Sound of Music and Mozart are why many Americans go to Salzburg to see, but Salzburg has so much more to see. I think it is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. In the foothills of the Alps, surrounded by mountains, with more churches than you can count, a river, and a medieval fort watching over the town, how can you beat it? Many people go to Salzburg as a day trip from Munich, but I think it is worth a several day visit on its own. It is also a great place to center your self and take day trips around the region. The least amount of time I would spend in Salzburg would be three nights, but I would not run out of things to do, even on my sixth visit I’d like to spend a week.
I love the Sound of Music, it is my favorite movie so going to Salzburg, seeing the Sound of Music sights are a part of my trip. There are several companies that do the tour, I took the Panorama tour, it was done in a van but also depending on sign ups can be do in a big bus. Even if you are the casual SOM fan, I recommend taking the tour if it is your first time in Salzburg. You get a good city tour, but more importantly you get out of the city and into the surronding area. If you want to see the lakes and mountains this is a good way to see it.
The Old town
The old town is separated from the other part of Salzburg by the Salzach River and the mountain that the fort sits on. It is a Baroque city with many beautiful churches and a majority of the sites. I usually stay in the New town section and cross the river on the Sttatsbrucke bridge turn right and take a quick left into the square where the Mozart birthhouse is. This leads to the big shopping street in Salzburg, Getreidegasse. There is great shopping here, the typical chains you will find anywhere in Europe such as H&M and Zara, but also traditional Austrian clothing and souvenir shops. Just a warning, that it seems that all of the souvenir shops are owned by the same person so you don’t need to go to many of them to choose what you want, they all have the same stuff for the same price.
One of my favorite sites is the Salzburg Cathedral, it is a beautiful baroque church and has a large dome. It is also the church where Mozart was the church organist as well as baptized there. I find the white walls and the glass and light beautiful and very cheerful. If you walk out the back and turn left there is a really nice public bathroom. Another site I love is the St Peter’s Church and Cemetery. It is a beautiful spot and inspired the scene in the end of Sound of Music when they hide at the convent. Make sure you take a walk in the Universitatsplatz during the morning for a farmers market, it is closed on Sundays.
One of the can’t miss sights is the Hohensalzburg Fortress. This is the fortress that overlooks the old town, you can walk up there, but I prefer to spend the money and take the funicular to the top. I usually pay one way and walk down. The fortress is pretty cool to visit, there is the typical medieval fare but also a really neat musical instrument museums. There are amazing views from the top of Salzburg as well. I enjoy taking a nice walk down to the town going towards the modern art museum. It is a walk on the Monchsberg mountain above the St. Peter’s church. It is through a nice little forest where there are some old city walls there as well. Once you reach the modern art museum you can look back for the best view in town. You can take an elevator back down to town, but I like to keep walking until I reach the Augustiner Brewery which is one of my absolute favorite places.
This is my favorite beer gardens in all of Europe if not one of my favorite places in all of Europe. There are two ways to get in, the more modern entry by the parking lot and the older entrance where you walk by when coming down the Monchsberg mountain. The Augustiner Braustubl is a monk run brewery that is huge. I recommend going on a weekday because you will see a lot of locals there. The outside is a huge garden with trees and tables and the inside is several large rooms filled with tables. It feels like a church in there. You buy a ticket at a window and then grab a stein, rinse it with water and give the guy your ticket and he will fill it up. There are food stalls all down the hall and a couple outside. It is seperated by different types of food. If you eat later, they might run out.
The New Town
Across the river from the old town is the New Town. In most standards, this area is not new, and also is incredible historic. The two big sites is the Mozart Residence, where Mozart grew up and is the best Mozart Museum in my opinion. The second big attraction is the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. People will remember these gardens from the Sound of Music, but even if you are not a fan, it is worth a visit. In the New Town there are many restaurants, shopping and hotels. I recommend staying in this area, there are many great hotels, some reasonably priced right across the river from the Old Town.
Salzburg Music Festival
The Salzburg Music Festival is an annual event that runs for about six weeks from mid July to the end of August. If you are a classical music fan, meaning a hard core fan, then this is a must see event. If you are not a huge fan, then I would recommend visiting Salzburg at a different time because hotel rooms can be more expensive at this time. The Salzburg Music Festival is a premiere classical musical event. I went and saw both the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Opera. There are also smaller concerts all around town. The tickets can be expensive and do sell out for the larger events so if you know you are going, I would recommend buying tickets before hand. They also have outdoor movie screening of different operas and concerts in one of the main squares in Salzburg, a fun, free event. If you are going to one of the big concerts, please note that the dress is formal. I wore my nicest outfit I had and felt very under dressed. I did not care, but note that even for the day concerts, people will wear the fanciest clothes that I have ever seen. Make sure that you take the Festival tour that you can get tickets to in the box office. This will give you a backstage tour of the concert halls.
I could write on and on about Salzburg. This is one of my all time favorite places to visit and I believe I have been there seven or eight times. This is a must see town and has many great day trips which I will get into in a different post.