The Hohensalzburg fortress dominates the skyline of Salzburg. It is 900 years old and apparently the biggest and most fully preserved fortification in Europe. Built by Archbishop Gebhard in 1077, it served to protect the clergy and population.
The fortress was the stronghold of the ruling Prince Archbishops before they moved to the Residenz. It towers 400 feet above the Salzach River on a rocky edge. It crowns the Festungsberg and dominates the city.
You can walk up to the fortress - it takes about half an hour. We opted to travel by funicular. It is a near vertical ride up the rock face and takes just under a minute. The funicular leaves about every 10 minutes from the station behind the cathedral - Festungsgasse.
Work on the fortress began in 1077 and was not finished until 1681, during which time many builders had a hand in its construction.
The Romanesque walls surround the Great Hall, the living quarters still comprise the main part of the castle keep. Numerous secondary buildings and a private chapel are part of the fortifications. You can view the state apartments - once the dwellings of the Prince Archbishops.
To tour the fortress grounds without the interior rooms takes about 30 minutes. The rooms are interesting though. Audio tours are included in the funicular price - they are available in a number of languages and there is a special children's commentary as well. The entrance cost is 10.50 Euros for adults and 6.00 Euros for children aged 6 plus. A family ticket costs 24.50 Euros.
It is a fun place to visit with children. Our son enjoyed climbing all over the pile of cannonballs, seeing the torture chamber and scaling the tower. The puppet museum is also interesting, and you get to have a go with a puppet and put on your own little show.
Visiting the fortress, even if not directly interested in that itself, is a must. The view from the terrace is so spectacular. Look out for a particular area where you look down on a field with only one house in it. This was the residence of the executioner. It was believed that living anywhere near him was bad luck.
We spent about 4 hours in total exploring the inside and outside of the fortress.