Visiting Tyrol Castle: Ancient Might of the Alps

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Kate + Vin

Tirol Castle view from Dorf Tirol
tyrolean castle icon

Tyrol Castle has stood watch over South Tyrol for nearly 1,000 years. Here’s why you should see this majestic work of ancient might while visiting the region.

What is it about castles? Whether in a perpetual state of crumble or masterfully preserved to reveal life in the Middle Ages, they endlessly fascinate us. Their haunting beauty inspires awe as much as the legends born within.

With 800 castles rising throughout the mountains and valleys of South Tyrol, it’s hard to nail down one that impresses the most. But there is one who never fails to captivate us no matter how many times we encounter it: Tyrol Castle (also known as “Castle Tirol”, “Schloss Tirol” in German and “Castel Tirolo” in Italian).

Its imposing seat 2,000 feet above the valley floor demands your attention from even miles away. Enthroned in the 1100s by the Counts of Vinschgau, who later took the title of the Counts of Tyrol, Tyrol Castle holds some of the most important historical relics and artwork in South Tyrol. In fact, the faded frescoes of its chapel include the oldest known painting of the Red Eagle — South Tyrol’s revered coat of arms.

The Spell of Tyrol Castle

tyrol castle

A unique hallmark of Tyrol Castle is that depending on the temperament of the mountains or the hour of the season, the castle seemingly transforms before your eyes. It’s as if the fortress casts a spell of eternal enchantment on all who look upon its walls.

Tyrol Castle’s ever-changing persona, from hopelessly romantic to dreadfully tyrannical, is perhaps why we and so many others find this historic haunt endlessly alluring. For us, no other castle in South Tyrol conjures a spell quite like it.

No matter when you visit South Tyrol, you can experience this magic for yourself. In any season or hour, you will witness how Tyrol Castle looms with decisive command. The sight of the fortress will leave no doubt in your mind as to why it named an entire region and its people.

Speaking of its name, some historians indicate the word “Tirol / Tyrol” can be traced back to when the Roman Empire occupied the land. “Teriolis” was the given name of a Roman military outpost in northern Tyrol. Others speculate, that in the Dark Ages, Germanic tribes named the rocky outcropping that Tyrol Castle sits on “Tyr” in honor of a god they worshipped.

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The Views from Tyrol Castle

tyrol castle kate

As much as Tyrol Castle mesmerizes from the outside its grand views are equally enchanting. The sweeping panorama awaiting visitors illustrates why the fortress was founded at such a lofty height.

castle tirol arched windows

Situated to the north of Merano, Tyrol Castle peers deep into the valley basin that stretches southward to Bolzano.  On its western flank, the castle watches over the Vinschgau Valley, which zig-zags toward Switzerland and Austria.

tyrol castle vistas

Invading armies from either direction would have been spotted well in advance of any threat. Enemies coming from the north would have had to cross the rugged Ötztal Alps — likely meeting the same fate as Ötzi the Iceman. And any marauders marching from the east would need to find a way to magically leap the Sarntal Alps.

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Within Tyrol Castle

Inside the castle lies a treasure of archaeological finds including religious and pagan figures encircling the marble portals of the castle’s chapel. These are sculpted in Romanesque style from the 12th century.

The meaning of these carved marvels is still not entirely clear. Nevertheless, they are fascinating to study. Their ornate detail speaks to the superb craftsmanship of long ago.

Castle Tirol Portal Sculptures
tyrol castle portal

Walking through the chapel door feels like you are stepping into a room a thousand years wide. Faded religious frescoes dating to the 12th century colorize the gray stone walls.

Many are still hardly scarred by the ravages of time. They continue beautifying the chapel making one wonder how stunning the walls must have looked centuries ago.

castle tirol tour
South Tyrol Coat of Arms
Remarkably well-preserved frescoes nearly a thousand years old still adorn Tyrol Castle including the oldest known depiction of the Red Eagle — South Tyrol’s coat of arms.

Above the chapel floor of Tyrol Castle looms a larger-than-life Crucifixion scene. Crafted in1330, it is one of the most impressive works of medieval art we have ever seen.

Steps in the chapel climb to the upper chamber where you can admire the detail achieved by the artist at eye level. You will see firsthand why these sculptures are a priceless treasure of South Tyrol.

tyrol castle chapel

The castle is also home to the South Tyrolean Museum of History and Culture. The exhibits cover multiple levels in the castle and provide an intriguing overview of the history of South Tyrol from its earliest beginnings to the modern era.

The exhibit signs and summaries are in German and Italian, but visitors can checkout an audio guide that is in English. The museum tour lasts about 50 minutes.

castle tirol museum

Hiking to Tyrol Castle

The only way to reach Tyrol Castle is on foot. Trust us, this is a good thing. The hike to its gates is unforgettable. If views of the castle and vineyards riddled around it do not steal your breath away then the Texel mountain group in the distance certainly will.

Falknerweg
The Falknerweg leads you to Tyrol Castle.

When arriving at the area by car, we suggest parking in one of two public lots located in Dorf Tirol. From there, cross the street walking uphill along the sidewalk until coming to a sign designating the Falknerweg (Falconers’ Path). This beautiful path takes you past hotels, restaurants and vineyards eventually winding along the edge of a deep ravine where you can admire the picturesque Brunnenburg Castle — once home to the famous poet Ezra Pound.

Before rounding a corner to the castle you will pass through a 260-foot stone tunnel built in the 17th century. The entire walk takes 20-30 minutes depending on how much you pause to snap pictures or simply savor the historical and natural beauty all around.

TIP: The castle can also be reached from Merano by walking the Tappeiner Promenade. This route takes 2-3 hours but is what we consider one of the prettiest walks in Italy. It is our favorite way to reach Tyrol Castle.

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When to Visit Tyrol Castle

tyrol castle hike
Morning clouds lift off the mountainside revealing Tyrol Castle.

Tyrol Castle is open to the public from mid-March to early December. Visit the castle’s official website to confirm dates and hours. Admission fees are € 7 per adult. Children and senior citizens receive discounted rates.

If you visit the castle during one of the weekends in December when it is hosting its traditional Christmas market, you can enjoy the castle at no charge. Seeing it at this time of year is especially charming.

Autumn is also a special time to visit as a wine stand off the Falknerweg offers the season’s new wine, which you can sip under a canopy of grapevines while gazing at the castle and beyond.  Sounds a touch romantic doesn’t it? Afterward, treat yourself to a hearty South Tyrolean meal at Biergarten am Schlossweg — a panoramic beer garden nearby.

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Kate & Vin South Tyrol & Dolomites Travel Consultants

About KATE & vin

Kate and Vin are South Tyrol + Dolomites travel specialists and the founders of Throne & Vine. They're dedicated to helping travelers discover and visit the most beautiful region in the Italian Alps.

16 thoughts on “Visiting Tyrol Castle: Ancient Might of the Alps”

  1. You are right, we all seem to be fascinated with castles. I had no idea there are so many castles in South Tyrol. I can only imagine how beautiful each one of them must be in that gorgeous landscape. The storied walls of Castle Tirol remind me of some of the castles I’ve seen in Transylvania. Very similar construction.

  2. Castle Tirol looks amazing! I love the pictures in your post. It’s like a fairytale picture book. I’d love to go in and explore the museum in there. I think it’s cool to see some of the pagan history of Europe, before the advent of Christianity.

  3. What a majestic castle, indeed!!! And the views from inside are just spectacular, beautiful pictures. 😍😍 I didn’t even know that South Tyrol’s had that many castles but can see why this one is your favourite 😉

  4. I had no idea there are so many castles in South Tyrol. I love castle hunting! This is gorgeous against the mountains and visiting during the Christmas markets be extra special. Thanks for the info

    • You’re welcome Sherianne! We’ve just scratched the surface on the number of castles to explore in South Tyrol. We’ll continue sharing our finds to help you and others make your own visit!

  5. This is so gorgeous – from inside out. The finds make the interiors even more fun to explore while the views on the outside – they are just mindblowing. Love your captures.

  6. You made this castle look very fascinating and unique. I’ve seen many a castles from 2 years of East-West European travels and I never tire of seeing one in a new light. Seems to look more like a northern Europe style castle than the Italian ones I’ve seen. I’m hell bent on going there now. Someday!

    • Thank you Adonis! Castle Tirol is definitely a northern European style castle despite being in Italy. South Tyrol has a dominate Germanic heritage that influences everything from architecture to cuisine and customs. Hope you get a chance to visit!

  7. I like the setting of Tirol Castle. I am not sure in what season the castle’s setting looks the best. Autumn setting looks gorgeous, winter magical, spring like a fairytale and summer … well, I can imagine how it looks in summer. Or, maybe I should stop imagining and should visit it instead. After all, Tirol is not far from my Croatia. 🙂

  8. I agree, I’m fascinated by castles whether they’re in great condition or crumbling ruins. The setting for Castle Tirol makes it look especially magical, definitely one that I’d love to visit

  9. That view of the Castle Tyrol would draw me in for sure. So good to see that the interior can be visited. The museum must be an interesting spot to visit. Good to know that there are two different paths to get to the castle. I was intrigued by the thought of the “most enchanting walk in Italy”.

  10. I love visiting castles and this one is amazing perched on this cliff, it looks stunning. I’m sure fall time is ideal with all the changes in color and the fantastic views from above, definitely would love to visit some day.

  11. I am highly intrigued by the pictures of Castle Tirol. It is surely going in my bucket list. How enigmatic the place is. You’ve got some flabbergasting pictures of the castle. Thanks for providing the information of how to get to the castle and when to do that too.

    • Great to hear that you are adding Castle Tirol to your bucket list! If you have any questions as you plan your adventure to South Tyrol, just reach out to us.

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