Often joked by locals as the “largest open-air museum in Austria”, the city of Salzburg has a few surprises in store in addition to the common sights. When visiting the main attractions, it is advisable to keep your eyes and ears open, as this city offers so much more than its historical and cultural highlights.
As Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors focus, of course, on the impressive architecture, palaces, and museums, however, the many small alleys packed with traditional businesses, squares, fountains, coffeehouses, and street artists are what give a tour the often ignored but special flair. The main attractions, most of which you may already have heard of, form the core of this city trip, which is surrounded by the lively goings-on of the city.
If taking a short trip, it is worth getting your hands on the Salzburg Card, which offers free entry to numerous city sights, discounts to cultural events, and just as importantly, free travel on public transport. It also allows you to use the Festungsbahn and the Salzach ship.
Hohensalzburg Castle, the landmark
You cannot visit Salzburg without getting past its landmark, Hohensalzburg Castle. Thanks to its location on the Festungsberg and identity as one of the largest medieval castles in the world, this monument can be seen from anywhere in the city. In addition to the chargeable, general visit, there are also several special tours, which deal with specific themes of the castle, such as the torture chamber.
If you want to explore the entire castle in detail, then you will probably need more than just a weekend trip. Above all, the various epochs you can discover in this structure are impressive – the beginnings date back to Roman times. From above, you have a wonderful view over the city, that will make you truly aware of how many impressive buildings are out there.
The fountains at Hellbrunn Palace
Salzburg is home to many historical buildings but few bring such joy as Hellbrunn Palace, that was built in early baroque or mannerism style. By taking the protected Hellbrunner Allee from the inner city, you can get to palace, which can be reached with a longer relaxing walk. If this is too far on foot, you can take a bus or taxi to get there, but you should definitely not pass up on the visit.
It is not famous for its sleek main building, but rather because of its gardens and park complex. The centrepiece of the grounds is without a doubt the best-preserved late Renaissance fountains in the world, which were used to entertain the Prince-Archbishop. The sophisticated mechanics and complex fountains still work completely today and greet visitors with many water tricks. Here, history and fun are united into a spectacle that is particularly enjoyed by the younger generation.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
The inner city also features a magnificent building – Mirabell Palace with the Mirabell Gardens. The splendid building and its colourful surroundings reflect the city’s former affluence. Over the course of the past few centuries, the former Altenau Palace achieved its current condition, whereby several parts are conformant with the original building.
The Pegasus fountains, like several lion and unicorn statues, are impressive remnants from the 17th century original, as in the 19th century, the palace had to be rebuilt as a result of heavy damages from a city fire and several parts could not be preserved.
The interior of the palace hosts a baroque jewel which has stood the test of time: the Donner staircase, a lavish spectacle of colour and shapes. These lead up to the Marble Hall, which features an insight into the exuberant high baroque style. The gardens live on the many little details. If you want to gain an endless number of impressions while out for a stroll, then this is perfect for you, as even when sitting down there are many details to marvel at, meaning that relaxing here is possible as a result of more than just the number of visitors.
The Salzburg inner city, steeped in history
The next stop features exactly three sights. At Domplatz, the residence of the Prince-Archbishop, Salzburg Cathedral, and the Archdiocese of St. Peter stand opposite each other. When you stand in the middle of these buildings, which are steeped in history, and look carefully, you will notice a small detail that reflects a little on the medieval history of Salzburg.
On the Residence side and to the right of the Madonna statue in the final stone, there is a lion’s head, which represents the heraldic animal of the Archdiocese and the Prince-Archbishop. To the left of the statue, on the side of the Archidiocese, there is likewise a lion’s head depicted on the final stone; but this one is pulling a face, showing that the Abbot of St. Peter has less authority than the Archbishop.
In addition, the play “Jedermann” is performed at Domplatz every year and is considered the most significant play of the Salzburg Festival. By going through the Cathedral Passage, you can get to the Residenzplatz, which is home to the second-largest marble fountain in Europe. Here, you can hear the Salzburg carillon at certain times. Its tower faces the Residenzplatz.
A city break to the birthplace of Mozart
Anyone who visits the city where Mozart was born has to take a detour to Mozart’s Birthplace. Not to be confused with the Mozart Residence, which also houses a museum dedicated to the life and work of Mozart and is definitely worth a visit, Mozart’s Birthplace offers visitors the chance to marvel at old relics from his childhood and the depiction of middle class life at that time. One particular highlight here is Mozart’s first violin.
The city displays its pride for its most famous son. In order to reinforce its reputation as a musical city, the Mozartplatz square was opened in the presence of Mozart’s sons in 1842. Here, the statue of Mozart is the centre of attention. Because it is a very centrally-located square, it is hardly possible to miss it.
In addition to other sights such as the Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s busiest street, and St. Sebastian’s Cemetery, where Mozart’s family and other former aristocrats and celebrities of the city are buried, the city has an extensive programme of cultural and musical finesse. With the Salzburg State Theatre or the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, you can choose between two very different attractions for your evening plans.
Further tips off the beaten path
Away from the tourist trail, you will find DAS Kino, an alternative film theatre, the Schallmoos Rockhouse, which offers a nice, contemporary contrast to the otherwise very classical music of Salzburg, or the ARGEkultur Salzburg, which combines bistro, bar, and a courtyard stage.
If you don’t want to break up the romance of the city with modernity, then simply experience a few minutes by the Salzach river or indulge yourself with a treat from the numerous cafes and restaurants. During a small city stroll, you can enjoy a further part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Salzburg coffeehouse culture.