Salzburg in Austria is also known as the smallest metropolis in the world. It’s a city built in Baroque style, and Mozart (amongst others) was born here. The old city center is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and still exudes the wealth of that time. This prosperity was acquired thanks to its salt mine, which inspired the city’s name.
The most famous composer of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was born in Salzburg. He grew up here and wrote his very first music in his room at the age of eight. His spirit still lingers in this ‘city with many towers’. Not literally, but the café he liked to frequent is still there, as are the places where he performed his first music. His parental home on the Getreidegasse is also still there.
The gardens, or rather the grounds, that belong to the house are still flourishing and full of statues. There are fountains with intricate waterworks. The fortress still towers over the alleys and squares of the city. The skyline of Salzburg is known for its famous Capuchin Monastery, built between 1599 and 1605.
The city is built on the banks of the Salzach river, on the northern foot of the Alps. There are alpine meadows surrounding the city, and the nearest peak is the Untersberg, which is 1.972 meters high. It’s only a few kilometers away from Salzburg and very popular for winter sports.
Best things to see and do in Salzburg:
Visit the Hohensalzburg Castle
The Festung Hohensalzburg, as is its proper name, towers over the city. You can take a cable cart to the castle, or you can walk up as well. The size of the fort will surprise you: it’s 250 metres long and 150 metres wide, it’s one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.
Construction of Hohensalzburg began in 1077, under orders of Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein. In the following centuries, the fortress was expanded and renovated several times. If you visit, don’t forget to check out the Fürsten-zimmer (prince’s rooms). They are lavishly decorated and have a very special toilet. There are often concerts at the fortress.
Discover Mozart’s Salzburg
The Getreidegasse is a world-famous street in Salzburg: it’s where Mozart was born. He later moved to the Makartplatz number 8. Both houses are now museums, and give an impression of how Mozart lived as a young person, and wrote his first pieces of music.
If you look down from the balcony on the square, you can see the café he liked to visit, and the cathedral where he was baptised. You can go and listen to his famous music performed by an opera company, or discover more about him in other ways. The options are endless.
Take a stroll through the gardens of Mirabell Palace
If you like walking, you should take a walk through the gardens of Schloss Mirabell. It is clear why this is one of the most popular places to visit in Salzburg. The palace was built in 1606 under orders of Wolf Dietrich Raitenau, and most famous for its geometric gardens.
The gardens are full of mythical statues. Most of them date back to 1730, but the four collections of Eneas, Hercules, Paris and Pluton by Italian sculptor Ottavio Mosto, are from 1690. And for musical lovers: several scenes from The Sound of Music were recorded here. You also get great views of the Hohensalzburg castle from the gardens. A good time to wander through the gardens is in the morning or late afternoon.
More information: www.visit-salzburg.net/sights/schlossmirabell
Get a beautiful view of the Salzburg cathedral
The cathedral of Salzburg (Salzburger Dom) dominates the skyline of Salzburg, though it can be hard to get a good view of it due to the city’s narrow, winding streets. One of the best places to get a good view of it, is from the Mönchsberg in the west of the city. You can walk up into the forest and get a great view of the city.
The cathedral is built in the Baroque style of the 17th century, though the foundations were already laid in 767. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Rupert. Notable is that Mozart was baptised here.
Enjoy Salzburg’s coffee specialties
The coffee options in Salzburg have interesting names such as Kleinere Brauner, Melange or Einspänner, and you really should try them all out. They are best had with cake, like the Sachertorte (from the Sacher Hotel), apple pie or Salzburger Nockerl. One of the best places to enjoy your coffee and cake is at the Café Tomaselli, where Mozart liked to go. You can also try a Mozartkugel here which is made out of chocolate and marzipan, it’s very sweet, but very popular.
Get a good view of Salzburg
If you like nice views, there are several options to take the city in from afar. Of course there is the Hohensalzburg castle, but the ‘city mountains’ of the Kapuzinerberg or Mönchsberg are actually better. They are perfect for walking, you’ll get a different view as you walk up, and you can make lots of stops along the way.
Here are some things around the Mönchsberg: Museum der Moderne Salzburg (Salzburg Museum of Modern Art), St. Blasius (Saint Blaise), Haus der Natur (Museum of Natural History) and the Pallottinerkirche (church).
When you visit the Kapuzinerberg you should absolutely visit the Kapuzinerkloster (monastery). It dates from the 14th century, and you can reach the monastery via the Prügelweg. There is a lot to see here.
Dine with Mozart
The atmosphere is very special: a richly decorated hall in the heart of the city, candles, tables set with white linen and a podium. A Mozart dinner might seem a little bit touristy, but the musicians are the talents from the local university. It’s a dinner in the old part of town with varying pieces by Mozart while you’re having a three-course meal. Ask at the tourist information centre about the different options.
More information: www.salzburg-concerts.com/nc/en/salzburg/mozart-dinner-concert/home
Follow The Sound of Music
They were real people: the postulant Maria, who became Baroness von Trapp, the naval commander Georg von Trapp, and all those children. They performed around the world as singers. Their life was made famous by The Sound of Music musical and movie, in which Julie Andrews played a starring role, for which she received a Golden Globe. The movie received five Oscars, and the music is popular all over the world. If you’d like to see the locations where the movie was shot: you can visit the Nonnberg Abby, Leopoldskron Palace, the Mirabell gardens and the Hellbrunn castle, and recreate scenes from the movie.
Enjoy a beer tasting
For centuries people have been ordering a Stiegl in the bars of Salzburg. The local specialty ‘Märzentyp von Stiegl’ has been brewed in Salzburg since 1492. These days, you can try ten different kinds of beer at the renovated basement of the brewery. You can also take a tour in the Brauwelt (literally ‘brew world’), which finishes with a tasting.
Discover the Salzburger Zoo
If you’re visiting Schloss Hellbrun, you can easily visit the Salzburger Zoo, which is on the castle grounds. It’s a zoo full of animals that live in the Austrian mountains, including the alpine ibex and the chamois. There are also animals from all over the world. If you go there by bus, it’s best to get off at the zoo, make your way to the castle and get back on the bus there.
Make use of the Salzburg Card
You can buy the card for 24 hours or several days, and it gives you access to lots of different attractions, including Hellbrunn, the cable cart up to Hohenzalsburg and lots of museums. It’s a convenient and economical way to see many different attractions, and it also ensures you often don’t have to queue for tickets.
More information: Salzburg Card
History of Salzburg
Where did the opulence in Salzburg come from? A lot of it is thanks to the salt mine in the nearby Dürrnberg, not only was the city named after it, but it brought Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, one of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg, a huge amount of wealth. The ‘white gold’ was already being mined by the Celts, but Wolf Dietrich modernised the process. That’s how this art lover was able to give the city its Baroque beauty. And the salt ensured that the city can still be admired in all its glory.
The prosperity can also be seen outside of the city. For example at the famous Schloss Hellbrunn, which borders Salzburg. It was built between 1613 and 1619 by Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, another former Prince-Archbishop of the city. The name of the castle comes from the very clear spring nearby.
It used to be a summer palace, with grottos and fountains (known as ‘Wasserspiele Hellbrunn’) that are now famous. There are no beds at the palace, everybody always went back to Salzburg to sleep. These days a part of the castle is used as the Salzburger Zoo, with many animals that you can find in the woods and mountains of Austria.
Mozart said about the city of his birth: ‘All of the beautiful places I’ve seen, are – in my opinion– very minimal in comparison to the heavenly beauty of Salzburg’. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it does suit this small city.
History can be found on every street corner, and there are points of recognition for all. If it’s not Mozart, it’ll be The Sound of Music, the famous movie from 1965. The story takes place here and is based on the life of Maria von Trapp. But even if classical music and musicals are not for your taste, you’ll enjoy yourself in Salzburg.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791) was a son of composer Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl. He was born in Salzburg on Getreidegasse number 9. These days the city is in Austria, but at the time it was part of the Holy Roman Empire, after the Treaty of Verdun (843 AC).
When he was five years old, Mozart performed at the Salzburg university as a dancer in the Latin musical drama Sigismundus Hungariae Rex, by Johann Ernst Eberlin. In 1773, Mozart was employed as a court musician for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg at the time, Hieronymus von Colloredo. He didn’t feel like he was valued very much in his home town, so he moved to Vienna. He died there in 1791, so he only lived to be 35. It’s still unclear what he died of.
Best time to visit Salzburg:
The city is a popular stop for those who are heading into the mountains, and there really isn’t a specific time of year better than another.
Salzburg is great in winter (if you’re heading out on a winter sports holiday) and in spring/summer you can combine a visit to the city with hikes in the Untersberg or southern Alps regions.
The climate in Salzburg is temperate, it’s possible to have several days of bad weather, but in summer in can get up to thirty degrees.
Because many attractions are inside, it’s an ideal place to visit even when it’s raining.
How do I get to Salzburg?
It’s easy to get to Salzburg, you can drive here from all over Europe, but you can also take the train. You can even fly here in winter, or you can fly to Munich or Innsbruck and make your way to Salzburg from there.