Mirabell Palace

The castles in Salzburg are among the city's best attractions, and Mirabell Palace is one such castle. It can be found on the north side of the Salzach River, which bisects the city, and just on the river's other side is the city's Old Town. The gardens are as alluring as the fairy tale Mirabell Castle is. Originally built as a luxurious private estate, Mirabell Palace is now property of the city, as it has been since 1866. It serves as an office building for the mayor and the city's administration services. While enjoying tours of city, you'll want to include a stop here, even if it's just to wander the attractive gardens.

Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 at the request of Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau. As the story goes, the residence, which was originally titled Altenau, was intended for the Prince Archbishop's mistress, Salome Alt. Not only was Salome the mistress of Raitenau, but she was also the mother of his children. Though she bore fifteen kids, just ten would survive. Not much would remain constant at Mirabell Castle after Raitenau's death, as his successor, Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus, started with a name change. The name Mirabell means beautiful view, and Sittikus no doubt had the nearby Alps in mind when naming the castle. Of course, the lovely gardens were also worthy of praise, as they still are today. Of all the Salzburg castles, Mirabell Palace arguably boasts the best gardens.

About 100 years after Sittikus, another Prince Archbishop, Franz Anton von Harrach, decided to completely remodel Mirabell Palace. He enlisted the help of architect, Lukas von Hildebrandt. As impressive as these renovations were, a fire in 1818 would severely compromise them. Destroyed in the fire were immaculate frescoes, which had been painted by the artists Gaetano Fanti and Johann Michael Rottmayr. One thing that did survive was the Marmorsaal, or Marble Hall. Also spared was the palace's marble staircase. Following the 1818 fire, a court architect from Vienna, Peter de Nobile, went to work giving Mirabell Castle its present neo-classical look. Various baroque touches can still be found throughout the palace and in its gardens, such as the Donnerstiege marble stairway and the Marmorsaal. Today, private weddings and special ceremonies and concerts are held in the marble and gold-laden Marmorsaal hall, which is a most enviable venue. In fact, Marmorsaal hall might just be the most prized wedding venue in all of Austria.

Some prominent folks have graced the Salzburg castles in the past. In its time, Mirabell Palace had as guests Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his father Leopold, and his sister Nannerl. They played their instruments here, which must have been quite a performance. Mozart grew up in Salzburg, and his childhood home, Mozarts Geburtshaus, is also worth adding to your Salzburg itinerary. Before the 1818 fire, Prince Otto of Bavaria was born in Mirabell Castle, and he would go on to become Greece's king. Perhaps great things will become of you in your lifetime if you too visit Mirabell Palace.

Visiting the Salzburg castles is high on most tourists' priority lists, and in addition to stopping by Mirabell Palace to see its gardens, its Marble Hall, and its marble staircase, you will also want to schedule a visit for the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which looms above the city on top of Festungsberg Hill. As for Mirabell Palace, the staircase is open to visitors on a daily basis between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Marmorsaal is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. Admission is free!

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