The birthplace of Mozart
Countless years have passed since the first and only time I travelled to Salzburg, of course way before I started to create a site and travel guides, so finally this is the great chance for a well awaited return and thereafter creation of a proper guide for this so famous destination. One of the most beautiful, complete and most visited city in Europe, full of 17th century Baroque architecture wherever anyone look. It is one of these places where surprisingly, when looking in a map it is small, yet when walking along the streets the sights do not stop to succeed, like an open museum indeed and in fact, very overwhelming. One does not know where to look nor how to walk the most appropriate route, however, a day is good enough to fully explore all the sights and monuments while a second day would be nice to have and therefore enjoy the city at a much more relaxed pace.
If back at the first time I’ve ever visited Salzburg it was on a guided day tour from Vienna hence super short and very rushy, considering the 4 hours bus journey per way, on this occasion it turned out to be quite different. What originally though would be a long day trip to spend the Saturday away, due to some airline cancellations and re-schedule it worked in our favour in the sense that we gained an extra day and flew back the following day in the evening. Being a nice group of friends in this trip then was nice to also get to know the great thriving nightlife of the city.
From the city’s foundations little remain other than knowing from what’s been found, it was likely a Neolithic settlement before becoming a Roman post and still, almost no trace from the Roman period stands out today. We need to go forward to the 11th century AD when it was part of Bavaria (Germany) and the Festung Hohensalzburg, the city’s fortress, was built thus gaining importance and wealthiness from the salt trade coming directly from the mines not far south. It is this reason from what the name Salzburg derives, Salt Fortress.
Upon the independence from Bavaria in the 14th century, the city, by then capital of the new state, was run by archbishops who continue to make riches from the salt trade and built imposing buildings with luxurious materials, the best designs from the best architects of the era across Europe were hired in the city and quickly became to be known as the Rome of the North due to the monumentality especially the churches and many cupolas and spires.
Back in 1756 the genius composer of the Classical period was born in the city, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His birthplace home is located at Getreidegasse, the main pedestrian thoroughfare in the old town and is a major tourist destination, together with a museum dedicated to his life and legacy coupled with plenty more sites, monuments, names and anything related to his life and the city. It is also along the Getreidegasse street that you will find lots of shops, restaurants, bars and cafes all of which with their nice signs made of iron placed at their entrances, something which is very Bavarian in tradition and a beautiful sight on its own. The street is indeed a masterpiece.
As for one of the greatest movies filmed at various location of the city, that’s The sound of Music, from 1960. It draws a lot of tourists and no matter if you are on any of the city’s guided tours, at one point or another you will hear the stories of such locations such as the Mirabell Gardens Fountain where the main theme was sang, the Do-Re-Mi song.
Now, while it’s nice to visit no doubt, for someone spending a day in the city I would not recommend to go all the way up to the castle and visit. It is more spectacular when seen from the distance, as from the other bank of the Salzach River. That is after all, the world renown view of the city, the most beautiful picture you can take.
For further information about Salzburg visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Austria’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Salzburg
- Neustadt Located east of the river, home to the major transit hub as the railway and bus stations, plenty of buses and trolley buses; large hotels, shopping areas and a beautiful old waterfront towards the south overlooking the castle and old town across the river.
-Train Station At the north of the district, one of the principal European railways junctions. Although a much older station here once stood, the current building was designed in modernist lines.
-Rainerstraße The main street going from the train station all the way south towards the Market Square near both bridges Makartsteg and Staatsbrucke.
-St. Andrew’s Church On Rainerstraße and exactly opposite the east facade of the Mirabell Palace. Completed in 1898 in neo-Gothic style, although reconstructed after WWII in simpler lines.
-Mirabell Palace One of the greatest sights in the city especially for its great landscaped gardens full of monuments and fountains. This is the principal film location of the movie the Sound of Music. Such gardens are one of the most visited sights, offering great views towards the castle in the distance.
-Conservatory of Music Known as the Mozarteum, at the south of the Mirabell Gardens, was founded in 1841 by the widow of Mozart.
-Marionette Theatre The next building after the Mozarteum, was founded in 1913 becoming one of the oldest continuing marionette theatres in the world.
-Market Square The major open space in this part of the city, surrounded by several beautiful buildings.
-State Theatre Side by side with the Marionette Theatre, along the west side of the square. Built in 1893 upon designs of Fellner and Helmer.
-Hotel Bristol Along the entire north side of the square, one of the prime luxurious location ever since its construction.
-Holy Trinity Church Along the east side, completed in 1702, one of the first Baroque buildings to be built from the many to come.
-Mozart Residence On the south side, the place where the family lived after moving from the smaller at Getreidegasse 9. Nowadays a museum about his life and career.
-Sacher Hotel Another of the grand hotels built in 1866 as the Hotel Österreichischer Hof, but bough by the Vienna hotel Sacher and renamed as such. Occupies the southwestern side of the square and directly overlooks the river, castle and old town by the entire west side. Great place to have the world famous Sacher Torte cake.
-Makartsteg Bridge The best place where to see both the new and old towns it links over the Salzach River.
- Altstadt The old town, listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Small maze of streets following a west to east shape parallel to the river, and the famous castle high above the hill behind.
-Griesgasse Right across the bridge, this is the main street along the river front and west inside the old town, though not the prettiest which is Getreidegasse just parallel to it a block south. At the western end of the street you will find the Marienbrunnen fountain dating from 1692, and at the top of the hill the Museum der Moderne.
-Getreidegasse The most beautiful street in the city and major sight in its full length. Full of shops, coffees, restaurants and museums in very colorful houses.
-Mozart’s Birthplace At number 9, easy to spot as there are always lots of people around making pictures.
-Old City Hall Few meters ahead from Mozart’s house, the building with the clock tower.
-Old Market Square Continuing on the street, it connects to the Residence Square at the south. Fully surrounded by great architecture and colors, while at its centre you will find the Baroque Florianibrunnen fountain.
-Judengasse The Jewish guetto, continuing along the Getreidegasse as it changes its name for this last curved part connects to the east with Mozart Square and the Residence Square.
-Mozart Square Beautiful everywhere you look, and the centrepiece monument the statue of Mozart. Along the south side is the New Residence and it opens to the greater Residence Square by the southwest.
-Residence Square The largest of any in the old town, home to the most monumental buildings as the New and Old Residences and Cathedral.
-New Residence Along the entire east side. Built for Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, the richest in the entire Holy Roman Empire of Germany at the time, was completed at the beginning of 1600 becoming his main residence. Nowadays it is the seat of the Salzburg Museum.
-Saint Michel Church At the northeast, visible from both squares. One of the many traditional Baroque churches in the city.
-Old Residence At the western side opposite the New Residence. Dating in origin from the 11th century as the prince-archbishop’s palace complex, was later expanded and transformed upon orders of Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau at the beginning of 1600 becoming what’s there now, one of the most valuable sights.
-Cathedral Along the southern side, creating the Cathedral Square at the west and the Kapitelplatz at the south. Built over the years in different shape and forms, the current dates to the Baroque period, completed in 1628. It was where composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptised
-Cathedral Square Where the main facade of the cathedral is, southwest of the Residence Square. You access this square through the arches under the bell tower.
-Franciscan Church Just west from the Cathedral Square accessible along the arches of a building. A compex of various buildings with courtyards and church, all in a mix of architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque
-Kollegienkirche Further west after the Franciscan complex. Completed in 1707 in Baroque style is one of the largest after the Cathedral in size.
-Saint Peter’s Abbey Accessible via one of the Franciscan complex courtyards, a block southeast. This Benedictine monastery is one of the oldest in the German speaking world, composed of a church, abbey, catacombs, chapel and cemetery all surrounded by beautiful gardens.
-Kapitelplatz This square south of the Cathedral can be accessed from Saint Peter’s Abbey at the southwest corner, through the arches from Cathedral Square or along the east (back of the Cathedral) from the Residence Square. Here you will find the famous monument to the creator of Mozart Chocolates, Paul Fuerst, on top of a golden ball, and the base station of the funicular to reach the Hohensalzburg Castle at the top of the mountain.
- Hohensalzburg Castle One of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe and major tourist draw to the city. Accessible either on foot of via funicular connecting it to the old town. It is also one of the oldest constructions in the city dating from 1077 although expanded through the centuries. The Reisszug, a very primitive cable railway dating as early as the beginning of the 16th century was built to move up and down freight at the eastern side, and it is considered the world’s oldest operational railway. Nowadays it is quite modernised but same principle.
Mozart International Airport is merely 6 kilometres west of the historic centre and accessible by frequent bus with the city centre for 2.6 Euros per way taking approximately 20 minutes. While some years ago the direct routes were somewhat limited considering the importance of the city as a major tourist destination, nowadays more and more routes are added yearly and the coverage across Europe very spread.
Due to the city’s location at a neuralgic node of transports and communications between Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic, reaching the city overland could not be easier with plenty of direct railway routes and motorways everywhere. It’s an hour and a half to Munich, 2 hours to Vienna by train or bus and even less time by car.
Within the city there is absolutely no need for taking any public transport at all. The city is very compact and has two well defined areas, one being the medieval town around the castle, the other the new town across the river. Both beautiful and easy to navigate on foot.
Salzburg does not come cheap when talking about accommodation, but that is the general norm anywhere in Austria, especially at such a highly tourist destination. Then because the city is all year round in high season, there is no way around. During the winter months the sky season, with the great Alps mountains next door, and during the summer the peak of the cultural sightseeing tourists. Needless to say the amount of hotels is great, with possibly every big chain, plenty of local ones and more modest. Of course quite a large selection of top luxurious properties, but also a nice variety of mountain resorts, apartments and bed & breakfast. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.
Due to the nature of our trip which was meant to be just a day without an overnight stay but turned into two after the flight cancellation from the airline at quite a short notice, and considering the fact we were five, we managed a nice room at the modest Meininger Hotel Salzburg City Center on Fuerbergstrasse 18-20. Nice property with all the basics needed for a short stay, comfort, quietness, clean, good location and nice staff. We could not ask for more considering the great value for money in a city so super expensive in accommodation.