The 900-year-old Hohenwerfen Fortress squats 510 ft (155 m) up on a rocky hilltop, surrounded by swathes of pine trees and the harsh peaks of the Tennengebirge Mountains. From its lofty position the castle dominates the village of Werfen in the Salzach Valley region of the Austrian Alps.
Accessed by either steep climb or funicular from the car parks, Hohenwerfen Fortress has its beginnings in the 11th century; it was built in tandem with the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg as a refuge for the ruling prince-bishops. Parts of the fortified medieval walls can still be seen but the castle’s history has been turbulent and it was razed to the ground during the Peasants’ Rebellion of 1525.
Much of what you see today is the result of subsequent 16th-century restyling in Baroque style, when the castle was extended and heavily fortified to protect the prince-bishops from further attack. It was also used to house military prisoners before falling into disuse in the late 18th century; more refurbishment followed by then-owner Archduke Eugen of Austria before parts of the fortress was destroyed yet again by fire in 1931.
Restored once more to its present pristine whitewashed majesty, Hohenwerfen featured as Schloss Adler in the 1968 WWII movie Where Eagles Dare.
Today an audio-guide leads visitors around the landscaped gardens and battlements, into the kitchens and Romanesque chapel, around the prince-bishops’ apartments, and up the bell tower for far-reaching Alpine views. There are also small museums detailing the history of the castle and displaying weapons used in its protection as well as Austria’s only falconry museum – the summer months see daily flight demonstrations with birds of prey. Tours of Hohenwerfen Fortress are often combined with a trip through the world’s largest ice caves at Eisriesenwelt near Werfen.