Salzburg is one of those dreamlike places that occupies your thoughts long after your visit has ended. Yes, the pedestrian-only Old Town is a delight, the Hohensalzburg is a grand fortress and the Residenz is an opulent, beautiful palace. Mysteriously, the sum of all of your experiences in Salzburg likely will far outweigh your satisfaction with its well-known attractions. What will be the tipping point be for you? Perhaps the surprisingly attractive altar at the Franziskaner Kirche, or the insights gained about Mozart when visiting the Wohnhaus, his family’s home, or that excellent pastry and tea at Demel?
In addition, the the unique setting of the Old Town is quite charming and your memories will certainly be influenced by the wonderful shops, cozy hotels and great restaurants. Did we mention the fun to be found at Hellbrunn Palace and its “trick” fountains? We think that Salzburg will be all that you dreamed it would be and more, but it is a town meant to be savored, not rushed. If you can budget the time, spend at least two days and three nights.
Located in western Austria, near the border with Germany, Salzburg sits astride the Salzach River, which flows north through the town. In Medieval times, the Salzach was an important transportation artery for the shipment of salt. Today the river remains navigable, but is not an important part of the region’s transportation.
The Salzach cuts through the Monchsberg and Kapuzinerberg, two low mountains with the Old Town and the major tourist attractions in Salzburg on the left bank hugging the Monchsberg. To the east of the river, there are several important attractions, a number of pleasant hotels and the train station (Hauptbanhoff) .
Salzburg’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the many reasons for this honor was recognition of the care that the city has given to preserving its unique heritage. The pre-Salzburg history of the city includes links to a Celtic outpost and then a Roman city, which declined rapidly after a promising start as a trade center. The city that we know as Salzburg (Salt Castle) dates from the 8th century when a settlement began to develop around a religious settlement. From the 14th to the 19th centuries, Salzburg was a city-state ruled by Prince-Archbishops, who were responsible for look of today’s Old Town, as they built many of the city’s most well known monuments.In later times, Salzburg was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, included as part of the Kingdom of Bavaria, a component of the short-lived German Austrian state formed after World War I and annexed by Germany again in 1938. The city was bombed and severely damaged during World War II. Many areas were rebuilt after the war, but numerous Baroque landmarks in the Old Town survived relatively unscathed. After World War II Austria was established as an independent country, although unification with Germany was prohibited by treaty. Today, population of Salzburg and its suburbs approximates 200,000 people.
Austrians seem to be focused on music and nowhere more so than Salzburg, which is the city where Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (popularly known as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) was born on January 27, 1756. Most places you will visit in Salzburg will have some link to Mozart, many of them locations where he first played a new work. Of course, Salzburg more than wears its association with Mozart, it celebrates it year around.
Those of you who are you are interested in music should try to schedule your visit during the Salzburger Festspiele held in the last week of July and all of August. The town is crowded during this period, as the music and theater festival is very popular. See the official website for information on dates, venues, events and pricing.
In January, the famed Salzburg Mozart Festival is held around Mozart’s birthday (the 27th of January). It is known for its top rank performers and is a world-famous event. See the official website of the Salzburg Mozart Festival for more details. It is advisable to book your reservations a year prior to the festival, as this is a formal event with enormous popularity.
For those of you looking for something slightly different, over 300 classical, mostly Mozart concerts a year are offered at the Salzburg Fortress. In addition, the nightly Mozart Dinner Concert might be of interest to other.
Salzburg offers five major areas for exploration. Salzburg’s Old Town, which runs from the northwest to the southeast along the western bank of the Salzbach River, hardly seems big enough for two core areas, but it has them nonetheless. Shopping and restaurants are the kings of the northwestern section of the Old Town along Getreidegasse. It is on this crowded lane that you will also find Mozart’s birthplace (Mozart’s Geburthaus), opposite the Hagenauerplatz). The second core consists of the historical buildings and squares that surround the Dom, Salzburg’s cathedral. Next, atop the Monchberg (actually on a hill that has come to be known as the Festungberg) is the city’s renowned Festung Hohensalzsburg (The Fortress). Across the river from the Old Town, you will find the Mirabel Gardens and also the residence where Mozart was raised (the Mozart Wohnhaus) and wrote some of his important works. In addition, this area has many restaurants, and shopping areas, as well as some of the city’s fine theaters.
Finally, close to the city, but outside the Centrum, you will find Schloss Hellbrunn, a summer palace of the Prince-Archbishops that is an attraction you should not miss visiting.