This 17th century palace on the outskirts of Salzburg is quite unlike the other stately mansions in the region. Built as a decadent pleasure palace by Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus, it is home to a range of unique water-powered mechanical oddities that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Accessible by a 20-minute bus ride, the dramatic Hellbrunn Palace and its surrounding Water Gardens are well worth taking an afternoon to visit while staying in Salzburg. Walking tours of the palace and gardens are available for both German and English speakers and last for about 40 minutes. The design of the site, which was established on a natural spring, is heavily influenced by the power of this naturally available water. Throughout the surrounding Water Gardens, visitors can encounter numerous ornate fountains, hidden water features and peaceful fish ponds.
The most well-known attraction at Hellbrunn is the ‘Trick Fountains’. Some of these will catch you off-guard and may even leave you a little bit wet. While it’s nothing the warm afternoon sun can’t take care of, you should bring a small towel along just in case.
A more unusual aspect of Hellbrunn Palace is the numerous water-powered automata, which are scattered throughout the grounds and showcase the creative genius of Sittikus and his engineers. These one-of-a-kind automata are made up of five water-driven figures that exhibit a playful effect and are to be understood as a demonstration of power between mortals and Greek gods.
The most notable of the automatons is the Mechanical Theatre, which depicts utopian society (in the eyes of its creator) in which the lower classes work arduously while the aristocracy peer on from the balconies above. The theatre is even accompanied by the music of a fully water-powered organ.