Heidenreichstein Castle

The most beautiful water castle in the land – never destroyed, never underestimated.

Heidenreichstein Castle (German: Burg Heidenreichstein) northeast of Gmünd is a towering presence in its scenic setting half surrounded by water. It is in fact the largest medieval water castle in Austria. It seems to beckon you to cross over its two drawbridges and enter a bygone age. Or to spend a day in a whole other world. However you want to put it, one thing is certain: The whole family will be fascinated!

Strong as rock

Heidenreichstein Castle is known as Austria’s most beautiful water castle. One notable fact  is that it has never been destroyed in its centuries-long history. Its origins date back to about 1160 when the keep was built. Like Raabs and Litschau, Heidenreichstein was already a manor (Herrschaftsgut) by around 1350, empowered to hold court and enforce laws and possessing fishing, hunting and milling rights as well as hunting grounds. In the 16th c and 17th c, the fortified castles in general fell into a serious state of disrepair. Many were taken over by ecclesiastical manors or abandoned because they seemed too uncomfortable or too expensive to live in. This water castle also changed hands several times. In 1679 Maria Marchese degli Obizzi, née Countess Palffy, acquired the estate. She decided that Heidenreichstein would become an indivisible family property. Ladislaus, the last prince in the Palffy line, died in January 1947. Ownership of the castle was bequeathed to a friend of the family, Count Rudolf van der Straten-Ponthoz. After his death, his second-born daughter Josefine inherited the castle and the estate. She was married to Christian Count Kinsky of Vchinic and Tettau. The water castle continues to be the Kinsky family’s permanent residence and administrative center. Today, the estate has a forestry operation, fish farming, a hunting operation, agricultural land and a castle museum.

Mighty performance and entrance

Imposing, impressive, simply overwhelming: You still have to cross two drawbridges to enter the water castle today. The moment you do, it is like stepping back in time. The four wings, the three corner towers and the keep all have walls up to four meters thick and the three-story residential wing with spiral staircases and arcades reflects the various time periods of the structure’s history. A thousand-year-old tabletop, countless tables, stools, cabinets and much more tell tales of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. In addition, Count Christian Kinsky (1924-2011) lovingly put together a special exhibition featuring select objects and many personal items on the life and work of this important noble family. Along with a regular castle tour, there is another special option. Are you brave enough to enter and explore the secret corridor of the castle keep? The fascination of the unknown!

And we have another great idea - head for the moor!

The Heidenreichsteiner Moor Nature Park is just outside the town of Heidenreichstein. The park covers an area of about 30 hectares, one third of which is open high moor – a unique natural spectacle – surrounded by a mature moor forest of spruce, pine and birch. Carnivorous plants, raft spiders, mystical rock formations and much more are just waiting to be explored here. Curiosity and respect, fascination and helplessness – want to discover a vegetation history that goes back 10,000 years?