Salzburg is the second largest city in Austria. It has a population of 150,000 people. It is a picturesque city with narrow streets, wide squares, colourful houses, castles, palaces, churches, gardens and fountains. It lies between tall mountains and the Salzach River flows through it, laying out a beautiful backdrop for a beautiful city of baroque-style buildings with towers and spires. Thanks to its incredible architecture, the old centre of the city has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the cities archbishops hired the best artists and craftsmen to design the city in a style similar to Rome, so Italian influence can be seen in the city. Salzburg isn’t nicknamed Rome of the North for nothing.
Salzburg is close to the border with Germany, so it also serves as a good starting point for trips to south Germany.
The city centre is small and compact, allowing one to walk on foot between the city’s famous tourist attractions.
Salzburg is also famous as the birthplace of the famous classical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
You will find things related to Mozart in every corner (besides the delicious chocolates named after him): Mozart square (Mozartplatz), with a statue of the composer at its centre; Mozarteum music academy; the house where he grew up; and of course, the Mozart museum. His music serves as a core component of almost every musical event that takes place in the city, which is known for its many music festivals. The most famous of its festivals is the Salzburger Festspiele, which started in 1920 and has been attracting music fans from all over the world since.
Another important musical event for which the city is famous is the musical The Sound of Music, one of the most-viewed movies in history. Many scenes in the movie were filmed in Salzburg. Today you can take a guided tour through the city around sites relevant to the movie, watch a dinner show based on songs from the movie, or watch a marionette show of The Sound of Music (details later in the article).
Alongside its rich history and classic culture, Salzburg is also a lively modern city known for its excellent coffee shops, its many restaurants, and its great clubs, shops, theatres, galleries, and museums.
The most famous street in the city, also known as a successful shopping area, is the pedestrian mall of Getreidegasse. This is a beautifully designed narrow street where every little detail is wonderfully stylised. Even the McDonalds sign is stylised appropriately. This street is considered one of the most beautiful shopping areas in Austria. Even if you don’t like shopping, I recommend wandering through here. The buildings in this street are tall, narrow and crowded together. Between the buildings are roofed passageways (mostly full of shops and galleries) and lovely courtyards. Building number 9 on the street is the house Mozart grew up in, which nowadays houses the Mozart museum (more on this later).
In the centre of Salzburg are beautiful piazzas which are a treat to wander through. The largest one is Residenzplatz, at the centre of which is an impressive fountain with statues of horses, dolphins and characters from Roman mythology. At the eastern end of the square is the new Residenz building, which today houses the regional government offices. A hundred years after its initial construction, a bell tower was added to the building – the glockenspiel. It features 36 bells which play Mozart music three times a day: at 7AM, 11AM, and 6PM. From the square you can take 20-25 minute horse carriage tours through the old town. Another major square is Mozartplatz, featuring a statue of the famous composer at its centre. This square also has a tourist information centre. A short walk away is the old market square, or Alter Markt, where for hundreds of years the city market was held. The square has a row of pastel-coloured buildings from the 17th century. At its centre is a statue of Saint Florian. Another one of the city’s major squares is Domplatz.
More tourist information about Salzburg can be found here and at the tourist information centre in Mozartplatz.
A Salzburg card gives you a one-day pass to the main tourist attractions of the city, as well as free use of the city’s public transport. You can easily get to the city in a private vehicle and park in one of the city’s many parking lots. A map of the city’s parking lots can be found here. You can also park in one of the free-to-use parking lots in the city’s suburbs off the freeway and get to the city centre via public transport.
If you love wandering around beautiful streets, shops, gardens and castles and you are not pressed for time, the best way for you to see the city is to walk all around the old town on foot.
If you don’t have as much time, you can take a bus tour around the major tourist attractions. Some tours that are especially nice are ones themed around The Sound of Music. Several companies offer tours between the various filming locations of the movie around the city. The two major companies that offer this are Panorama Tours and Bob’s Tours. More sporty people can join Fraulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour.
The Stadtbus, Salzburg’s city bus, goes to all of the city’s major tourist attractions. There are ticket offices at the train station and on 4th Schrannengasse Street. Salzburg Card holders can ride the bus for free.
If you’d like to see the city from a different viewpoint, take a guided boat tour on the Salzach River running through the centre of the city.
Salzburg Stadt Schiff-Fahrt offers different boat tours in the city and around it. The shortest tour is an hour long and it is free for Salzburg Card holders.
I recommend spending at least one day in this beautiful city in order to see all of the main attractions in the old town combined with Hellbrunn Palace.
If you would like to visit more sites, such as museums, the zoo and the cable car near the city, go on a Sounds of Music tour or participate in festival events, give it a full two days.
A true children’s favourite in the city is Hellbrunn Palace and its water tricks.
This is a baroque-style palace built in the 17th century at the foot of the Hellbrunn Mountains as a summer home for Bishop Markus Sittikus. The bishop, who was rich and had a good sense of humour, wanted to create a unique place where he could toy with his guests. The palace, built in only three years, is located in a big park with beautiful gardens, not far from the zoo. You will get an amusing guided tour of the place, during which the guide will activate a series of hidden fountains and other amusing water-operated tricks, getting visitors wet and keeping them guessing about where the next spray of water will come from. This is how the bishop pranked his highly esteemed visitors back in the day.
Many of the fountains aren’t hidden and are very impressive and beautiful (many of them designed with roman mythology in mind), but some are hidden in bushes, flowers, and rather innocent-looking statues… The bishop also built a small theatre of 256 dolls, all operated by water pressure. After the tour you can walk around the beautiful gardens independently.
Here, too, scenes of the Sound of Music were filmed.
The palace is located 8km south of the centre of Salzburg.