Ambras Palace

Ambras Palace



Location: Schloßstraße 20, 6020, Innsbruck Map

Constructed: built in 10th century and rebuilt in the 16th century by emperor Ferdinand II

Tel. 01 525 244 802

Official site


Description of Ambras Palace

Ambras Castle is a large castle complex on what is now the south-eastern city limits of Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrolean state, in the district of Amras, which was an independent village until it was incorporated in 1938. The castle includes the so-called Ambras High Castle, the Ambras Lower Castle, the Spanish Hall and the administration building. The property is located at an altitude of 654 meters in the middle of a spacious castle park with cultural and historical monuments.

The building complex is administered by the Burghauptmannschaft Österreich, the park by the Austrian Federal Gardens. Inside the upper and lower castle is the art museum Schloss Ambras Innsbruck. Ambras Castle is one of the most important and most visited tourist attractions in Tyrol and one of the most important sights in Austria.



Ambras was the castle of the Counts of Dießen-Andechs, whose ancestors resided there ad umbras (in the shady) as early as the 10th century (sources document the 11th century). In 1133 the castle was destroyed by Henry the Proud. After 150 years it was rebuilt. The last Andechser, Duke Otto VIII of Merania, was with Elisabeth, daughter of Count Albert III. from Tyrol, married; after Otto's death in 1248, Albert inherited his dominions. Albert died in 1253, and Ambras now fell to Elisabeth's second husband, Gebhard IV von Hirschberg. Elisabeth died in 1256 without children; thus the husband of the other Albert daughter, Adelheid, inherited Meinhard I from Gorizia, Ambras and the emerging state of Tyrol.

Ambras remained a sovereign property. Together with the neighboring Straßfried Castle - at the time the more important one, a governor sat there - it controlled the routes between Innsbruck, the Inn Bridge near Hall, the low mountain plateau and the lower Silltal.

After the death of the last Gorizia, Margarete von Tirol, the castle fell to the Habsburgs in 1363. Emperor Maximilian I used it as a hunting lodge.

Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595) expanded the medieval castle during the Renaissance. He turned Ambras into a magnificent palace and signed it over to his secretly married middle-class wife Philippine Welser.

When Tyrol was no longer the seat of a sovereign after 1665 and was largely withdrawn from court representation, the castle served various purposes such as troop quarters and a military hospital until the middle of the 19th century. It was barracks until 1842, before the castle was expanded again for residential purposes in the 19th century under the governor of Tyrol 1855-1861, Archduke Karl Ludwig.

The museum k.k. Ambras Collections was opened in 1880.

Since 1900, Ambras Castle has been accessible with the Innsbruck low mountain railway via the Schönruh stop, originally called Ambras Castle, and now also via the Tummelplatz stop, which at times has an additional stop.

After 1913 Ambras Castle was to become the summer residence of the family of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne. But he was murdered in 1914, during which the First World War broke out.

After the abolition of the monarchy, Ambras fell to the Republic of Austria in 1919 with the Habsburg Law. Although the state of Tyrol had asserted its claims to the castle and the Ambras collections as former imperial property, this was rejected by the monument office, e.g. so that Italy could not appropriate parts of the collection in the name of South Tyrol.

The museum was reopened in 1922 after the renovations begun in 1913 had to be stopped in 1914 due to the outbreak of the First World War.

After the museum was closed due to the Second World War, it was reopened after 1948. Austria's first silver euro commemorative coin depicts Ambras Castle.


Art History Museum – Ambras Castle Innsbruck

The Kunstmuseum Schloss Ambras Innsbruck is part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. It is the first museum in the world and is one of the internationally most important art museums: the core of the museum shows the collections of the Renaissance prince Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595), one of the most important collectors of the Habsburg dynasty. For the collections, he had the Ambras Lower Castle built, one of the earliest museum buildings ever and the earliest surviving Renaissance building, in which the original collections are still on display today. The objects on display from the armory and the cabinet of art and curiosities are outstanding in number and quality. The museum contains the only Renaissance cabinet of art and curiosities still on site. Ferdinand II implemented the systematic collection and presentation here, and the museum is therefore considered to be the beginning of modern museums.

Construction of the castle
building history
Nothing remains of the original castle of the Counts of Andechs, as it was destroyed in 1133. The keep, palas and foundations of the chapel date from the 13th and 14th centuries, when Ambras was owned by the Gorizia.

The cross vault of the Palas goes back to Sigmund the Coin Rich.

The transformation into a Renaissance castle took place through the conversions by Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595), who acquired the castle in June 1564 for 15,300 fl. The builders were Giovanni and his son Alberto Luchese, according to plans by the architect Giovanni Battista Guarienti (Johann Guarient; or Quarient), with Ferdinand II demonstrably having a say in the building development in the planning stage. At the same time, the Spanish Hall was built and work began on the “Lower Castle”, an irregular, pentagon-shaped, independent complex open to the east to house the library and the museum. It was then one of the earliest explicit museum buildings ever and is today the only surviving Renaissance building where the collections are still on display. The "Ballspielhaus", the "Beamtenhaus" and the "Schlosswarterhaus" were also built.

1564–1567 Conversion of the high castle and expansion of the western fore castle (with kitchen and dining room)
1569–1571 Spanish Hall
1570-1572 "Kornschütt" with library, antiquarium and hunting armory
1572-1583 "Art & Curiosity Chamber" and three armouries
1589 Subsequent addition of the "heroes' armory" (removed 1881)

In the 19th century Ambras was expanded again for residential purposes by the architect Ludwig Förster and later by his son Heinrich under the governor of Tyrol (1855-1861), Archduke Karl Ludwig.
1855-1858 neo-Gothic additions to the high castle:
Raised fourth floor of the keep with crowning turret
Stair tower on the south front
Balconies on the north and west facades
glazed gallery on the second floor of the inner courtyard, removing a loggia from the Ferdinand period
New gate tract
New façade of the west side of the Spanish Hall in the form of a stepped gable
Bathhouse in the Keuchengarten (no longer preserved)
1863-1867 St. Nicholas Chapel designed by August Wörndle in neo-Gothic style
1860 romantic ramp led to the high castle

The forelock was in danger of slipping, which is why it was removed from 1847 by the floor of the dining wing. The large ceiling painting there, The Starry Sky, painted by Giovanni Battista Fontana in 1586, was removed but not restored there, but only later, in 1880, in what is now the Third Armory of the Ambras Lower Castle.

In the zeitgeist of the last quarter of the 19th century, the imperial collections were to be presented in new, independent houses equipped with modern hanging and building technology. Johann Deininger was entrusted with the corresponding conversion of Ambras Castle from 1877. The museum Anbraser Collections was opened in 1880. In the course of this, some dilapidated buildings were removed, around 1880/81 the heroes' armory and the ball game house as well as the summer house in the Keuchengarten.

Stair tower on the south front
New facade of the west side of the Spanish Hall with bricked-up cornice with horizontal structure
Removal of the dilapidated turret at the keep in 1899

In the 20th century, the neo-Gothic additions were removed again under Archduke Karl Ludwig in order to come close to a sight as it is known from the earliest engraving from 1649 by Matthäus Merian. As early as 1913, the fourth floor of the keep and the corridor in the inner courtyard disappeared again due to the master builder Ludwig Simon. However, the access ramp to the high castle was left in place.

Hexagonal clock tower
In 1997, a new entrance area for the Spanish Hall was created with the farmer's armory in the basement in order to relieve the conservation-sensitive hall. A stepped terrace porch disturbs the west front of the Spanish Hall in a postmodern way.

In 2017, the KHM Museum Association created a new gastronomy, the "Ferdinand Café & Bistro Schloss Ambras", in the historic rooms of the "Gothic Kitchen" in the high castle. The adaptation was implemented by the architect Christian Knapp from the Kohlmayr, Lutter, Knapp architects’ office – winner of the 2017 American Architecture Prize in the two categories of restoration and interior design.


Spanish Hall of the Ambras Palace

The Spanish Hall of the Ambras Palace is one of the most beautiful rooms in the castle. It was constructed in 1569- 1572 and reflects the influence of Renaissance artists and aesthetics of the time. Floor of the Spanish Hall is covered by a tiles of different colours while a ceiling is covered by intricate wooden tiles that are hand cut in different shapes and forms. The walls are covered by 27 full length portraits of various princes and rules of the Tyrol region. Today this 43 meter long hall is reserved for classical concerts.


Armoury of the Ambras Palace

If you come to the Ambras Castle probably the best place to take them is by bringing them to the Armory that held medieval weapons. Ambras Castle has many collections of various art, but while other halls might be quiet boring it might be a good idea to show them something that is truly cool and exciting. Once they will grow up, they might start paying more interest to other forms of art. As long as you convince them that museum are interesting and fun you did your job.


Castle park

The castle park surrounds the castle above the district of Amras. Immediately after the main entrance you can see the Great Weiher. The area surrounded by a wall is largely laid out as an English landscape park. Worth seeing are the Bacchus grotto, the wheezing garden (whistling = prison) and the artificial waterfall, which is fed by a branch of the Aldranser Bach. At the northern entrance to the park are the remains of the steeple of the former St. George's Church. The park has been owned by the Republic of Austria since 1928 and is administered by the Federal Gardens. Since 2007, the complex has been under monument protection. Essentially, the Ambras Castle Park has been divided into three parts over the centuries around the central Renaissance Castle: the game park to the east of the castle, the west and north sides of the landscaped part of the park and the Keuchengarten as a Renaissance garden complex on the south side.

History of the Ambras Castle Park
Archduke Ferdinand II had the castle park designed from 1567 when Ambras Castle was converted into a magnificent Renaissance castle. 1574 are documented in a detailed description by Stephanus Venandus Pighius forests, fish ponds, game reserve, vineyards, gardens and summer houses. Today's wildlife park with mixed deciduous forest, rocks, gorges, paths, bridges and artificial waterfall goes back to this design phase. Pleasure gardens were laid out to the west and south of the high castle. These garden areas were not preserved after the archduke's death in 1595: they were used for agriculture. The rock cellar, the Bacchus grotto and some other garden buildings remained.

Archduke Karl Ludwig, as Tyrolean governor, had the summer residence expanded from 1855. The northern and western parts were designed as a landscape garden. Solitary trees and groups of trees were planted in the park, and a large pond was created in the lower area.

In the second half of the 20th century, some changes were made to the park: the construction of the motorway required a reduction in area on the north side. The Keuchengarten area, some of the formerly ungreened courtyards and the entrance from the west gate were redesigned in accordance with the taste of the 1970s. A playground was built in the wildlife park.

Cultural monuments in the palace park
Bacchus Grotto
Supported by a strong pillar and four arches, the grotto, originally called "Felsenkeller", was laid out in the park of Ambras Castle by order of Archduke Ferdinand II. A basement building, which can be seen in the 1649 engraving by Matthäus Merian, was demolished in 1882. In 1574, the Bacchus grotto was first described in Stephanus Pighius' travelogue in connection with the reception ceremony for the princely guests. The highlight of this ritual was the "drink test": "hidden chains and bars" held the guests who could only free themselves by drinking a wine-filled vessel, the "welcome". That is why the grotto was named "Bacchus grotto" after the Roman god of wine. After passing the drinking test, the guests wrote a motto in one of the three drinking books that are still in the collections of Schloss Ambras Innsbruck. They contain autographs of important personalities of the time. The drinking glasses used for the rite have also been preserved to this day. The “hidden chains and bars” are probably the incomparable Kunstkammer piece of the Ambraser drinking chair, decorated on the back using iron carving technique with floral-grotesque ornamentation and hunting motifs: a chair made of iron, which is hinged on the front and back is collapsible. Anyone who sat down in the chair was held in place by a highly complex hidden mechanism with gripper arms attached to the shoulders and limbs. Today, the Ambraser Fangstuhl is a highlight of Archduke Ferdinand II's cabinet of arts and curiosities, where, according to an entry in the estate inventory of 1596, it was originally in the seventh box.

Since the beginning of the 16th century, starting in Italy, artificial grottos have been laid out in gardens and castles throughout Europe based on ancient models. The Roman nymphs of the 2nd and 3rd centuries served as models. This meant wells and caves dedicated to the nymphs, female nature spirits.


Panting garden
South of the High Castle, in front of the Spanish Hall, is the so-called panting garden. The linguistic origin of Keuchen (mhd., "prison") probably goes back to the medieval, trapezoidal, three-storey "prison tower" in the south-east corner, which was completely included in the new building during the conversion to a Renaissance castle around 1563. The Keuchengarten is on a lower terrace level and thus in clear contrast to the level of the lower palace and its forecourt area, which has only been greened since the second half of the 20th century. During the reign of Archduke Ferdinand II, a square garden divided into nine bed compartments was laid out in the center of the Keuchengarten, in the center of which a round pavilion with columns and an onion-shaped roof was erected. To the south-east was what was known as the "summer house," a rotunda where water tricks could be experienced: a maple table that could be made to rotate by water-powered wheels, and where guests could be splashed with water. The summer house is no longer preserved, nor is the ball game house bordering the Keuchgarten to the east. Today there is still a hexagonal, brick, tower-like garden building on the north-east corner and a stair tower slightly above it, which is elevated on the slope.

After the death of Ferdinand II in 1695, the Keuchengarten was converted into an orchard.

In the 19th century, Archduke Karl Ludwig, as Tyrolean governor, had the summer residence expanded from 1855, with the Keuchengarten receiving a kidney-shaped bathing pool with a surrounding formal garden design based on plans by Heinrich Förster. Boxwood, yew and blood barberry hedges as well as trimmed boxwood balls and yew cones were planted. Since then, the garden room has shown these landscape and formal transformations of the mid-18th century. The swimming pool should have been dismantled after 1913; However, the work was stopped in 1914 as a result of the World War and it is still there today.

At the end of the 20th century, the engraving by Matthäus Merian the Elder was taken. Ä., (1649) as a model to redesign the lower courtyard of Ambras Castle in 1974. In 1997, a garden-historical quote from the second half of the 16th century was added: The Austrian Federal Gardens designed part of the Keuchen Garden in the spirit of the Renaissance, based on a design by Maria Auböck and János Kárász, based on an Austrian garden pattern book by Hans Puechfeldner, which was published around 1592-1594 in Prague for Emperor Rudolph II.

Venetian fountain
The demolition of the dilapidated ball game house on the step between the upper and lower courtyard of Ambras Castle in 1880 made it necessary to redesign the garden. In 1914, a Renaissance-style Venetian fountain was installed there. This was preceded by the planning of a fountain with bronze figures by Caspar Grass, which were kept at Ambras Castle. The plan from 1884 by the Tyrolean state curator Johann Deininger never came to fruition and these bronzes became part of the Leopold Fountain in Innsbruck's city center in 1893.