I confess, I was attracted to Salzburg by The Sound of Music, but I was surprised how completely charmed I was by the city.
Nestled in central-west Austria on the banks of the 1)Salzach River and just north of the Alps, Salzburg is one of Europe’s oldest and most fascinating cities, as well as one of the world’s most 2)prominent cities for music, architecture, and3)mediaeval and 4)baroque culture. From Mozart and The Sound of Music to its countless castles, church 5)spires, and courtyards or squares with fountains, Salzburg is truly a place where everything comes to life and reminisces about the beautiful simplicity from centuries ago.
First settled by monks, Salzburg is crammed with churches; they must have been impressed by its 6)dramatic surroundings of cliffs and mountains, and by the wide Salzach River running through the middle of the valley. These days it is a beautiful city with a surprising amount to do for such a small place. It is a city of two halves, with the Old Town housing some of the most popular tourist attractions, and the modern part of the city, just across the river, housing a large number of hotels and other businesses.
The main obsessions in Salzburg are Mozart and The Sound of Music. Both had their births there—1756 and 1964, respectively—and both now 7)fuel the tourist industry. The locals are clearly prouder of Mozart than Hollywood’s 8)von Trapp, with most of the souvenirs being Mozart-related. If only they’d cared about him so much when he was alive!
There are quite literally hundreds of sights, streets, cafes, pubs, 9)beer gardens, churches, and 10)abbeys for you to visit when you’re taking a vacation to Salzburg. Here are the five highlights that you definitely don’t want to miss to really get into the culture of Salzburg:
1. Hohensalzburg Castle
Watching over the city from high above, atop the 1600-foot-high Festungsberg hill, this 900-year-old massive castle doubled as a fortress in its 11)heyday. It is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, and it gives the city a fairy tale feeling. From its gates, you can catch a good 12)panoramic view of the city. Below, the 13)glacial waters of the Salzach River divide the “old” and the “new” city. Baroque churches, spires, and fountains line the streets of old Salzburg, and the Alps rise beyond the city.
2. Salzburg’s 14)Cathedral
Long before Mozart and The Sound of Music made Salzburg famous, the city was renowned and prosperous for its valuable salt, mined during the Middle Ages. The 15)archbishops of Salzburg became rich and powerful, building the beautiful 16)edifices that stand today. Seventeenth century’s Archbishop Wolf Dietrich17)left his mark in the Baroque 18)splendor of Salzburg’s Cathedral. The Salzburg Cathedral is probably the city’s most significant piece of church architecture. With its magnificent 19)facade and mighty 20)dome, it represents the most 21)impressive early Baroque edifice north of the Alps. Destroyed by fire, then rebuilt, enlarged, and expanded, it bears witness to the power and independence of Salzburg’s archbishops. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the cathedral 22)organist for two years.
3. The Hellbrunn Palace
It was home to one of the archbishops of Salzburg, who had a great sense of humor. When he had the palace built, he included numerous trick fountains in the design. One of the most famous is the table where his guests would eat—there are fountains under each chair (except his own, of course), and since guests were not allowed to stand in the presence of the archbishop, they were forced to remain seated when water suddenly starting spraying up from under their seats. There are many other such fountains, as well as statues, streams, and little 23)enclaves with dancing figures powered entirely by water.
4. Getreidegasse, Oldest and Busiest Street in Salzburg
Getreidegasse, in the Old Town, is the busiest street in Salzburg and one of the most charming shopping districts in all of Europe. It is also the oldest road in the city; it was used during Roman times and was the only road leading from here to 24)Bavaria. From mediaeval times to today, this area has attracted the rich: those visiting for the Salzburg festival, tourists, those looking for Mozart’s birthplace, and 25)shopaholics. Mozart’s birthplace and family home is at Number 9 Getreidegasse. For a music fan, its historical instruments—like Mozart’s concert piano and his childhood violin—and manuscripts are fascinating.
5. The Salzburg Festival
Festivals have been a big part of Austrian culture since the Middle Ages, including 26)extravagant costume balls and parties. The modern Salzburg Festival began in 1919 so that Salzburg’s traditional classical music and opera would be preserved and celebrated. Tiny Salzburg offers more than 2,000 live performances in its churches and palaces every year. Today, the festival offers rich and diverse music and drama from Mozart to today’s playwrights.
Salzburg is more than just a charming tourist sight; it is the vitality of the people, the beauty of the landscape, the great food, and the music you hear from every 27)quarter. When you are in Salzburg, don’t forget to sit and enjoy a 28)klein brauner (black coffee with a dash of milk) in one of Salzburg’s many well-known cafes. You can sit, sip coffee, people watch, and not be bothered all morning or afternoon. Ah, the life of a European!