The 16th-century Renaissance castle of Ambras perches in the foothills of the Alps just south of Innsbruck. Once the home of Archduke Ferdinand II, the majestic Renaissance building houses collections of armor, fine paintings and one of the most important examples of German Renaissance architecture in Austria in the shape of the Spanish Hall. Finished in 1572, this vast banqueting room is 157 feet (48 meters) long, with an inlaid marble floor and an intricate wood-paneled ceiling but the stars of the show are undoubtedly the 27 full-length portraits of the Habsburg Imperial Family.
The armories are located in the Lower Castle and were collated by Ferdinand II; they include suits of jousting armor, knights on horseback and rare weaponry. Here there’s also an eccentric Cabinet of Curiosities full of oddities such as coral crucifixes and stuffed sharks, all laid out as they were in Ferdinand‘s time. The Upper Castle houses the Portrait Gallery, in which 300 paintings cover 400 years of Habsburg history and include works by Titian, Anthon van Dyke, and Cranach the Elder.
Outside there are English-style box gardens and sunken baths to explore plus a pretty courtyard bar for drinks in summer.
The Sightseer tourist bus (free with the Innsbruck Card, which also gives access to several Innsbruck museums and galleries) takes 30 minutes to Schloss Ambras from central Innsbruck; taxi rides are 10 minutes long.
The castle is open daily (but closed throughout November) and both audio guides and guided tours are available in several languages. Entry is free with the discounted Innsbruck Card. Classical concerts are often held in the Spanish Hall.