Posted: Aug. 29, 2023 | Last Update: 05. Sep 2023
A visit to Merano (and the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle) is THE ‘must see’ destination of any South Tyrol trip, just like taking a gondola ride in Venice or visiting the Colosseum in Rome: an experience you simply can't miss.
While we have travelled to South Tyrol multiple times before, our day trip to the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle turned out to be the highlight of our extended stay in Merano. For anyone journeying through South Tyrol, a visit to Merano is a must, and ideally, you should plan to spend several days here!
We've compiled everything you need to know about Merano and the Trauttmansdorff Gardens in this article!
Click HERE to jump straight to the infos on Trauttmansdorff Castle & Gardens
Merano, the Jewel of South Tyrol
Merano! For many repeat visitors, it's a town like no other. Where else can you find a palm-lined promenade along a mountain river, lush gardens and parks, splendid castles, stately villas, and impressive buildings that invite you to linger?
And yet, Merano isn't just a collection of sights; it's a living place, carefully looked after by its residents. Hospitality is a cornerstone of everyday life here, and the historic spa town exudes an air of sophistication. Tyrolean traditions seamlessly blend with Italian flair, creating a unique ‘cultural metropolis’. With Merano hosting various festivals that celebrate cultural diversity, we've come to know the place as an open-minded city with a beating heart.
Staying in Merano
Each year, about 338'000 overnight guests flock to Merano.
On average, they stay 3.5 nights (1.13M overnight stays per annum) in one of the approximately 100 hotels and 150 private B&Bs. (Source)
During the summer months, most visitors (approx. 60%) arrive from Germany, while during winter, Merano's main visitorship (approx 50%) hail from all over Italy.
💡 Fun fact: The average spend per overnight guest per day is 117€
Merano offers a phlethora of hotels and B&B to suit every taste and budget.
During out stay, we opted for the 'Hotel Prinz Rudolf'*, where we particularly enjoyed the spa area, their infinity-pool offering a great view over the valley of Merano, their rooftop pools, some good modern food and their cheeky take on 'Sissi & Franzl' - the empress and emperor of Austria.
Merano beckons with a plethora of attractions that reflect its rich history and vibrant culture. From splendid villas, art exhibitions, and street art to historic landmarks, there's so much to uncover here.
With a keen eye, you will find a new gem around every corner as you stroll through its streets.
Here are the top sights to check out on a walk through Meran:
The Cultural Promenade and Merano's Landmark, the Kurhaus
The Culture Promenade stretches from the Post Bridge to the Theater Bridge along the Passer River, right past Merano's iconic landmark, the Kurhaus.
This beautifully tended promenade adorned with flowers and palms exudes Mediterranean flair. Not only does it offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape but also takes you on a journey through the city's rich culture. Sculptures and artworks by various artists invite you to immerse yourself in Merano's creative side. The Kurhaus itself is an architectural gem, emanating a touch of Belle Époque glamour with its elegant facade and imposing columns.
Today, the Kurhaus serves as a venue for cultural events, concerts, and conferences.
Click here to see what's on in the Kurhaus and Theatre Puccini.
The Arches / Arcade (Laubengänge)
The medieval Arches / Laubengänge are characteristic of Meran's cityscape and invite visitors to stroll and browse all year round.
They were mainly built in the 13th century and still provide shade in the summer and protection from rain, wind, and cold for residents and visitors alike.
Under these historic arcades, you'll find elegant boutiques, delicatessens, as well as cafes and restaurants.
My restaurant recommendation: definitely stop by the Laubenkeller - the food here is absolutely delicious (don't miss trying the Tiroler G’röstl!).
Fun fact: With over 400 meters in length, Merano's Laubengänge are the longest in South Tyrol.
Merano's Churches: The Cathedral and Christuskirche (Christ Church)
Merano's Cathedral, also known as St. Nicholas Cathedral or Parish Church, is located at the Parish Square (Pfarrplatz) on the upper end of the arcades.
Built as one of the earliest purely Gothic structures in the 13th century, it offers a beautiful view down onto the alleyways from the church square. As you look uphill, the battlements of the Powder Tower (Pulverturm) rise behind the facades of the adjacent buildings.
Less renowned but no less beautiful in my opinion is the Evangelical Lutheran Christ Church on Carducci Street along the Passer Promenade.
Merano's Thermal Baths
The history of the thermal baths goes back a long way and is closely linked to the development of Merano as a spa town. The healing properties of the thermal water were already discovered and utilised by the Romans. Later, in the 19th century, the first bathhouses and spa pavilions were constructed to harness the beneficial effects of the water on health and well-being.
Today, the 'Merano Thermal Baths', located in the heart of the city right on the banks of the Passer River, attract spa and wellness enthusiasts from near and far who seek to indulge in the warm thermal waters, unwind and relax.
The History of Merano: From Romans to Habsburgs
Merano’s eventful history is not only reflected in its historic buildings, well-tended gardens, and charming alleys. On guided city tours and in museums, you can gain insights into the city’s multifaceted history and vibrant culture.
Already in Roman times, the area around Meran was appreciated for its thermal springs. These natural treasures attracted visitors from all over the world over the centuries.
In the Middle Ages, Merano became an important trading centre along the Via Claudia Augusta, the old Roman road that stretched from the Adriatic to the Alps. The city experienced a heyday as a significant market and trading hub and was renowned for its cloth and wool production.
Throughout the centuries, rulership over Merano changed hands, from the Counts of Tyrol to the Habsburg monarchy. These various influences shaped the city's architecture, culture, and way of life.
Especially in the 19th century, Merano became a popular spa destination for European aristocracy and celebrities. The healing thermal springs attracted kings, emperors, and artists who resided in the city's splendid villas and hotels.
In the Footsteps of Sissi: Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Merano
Empress Elisabeth of Austria, affectionately known as "Sissi," made an unforgettable impact on Merano and shaped the city in various ways.
It is said that Sissi fell in love with the beauty of Merano and its healing thermal springs, which led her to visit the city regularly and spend several winters here – not only for health reasons but also to escape the hustle and bustle of the imperial court.
Sissi's presence brought international renown to Merano and established it as one of the most exclusive spa resorts in Europe. The Empress's visits bestowed a touch of royal splendour upon the city and attracted further prominent guests.
Those who want to follow in Sissi's footsteps should do so on the famous "Sissi Trail," which leads from the castle to the center of Merano in eleven stages.
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The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle
The absolute highlight of our trip to Merano was Trauttmansdorff Castle, surrounded by the world-renowned botanical garden.
This castle was once the summer residence of Empress Sissi. Today, in addition to the dreamy gardens, it also houses the Touriseum, a museum that tells the history of tourism in the region and its famous visitors.
Perched in the mountains above the city of Merano, the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle enchant you with a unique blend of colours, scents, and landscapes from March to November. Over 400,000 visitors are drawn to this spectacular display of flowers each year.
And now, let me take you on a journey through this green and colourful paradise :)
I'll do my best to vividly describe my experiences, but some impressions are truly hard to put into words - it's best to see it for yourselves. :)
Today, we're setting out on our own, without our dog, as pets aren't allowed in the gardens. "No dogs allowed" - what a pity.
In 2023, the entrance fee for two adults is 32 euros, plus an additional 4.50 euros for parking (all-day).
Right behind the entrance, we face a dilemma: which of the four paths do we want to take? All of them, of course! But why are the paths marked with different colours?
The solution is quite simple: the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle are divided into four distinct and enchanting ‘garden worlds’, each with its own character that showcases its unique flora to the curious visitor:
the Gardens of the World, the Sun Gardens, the Water & Terraced Gardens, and the Landscapes of South Tyrol.
The Landscapes of South Tyrol
We decide to start with the Landscapes of South Tyrol.
In these traditionally designed "utility gardens" that mirror the various facets of South Tyrolean landscapes and ways of life, we follow the course of an artificial mountain stream. Along the way, we learn about ‘forgotten’ varieties of apples and pears as well as the region's former way of growing fruit.
We feel as if we are travelling back in time, as we pass through beds of fruit and vegetables on our way up to the Sissi monument.
Highlight: viewpoint 'Thun's Lookout'
A few more stairs (whew, it's getting quite hot, and we're already a bit out of breath) lead us to the first highlight: the viewpoint 'Matteo Thun' (also known as 'Thun's Lookout or ‘Thun’scher Gucker’').
Those unafraid of heights who venture onto this 95% see-through viewing platform are rewarded with a unique view over the gardens and Merano.
Highlight: Garden for Lovers
Right next to Thun's Lookout is the 'Garden for Lovers', which fits us just perfectly.
Here, everything revolves around the most powerful feeling burning within each of us: love.
A short but pretty circular path adorned with colourful flowers and lifelike bronze sculptures celebrates the delicate play of love through multilingual verses.
Three ‘pavilions’ (which look more like enormous flower bouquets) rise above a shallow water basin, forming the heart of the garden. This is where couples and lovebirds can engage in a ritual in three stages: Letting Go, Promising, Immortalizing.
The view of the gardens and the valley from here is simply breathtaking.
Forests of the World
The sun is now high in the sky as we arrive in the Forests of the World on the northern slope of the gardens.
Here, we immerse ourselves in a rustic fern valley, where babbling brooks and refreshing waterfalls provide a soothing coolness - ideal for a hot August day!
We're impressed by the diversity of various deciduous and coniferous trees from North and South America, as well as East Asia. Alongside the natural landscapes, you'll also find crops from America, as well as an Asian tea plantation and a rice field.
Fans of rhododendrons will get their money's worth here - after all, over 300 different rhododendron species and varieties unfold before your eyes.
Passing through the aviary, we head towards the Palm Beach. This section of the garden falls a little short of our expectations: there are perhaps three or four parrots in the aviary. Nevertheless, this area is definitely worth a visit, as the observation platform and the fine sandy palm beach, nestled in the Alpine panorama and feeling somewhat surreal, offer an incredible view.
It’s time for us to explore the "Sun Gardens" - which live up to their name on a hot August day.
They enchant with Mediterranean flair, the most magnificent and fragrant flowers, and breathtaking views into the valley. I was particularly impressed by the sheer abundance of blooming hydrangeas: you can admire over 280 different species from all over the world in the Trauttmansdorff botanical garden - the largest collection in all of Europe.
The Sissi Terrace, right by the castle, is also part of the Sun Gardens and is not to be missed. Here, you can sit on the marble bench with the Empress, read, and enjoy the view.
Water and Terraced Gardens
Last but not least, we finally arrive at perhaps the most beautiful part of the botanical grounds: the Water and Terraced Gardens!
Here, you truly feel as if you're strolling through a royal court during Renaissance times. Gorgeous ponds glisten in the sun, fountains and artificial streams trickle, artful sculptures beckon, and exotic and Mediterranean plants bloom and release their fragrance everywhere.
Especially the Rose Garden is an absolute highlight in summer. Over 50 wild and 30 historic rose varieties stand in bloom here in all their glory.
The visitor decks are nestled directly by the romantic Lotus Pond, with the majestic Trauttmansdorff Castle towering above. If this sight doesn't impress you, there's no helping you ;-)
Feeling hungry? Culinary delights at Trauttmansdorff
A walk in the fresh air can make you hungry and thirsty. Luckily, there's a variety of dining options available to satisfy every palate:
The ‘Restaurant Schlossgarten’ caters to your every need. From hearty South Tyrolean dumplings to light bruschetta, everything from alpine and Mediterranean cuisine is on offer.
Delicious ice cream, cakes and snacks are available down at the lotus pond in the ‘Palmengarten Café’.
Maybe you also arrived with your own packed lunch. In this case, you will find various picnic areas with beautiful views. You can also sit and enjoy in the shade on the stands by the lotus pond.
Unfortunately, our time in the Trauttmansdorff Gardens has come to an end.
We've spent a good four hours here, and you should definitely plan for a similar amount of time. It's better to allocate time generously, as you can easily spend a whole day here. But now, our dog awaits in the hotel room, and a dip in the pool is also on the agenda.
Getting to Merano and the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle
Merano is located in the northern part of South Tyrol.
To find out how to get to South Tyrol, click here
Getting to Trauttmansdorff Castle from Merano is quite straightforward. Trauttmansdorff Castle is located just a short distance from the town center of Merano, making it conveniently accessible by various means:
If you're staying in the centre of Merano, you can easily reach Trauttmansdorff Castle on foot. The castle is about a 30-40 minute (uphill) walk from the town centre.
It's a pleasant stroll through the picturesque streets of Merano and the surrounding area.
By Public Transport:
Take Bus Line 4: The Merano public bus system provides an efficient way to get to Trauttmansdorff Castle. You can take Bus Line 4, which operates between the Merano train station and the gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle. The bus ride takes around 15-20 minutes. The bus stop near the castle is named "Schloss Trauttmansdorff."
If you prefer to drive, you can reach Trauttmansdorff Castle by car. It's a short drive from the center of Merano. Follow the signs to the castle, and there is a parking area available for visitors.
Merano is a bike-friendly town, and you can also reach Trauttmansdorff Castle by bike. The castle is easily accessible by following bike paths or roads suitable for cycling.
My South Tyrol Tour Recommendation
If you are like us and love to discover your destination's landscape, rich culture, architecture and food and satisfy your wanderlust at the same time, we strongly recommend booking a vacation with TourRadar's 'South Tyrol' trips, including in-depth cultural, explorer and bicycle packages, where you get to immerse yourself in local customs, explore hidden gems, and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime. Find a great overview of trips and tours* to get more inspiration or book now and let the adventure begin!
Before we bid adieu, I want to say 'Thank You' to all my readers for joining me on this virtual escapade.
Merano beckons with the air of Dolce Vita, beautiful landscape and stunning architecture. Whether you stroll through the picturesque Arcades or gallivant through the beautiful Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle, I wish you an extraordinary time in Merano, filled with captivating sights, culinary delights, and lasting memories.
Enjoy your visit!
Below, you can find more articles on South Tyrol:
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