Hochosterwitz Castle – Austria’s Medieval Legacy (History & Travel Tips)

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Hochosterwitz Castle is one of Europe’s finest architectural marvels. It’s a study in refinement and is perfect for immersing yourself in the captivating experience of renaissance-era Europe. In the midst of green, mineral-rich hills in Carinthia, Austria, this fortress is a must-visit! Here’s everything you need to know about it:

The museum of the castle is home to a variety of weaponry, including some of the weapons left behind by Napoleon’s army, and also various types of helmets, spears, and swords from various periods in history.

A closer view of the structure of Hochosterwitz Castle.
A closer view of the structure of Hochosterwitz Castle. Johann Jaritz / CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Early Implements (9th-11th Century)

The location of Hochosterwitz Castle has been an inhabited site since the Bronze Age. The earliest record of this castle’s existence can be found in a deed issued by Louis the German, the king of East Francia, who was donating the property to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. It then came to be known as Astarwiza. The castle remained in the possession of Salzburg up until the 11th century.


In the 11th century, Archbishop Gebhard passed Hochosterwitz to the descendants of Count Sigfried of Sponheim as a token of gratitude for their support to the church during the Investiture. In 1122, Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor–and grandson of Count Siegfried–became the Duke of Carinthia. This allowed the castle to come back to the ownership of Sponheim rulers without the overlordship of Salzburg. Later, the property went to the ownership of the ministerial of the aristocratic Osterwitz family.

1898 illustration of Burg Hochosterwitz.
1898 illustration of Burg Hochosterwitz. Alois Beer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Siege of Countess Margaret Tyrol (14th Century)

According to a popular tale documented by Jakob Unrest, Hochosterwitz was held under siege by the troops of Countess Margaret of Tyrol in the 14th century. This was the result of the Countess being deceived out of her inheritance of Carinthia. 

The siege came to an end when the garrison of Hochosterwitz butchered their last remaining ox, stuffed it with corn, and tossed it across the castle wall in order to give the false idea that the castle had so many facilities in stock that they could easily afford to use their food as projectiles. This made the forces withdraw their troops.

A 1924 rendering of Hochosterwitz Castle.
A 1924 rendering of Hochosterwitz Castle. Richard Carl Wagner (1882 – 1945), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

15th Century Onwards

The last surviving member of the Osterwitz clan, Georg of Osterwitz, was imprisoned in a Turkish invasion and subsequently passed away in 1476. Before his death, he had an enormous amount of debt to pay to the emperor, he had no choice but to surrender the deed of Hochosterwitz Castle. 

A sketch of Othmar von Khevenhüller-Metsch (1819-1890).
A sketch of Othmar von Khevenhüller-Metsch (1819-1890). Franz Eybl (1806-1880), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1478, the ownership of the castle was taken by emperor Fredrick the Third of Habsburg. Over the next 3 decades, Turkish invasions caused heavy damages to the castle. In the early 16th century, the castle belonged to Emperor Maximilian I. On the 5th of October 1509, he gave the castle to the Bishop of Gurk, Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, as a pledge of allegiance. The Bishop renovated the heavily damaged castle. 

The chapel and altar at the Hochosterwitz Castle.
The chapel and altar at the Hochosterwitz Castle. Hochosterwitz_10 flickr photo by lastoffagiusta2013 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

In 1541, Hochosterwitz was under the ownership of King Ferdinand of Habsburg, who gifted it to Christof Khevenhuller, a Carinthian governor. A Carinthian nobleman from the Khevenhüller family purchased the castle later in the 16th century and fortified it in order to protect it from any potential invasion by Turkish forces. He constructed an armory and fourteen additional gates on the castle between 1570 and 1586. Owing to such strong fortitude, the castle has never since been captured, and no force has been able to surpass the fourth gate of the palace. 

Current Times

Hochosterwitz Castle is still owned and operated by the Khevenhüller family at the request of George Khevenhüller. It is pretty much in the same shape as it was in the late 16th century after its fortification. No major changes have been made to the structure. Certain parts of the castle are available for touring every year from spring till the end of fall and it’s definitely worth the visit.

A current aerial view of Hochosterwitz Castle.
A current aerial view of Hochosterwitz Castle. Arcomonte26, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Hochosterwitz Castle Facts

  • The request of George Khevenhüller to keep the castle in the possession of the family is carved on a marble plaque and can be seen in the upper courtyard.
  • Towards the north of the courtyard, there is a small chapel with mesmerizing murals and an altar that dates back to 1673.
  • The museum of the castle is home to a variety of weaponry, including some of the weapons left behind by Napoleon’s army, and also various types of helmets, spears, and swords from various periods in history.

Visiting Hochosterwitz Castle – Tips and Tricks

As one of Austria’s most well-conserved and holistic medieval structures, Hochosterwitz Castle is a must-visit if you truly want to absorb the rich cultural heritage of the country. Here’s everything you need to know about getting there:

The gate of Hochosterwitz Castle.
The gate of Hochosterwitz Castle. Johann Jaritz / CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Hochosterwitz Castle?

If you are staying in Vienna, getting to Hochosterwitz Castle would take you a 3 to 4-hour drive by car. You can opt to go either via the S6 or the A1. The fastest route would be the S6, which should take you a little over an hour as opposed to the A1, which would take you an hour and a half longer. If you opt for the S6, bear in mind that you would have to pay toll taxes. The approximate fuel cost via the S6 would be between €29 and €41 ($33 – $48 USD).

Alternatively, you can go by bus to Klagenfurt, and then a train to Launsdorf from where the castle is a short while away. While this may be the cheapest way to get to the castle, it would take you the longest: up to 5 hours and 40 minutes. The fare all together would cost between €21 and €32 ($25 – $38 USD).

Another way to get to the castle is via train. The journey would take you almost 5 hours and cost you between €40 and €73 ($46 – $86). From the station, it’s a 30-minute walk to the castle site. 

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The ticket pricing is as follows; €15 ($18 USD) for adult persons, €8 ($10 USD) for children between 6 and 15 years of age, €10 ($12 USD) for military personnel in uniform, €10 ($12 USD) for students with ID cards, €13 ($16 USD) for Region Cardholders, a total of €45 ($53 USD) for families with at least two children, €13 ($16 USD) for senior citizens over the age of 65, and €10 ($12 USD) for disabled people with ID. 

From 13th September till the first of November, you can visit the castle any day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last time slot for admission into the castle is 3:30 pm. 4th November 2021 onwards, the castle will be accessible Thursday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm From 4th to 12th December, there would be an advent market held at the castle during which the timings would be from 11 am to 8 pm. while on the 12th of December the closing time would be 6 pm.

Hochosterwitz Castle’s mountainous domain and its lush green surroundings.
Hochosterwitz Castle’s mountainous domain and its lush green surroundings. Johann Jaritz / CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

Touring the castle would take around an hour and a half.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • You may take the lift up to the castle if you want to avoid the uphill walk, but it would cost you €9 ($11 USD) for a two-way ride.
  • You can enjoy a hearty meal at the open-air restaurant on top of the castle after your visit!
  • The top of the castle is a great place for photography with its picturesque scenery.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Hochosterwitz Castle Areas

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Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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