Hohenwerfen Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Hohenwerfen Castle

Hohenwerfen Castle is an impressive fortress in the Salzach valley of Austria, flanked by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the Tennen Mountains.

Kyle Hoekstra

24 Aug 2021
Image Credit: Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

About Hohenwerfen Castle

Hohenwerfen Castle is an impressive fortress in the Salzach valley of Austria, flanked by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the Tennen Mountains.

History of Hohenwerfen Castle

Hohenwerfen Castle was built by the Archbishop of Salzburg in the 11th century, making it a “sister” of the city’s Hohensalzburg Fortress and Burgruine Petersberg in Friesach. While the castle’s original fortifications were probably made from wood, Hohenwerfen had by the 15th century developed into a vast stone structure.

What had been an old Roman castle was transformed with a palace and chapel, then further defensive walls. Over time, the fortress was reinforced and equipped with newer technologies.

Large sections of the castle were destroyed during peasant revolts in the 16th century, which precipitated further building work by Archbishop Matthäus Lang (1519-1540). These works resulted in the erection of the Wallerturm watchtower, the small bastion, and the hidden staircase. A programme of construction in the later century was informed by impressive Italian fortresses.

The castle was used as a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries. It experienced a period of disuse in the early 19th century, before being restored by the romantic Archduke Johann between 1824 and 1833. It was mainly used as a hunting base until Archduke Eugen purchased the castle in 1898 and transformed the building into a stately home.

Nazi military authorities used the castle as a military training base during World War Two, and from 1945 to 1987 it was used by the police school in Salzburg.

Hohenwerfen Castle today

The castle belongs to the state of Salzburg today, and the fortifications of Hohenwerfen Castle have been used as a tourist attraction since 1987. Hohenwerfen is near the region of the Salzkammergut, Austria’s lake district which includes historic sites such as Hallstatt, the Kaiservilla in Bad Ischl, and castle ruins like Burgruine Wartenfels.

Hohenwerfen Castle featured as a fictional castle in the 1968 film Where Eagles Dare, and as the headquarters of the Führer in the 2015 adaptation of The Man in the High Castle. A level in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops III is based on the castle. It can be seen in the background in The Sound of Music. 

Getting to Hohenwerfen Castle

Hohenwerfen Castle is a one hour drive from Salzburg. A bus can also be caught to Hohenwerfen Castle from Salzburg’s main station. It’s otherwise a two hour drive from Munich, Germany. To assist with ascending to the castle, a modern lift system was built in 2006.

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