Austria’s Best Castles & Palaces

Like most of Europe, mighty fortresses and palaces of all sizes dot Austria’s landscape. Its imperial history has left the country with no shortage of magnificent palaces, and its one-time proximity to the invading Ottomans has left a bounty of castles and fortresses. From the lavish Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna to the medieval fortresses of the Burgenland and beyond, there is plenty to keep history and architecture buffs happy.

Greinburg 1, 4360 Grein, Austria
In a country with so many castles, Schloss Greinburg doesn’t rank as one of the most awe-inspiring. It is, however, particularly notable for two things. Greinburg is considered Austria’s oldest residential castle (origins dating back to 1488) and it has been owned by the House of Sachsen-Coburg & Gotha, arguably the most influential European royal family, since 1823. The castle was even briefly owned by Queen Victoria of England. Highlights of a guided tour include the rich stucco ceiling, grand chandeliers and ruby red walls of the Dining Room, and splendid courtyard, and numerous portraits showcasing their royal connections throughout the castle. Views from the castle overlook the small town of Grein and the Danube.
Esterhazyplatz 1, 7000 Eisenstadt, Austria
Of all the grand palaces in Austria, Esterházy is one you definitely don’t want to miss. It’s second, perhaps, to Schönbrunn. The 13th-century palace was acquired by the Hungarian family in 1622 and remains in their care. Magnificent rooms like the Empiresaal (dining hall) and the acoustically perfect Haydnsaal, a concert hall named for the composer who worked for the family for 40 years, are simply stunning. If the family’s wealth and importance wasn’t clear, one needs simply to visit the palace chapel where they’ll see the relics of St. Constantine.
Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Wien, Austria
Up until the end of World War I in 1918, the Hofburg was the center of the Habsburg dynasty and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The massive complex includes the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (National Library), Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury), and, the most recent addition, the Neue Burg, completed in 1913. A visit should include the Imperial Apartments, each lavishly decorated in Baroque and Rococo styles, and the Sisi Museum, covering the life of Austria’s beloved (and actually Bavarian) Empress. It is also the official seat of the president of Austria.
Schloßstraße 20, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Ambras Castle was built by Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595), the second son of Emperor Ferdinand I, for his commoner wife, Philippine Welser, who was not allowed to live in the official residence in the town. A few notable items make Ambras worth the short trek out of the old town. There’s a Habsburg portrait gallery of around 300 works from the 15th to the 19th century. the Spanish Hall with detailed wood ceiling and wall paintings, and an armory. Somewhat unique is the Chamber of Art and Curiosities, which is found in the same location as it was when first assembled in the 16th century. Here you’ll find a mix of oddities collected by Ferdinand II, from coral and goblets to a woodcarving of “Death” by Hans Leinberger, Portraits include Vlad the Impaler and Pedro Gonzalez, who suffered from hirsutism, leaving his full body covered in hair.
Am Hausberg 2, 2344 Maria Enzersdorf, Austria
Located just outside Vienna near Maria Enzersdorf, Liechtenstein Castle is a dramatic structure at the edge of the Wiederwald (Vienna Woods). Twice destroyed by the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was in ruins until 1884 when it was rebuilt at the height of European Romanticism and shortly after tours began. It is still owned by the Liechtenstein family. Guided tours last around an hour.
34 Mönchsberg
As the largest fully preserved fortress in central Europe, the more-than-900-year-old Hohensalzburg has long been the medieval crown above an elegantly baroque city. Its current appearance dates back to the 1495–1519 reign of Prince-Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach, during which the fortress was expanded using funds generated from the nearby salt and silver mines. Inner courtyards lead to an extensive, but not exhausting, collection of medieval curiosities and other artifacts from the political elites of the Holy Roman Empire. The apartments of the prince-archbishops—including the ornately decorated Golden Chamber and Bed Chamber—are highlights of a wonderfully maintained interior, while the views over the city are simply stunning. Access to the fortress is by foot or a short funicular ride.
Schloßstraße, 3492, Austria
Though the foundations go back hundreds of years prior, Grafenegg Castle as we know it today was constructed in the 19th century and is a fine example of historicism. The interior is open April through October. It’s particularly known for music events throughout the year and a Christmas market.
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