum.
The vast gardens consist of a French garden, known as the Great Parterre, an English garden, orangerie, palm house and the Tiergarten zoo. You will find a maze there, beautiful fountains, the gloriette structure and the roman ruins.
🌜 Esterhazy Palace
The Esterhazy Palace was built by the well-known Esterhazy family of Hungary. Their loyalty to the Habsburg family and emperor got them at the time a special status and special privileges.
Their legacy is the Esterhazy palace located in Eisenstadt the capital of the Burgenland region in Austria.
This beautiful palace was first remodeled from an original castle building to a palace. It has since then been extensively maintained and today visitors can see most of the palace rooms.
The most important hall is the Haydn hall, whose acoustics have been perfected. Various events still regularly take place in this prestigious event hall.
The great composer Joseph Haydn was a Kapellenmeister of the Esterhazy family and family friend, who spend many years on the premises. A collection has also been dedicated to his memory and work.
💛 Forchtenstein Castle
The Forchtenstein Castle is located in Northern Burgenland, south of Mattersburg, and it also belongs to the house of Esterhazy.
Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg gave the castle to the Esterhazy family in 1622, which made the Hungarian Nikolaus Esterhazy a count.
Thereafter, Italian master builder were hired to repair the crumbling castle and the noble family used it as a treasury.
The castle was never taken by the Turkish invasions and the treasure chamber and vault were kept hidden during WW2, and today visitors from all over the world can see the beautiful collection of historical artifacts.
🏰 Hohensalzburg Fortress
The Hohensalzburg castle sits atop the Festungsberg in Salzburg city. It’s the cities landmark and Europe’s largest fort, with a length of 820 feet (249.94 m) and a width of 490 feet (ca. 149 m).
Archbishop Gehbard commissioned the building of the fort in the 11th century during the Middle Ages and over the centuries it was further expanded and strengthened.
The castle was never taken by force by enemies because of its location on the hilltop.
The golden hall, golden chamber, bed chamber and chapel can be visited. The view from the top of Salzburg is something that one shouldn’t miss.
A funicular takes guests from the Salzburg city center within minutes to the castle top.
🏛 Kreuzenstein Castle
Burg Kreuzenstein could be called a fairy tale castle by the looks of it. This castle building is located in Lower Austria, Niederösterreich near Vienna.
The original fort, a Romanesque-Gothic building was destroyed and left in rubble during the 30 years war and was later rebuilt by count Wilczek (better known as the polar explorer).
Parts of the castle were bought and brought from medieval buildings across Europe to create an authentic looking castle. The original castle structure was incorporated.
Count Wilczek was an art and armory collector and visitors can see them in the castle museum. Kreuzenstein was also used as a backdrop in various movies in the last 100 years. Some parts of Ken Follet’s books turned into a miniseries, the pillars of the earth and the world without end, were filmed in this castle.
🏯 Riegersburg Castle
The medieval fortress Riegersburg is in Styria, and it’s located on the castle road of Austria and Slovenia. It towers above the town of Riegerburg on a dormant volcano rock, on a height of more than 1400 feet (ca. 427 m).
The Castle is surrounded by rolling hills of vineyards and a rural wheat field setting. This area is sometimes also known as the Tuscany of Austria.
Its fortification provided such perfect protection, that it was never taken by enemies. Today the castle is also owned by the Princely Lichtenstein family, who opened up its gates to the public to pay for the maintenance of the castle.
Various museum exhibitions take place in the castle museum, such as a recent exhibition about the witch trials in the area.The falconry is a major tourist attraction.
The castle can be accessed via a long and tiring hike up or a cable car is the second faster option.
🌄 Hohenwerfen Castle
The Hohenwerfen Castle is located in the market town of Werfen in the Salzach valley in the Salzburg region in Austria. It’s better known as Burg Hohenwerfen in German.
The fort is overlooking the town, as it is located on 500 feet (ca. 152 m) high rock. The archbishop of Salzburg commissioned the building in the 11th century, the same one who built the Salzburg city fort Hohensalzburg.
The fort served bot only as a defense but to some rulers also as a residence castle ground and hunting lodge.
It was never taken in a battle by the German kings, but suffered damages in the peasant revolts and wars.
Besides the museum with the extensive weaponry collection, the falconry is the most popular attraction for visitors. They offer daily shows and tour for all ages in the Werfen Fortress.
🦚 Ambras Castle
The Ambras palace is located above Innsbruck city in Tyrol, west Austria. The original medieval fortification was turned into a castle by Archduke Ferdinand II in the 16th century, the second son of emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg.
The Archduke was a collector and created one of the oldest museums in the world in the Ambras Castle known as the Kunstkammer (part of the Kunsthistorische Museum Vienna).
The lower castle today contains armory pieces and the rarities and curiosities that the archduke collected. This includes the portraits of Pedro González and his children who suffered from a rare body hair condition.
Above the lower castle is the Spanish hall, a large Renaissance decorated hall with 27 full-sized portraits of Tyrolean rulers.
The large gardens of the Ambras castle with lawns, forests and peacocks invite visitors for a stroll on a sunny day.
🏟 Tratzberg Castle
The Tratzberg castle, called Schloss Tratzberg, is located in the Tyrol region near the silver mine city of Schwaz, Rattenberg the smallest city in Austria, and the capital of the region, Innsbruck, in Jenbach.
The castle is situated on a steep height, perched to the mountains. Its architecture is considered as a late gothic and early Renaissance castle, typical for the Tyrolean region.
The region was part of the Empire with the holy roman emperor Maximilian having made Innsbruck his base.
Tratzberg castle’s original furniture pieces are unique, and the castle rooms are open to the public. They have special interactive tours for families and children.
Plan a day trip to this castle and visit other places and attractions in Tyrol.
🗻 Hochosterwitz Castle
The Hochosterwitz castle has a long tale to tell, being one of the oldest castles in Austria and having been first mentioned in the 9th century.
The castle lies in the region of Carinthia, 560 feet high on a rock and is owned by the noble family of Khevenhüller. Non-ever could take over this castle with its ingenious 14 gates and stronghold.
The castle museum includes artifacts and a large armory collection. The story of this castle is extensive, and the age-old tales are told across the exhibition.
Hochosterwitz can be visited and accessed with an inclined railway from April to end of October.
🏺 Belvedere Palace
The baroque Belvedere palace is located in Vienna city and is considered as one of the most beautiful castles in Austria.
This palace belonged to Prince Eugene of Savoy, a French nobleman, who fought for the Habsburg monarchy as a field marshal against the Ottomans invasions. As a thanks for his loyalty, prince Eugene got to build his own palace.
The belvedere palace consists of the lower and upper Belvedere. The palace gardens are located between the two palace area. The upper Belvedere, located on a height overlooking the lower Belvedere, is the main palace area today.
The palace gardens with its magnificent fountains find meaning in Greek mythology, symbolizing the underworld and the accent to mount Olympia.
Known as the Austrian Belvedere Gallery, the palace was turned into an art museum. Famous pieces from Egon Schiele, Death and Girl, and Gustav Klimt, the Kiss, can be seen in the Belvedere Gallery.
⛲️ Hellbrunn Palace
The Hellbrunn Palace is located just outside the city of Salzburg and was built by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Markus Sittikus, in the 17th century.
The name Hellbrunn comes from Heller Brunnen, which means bright fountain in German. The building was built at a water spring, which inspired the maker to create the garden water games.
The water games consist of hidden springs and water fountains across the gardens of the Hellbrunn palace known as the Wasserspiele. This unusual display and the unexpected tricks are the reason visitors come to visit from all over the world.
The palace is a baroque villa which can be visited with the gardens on a day ticket.
🌅 Schloss Ort Palace
The Schloss Ort is located in Gmunden in the lake Traunsee lake in Upper Austria (Oberösterreich).
Schloss Ort (also spelled Orth) consists of the lake palace and the land palace. The lake castle palace is connected by a small elongated bridge, to the small island where the building sits.
This palace gained on fame thanks to the German serial Schlosshotel Orth.
The original building from the 9th century was a water fort and was rebuilt to its current state after the farmers had burnt down the castle in the 17th century in a bid to get back their region from the Bavarians.
Today, the inner rooms, tower and dungeon, as well as the museum can be visited. Wedding pictures taken here are another popular trend.
🌠 Liechtenstein Fort
The Liechtenstein castle fort is in Maria Enzersdorf in the Lower Austria region (Niederösterreich) next to Vienna. This castle shouldn’t be confused with the Lichtenstein Castle in Germany.
The 12th century fort was destroyed in the Turkish invasions of Vienna in 1529 and 1683. The Lichtenstein castle fort ruins was later completely rebuilt in the 19th century to its current state.
The princely family of Lichtenstein originated from here. This is the same family running the principality of Liechtenstein, a micro country located between Switzerland and Austria.
Visitors can join a guided tour from March to October, through the renovated Lichtenstein fort and enjoy the priceless view of Vienna from 980 feet (ca. 299 m) above sea level.
🏞 Kufstein Fortress
The Kufstein fortress is located in the Tyrolean alps in Kufstein, a small city bordering to Germany. The fortress is towering right above the medieval city, at 1600 feet (ca. 488 m) above sea level, and can be accessed with a funicular.
Burg Kufstein, as it is known, was first owned in the 12th century by the bishops of Regensburg in Bavaria. Fierce battles were fought around the area between Bavaria and Tyrol for centuries.
The castle served as a prison in the 18th and 19th century. Today, however it houses the city museum. A medieval feast is held in the fort every year in summer, with medieval markets and plays.
What is the largest and biggest castle in Austria?
The Schönbrunn Palace is the largest castle palace in Austria and Hohensalzburg is the largest fort.
How many castles does Austria have?
If included, smaller and all the larger castles in Austria with ruins, than over 3000.
Palace VS Fortress VS Castle? What’s the difference?
A palace was used to live in by nobles and rulers and to show off wealth. A fortress is a defense point and that wasn’t usually used as a liveable space. A castle is between a fort and a palace, as its design serves to defend from invasions and the rulers would actually live in a castle. Adding to the confusion, the terms, fortress castle and palace are at times used interchangeably.
What’s a Burg, Schloss and Festung in German?
A Burg or Festung is a fortress, a Schloss is either a palace or castle.