Schloss Hellbrunn was my favorite spot in Salzburg. I’ve toured a lot of palaces and castles in Europe and never had so much silly fun in one spot. There are plenty of fun things to do in Austria, but this was the most unique that I’ve done so far. It was the perfect place to tour on an unusually scorching summer day in Austria, and I like to think that our giggles and screams of laughter were exactly what the Prince-Archbishop envisioned when the famous Hellbrunn trick fountains were designed in the 1600s.
Hellbrunn Palace was created as a water playground for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, a guy who apparently had quite the sense of humor. The elaborate fountains and moving pieces – wasserspiele – were a giant practical joke designed to delight the Archbishop as well as his guests, and elicit the same kind of squeals we were letting out centuries later. Can you picture those proper, upper class ladies in full gowns out in the garden getting sprayed by secret fountains? The thought of that alone is almost as funny as the fountains themselves. It’s great for adults (our group ranged from ages 19-60), and it’s absolutely perfect for a visit to Salzburg with kids. Keep reading for everything you need to know to plan the perfect visit to Hellbrunn Palace.
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Touring the Hellbrunn wasserspiele
Our Hellbrunn wasserspiele tour started out at a seemingly plain dinner table. But of course, it wasn’t just a dinner table. Not at Schloss Hellbrunn. After an introduction to the palace and its history, volunteers were requested to sit at the seats at the table to help with a demonstration. Imagine visiting for a fancy garden dinner a few centuries ago, dressed to the nines because you’re rich and can afford fancy ballgowns and stuff, and then suddenly having a fountain erupt under your butt? I knew I was going to get wet, but I volunteered anyway. We took our places like pretend dinner guests and then our guide turned on the fountains. I’m a total dork, so getting to try out the special trick dinner seats at Hellbrunn was definitely one of my Salzburg highlights.
Pro tip: I had spotted spouts in the seats themselves, so I avoided getting my shorts soaked by sitting as far forward as I could. I still got a decent sprinkle, which felt good on that very hot day, but it was my light, cotton shirt that dried fairly quickly rather than my jean shorts that would’ve been wet forever.
After we got our first taste of what the Hellbrunn trick fountains had in store for us, we set off to see the rest of the highlights. I also liked the grotto that traps guests behind a waterfall. We all crowded into a room to look closely at the fountain featuring a crown being held up by a spout of water inside of it only to find the exit cut off by sprays of water. Luckily, there was a dry escape route, though many of us just jumped through the fountain to leave.
One of the cooler things on the tour was a massive, water-operated wooden theater full of little carved figures acting out different activities while music played. It’s incredible to think that the entire, elaborate “show” is completely operated by flowing water. Check out the detail on the carvings in the stock photo below. It really is amazing.
Of course, at the end of the show, the audience got a little spray of water. Another favorite spot of mine was the tunnel made from fountains arching over the sidewalk that we could scurry through.
As you tour the gardens, you’ll notice that there’s always a dry spot in each area. These were originally intended for the Archbishop – of course he wouldn’t want to get wet – but now the tour guides duck into these to avoid getting soaked every day.
Inside Hellbrunn Palace
Visitors can also see the inside of the palace before or after their tour with an audio guide. There wasn’t a lot to see inside – the palace doesn’t even have a bedroom because it was intended as a “day residence. Imagine building a whole palace just to visit during the day before returning to your other palace in the evening. The music room was quite cool with its painted walls and center bench.
Hellbrunn Palace opening hours and admission price
Tours of the Hellbrunn trick fountains are offered from late March to early November, seven days a week. Opening hours vary from month to month, with peak summer months offering the longest hours and additional gardens-only evening tours. In general, the palace opens at 9 and the last tours depart in the late afternoon or early evening. Guided tours last approximately 40 minutes and are offered in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish upon request. The audio guide for the inside of Schloss Hellbrunn also lasts approximately 40 minutes and is available in German, English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese.
Adults prices for 2018 are 12.50 euros, with students costing 8 euros, and kids 5.50 euros. It’s a very affordable activity, especially for families. We definitely felt like we got our money’s worth on our tour, especially compared to more expensive (and less entertaining) palaces we toured in Austria and other parts of Europe. Check the official site for current schedules and admission prices.
How to get to Hellbrunn Palace
Hellbrunn Palace and its delightful wasserspiele is located a little ways away from the historic Old Town area of Salzburg, so unfortunately it’s not walkable. We took bus 25 to Hellbrunn Palace and were dropped off at its dedicated bus stop nearby. It’s about a 25-minute trip from the city center, so plan accordingly as you travel. If you have a car with you, there is paid parking available for a reasonable rate.
Other things to do in Salzburg:
What to bring to Hellbrunn Palace
- A waterproof camera, preferably one that shoots video. Whatever you’re carrying will almost certainly get wet. Make sure you don’t ruin a regular camera. I use a GoPro, but if you want to go a cheaper route, my mom recently purchased one of these for way less and has been happy with it.
- A water resistant backpack or purse. As previously mentioned, everything will get wet. This particular backpack has repelled a lot of water in its day, so it’s a good option. If you want a purse, I always endorse Travelon bags for their security and functionality.
- Shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Whether you change into sandals or go with water resistant sneakers, pick a pair of shoes that will either keep the water out or dry quickly so you don’t end up with blisters later on or soaking wet sneakers the next day.
- Breathable clothing. Even in the hottest weather, no one wants to walk around soaked all day. Things like denim don’t dry very quickly, so opt for cottons and other quick-dry fabrics like these.
- Rain jacket – If the weather is a bit chilly toward the beginning or end of the visiting season, you may not actually want to get wet. Bring a waterproof jacket to stay dry.
Christkindlmarkt at Hellbrunn
If you’re visiting in the winter, you unfortunately won’t be able to tour the water gardens. Freezing temperatures and outdoor fountains don’t mix well, and to be honest, you probably don’t want to get drenched in the middle of a Salzburg winter anyway. The good news is that you can still enjoy some of the palace grounds by visiting the annual Hellbrunn Christkindlmarkt. Also known as the Weinachtsmarkt Hellbrunn, it runs from late November through Christmas Eve. Find out more here.
Check out these other fun things to do in Austria:
- Get the Best Views of Salzburg at Hohensalzburg Fortress
- Your Guide to the Best Vienna Christmas Market
- Skiing in the Alps at Hinterstoder, Austria
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