Mirabell Palace in Salzburg, Austria

The magnificent baroque Mirabell Palace in Salzburg was built at the beginning of the 17th century as a gift to the prince archbishop's secret lover. 

Mirabell Palace with its famous Mirabell Gardens is located north of Salzburg's old town on the other bank of the Salzach River and is one of Salzburg 's top 10 sights. It is best reached from Getreidegasse via Griesgasse and the Markartsteg, whose railings are hung all over with the locks of couples in love.


PICTURES: Mirabell Palace in Salzburg

Photo gallery: Mirabell Palace in Salzburg

Mirabell: Once the Archbishop's secret love palace

In the 18th century, Prince-Archbishop Franz Anton Prince von Harrach had the castle expanded by Baroque master Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, Austria - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

Mirabell Palace was built around 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau for his mistress and secret wife Salome von Alt under the name "Altenau Palace". The prince-archbishop had the burgher's daughter Salome Alt and their 15 joint children raised to the peerage of "Alt von Altenau" and appointed the family as the rightful heirs to the castle.

So far so good, but their happiness was not to last long. After the fall of the archbishop and his solitary confinement in the fortress of Hohensalzburg, the family was expelled by the bishop's nephew and successor Markus Sitticus of Hohenems only 6 years later in 1612. To erase the last memory of the prince archbishop, he gave the palace a new name, which has remained with it to this day. "Mirabell" - from the Italian "mirabile" (admirable) and "bella" (beautiful).

In the 18th century, Prince Archbishop Franz Anton Prince von Harrach had the palace extended by the famous master of the Baroque Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt and joined together to form a complex. In 1818, the palace was severely damaged by a city fire and subsequently restored to its now familiar sobriety by the architect Peter de Nobile.

Tour of Mirabell Palace

The wonderful sculptures in the niches and the intricate balustrade make the marble staircase an incomparable work of art, Austria - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

Today, Mirabell Palace houses the city administration and the offices of Salzburg's mayor. From the first construction of the palace by Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, only remains of the southwest corner in the basement have been preserved.

Today, treasures such as the baroque marble hall or the extremely ornate marble staircase still bear witness to the former splendour. Both can be visited free of charge on days when no events are taking place.

The marble staircase is also called the Georg Raphael Donner Staircase after its builder. The wonderful sculptures in the niches, which are among the most beautiful works of art of the European Baroque, and the intricate balustrade make this staircase an incomparable work of art.


Due to its sublime ambience of gold and marble and its excellent acoustics, the baroque Marble Hall regularly hosts romantic wedding ceremonies, festive tributes and atmospheric concerts. The Marble Hall also exudes cultural-historical charm: Leopold Mozart and his children Wolfgang and Nannerl have already performed musical pieces here.

Mirabell Palace Garden - an attraction in itself

Mirabell Palace is surrounded by the beautifully landscaped Mirabell Gardens, which you should take a little more time to see! In addition to the beautifully laid out meadows, paths and flower arrangements, there are also plenty of architectural and sculptural treasures to discover.

PICTURES: Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg

Photo gallery: Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg

Creation of the Mirabell Gardens

This famous gem of horticultural art was redesigned by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (builder of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna) at the end of the 17th century. The realisation took place under Prince-Archbishop Johann Ernst Count von Thun.

In addition to the installation of further works of art in the following years, the Mirabell Gardens underwent a major expansion in 1730 by the architect and court garden inspector Franz Anton Danreiter. In 1854 Emperor Franz Joseph decided to open it to the public, creating one of Salzburg's top 10 sights.

The Mirabell Gardens, especially with Mirabell Palace or the Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background, are still a successful visitor magnet and popular photo motif today. It is open daily until nightfall, only the Heckentheater is closed during the winter months.

The "Great Fountain

One of the four Raptus groups in Salzburg's Mirabell Gardens depicts the victory of Hercules over the demigod Antaeus, Austria - © James Camel / franks-travelbox.com
© James Camel / franks-travelbox.com

The central fountain, also called the "Great Fountain", is located in the Great Garden Parterre to the south of the palace. It is surrounded by four stone figures, which are supposed to represent the four elements earth, fire, water and air.

The so-called raptus groups also all have as their theme that a legendary figure is rescued, stolen, abducted or defeated by another. Thus Paris robs Helen of Troy, Anchises rescues his son Aeneas from burning Troy, Hades abducts Persephone into the underworld and Hercules defeats the demigod Anthaeus, who was deprived of his powers without a connection to the earth.


Further stone figures of 16 gods of antiquity, also created by Fischer von Erlach, stand on the marble balustrade of the Great Garden Parterre.

Pegasus Fountain

The Pegasus Fountain in front of Mirabell Palace in Salzburg is a popular subject for wedding photos, Austria6 - © James Camel / franks-travelbox.com
© James Camel / franks-travelbox.com

Another water basin is the Pegasus Fountain, which is depicted in numerous wedding photos. Originally intended as a horse fountain on Kapitelplatz, the fountain with the winged steed moved to Mirabell Gardens around 1700. The two unicorns and two lions have kept the Pegasus company since the redesign by Danreiter.

After being moved several times, the winged horse narrowly escaped being auctioned off and then disappeared into the depot of the Salzburg Museum. It was not until 1913 that the statue was put up again. It is now located to the east next to the bird house, which houses songbirds and also some birds of prey, and where wild animals used to be kept.


In the Baroque era, orange trees were considered a metaphor for royalty and prosperity and could not be missing from any palace park. An orangery was therefore built to the south of the palace, which was also used to grow vegetables during the war and post-war period. Today, one part of the orangery has been almost restored to its original state, the other has been transformed into the rose garden, bordered with ornate marble vases.

Dwarf garden

The Dwarf Garden in Salzburg's Mirabell Gardens is the oldest dwarf garden in Europe and originally contained 28 white marble dwarf figures in 1695, Austria - © James Camel / franks-travelbox.com
© James Camel / franks-travelbox.com

The Dwarf Garden in Mirabell is the oldest dwarf garden in Europe and originally contained 28 white marble dwarf figures in 1695. People of small stature were often employed at court in the past and were valued for their loyalty and fidelity.

In the Age of Enlightenment, however, the seemingly misshapen human figures fell into disrepute and only narrowly escaped destruction in the lime kiln. Many of the statues were auctioned off at the beginning of the 19th century and fell into oblivion.

It was not until 1919 that the city administration remembered them and rebuilt the Dwarf Garden at another location in the Mirabell Gardens. Dwarf figures from Austrian but also Bavarian gardens were tracked down and brought back "home".


15 restored "homecomers" now stand in the nearby Bastion Garden. Plans of the original layout have been preserved and there are only considerations to restore the dwarf garden to its initial form.


To the west of the Mirabell Gardens lies the Heckentheater, the oldest of its kind in the German-speaking world. In the past, the natural theatre served as a venue for ballets and smaller operas. Due to the rather poor acoustics in the open air, a musical revival has so far proved difficult.

Water Bastion

The water bastion was originally a garden of its own (bastion garden). At the end of the 17th century it was included in the Baroque redesign of the Mirabell Gardens and thus also received ornate fountains and colourful floral ornaments.