The Salzburg Archbishops’ coat of arms was a turnip.
Hohensalzburg fortress is an imposing 11th century castle, situated on top of the hill in the middle of Salzburg. It is a sister fortress to the Hohenwerfen castle, as they were both built for defensive purposes by the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. Hohensalzburg is considered to be one of the largest castles in Europe and features some of the most beautifully preserved medieval apartments, so it is more than worth a visit.
You can reach the castle via a short funicular, which was included with the ticket and full of people even early in the morning (you can probably tell that I am not a fan of crowds by now), so it is just one of those places where you cannot avoid the human tide.
The fortress itself is quite impressive and gives off a distinctly military vibe with all the high fortified walls, defensive towers and a beautiful strategic view of the whole Salzburg and its surroundings. Hohensalzburg served as a safe place for the Prince-Archbishops, who were constantly in one conflict or another. That’s why the castle evolved into an ever-expanding fortress and was kept constantly updated with the latest military technologies up until the end of the 18th century, when the last Prince-Archbishop fled from Salzburg to Vienna.
Impressions of Hohensalzburg fortress
You will find many interesting details and adorable nooks and crannies inside the Hohensalzburg walls, such as a sundial, a covered well and a corner with a little flower and herbs shop, so pay attention while walking around the inner courtyard, before you go inside to see all the attractions.
In order to go inside and on the battlements, you will need to take a short self-guided tour with an audio guide, which is included in the ticket and will also lead you past the Salzburg Bull, a huge mechanical organ from 1502. Additionally, the fortress houses three museums, which is great news, as it helps to disperse the crowds a bit, and they are already included in the ticket. There is the Castle museum, where you can learn all about the castle’s history, see the armoury, some Gothic furniture and a beautiful small chapel, the Rainer regiment museum, which showcases every move of the Rainer regiment in way too much detail, and the Puppet museum, where you can explore the art of puppeteering in Salzburg. These museums were quite good, particularly the Castle museum, where the exhibitions were very interesting and everything was explained in extremely simple terms, but in a rather peculiar style, with lots of repetitions. Personally, I felt a bit like I was reading a text meant for idiots, but I must admit they got the point across and the information actually stuck with me, so I guess they did a great job. If you visit, let me know what you thought about their style in the comments. 🙂
You can get two types of entry tickets for Hohensalzburg, either including the Royal apartments or not. The difference in price was not much when I was there in May 2019 and the Prince-Archbishop definitely knew how to live in style, so I wholeheartedly recommend you to get the full ticket. The aptly named Golden chambers are furnished in lavish gold and blue in the medieval style, which for me was a very welcome change from the ever-present baroque architecture and interiors allover Salzburg. My Middle Ages obsessed archaeologist boyfriend was pretty impressed by them as well, which is saying something, and if you are still not convinced you need to see it, the full ticket also includes a very adorable magic theatre, which shows you the castle history in a fun way. Turns out, that the coat of arms of the Salzburg Archbishops was a simple turnip. Awesome, right?
The Royal apartments
The Royal apartments consist of the Golden hall, the Golden chamber and the Bedchamber, where I finally discovered the secret behind the tiny-sized medieval beds. Have you ever seen one of those normal width, but extremely short beds from the Middle Ages? Well, apparently people were convinced they would suffocate in their sleep if they slept lying down, so they preferred to sleep in a seated or a slightly reclined position, leaning against the headboard, which is why the beds were not full-length. I hope they will one day find out where this belief originated from, as sleeping is supposed to be a natural human activity, so that’s pretty crazy.
Travel tip: You can buy early bird tickets to Hohensalzburg fortress online, which will save you some money, but you must enter the fortress by 10am and buy the tickets online the night before, as they are not available at the ticket booth and disappear from the online system in the morning. Trust me on that, because we ended up paying the full price, as we thought we would buy them in the morning.