»A gift of love«

The Upper Castle


Constructed around a rectangular interior court, the Upper Castle comprised four storeys and was conceived as a residential castle. 

In the 1560s Archduke Ferdinand II caused the site to be redesigned into a Renaissance castle by the architects Giovanni and Alberto Lucchese. Even before the start of the rebuilding, Ferdinand II made a gift of the castle to his wife Philippine Welser to whom he was still secretly married. 

Until the Kunstkammer was erected in the 1570s, Ferdinand II housed his already widely famous collection of armour, weapons, portraits, objects of nature, curiosities, and precious objects in the Innsbruck Hofburg and in the Upper Castle. 

After the death of the prince in 1595, Ferdinand’s younger son from his first marriage, Margrave Karl of Burgau sold Ambras Castle to his cousin Emperor Rudolf II. 

The first building alterations took place under the governor, Archduke Karl Ludwig, who after 1855 caused the castle to be redesigned as a Neo-Gothic summer residence, carried out by the architects Ludwig and Heinrich Förster.

An ascending ramp was added on, the castle keep received a fourth storey with a little tower, and at the south front a stair turret reaching to the second storey and a balcony were created. In the inner courtyard a wooden, glazed ambulatory supported on iron consoles was built at the height of the second storey, from which doors led directly into the inner rooms. 

In 1880 the castle was converted into a museum and the collections were newly arranged by custodians of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. 

In 1913 the Austrian heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, chose Ambras Castle as a summer residence. At the same time as necessary works of adaption, the Neo-Gothic additions were removed and the building was returned to its sixteenth-century condition.

Armoury, Portrait Gallery, Chamber of Art and Wonders today

In 1919 the castle, as former imperial property, passed over to the Republic of Austria, and after 1936 the Upper Castle was turned into a museum once again.

After the evacuation of the collections during World War II, from 1950 the administration was taken over by the Kunsthistorisches Museum; in 1976 the unique Habsburg Portrait Gallery was established.