Snowbombing Day Trip: Ambras Castle

posted by Rose Mardit on April 03, 2012

In just a few short days, the masses will descend on Mayrhofen for Snowbombing, a week-long party in the mountains. For travelers looking to see the sights in and around the neighborhood, consider a day trip to Innsbruck to take in Ambras Castle, or "Schloss Ambras" in German, one of the most recognizable architectural works in all of Austria. Within its walls, history and culture thrive.

In the mid-16th century, Archduke Ferdinand II, a.k.a. son of the Holy Roman Emperor, ordered the construction of this residence for a specific purpose: to house the wife whom he had married secretly. The marriage between Ferdinand and Philippine Welser was not recognized by the governing body of Austria, the House of Habsburg, meaning the resulting children would have limited claims to the royal inheritance. As such, the castle can be understood as a kind of magnificent consolation prize to the woman he loved even though the royal house never could. Ambras would grow to become the Archduke's favorite residence and the place chosen to showcase his personal collection. Arms and armor, Artwork, an extensive library, and other items from throughout the world were put on display.

Today, visitors can enjoy the same "curiosities" that the Archduke wanted to share with the world, not to mention a stunning restoration of the interior. Included in the collection is the Portrait Gallery of the Habsburgs, which contains over 200 paintings by the likes of Lukas Cranach, Anton Mor, Diego Velasquez, Van Dyck, and others. Also not to be missed are the Late Medieval Sculptures.

A special exhibition, titled "Splash!", will run through the month of June. located in Philippine's bathroom, this is one of the best-preserved private bathrooms from the time period, complete with Schwitzraum (sweat room) and Wannenbad (tub room). Austrians are known for their commitment to personal care and relaxation (see our article on Lanserhof for modern proof), and the fixtures in this beautifully appointed bathroom demonstrate that the tradition has a history.

Ambras Castle is open daily from 10am to 5pm. In addition to the standard entrance, guided tours and audio guides in many languages are available. To get there, take the train from Mayhrhofen to Innsbruck, and the castle is accessible via a 10 minute bus ride on public transport.