Salzburg, the City of Music

You can hear the music as you walk the cobble stone streets of the baroque Altstadt (Old Town)! Salzburg…the birthplace of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and setting for the American musical and film The Sound of Music. One of the most preserved city centers north of the Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, Salzburg first came on the map in AD 700 when Bavaria gave Salzburg to Bishop Rupert to Christianize the area, and it remained independent until Napolean came in 1800.

With a population of only 150,000, it draws eight millions visitors each year. Salzburg means Salt Castle (more on that below) and is nicknamed “Rome of the North” because of its 38 Catholic churches and the Italian ambitions of Salzburg’s Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich (ruled 1587-1612). This lovely town is easy to explore over two to three days. We enjoyed a leisurely three day visit last December after the Christmas rush (they also have a Christkindl-Markt).

Top two Salzburg Must GOs are Mozart’s Salzburg and The Sound of Music’s Salzburg… I’ll cover them in my next two posts. But first, the rest of the best …

Stunning Sites

  • Hohensalzburg Fortress: This fortress, which sits atop a rock and towers 400 feet above town, was never really used as its looming presence kept the city from being attacked for over one thousand years (until World War II but the Altstadt did survived). Hike up or ride the funicular up for a few hour tour and fantastic views of the city.
  • Salzburg Cathedral: One of first baroque buildings north of the Alps, it was finished in 1628 during the Thirty Years War. Mozart was baptized here and later in life was organist for 2 years. The 10am Sunday Mass is known for the beautiful music produced by it’s four organs.
  • St. Peter’s Cemetery: An incredible site full of age old iron crosses (cheaper than stone tombstones), little gardens and elaborate tombs. The Sound of Music cemetery hide out scene was inspired by this cemetery.
  • Salzach River: Salzach means ‘salt’ and named so because its salty and because the salt mines of Hallein are upstream and the river carried boats with salt from here.  A great place to see both sides of the city and enjoy the river is the Makartsteg pedestrian bridge.
  • Mirabell Gardens and Palace: Across the river from the Alstadt is this Schloss (castle) featured in The Sound of Music and a great place for live Mozart music. More on it in the next posts.
  • Getreidegasse: Salzburg’s shopping street was old Salzburg’s busy main drag and famous for its old wrought-iron signs. Check out Schmuck (jewelry) Alley and Christmas in Salzburg & Easter in Salzburg stores for their famous ornaments. And don’t forget your Mozart balls.

Great Eats & Drinks

  • Stiftskeller St. Peter: First documented in the year 803 with a visit by Charlemagne, this is the oldest restaurant in Central Europe. We enjoyed a delicious dinner … pork medallions with tomato thyme gnocchi, glazed Christmas turkey in mulled wine sauce and dessert duet of lebkuchen (gingerbread). We went early to enjoy their Christmas Wonderland and glühwein. A Mozart Dinner is also hosted here … it looked very nice and while I’m not usually one for those things, I’ll definitely try it next time.
  • Goldene Ente Restaurant (in our hotel Altstadthotel Goldene Ente, quaint hotel in the heart of Old Town dating back to the 14th century): Open since 1874, we dined on delicious chestnut soup, turkey schnitzel, austrian wines and THE famous Salzburger Nockerl dessert, yum!
  • Augustiner Bräu: A monk brewery since 1621, this 1,000 seat brewery is not to be missed! Broken into stalls like a giant Munich Oktoberfest, grab a half or liter stein, pay for your beer, rinse it in the very cold water then fill ‘er up! Pair with bretzels, bratwurst and radish chips from the food stalls. A short 15 minute walk outside Altstadt, it opens 3pm daily.
  • Scio’s Specereyen: Quaint bistro serving Austrian cuisine. Its THE place for a Prosecco and Nipples of Venus (specialty white or dark chocolates with a chestnut and nougat filling) enjoyed during Mozart’s time. I also bought a nice bottle of Cuvee Amedes, a Pinot Blanc named after Mozart.

Salzburg is perfect for every season. The famous Salzburg Festspiele, a festival of opera, classical music concerts and theater, takes place every summer. Outside town is also beautiful with its winter sports wonderland, two lakes (Attersee and Mondsee), the famous Hallstadt (picturesque town and home of the salt mines still in operation and open for tours) and Oberndorf (home of St Nikolaus Church’s Memorial Church where in 1818 the first rendition of the famous carol, Silent Night, Holy Night was performed and every December 24 at 5pm a memorial service takes place).

Visit the gallery for more great photos of our Salzburg visit. Coming tomorrow: Mozart’s Salzburg!