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A tiny town, a long post…
You’ll find elsewhere that people refers to Salzburg as a “Baroque jewel”, plentiful of both architectural and historical treasures.
Well, that’s true.
The Baroque churches, building façades, parks and fountains were commissioned by the Prince Archbishops in the 17th and 18th centuries, and earned to the city the nickname “Rome of the north”.
That said, Salzburg is also home to a variety of architectural styles.
A short walk along the narrow streets and passages will also reveal you a number of treasures dating back to the medieval, romantic, and renaissance periods, together with the classical architecture associated to the monarchy and governmental buildings.
The beauty, rich heritage and spectacular setting led in 1997 to the well deserved inclusion of Salzburg in the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage sites.
Oh, and it’s also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart –a fact you’ll notice throughout your entire visit-.
And the classical movie “The Sound of Music” was filmed in the surroundings of the city, by the way.
The historical area of the town is naturally divided into two parts by the River Salzach –quite obviously, the right bank and the left bank-, the left bank being the older one, where some of the earliest evidence of settlements can be dated back to Roman era.
It is easy to go from one side of the city to the other, crossing any of the bridges connecting both banks : Nonntaler Brücke, Mozartsteg, Staatsbrücke, Makartsteg and Müllnersteg.
I built this list with the idea of following the shortest walking path.
Since Salzburg old town is really small, the involved distances are easy to accomplish. The only place out of the easy walking-path will be the Castle, but further in the list we’ll see how to reach there.
A number of interesting places were left out of the list, since this guide is intended for a one-day tour. If you want to have an in-depth view, or to know more about places or churches not included here, just drop me a line and I’ll gladly give you wider references about them.
Our starting point will be on the very closest side to the Mönchsberg hill, and walk our way towards the river and beyond it.
1- Erzabtei St. Peter
On one side of the Kapitelplatz, we’ll look for the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter, founded in 690 AD by St. Rupert and residence of the Archbishops until 1110.
The main reason of our visit is Petersfriedhof (St. Peter’s Churchyard), an impressive burial ground with family tombs from the 17th century, with three of it sides delimited with arcades galleries while the remaining side backs onto the rock face of the Mönchsberg.
Dug and carved in the solid rock, we’ll find there the Early Christian catacombs and the St. Maximus’ Chapel.
2 – Kollegienkirche (University Church)
In 1694 Archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun decided to build a large church to serve the University, and commanded the most prominent Baroque architect of the time, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach,to design and build it.
It is considered one of the most magnificent Baroque churches in Austria, with its four inside chapels devoted to the patron saints of the University’s Faculties: St. Luke (Medicine), St. Thomas Acquinas (Theology), St. Catherine (Philosophy, and St. Ivo (Jurisprudence).
After leaving the church, we should rumble around the Grünmarkt (Green Market), held in front of it Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 7 pm (5 pm on Saturdays). Here you can find vegetables, cheeses, breads, pastries, a variety of sweets and -of course- Mozartballs -see them further in this post-.
3- Salzburger Dom (Salzburg Cathedral)
The Dom was opened in 1628 and completed in 1657, becoming Salzburg′s main attraction since then.
This was also the place of Mozart’s baptism -no surprise here, I know-.
Facing the Domplatz, the front shows four colossal marble statues representing the patron saints of the province : Peter, Paul, Rupert and Virgil.
Also noticeable are the three massive bronze doors showing the symbols of Faith, Love, and Hope, the vault’s superb frescoes, and the paint of the Resurrection from 1628 shown in the altar.
You can also visit the Cathedral Treasury, a collection of art and liturgical objects, including the 8th century Carolingian Cross of St. Rupert.
4- Residenzplatz (Residence Square)
This is one of the city’s largest squares, located at the very heart of the Altstadt.
The main attractive is the Residenzbrunnen, an impressive masterpiece of marble made in 1661, and the largest Baroque fountain north of the Alps.
The square is also place for concerts and celebrations, such as New Year’s Eve public parties and the gorgeous Christmas Market.
Now, our next stop is a few steps away from the fountain.
5- Residenz & Residenzgalerie (Residence and Residence Gallery)
Located on the east side of the Residenzplatz and Domplatz, this was the former palace of the city’s Prince Bishops, built between 1596 and 1619.
Its main characteristic is the large front with a marble gateway -added in 1710-.
Tours are available to visit the spectacular interior and the State Apartments, sumptuosly decorated in renaissance, baroque and classical styles, displayed in the exquisite frescoes, ceramic fireplaces and elaborated clocks.
6- Neugebäude (New Building)
Opposite the Residenz, the Neugebäude was formerly the Archbishop’s guesthouse, built in 1602 and enlarged in 1670.
Today home to provincial government offices and the Salzburg Museum, its main attraction is the famous Glockenspiel (carillon) built in 1702 –let me tell you, I really don’t get why tourists are always so excited about carillons-.
The Glockenspiel’s 35 bells play random tunes from Mozart’s repertoire three times a day (7am, 11am and 6pm). At the same time, the famous Salzburg Bull -the organ of the neighboring Hohensalzburg palace- “responds” to these tunes with a choral.
7- Mozartplatz (Mozart’s Square)
Not the most appealing place in town for me, but since it is the memorial square named after the city’s more famous and beloved son, it got a place in the list -so you should not tell me that you missed Mozart’s monument because of me-.
The place was opened back in the early 17th century, when Prince Archbishop von Raitenau ordered to demolish a number of houses to open the entire area.
The central piece on interest is Mozart’s memorial finished in 1842, a heavy burden for a city still suffering from the consequences of the Napoleonic wars.
8- Altstadt (Old Town)
The spinal cord of the old town area is undoubtly Getreidegasse, the pedestrian street lined with the characteristic wrought-iron signs of the, galleries, boutiques, workshops, and cafés.
Be aware that the next stage of our list (Mozart’s birthplace) is located here, on Getreidegasse.
Sheer a bit off through the Durchhäusers, the narrow and meandering passages connecting the Universitätsplatz with Getreidegasse, and enjoy the beautiful old courtyards, as well as the numerous old merchant houses dating from the 15th to 18th centuries.
In this area we’ll find the Kranzlmarkt and the Rathaus (old Town Hall), the Alter Markt (Old Market) with the the 17th century St. Florian’s Fountain, and the 13th century Hofapotheke (Court Pharmacy).
9- Mozarts Geburtshaus (Mozart’s Birthplace)
Quite obviously, this is the house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27th 1756.
Now a predictable popular museum, the building shows a few rooms once occupied by the Mozart family, with numerous interesting objects on display, including the young Mozart’s violin, portraits, and some original scores.
Now is time to cross the river Salzach, and leave the old part of the town.
I suggest you to take the Staatsbrücke, and slowly walk to Mirabellplatz.
10- Schloss Mirabell & Garten (Mirabell Castle and Gardens)
Placed in the beautiful Mirabellplatz, the castle was first remodeled in Baroque style between 1721-27, being restored later in a simpler Neoclassical style, after a fire in 1818.
One of its main highlights is the spectacular Grand Staircase, built in the 18th century.
To the south of the Schloss is the Baroque style Mirabellgarten, from 1690, with its numerous terraces, marble statues and fountains.
On the Mirabellplatz you´ll find here another interesting market : the Schrannenmarkt, mainly aimed to locals instead of tourists and offering vegetables, pastries, bakeries and cheeses, held every Thursday from 5am to 1pm.
11- Hohensalzburg Castle
Dominating the city from its location on the southeastern edge of the Mönchsberg, the fortress is accessible both by a 20 minute walk from the Old Town center, or via a funicular railway from Festungsgasse -I know, we’ll take the funicular-.
The original castle was built in 1077, but much of what you can see today dates from the early 16th century.
Once inside the courtyard we’ll find the Georgskirche (Church of St. George) from 1502, and the already mentioned Salzburger Stier (Salzburg Bull), the organ from 1502 that still plays daily echoing the carillon of the Neugebäude.
You can visit the Princes’ Apartments of Late Gothic style, the Goldene Stube (Golden Room), and the Goldene Hall.
As in most medieval castles, you’ll also find the Fortress Museum with weaponry and torture devices, and the Rainer Regiment Museum containing artifacts from the old Salzburg household regiment.
OK, enough of this “tourist-guide” talk, let’s see a few things you definitely should do, and some you shouldn’t :
– Went to Salzburg? Try a Mozartkugel.
The Mozartkugel (Mozart ball) was created in 1890 by Salzburg chocolatier Paul Fürst, who decided to name it after the city′s famous son.
It is basically a pistachio, marzipan and nougat core, coated in milk chocolate, which until today is handmade in the Konditorei Fürst at Alter Markt square (remember it, at the Altstadt?).
My advice : you should not buy this typical sweets in the city center.
While you will find the chocolate balls all over the Altstadt, it’s not surprising that they are quite overpriced, both in souvenir shops or market stalls.
So wait until you get to a supermarket -or even to the airport-. You’ll thank me.
– Meet some locals, and get a sense of the “real” Salzburg.
Good spots for doing so are “Café Shakespeare” at Mirabell square or any of the Mensa (University canteens and bars).
You will also get best value for your money on the right side of the Salzach River.
You can try the little side-alleys around Linzergasse or Steingasse, since these áreas are still quite central but far less crowded by tourists.
And I’ll not forget the local beer, of course.
– Go to Augustiner Bräu – Kloster Mülln (Monastery Mülln)
Located in a real monastery of the old suburb of Mülln -the only still brewing religious establishment in Austria-, been brewing beer since 1621 following a closely guarded secret recipe, and still applying the old brewing techniques.
Once inside, you have to climb a couple of flights of stairs before you finally get to the pub complex itself.
I said “complex” because in a very unique way, and since guests are explicitly allowed to carry their own food –you’ll see many locals do-, the place houses a few shops and market stalls, the “Schmankerlgang”, where you can buy a variety of snacks, including bakeries and a couple of butchers offering the traditional sausages.
Interesting and original, no doubt, but its not advisable to buy food at these market stalls. While the pub sells cheap drinks and offers the best beer hall in Salzburg (hands down), the prices of the market stalls is quite expensive.
So be wise and stop by a supermarket or farm market and pick up your own snacks before going there.
The “Braustübl”, the monastery’s pub itself, is a popular meeting place rich in character and tradition, with huge baroque rooms with high ceilings, long robust wooden tables, and a cozy garden.
You can choose either queuing up at the self-service counter, or paying a little plus so a waiter takes care of your beer.
Either way, the prices are amongst the lowest in town.
They also offer an innovative idea : a copper device filled with warm water, which allows you to warm the beer to the most suitable drinking temperature. And also the well known mug rinser, where you can wash your mug before tasting a diferent beer.
The clients are as diverse as you could imagine, ranging from entire families with their children, to old grannies (also drinking from litre mugs).
A bit noisy place, but with a relaxed atmosphere due to the family ambiance.
Monday to Friday, 3 pm-11 pm
Saturday, Sun and holidays: 2:30 pm-11 pm
These are a few of the many attractives that make visiting Salzburg worthwhile.
But the main reason to visit this beautiful Austrian treasure is impossible to describe in words: the feeling of tranquility, the peaceful elegant atmosphere and the constant presence of history you’ll find on every corner as you stroll through any of the old streets and alleys, when the whole city seems to be the big stage for one of Mozart’s operas, and you are tempted to feel like a character in this staging.
And remember : “Life is about the journey and not the destination”.