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Hellbrunn Palace and Zoo - Austria

Hellbrunn Palace, Salzburg Hellbrunn Palace, SalzburgHellbrunn Palace, SalzburgHellbrunn Palace, Salzburg

Hellbrunn Palace is situated just a few miles south of Salzburg and is easily visited by public transport from the centre. It was originally built by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg Markus Sitticus as a summer villa and is surrounded by a large expanse of parkland including an elegant water garden.

It is however Markus Sitticus' sense of humour that draws many visitors to the palace and this is best illustrated in the trick fountains that fill a section of the grounds. A guided tour through these is great fun and leaves you soaking wet by the end. The fountains originally installed 400 years ago are hidden in many places throughout the gardens and operated by the opening of various valves. The guide gleefully sets these off throughout the tour and water is sprayed from all directions. It's very entertaining to watch someone else being caught but it's quite likely that you'll be next getting soaked from a completely unexpected angle. Throughout the tour there are some fantastic grottos and imaginative water-powered creations, like the 'bird grotto' with birdcalls imitated by a water-powered machine.

The cruellest aspect of the fountains is the Roman Amphitheatre where the prince used to entertain guests. Around the dining table are many hidden water jets along with others shooting up through the stools the visitors sat on. The only place not to be soaked was the head of the table where he sat. The prince would find it very amusing to set these off, and as court protocol was to remain seated until the ruler stood the guests were forced to get absolutely soaked from all angles.

The palace itself is quirky too, containing paintings of the many freaks of nature and rarities that only the most powerful people were allowed to own. These include a horse with eight golden hooves, the largest fish, albino animals and the world's smallest horse. The palace also has some really nice views of the water gardens, albeit disturbed by the screams of visitors to the fountains!

Just outside the palace grounds is Salzburg's zoo, housing a collection of animals from all over the world. Parts are being rebuilt at the moment to create more open enclosures with the minimum amount of visible fences. The open African savannah section is nice with zebras and rhino, and there is a large collection of big cats.

Hellbrunn is a fantastic day out from Salzburg. The palace and gardens are lovely, but it's the marvellous trick fountains that make the place amazing. These are really good fun and the guides seem to really enjoy their job, spraying the unsuspecting visitors from all angles.

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