The Festungsbahn going up to the fortress overlooking Salzburg is Austria’s oldest funicular railway that is still in operation. It was built in 1892, and now takes people up from the city to the fortress in just 54 seconds.
The lower station, on the Festungsgasse, is where you can buy tickets, either for the funicular alone or for the funicular plus fortress. There are two kinds of fortress tickets: a “basic ticket” for € 12.00 and a “standard ticket” for € 15.20 (prices as of 2017), the difference being that the basic ticket does not include the Princes’ Rooms (no great loss IMHO) and the Magic Theater (whatever that is). Both include the trip up and back on the funicular.
You can save money by buying an advance ticket online or by coming before 10.00 am. Another way to save is to walk up and buy a (cheaper) ticket at the entrance gate on the way.
Here the two funicular cars are passing each other, one going up and one going down.
This poster shows the four generations of the funicular since 1892. The first-generation cars had water tanks that were filled at the top and emptied at the bottom, so the weight of the water would pull the full car down and the empty one up. The second generation was introduced in 1960 and was run by electricity. The third generation from 1992 also used electric power, as does the fourth generation from 2011, but they claim they have now come (almost) full circle since the electricity now comes (partly) from water-driven turbines.
See also: Public transport in Lyon, France. (Scroll down for the funiculars.)
If you have already been exploring Salzburg before going up to the fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg), you might recognize some of the places in the town. The cathedral is on the right in the photo above. The festival halls are on the left. Also on the left, further back up on the cliff, is the Modern Art Museum. Saint Peter’s church is in the foreground, the Franciscan Church is in the center of the photo.
There are various things to see inside the fortress, for instance this model of wooden machinery that was used in the Middle Ages to build the walls and towers. I find this interesting because we (or at least I) sometimes get the impression that the people in those days used to haul everything up on their backs, whereas in fact they had some quite ingenious machinery to help them. Of course it was still hard work, but perhaps not quite as hard as we sometimes imagine.
Come to think of it, there is a similar model in Paris. See the sixth photo in my post Notre-Dame de Paris. 1492.
Some drawings on the wall also show wooden machinery that was used to help build the fortress, for instance how they used four horses walking in a circle to drive a winch that hauled building materials up from the bottom of the cliff.
This ghostly battle scene is intended to show off some of the medieval helmets, breast armor, swords and lances that have been preserved in the fortress. They are mounted on stick figures, also made of metal, which to me look more like ants than like people.
At the top of the fortress there is a suite of rooms called the Fürstenzimmer (Prince’s Rooms), which can be visited for a small extra fee.
Although the fee was not excessive — two or three Euros, I believe — I must say that I was unimpressed with these rooms and would not go up there again.
In Medieval times you had to be a prince or an archbishop (or both) to have your own private indoor toilet.
Here in the Golden Room is where the “Salzburg Fortress Concerts” are held. Since I did not attend any of these concerts (not even for the purpose of writing about them in this blog), I can’t comment from personal experience, but for those who don’t mind paying through the nose to hear “the most well-known and beloved works of W.A. Mozart” such as his “Little Serenade” aka “Little Night Music” (K. 525), performed by unnamed “internationally-renowned soloists”, this is no doubt an attractive option.
At best, these tourist concerts give you the chance to hear some light pieces of classical music played in beautiful historic palaces, castles or churches, so you can sit and soak up the atmosphere as you listen. Especially for those who are not very well acquainted with classical music, this can provide a pleasant and painless introduction.
My experience in cities like Prague and Vienna, however, is that not all of these old palaces have suitable acoustics, and that generally the musicians are unmotivated because they have been playing the same hackneyed pieces night after night for months on end. It isn’t always that bad, but it can be. Also, these tourist concerts are invariably over-priced. In Salzburg you can see an entire opera at the State Theatre for less than one of these brief concerts.
By the way, in a border town like Salzburg it is not difficult to become an “internationally-renowned soloist”. All you have to do is play a few gigs across the river in the adjoining city of Freilassing, Germany, and presto, you’re internationally renowned.
Before leaving the fortress I had lunch at the Panorama Restaurant, which as the name implies offers wide views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
This is a rustic outdoor restaurant that is open to the wind, with enough shade to make it comfortable on a hot summer afternoon. The waiters and waitresses were wearing vaguely Alpine costumes and were friendly and efficient.
I ordered their daily special, which turned out to be some sort of local dish involving a roast pork and dumplings. The meat was a bit dry — perhaps it had been re-warmed once too often — but otherwise the food was quite adequate.
Obviously this is not gourmet dining, but if that’s what you are looking for there is an indoor restaurant somewhere in the fortress with white tablecloths and all the proper wine glasses arranged in their proper order.
My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2017.