The fortress of Hohenwerfen

Hohenwerfen fortress is a medieval rock castle. It is located on a 623 metres (2,044 ft) precipice overlooking the Austrian market town of Werfen in the Salzach river valley. It is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) south of Salzburg. Hohenwerfen is a small “sister” of  the fortress of Hohensalzburg, both built by the Archbishops of Salzburg in the 11th century. The name of the major builder’s archbishop was Gebhard of Salzburg.

fortress of Werfen

a strategical defense fortress in the Austrian Alps

The fortress Hohenwerfen was built between 1075 and 1078 during the Imperial Investiture Controversy. It was a strategic bulwark at the top of a 155-metre (509 ft) high rock. Gebhard, an ally of Pope Gregory VII and the anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden, held three major castles extended to secure the route across the Eastern Alps along the Salzach river against the forces of King Henry IV of Germany: these were Hohenwerfen, Hohensalzburg and Petersburg Castle at Friesach (Carinthia). Gebhard was expelled from King Henry in 1077 and were not allowed to return to Salzburg until 1086.

Hohenwerfen was for the rulers of Salzburg not only a military base but also a residence and hunting retreat area. It was extended in the 12th century and also in the 16th century. During the German Peasants’ War in 1525-1526 farmers and miners from the south of Salzburg destroyed the castle – on their move towards the city the were laying fire and did a lot of damage.

From time to time it was also used as a state prison. It was not the best place to stay there – there were definitely inhumane conditions. Sometimes also noble guests were sitting behind its prison walls like the archbishop Adalbert III in 1198, Count Albert of Friesach in 1253, and Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau – perhaps you remember him from the Saltmines in Bad Dürrnberg or Mirabell Palace.
the mountains from the fortress of Werfen

The use today of the fortress of Hohenwerfen

During the centuries it was going through many different owners – the most famous ones perhaps was the Habsburg family of Austria. Then of course it was also in the hands of the Austrian government and after World War II it was used as a training camp by the Austrian Gendarmerie (rural police) until 1987.

Nowadays the fortress functions as a museum. The museum has different main topics and it is more than fascination to walk through different centuries and climb up the biggest tower of the fortress to have a great overview over the valley of the Salzach river. Also guided tours are done which are showing its extensive weapons collection, the historical Salzburg Falconry (in summertime two times a day) with the falconry museum as well as a fortress tavern. The historic Falconry center is a special attraction, offering daily flight demonstrations using various birds of prey, including eagles, falcons, hawks, and vultures

logo where eagle's dare.

Hollywood & fortress Hohenwerfen

You will be surprised, but also Hollywood loves this area and the medieval fortress of Hohenwerfen was used as background and movie locations for several films. Perhaps you know some of them:

In the 1968 cinema film Where Eagles Dare the castle featured as the fictional Schloss Adler, command headquarters of the 3rd Rich, raided by an Anglo-American paratroop team during World War 2.

Also Just Married with Ashton Kutscher was done there in 2003, where it was used as French Hotel.

Season three of Angel used the castle as a monastery located in Sri Lanka, where Buffy summers died.

Perhaps you remember The 10th Kingdom? Also there the castle appears in the movie.

And of course it was used during the “do-re-mi-picnic scene” in The Sound of Music. Behind Julie Andrews when the kids learned to sing with here you see the valley of Werfen and the hillside with the castle.

There were also a few other movies, I do not want to count them all.

chapel within the fortress of Werfen

Drive with us to the Fortress of Hohenwerfen and enjoy a spectacular walk through the centuries. Learn more about this area and the Salzach valley and see the eagles flying. We are looking forward to meet you here in Salzburg. Best regards and a good travel Bespecialtours!