Eastern Austria Feature
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
- German Phrases
The Castle Road
If you are heading south from Vienna to Graz on the A2 autobahn, the flat plains give way suddenly to steeply wooded hills and rocky gorges, with tantalizing glimpses of proud and seemingly inaccessible castles perched atop craggy promontories. More than a dozen castles along the Schlösserstrasse (Castle Road) have withstood the invading armies of the Huns and Turks to repose today in all their splendor as museums or hotels.
Begin by dipping into the eastern edge of Styria, leaving the autobahn at the Hartberg exit to visit Schloss Hartberg, a castle dating from the 13th century and now a museum and the venue for occasional summer concerts.
From Hartberg take Highway 54 south to Kaibing, where there will be signs for St. Johann bei Herberstein and Schloss Herberstein, with its Florentine-style courtyard, animal and nature park, weaponry collection, and Baroque garden. Schloss Stubenberg, north along the lakeside drive Stubenbergsee, is a fortresslike structure with an impressive ceramics display and summer concerts.
The Allhau exit off the A2 autobahn a short distance north of Hartberg takes you to Highway 50 and Bernstein. This is the home of Burg Bernstein, now a hotel but once the castle owned by Count Almásy, the character played by Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient.
East of Bernstein on Highway 50 is Lockenhaus, the castle with the most grisly history in Austria. In the 16th century Countess Elisabeth Bathory was infamous for luring peasant girls to her employ with promises of a dowry after two years' servitude; most girls never made it out alive. Obsessed with retaining her beauty, the depraved countess tortured and killed more than 500 girls, believing that their virginal blood would keep her young. As a member of the nobility, the countess was never tried for her crimes. The castle is now a very nice hotel, with a medieval restaurant serving simple food like roast chicken and sausages. 02616/239480. 02616/2766.
Highway 50 south of Bernstein takes you to Stadtschlaining, home of Burg Schlaining, with its weaponry collection, chapel, and palatial rooms (closed Monday).
Highway 57 south of Highway 50 leads to Burg Güssing, not far from the Slovenian and Hungarian borders. After this the Castle Road continues on into Styria, southeast of Graz.
A drive along the Castle Road can take anywhere from four or five hours to a couple of days, depending on how many of the castles you stop to visit. If you're in a hurry, it's relatively easy to get off and on the A2 autobahn to visit a castle.
The best time to visit this area is between April and October, because most of the castles are closed during the winter months. For more information, contact the Büro Die Schlösserstrasse. Schloss Stubenberg, Stubenberg am See, A-8223. 03176/20050. www.schloesserstrasse.com.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Save $$ in Graz: Book Fr $67+/Nt Save with Hotels.com, $6/night less
- May deal: Romantik Park Graz Fr $211+/Nt Expedia
- Super Low Graz Rate: Book Fr $84+/Nt — $84 Save with Hotels.com, $46/night less
- 4-Star Mercure Graz City Fr $82+/Nt — $82 Save with Hotels.com, $81/night less
- 3-Star Mariahilf Fr $96+/Nt — $96 Save with Hotels.com, $142/night less