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Salzburg, Austria City and Travel Guide

October 10th, 2008

salzburg-fortress.JPGBased in central Austria, Salzburg is famous for being the setting for the movie The Sound of Music and birthplace of Mozart. There is, however, much more to the city’s culture and history, making it an interesting and beautiful location to visit as this latest article in Patrick McGougan’s series on European cities describes.


Salzburg currently has a population of over 148,000 making it the fourth largest city in Austria. Situated on the banks of the Salzach River at the northern boundary of the Alps, it is reachable by train from many areas of Europe and is around an hour and a half from Munich. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as Austria’s second most popular tourist destination, behind Vienna.

Human settlement in Salzburg has been traced as far back as the Neolithic Age. Small Celtic communities were residing in the town, which at this point was known as Juvavum from 15 BC. In the 8th century, barges carrying salt on the river running through the city would be subject to a toll, which is where the name Salzburg, meaning “Salt Castle” comes from. In 1077, the Festung Hohensalzburg was built. This is a large fortress overlooking the old town and a focal point for Salzburg.

There are a number of attractions of both sides of the river and the best way to get around is by foot. There is a good bus service which covers a lot of the area, but using a car reach different attractions in Salzburg is unnecessary and inconvenient. A lot of the street signs are written in a traditional style and can be difficult to read from a distance. The size of the city makes it possible to travel internally by walking and using public transport. The surroundings seem to be made to be walked through, as beautiful mountain backdrops seem to create photographic opportunities throughout.

Situated on the top of a mountain, Festung Hohensalzburg is one of the more obviously visible attractions Salzburg has to offer. This fortress provides an ideal position for views of the city and nearby Alps. On one side of the building lies a field with only one house. This house was the executioner’s residence and is alone because there was a belief that living near this was bad luck. A museum of life, torture instruments, and medieval weapons is inside the fortress. For those who choose not to hike up the hill, a funicular running from the old twon eliminates the walk.

Located near the Salzach River is Schloss Mirabell – a beautiful castle with picturesque gardens. This was built by an archbishop and has the Marble Stairs of Raffael Donner and the Marble Hall, a sensational wedding hall.

Mozart’s birth house is open to visitors from 9 am to 6 pm daily and until 7 pm between July and August. Known as Mozarts Geburtshaus, this is in the heard of Salzburg and was the Mozart family home between 1747 and 1773. The house is now used as a museum holding interesting memorabilia and letters.

Other museums in the city include the Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum) which is at Bürgerspitalgasse 2. The Museum of Natural History (Haus der Natur Salzburg) is situated at Museumplatz 5 and the Salzburg Museum of Modern Art (Museum der Moderne Salzburg) is based at two different locations – Philharmonikergasse 9 and Mönchsberg 32.

Surrounded by gardens with interesting fountains, the Schloss Hellbrunn was once the summer palace of an archbishop. The green is ideal for a leisurely walk and includes a children’s playground. A tour is available which will show and inform about the palace, the fountains, and the gardens.

Other sites of interest include the Steintheater, meaning Stone Theatre. This was the location of the first opera in Middle Europe. The city’s cathedral is based in the old city and is worth a visit. St. Sebastian Cemetery attracts tourists for the Mausoleum of Archbishop Wolfdietrich as well as the grave of Constanze Weber-Nissen, wife of Mozart. It is also worth wondering through Getreidegasse – this is a narrow street with various shops, made famous for the old-style signs outside.

Whilst in the beautiful city of Salzburg, it is very tempting to take a trip towards the mountains. The snow topped peaks are not too far away though. The Untersberg is less than 16km south of the city and is reachable by bus. Many tourists visit this and most take the cable car from St. Leonhard station in the nearby town of Gartenau. This lifts passengers over 3000m and arrives at the Geieredu peak. Various paths lead to the top for those who feel they can handle the walk.

A number of tours are available around Salzburg and whether you like it or not, there is a strong presence of Sound of Music coach tours. These are the most popular by far and cover the major locations featured in the film. Information on these can be found in many hotels and also tourist offices. Salzburg sightseeing tours and panorama tours leave at 9:30 am and 2 pm daily and operate from Mirabellplatz. Other tours are also available in the area. Salt mine tours are available in the area surrounding Salzburg and boat tours leave from the Makart Bridge on the city side at the Salzach Insel boat landing.

Getting into Salzburg is fairly easy due to its central location. It is well served by the Salzburg W.A. Mozart International Airport, which is situated around 20 minutes from the city centre. There are direct connections to and from many large cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Paris, Vienna, and Zurich. The city’s train station, the Hauptbahnhof is located centrally and offers services to and from major European cities including Zurich, Zagreb, Ljubijana, and Budapest. By car, the Autobahn AB links Salzburg to Munich and the A1 leads to Vienna.

Whether you are looking to visit for a quiet and relaxing stay or a sightseeing holiday, Salzburg offers a lot in a small space. It even works as a nice hub for smaller, nearby venues, with beautiful mountain backdrops adding a picturesque look to this wonderful city, brimming with history and class. It is not large, but benefits from this as it is easy to travel through and feels very safe and friendly. It provides a fantastic place for those who are interested in Mozart or the Sound of Music, but is just as good for those who are not.



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