The beauty of the castle completed in 1766 compares to that of Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna or the Palace of Versailles. With its 126 rooms it hosts historical exhibitions and classical concerts of the Eszterháza Festival (Eszterházi Vigasságok).
Fertőd has two considerable tourist attractions: Fertő Lake and the Esterházy Castle. The town itself was established only in 1950 when the villages of Eszterháza and Süttör were united. Süttör and surroundings has belonged to the properties of the Esterházy Dynasty since a purchase in 1681 by Earl Pál Esterházy.
The predecessor of the castle was the U-shaped hunting lodge of Sarród built for Earl József Esterházy near Süttör in 1720. The greatest impact on the history of the castle was made by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy the Magnificent (aka the "Lover of Splendour" ), who assigned master builders in 1762 to remodel and extend the building.
The new building complex was designed and built probably in close cooperation between Menyhért Hefele and Miklós Jacoby. The Prince kept on constructing and in order to provide home to his servants and workers, he established the village of Eszterháza west of the castle, currently forming a part of Fertőd. The castle completed in 1766 compared to Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna or the Palace of Versailles both in size and beauty.
Past 1770 the castle was a venue for grandiose festivities on a regular basis with operas, feasts, hunting, balls and fireworks to entertain guests, once even Queen Maria Theresa herself. The young German writer Goethe was also very much impressed and inspired during the days that he spent here and referred to the events as the "Esterházy Fairyland". His grandiose lifestyle and extravagant festivities earned the Prince the name "Lover of Splendour" or "Nikolaus the Magnificent". Generous patronage of art by the Esterházy Princes made the castle one of the major cultural centres of the country by the end of the century, earning the name "Hungarian Versailles". The richness of cultural life was further enhanced by the arrival of renowned composer Joseph Haydn, who lived in Eszterháza and served the family as a Kappelmeister for 20 years.
In 1778, Nikolaus Esterházy together with 1200 of his men fought on the side of Emperor Joseph II in Bavaria, and in return the Emperor rewarded future male members of the family with the title of Prince.
Past WW2 the castle was nationalized, when a long period of neglect and decline began. In 1946, a Secondary School of Horticulture and Dormitory opened in one of the wings. Renovation works began only in the 2000s and by today, the castle has been restored nearly to its former glory.
The castle today hosts historic exhibitions and visitors may enjoy classical concerts in a truly authentic environment every week from June to September. Baroque music lovers may choose from events of Eszterháza Festival (Eszterházi Vigasságok). Wandering around the ceremony room, the music hall, the newly restored opera house, the Sala Terrena (i.e. a floor hall adjoining the garden and a chilly shelter in hot summers), the Chinese room and the parlours takes you back in time to the 1700s and everyday life of the noble dynasty revives in front of your eyes. A suite is still reserved for the private use of the Esterhazys, that is currently for Prince Anton Esterhazy. Although the furniture arranged authentically truly reflects the style of the family, most of the pieces are from other castles and palaces.
The suite called Maria Theresa Room was left intact after her visit in 1773 until WW2. The west wing of the building used to host the renowned Esterházy Gallery with several gems in the collection of nearly 650 paintings including Esterhazy Madonna by Raphael (currently displayed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest).
The restored buildings also include the former estate management building, the former House of Music (museum and town hall today), the former riding hall, the hotel and the restaurant, the two former guardhouses just opposite the main entrance, the former Marionette Theatre and the picturesque bridge over Kelemente Creek west of the main building. The castle is surrounded by a period garden with a network of pathways leading to the chapel or religious statues. The front yard encircled by the main building and the wings is accessible through an ornate wrought-iron gate and visitors are welcome by fountains and ornamental flowerbeds. Stairs at the end of the yard lead into the Great Hall in the centre of the building.