Salzburg. It’s a sweet place.
Not just because of the sugary delights in its ‘Konditorei’ cake shops. It’s also petite; compact–and that makes it easy to fix yourself a whole feast of delights to see in a weekend. On offer? The perfect blend of history, culture, music, food and shopping; all without walking too far. And there are plenty of horse-drawn carriages for tourists to hitch a ride on; if you really want to see the city in style.
You get a choice of soundtrack too: this was not only Mozart’s birthplace (well worth a visit); but the location for many scenes from the enduring Julie Andrews blockbuster, ‘The Sound of Music’. So, kicking off your stay with guidebook and cake in a cosy coffee house, is a very good place to start.
Look up, as you stroll around the cobbled streets, and as well as the stunning backdrop of snow-topped mountains and bright blue skies, you’ll see the spires, towers and domes of scores of city churches, and higher still, the striking severity of the Hohen Salzburg Fortress. You can get a bird’s eye view from this site right over this pretty city too, by riding up to it on the funicular railway–in just under a minute.
Equally as breathtaking, but in a different, extravagantly romantic way, are the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, commissioned in 1606 by the Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau. He built it for his mistress, Salome, with whom he had 15 children! The palace boasts a baroque style marble staircase and a generous scattering of cherubs; all of which inspire many modern day couples to book their weddings here.
There’s more than a hint of Italian influence — in fact, some call Salzburg the ‘Rome of the North’. So impressed were the city’s archbishops with the grandeur of the Italian city that they lured its best architects over to help develop and enhance Salzburg. You can get a better understanding of how it all happened at Salzburg’s excellent network of museums–five of them, centring around the Dom Quartier complex, available to you with one ticket, covering the Cathedral and the former Prince-Archbishops’ Residenz. But if technology and modern art are your thing, Salzburg offers museums to showcase these, too.
Also available are ‘behind the scenes’ guided tours of the city’s festival halls (keep a look out for the famous stage which was the memorable backdrop to Baron Von Trapp’s emotional performance of ‘Edelweiss’ in ‘The Sound of Music’.) The halls form the centre piece for the annual summer Salzburg Festival of music and drama.
It’s in summer, too, that visitors can stroll along the banks of the picturesque River Salzach–or get the chance to see the city from another perspective on one of the regular riverboat tours.
For us? Salzburg ‘feels’ like a winter city; almost as if it might feel underdressed without at least a dusting of snow and the kind of frosty temperatures that make a huge mug of hot chocolate with your cake….completely forgiveable. It’s at its best, many say, when its Christmas Markets are in full swing. Sounds like a great excuse to return.
Note: In the interest of disclosure, we worked with the Salzburg Tourist Office on this visit, who provided us with two Salzburg cards, offering free or discounted admission to numerous sightseeing attractions, along with free use of public transportation. We were also given a private, two-hour guided tour of the city by one of its expert, licensed guides. This was a wonderful introduction to Salzburg, providing a great overview of the city before we explored on our own. For more on our disclosure policy, read here.