Burghausen Castle – The Longest Castle Complex In The World (History & Travel Tips)

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As one of Germany’s crown jewels, Burghausen Castle revels in its historical significance and boasts a gorgeous architectural standing. Located in Upper Bavaria, it’s one of the greatest examples of late medieval fortifications and was one of the most massive Bavarian Dukedom seats. Today, it is a stunning tourist spot and is recognized as the longest castle complex in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records! 

“The castle complex extends over a length of more than half a mile (1.05 km), making it the longest in the world.”

The early history of this castle indicated that it was site of many executions – and also torture – so much so that there’s an actual Torture Museum at the castle today where visitors can see tools of that torment.

Worm's eye view of the gothic architecture of this castle and the hilly geography of the ridge on which it is located.
The gothic architecture of this castle and the hilly geography of the ridge on which it is located. Burghausen, Kernburg der Burganlage flickr photo by Polybert49 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Frequently Asked Questions

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Early History of Burghausen Castle

Prehistoric Times

The Burghausen Castle is perched on a hill that has been an archaeological hub. It was discovered through several modern excavations that it was settled in prehistoric times and had been home to human settlements since the Bronze Age. Historical evidence suggests that it was once the site of a Celtic settlement (way long ago circa 100 BC). It was later occupied by Romans as well, before being allocated to Bravian aristocrats.

The actual construction of the castle dates back to pre-1025, to which it has first been documented. Today, it is a true Gothic beauty that consists of an entire complex that includes a chapel, many museums, courtyards, and even modern apartments.

View of Burghausen walls from the inside with few people around.
View of Burghausen walls from the inside.

Era of the Counts of Burghausen

The land on which the Burghausen castle was administered, was an imperial property to the Counts of Burghausen. They were the ones who built the first stone complex on the land circa 11th and earthy 12th centuries. It was simple, with a ring wall and a church on the southern tip of the ridge. You can actually visit the remains of this construction, as they have been recently excavated and are featured in the Knights’ Hall of the main castle today.

The clock tower from in the sixth courtyard of Burghausen Castle.
The clock tower from in the sixth courtyard of Burghausen Castle. Schorle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Transfer to the Wittlesbach (1180-1918 CE)

The castle was actually passed down to the Wittlesback after the death of Gebhard ll, the very last count of Burghausen. It was actually Duke Otto I of the Lower Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty who had the castle extended for the first time. It was gradually architected in layers, just like the Louvre, and spans the length of  1093 yards (1000 meters) or 0.62 miles in its finished state. It was actually on the desire of Duke Henry XIII, that the construction on what is today the main castle began.

A beautiful view of Burghausen Castle from the Salzach river surrounded by houses and trees and other greenery.
Spectacular view of Burghausen Castle from the other side of the Salzach river.

From 1255 onwards, the castle was used as a residence for the Lower Bavarian Dukes and their families. It was their second residence, with the castle at Landshut serving as the first one. During this time, the castle served several functions, including the court of the Duchess and as a home for their children. The widows from the ruling family also resided there, as well as the Ducal heir and his wife.

Perhaps the most well-known resident of the castles was the wife of Duke Georg der Reich. She was a Polish princess named Hedwig and is a popular historical figure even today, as her wedding to the Bavarian duke is reenacted every four years with a medieval pageant called the Landshut Wedding.

As a military stronghold (15th and 16th century)

The Burghausen castle was well fortified to begin with, as the Dukes kept their gold and silver inside. But it wasn’t until circa 1500 when it was used as an actual stronghold after the Landshut Wars of Succession. As one of the best-fortified castles in Europe, Burghausen was used to thwart the Turkish Ottoman invasions in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The beautiful panoramic view of Burghausen Castle, the longest castle in the world from across the river.
The beautiful panoramic view of Burghausen Castle, the longest castle in the world.

It also played a major role in many European conflicts. This includes the Thirty Years’ War (between Germany and Central Europe), which lasted from 1618 to 1648. During that time, this castle was a site of many executions. It was also where much of the torturing was held. The dungeon (Kerker) was home to many lowly prisoners, notable figures, and even the Swedish field marshal Gustav Graf Horn.

The Dark Era of Burghausen Castle (1800 onwards)

The Burghausen Castle was also used during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815. Napoleon used the strategic position of the castle in his campaign against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, it was actually during the French occupation (circa 1800) when parts of the castle’s architecture were torn down.

An internal view from the inside of Burghausen castle clock tower at night
An internal view from the inside of Burghausen castle at night. Burghausen Castle flickr photo by alfaltendorf shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Napoleon l actually declared the castle outmoded in 1809 and it underwent many reconstructions after that. During and after that time, the castle housed troops (around 100,000 and their horses while the pontoon bridge was built) for many decades until the garrison was finally dissolved in 1891. 

After that, there were plans to demolish the castle, but the citizens of the town of Burghausen put in a lot of effort to stop that. However, it wasn’t until 1896 that actual steps were taken to preserve this castle for posterity.

Current Times

The Burghausen Castle is located on the Bavarian side of the Austrian-German border, beside the river Salzach, so it offers some great vistas. As such, it is a great tourist destination. Its medieval architecture is a sight to behold and you can stroll through its six courtyards to immerse yourself in its classic ambiance. And if you are a history aficionado, then there are many museums on the castle grounds that you can visit to satisfy your craving for knowledge of the past.

A night view of the current condition of the Burghausen castle at the bridge.
A night view of the current condition of the Burghausen castle. Burghausen Castle flickr photo by alfaltendorf shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

One of the most significant events held at the castle includes the “State Garden Show” which ended up attracting a million visitors in 2004. The castle was also used to co-host the annual Bavarian State Exhibition in 2012, which it did in coordination with the Austrian town of Braunau. The exhibit theme was “Bavaria and Austria in the Middle Ages.”

A view of the Burghausen Castle from across the river Salzach in the morning.
A view of the Burghausen Castle from across the river Salzach. Burghausen flickr photo by vil.sandi shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

There is also the old town or “Altstadt” that is located at the foot of the castle and it’s definitely a place to visit. It’s very charming and features colorful row houses alongside the river. The streets are narrow and suited for pedestrian usage only. The cozy shops there are perfect for enjoying the old-world charm of the town and immersing yourself in the whole medieval experience with a modern twist.

Interesting Burghausen Castle Facts

  • The Burghausen castle is 0.65 miles long and to be more precise – 3,448 feet and 2 inches long and of course it features great views on both sides along its length.
  • Since Burghausen castle is located on the border of Austria, you can simply walk the bridge over the Salzach river and travel to a different country.
  • The early history of this castle indicated that it was site of many executions – and also torture – so much so that there’s an actual Torture Museum at the castle today where visitors can see tools of that torment.
  • The old town at the base of the fortress hosts an International Jazz Week every March, and you can find world class musicians there during that time.
  • The town also celebrates a renaissance festival where participants invoke the 16th century lifestyle within the town as well as the castle.
  • The Castle museum features Gothic paintings of the Bavarian State Picture Collection.

Visiting Burghausen Castle – Tips and Tricks

If you’re planning to visit the castle, here is some helpful information that will make your experience all the better:

The row-houses of the Burghausen town following the perimeter of the castle’s ridge and the clock tower.
The row-houses of the Burghausen town following the perimeter of the castle’s ridge. Burghausen, Altstadt und Burg an der Salzach in Oberbayern — Burghausen, old town and castle on the river Salzach in Upper Bavaria flickr photo by Polybert49 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

How to get to Burghausen Castle?

This castle is about a 2-hour drive away from Munich.

You can also utilize the passenger rail service between Munich and Burghausen to get to the town. Then you can take the public bus that covers the route between the Burghausen rail station and the castle. You can also walk this distance if the weather is nice and you’re up for an extra stroll.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

As for the tickets, you can enter the castle free or charge, but there is a 4.50 euro ($6 USD) fee to enter the museum. It’s 3.50 euros ($4 USD) for senior citizens (i.e. 65 and older) while children and students can enter for free. The latter should have an ID.Visiting hours include 9 am to 6 pm daily. This time slot is followed from April to October and converts to 10 am to 4 pm from October to March. The museum remains closed on January 1st, Shrove Tuesday, December 24th, 25th and 31st.

A stunning view of the Burghausen castle and its adjoining town near the river.
A stunning view of the Burghausen castle and its adjoining town. Burghausen flickr photo by gogg shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

Answer paragraph

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • It’s the perfect place to go on a photowalk with friends.
  • Do wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking more than 1000 yards (approx. 1 km), unless you don’t want to experience this castle in its fullest.
  • The roof of the Burghausen castle offers a panoramic view of its surroundings, so it’s an excellent place to enjoy some quiet time and of course – capture beautiful shots.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Burghausen Castle Areas

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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