Image by Martin Moos Getty Images
Picturesquely perched on a hill and set among beautiful gardens, this Renaissance pile was acquired in 1564 by Archduke Ferdinand II, then ruler of Tyrol, who transformed it from a fortress into a palace. Don't miss the centrepiece Spanische Saal (Spanish Hall), the dazzling Armour Collection and the gallery's Velázquez and Van Dyck originals.
The Spanische Saal is a 43m-long banquet hall with a wooden inlaid ceiling and Tyrolean nobles gazing from the walls. Also note the grisaille (grey relief) around the courtyard and the sunken bath-tub where Ferdinand's beloved Philippine used to bathe.
Ferdinand instigated the magnificent Ambras Collection, encompassing three elements. Highlights of the Rüstkammer (Armour Collection) include the archduke’s wedding armour – specially shaped to fit his bulging midriff! – and the 2.6m suit created for giant Bartlmä Bon. The Kunst und Wunderkammer (Art and Curiosity Cabinet) is crammed with fantastical objects, including a petrified shark, gravity-defying stilt shoes and the Fangstuhl – a chair designed to trap drunken guests at Ferdinand’s raucous parties.
The Portraitgalerie features room upon room of Habsburg portraits, with paintings by Titian, Velázquez and Van Dyck. Maria Anna of Spain (No 126, Room 22) wins the prize for the most ludicrous hairstyle. When Habsburg portraits begin to pall, you can stroll or picnic in the extensive gardens, home to strutting peacocks.