Editorial Feature

Take a Virtual Tour of These 9 Cultural Sites in Austria

From secret fountains to the world's oldest zoo

Austria is a famously beautiful country, known for its stunning alpine terrain, rich imperial history and grandiose baroque architecture. It’s also home to some of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe, the world’s oldest zoo, and a wide, exciting range of cultural sites begging to be explored. So we’ve narrowed down a list of some of the best places that you can check out on Street View, right here, right now.

Schloss Hellbrunn

Schloss Hellbrunn, near Morzg in Southern Salzburg has an unusual appeal for visitors. Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg at the time, built the Baroque villa from 1613 to 1619 with a few hidden tricks: the grounds include a host of hidden water features designed to surprise (and hopefully delight) unsuspecting guests as they pass by. Sittukus had a mischievous sense of humor and even had some water jets installed in an outdoor stone dining table and stools to catch his friends unaware when they took a seat. In all of these jeux d'eau (water games) there is a spot that never gets wet, which is where Sittikus would stand, completely dry, as he watched visitors get soaked.

Festung Hohensalzburg

Sitting on top of a small hill in Salzburg is Festung Hohensalzburg, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, as well as one of the best-preserved. The fortress was originally built in 1077 and was then gradually expanded by its various residents over the subsequent centuries. It is also the home to what is claimed to be the world’s oldest operational railway in the form of a primitive funicular railway, the Reisszug, that hauled freight to the upper courtyard dating from the early 1500s. Inside the Festung Hohensalzburg many of the rooms are covered in a series of sunken panels that are adorned with gold buttons, representing the stars of the night sky. You can see this below in the Golden Hall, the ornate state apartments that were installed in 1498.

Burg Hohenwerfen

The medieval castle of Hohenwerfen overlooks the market town of Werfen in the Salzach valley from its vantage point atop a 155m-high rock. It was built as a strategic hold between 1075 and 1078 during a conflict between the church and the state in medieval Europe that led to nearly 50 years of civil war in Germany. Over 400 years Burg Hohenwerfen was extended and developed until it reached its current size, but in the 16th century it was plundered and burned by peasant revolts and large sections of the castle were destroyed. In the following centuries repair work took place—during which a secret staircase was added in one of the bastions—and it later served as a residence, military base, hunting retreat and prison. It was again damaged by fire in 1931, but repaired once more and is now a museum and a falconry centre.

Burg Mauterndorf

Burg Mautendorf was built on an old Roman road that passes over the Obertauern mountain chain and on to Salzburg, which then would have been the old Roman city of Juvavum. The castle is named so because its construction in the 13th century was funded by a toll system (maut meaning toll and dorf meaning village in German) set up on a nearby road—a system that supported the castle up until 1803. It had functioned as a summer residence of the Salzburg archbishops, but later, when the toll was abolished, the castle began to fall into disrepair. It came into the possession of the state and remained so until 1894 when it was purchased by Prussian military doctor Hermann von Epenstein. He restored the castle to use as a residence until he died in 1934, and it now exists as a castle museum.

Schloss Mirabell

When Schloss Mirabell was first built in 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau, it was intended as a romantic pleasure palace on the shore of the Salzach river for his mistress, Salome Alt. Regrettably for the lovestruck pair, Raitenau was arrested not long later in 1612 and Salome was evicted. Its new owner, Mark Sittich von Hohenems, rebuilt it in a lavish Baroque style (without any trick fountains) and it was renamed Mirabell, a combination of mirabile, meaning admirable, and bella, meaning beautiful. A fire in 1818 damaged much of the building, after which it was restored with the Neoclassical appearance it exists with now. Its famous Marble Hall, which you can see below on Street View, is famous for hosting the Salzburg Palace Concerts. The garden is also a popular tourist attraction, having been a filming location for several scenes from The Sound of Music.

MuseumsQuartier

Nestled in the 7th district of Vienna is Museumsquartier, a cultural hub where history meets present day, with its mix of historic buildings and contemporary architecture. A former imperial court stables that was renovated into an outdoor space, Museumsquartier is home to a range of installations from large art museums, such as the Leopold Museum; contemporary exhibition spaces, such as the Kunstalle Wien; as well as an annual summer event called the Wiener Festwochen. An eye-catching array of green benches dot the square in between, acquiring a cult status as the perfect place for city residents to hang out in the summer.

Austrian National Library

Containing over 12 million items, including literature, maps of the world, and globes, the Austrian National Library is a bookworm's paradise. The library, the largest in Austria, obtains copies of everything that is published within the country, as well as anything published abroad that concerns Austria. It is located in the Neue Burg Wing of the Hofburg Palace, built there between 1723 and 1726 when Charles VI ordered the construction of a permanent home for the growing collection of the Imperial Court Library. Its beautiful baroque main hall, the Prunksaal, is home to a magnificent dome fresco, painted by Daniel Gran, and statues by sculptors Peter Strudel and Paul Strudel.

Burgtheater

Established in 1741, the Burgtheater is the second-oldest theatre in Europe. It moved to several different locations around Vienna before it reached its current location on the Ringstraße, the ring road around the city’s historic district. Unfortunately, its first building in this spot was largely destroyed in 1945, first by a bombing raid in March, and then by a fire of unknown origin a month later. It was fully restored, better than ever, with an ornate facade featuring busts of playwrights and famous literature icons from around the world. The extravagance extends inside, with the painted ceiling of the grand staircase including early work from Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch. Among the paintings you can spot Klimt’s only known self-portrait, which you can explore on Street View below or zoom into here.

Schönbrunn Palace

With an impressive 1,441 rooms, Schönbrunn Palace has a lot to be explored. It's built on a former Roman hunting ground and takes its name, meaning beautiful spring, from the nearby artesian well used to quench the thirst of the courtly visitors. The palace itself was built from 1638 to 1643 by Eleonora Gonzaga, the widow of Ferdinand II, and was later remodelled during the 1740s to 1750s by Maria Theresa, who was the only female rule of Austria’s royal House of Hasburg. Her husband ordered the construction of a menagerie on the grounds, the beginnings of what is now Schönbrunn Zoo. It's the oldest continually operating zoo in the world and also has a claim to fame for being the location of the first ever birth of an elephant in captivity.

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