When exploring Austria, a weeklong loop that includes Salzburg, Hallstatt, Vienna, and a drive along the Danube River provides a delicious sampling of the culture, scenic vistas, and history of the nation.
This article will delve into both the tradition and whimsy of Salzburg, a medieval city along the Salzach River. In order to adequately explore the city, two full days should be dedicated to the visit. If you drive to Salzburg, simply park your car in a safe lot recommended by your hotel, and tour the city on foot. Most sites are located within the original part of the city called Old Town.
Whether snow caps the cliffs and people see their breath during Easter service in Salzburg Cathedral, or the warm sun illuminates the tulip blossoms in the gardens, Salzburg is a welcoming walking city with something to offer the history buff, the food connoisseur, and the avid shopper alike.
This cathedral is the Baroque main church of Salzburg. Inside, its brightly lit dome is painted with scenes of the Passion in soft blues and rust hues. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg in 1756, was the cathedral’s organist for two years. Sitting in the pews under the dome offers the best acoustics during services. Gaze up at the paintings and imagine listening to Mozart’s compositions resonating from the pipes.
Salzburg Cathedral is located in the Domplatz of Old Town. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. Visit most days from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (5 p.m. in winter months).
Old Town Markets
Getreidegasse is the bustling walking street that is the heart of Old Town Salzburg shopping. Authentic, wrought iron signs protrude from the buildings and dangle into the grand alleyway, marking each of the fancy shops and cafes. The architecture still appears much as it did centuries ago. Getreidegasse extends from Judengasse to the cliffs.
Universitatsplatz hosts the city’s main open air market. Locals and tourists purchase fresh produce, flowers, baked goods and meats. Gather around a lunch stand and savor a variety of sausages with sweet or spicy mustard. Nibble on a warm, salted pretzel with doughy center and crisp outer crust. This Old Town market is liveliest Monday through Saturday mornings.
Sound of Music
While the musical Von Trapp family did, in fact, live in and escape from Salzburg, Hollywood took some slight liberties in portraying their story. Take a Sound of Music tour and sing “Doe, a Deer,’ “Edelweiss,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” and “Favorite Things,” with your family, friends and tour guide. You can visit the Von Trapp mansion, the famous gazebo, the wedding church, the picnic gardens and more. Your guide will burst your bubble with interesting facts that debunk the Hollywood version and elaborate upon the life of the Captain, Maria, and their children.
Bob’s Special Tours offers four-hour tours in English, daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., for 40 Euros per adult and 30 Euros per child under six years of age. The tour office is located at Rudolfskai 38, just off Mozartplatz in Old Town. This entertaining tour will drive you to sites in Salzburg and outside the city in the mountainous Lake District. Bring along a few extra Euros for a possible cafe stop that includes appel strudel.
A funicular transports you 400 feet above the Salzach River and Old Town, to the fortress overlooking Salzburg. The Hohensalzburg is Europe’s largest standing medieval fortress, so imposing that no troops ever took the city by force. Tour the castle, the internal museums, the grounds, and gaze out from atop the cliffs to take in the city of Salzburg spread out beneath you.
Hohensalzburg Fortress is built upon the rock called Festungsberg. Tickets are 10 Euros and include the funicular ride plus admission to the fortress, the grounds, and the museums. Visiting hours are as follows: January – April 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., May – June 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., July – August 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., September 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., October – December 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Christmas Eve 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Advent weekends and Easter 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.