Construction of the fortress began in 1077 under Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein. This original design was just a basic bailey with a wooden wall. In Salzburg, the Archbishops were powerful political figures, and they expanded the castle to protect their interests. The Investiture Controversy influenced the expansion of the castle, with the Salzburg Archbishops taking the side of the Pope. The castle was gradually expanded during the following centuries. The ring walls and towers were built in 1462 under Burkhard II of Weißpriach. Prince Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach further expanded the castle.
featuring the Hohensalzburg]] The only time that the fortress came under siege was in 1525, when a group of miners, farmers and townspeople tried to oust Prince Archbishop Cardinal Matthäus Lang, but failed to take the castle. During the Thirty Years' War, Count Paris of Lodron strengthened the town's defenses, including Hohensalzburg. He added various parts to the fortress, such as the gunpowder stores and additional gatehouses. The fort was surrendered without a fight during the Napoleonic Wars. In the 19th century, it was used as a barracks, storage depot and dungeon before being abandoned as a military outpost in 1861.
During the early 20th century it was used as a prison, holding Italian prisoners of war during World War I and Nazi activists (before the Anschluss with Germany) in the 1930s. It was refurbished in the 20th century and became a major tourist attraction, with a cable car, built in 1900, leading up from the town to the Hasengrabenbastei. It stands today as one of the best preserved castles in Europe.
The Hohensalzburg was recently selected as main motif for the Austrian Nonnberg Abbey commemorative coin minted in April 5 2006. This was the first coin of the series "Great Abbeys of Austria". It shows the Benedictine convent of Nonnberg Abbey. In the hilltop on the background, the castle and the Kajetaner church can be seen. Also in 1977 the Austrian Mint issued a coin for the 900th anniversary of the Hohensalzburg.