Curled along the graceful banks of the Salzach River is a city of sights and sounds. The Sound of Music was set here and famous composer Wolfgang Mozart was born within its borders too. Salzburg's history took a dark turn during World War 2 when it became a major battleground and allied bombing destroyed forty six percent of the city’s buildings. Despite the destruction, Salzburg’s Altstadt (Old Town) managed to stay greatly in tact and its internationally renowned baroque architecture has now made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fairytale castles and a mystical backdrop of the picturesque mountains behind the town solidify the city’s romantic charm and irresistible allure.
Many of the best things to do in Salzburg can be found by wandering along the car-free cobbled streets. Old Town is probably where you’ll spend the most time exploring and the 11th century Hohensaltzburg Fortress and 17th century Salzburger Dom are Salzburg attractions not to miss. Venture from the town centre to the Hellbrun Castle, a summer palace on the city outskirts with inventive gardens and a quirky water-powered mechanical theatre. Summer visitors should time their travel to see The Salzburg Festival, one of Europe’s great cultural events. Winter is off-season here and lower hotel rates make Salzburg great for those wanting to see sights and also strap on the skis with a snow shuttle service departing daily for the nearby Flauchen ski region.
There are countless places to drink a one litre Stein of lager in Salzburg and Muelln is one of the most popular places for locals to spend a few hours in a beer garden. For some traditional fare, try Kasnocken (cheese dumpling), Salzburger Nockerl (meringue-like dessert), and you can’t leave Salzburg without trying a Mozartkugel (Mozart ball) either. First invented in 1890 and named after you-know-who, these pistachio, marzipan and nougat, chocolate coated balls can be found all over town, but the original and arguably still the best are the handmade ones sold at Konditorei Fuerst at Alter Square Market.
Where to Stay
Most of the accommodation in Salzburg is centred around the Salzach River, walking distance from or within Old Town while numerous budget options can be found on the other side of the riverbank near the Salzburg University. If you’re seeking some solace from the sound of all the music, the affluent suburb of Anif at the southern city limits of the city provides some excellent sleeping options. Those looking to treat themselves needn't look past Hotel Schloss. Just so you get the idea, ‘schloss’ is German for ‘castle’.
Getreidegasse in Old Town is an essential shopping stop, not just to fill your suitcases, but also to visit the birthplace of Mozart. It’s here too where you can see the famous ‘puppet woman’ who has been selling puppets from her brown basket since 1987. Jewish quarter, Judengasse is the second shopping strip stop in the old city, offering everything from modern boutiques to fine chocolates and souvenirs. Seek out retail institution Musikhaus Katholnigg if you’re a lover of music. Housed in a five hundred year old building, the store has been around since 1847 and is almost worth a visit just to see the magnificent vaulted room with its impressive stone floors. For something more metropolitan, visit Europark, located ten minutes from the city centre, to find over 130 shops and a wide array of luxury international items.
Salzburg Like a Local
Catching a live performance is an essential part of visiting Salzburg. The Marionette Theatre is perhaps the most popular amongst all of the theatres and has been home to the city’s famous puppet shows since 1913. That's where you'll see the quintessential Sound of Music show but it may come as no surprise that you won’t find many locals singing ‘Edelweiss’. For a less touristy theatre experience, get yourself a ticket to a theatre production or classical music concert held at the world renowned University Mozarteum. Not only are shows there a fraction of the price, they’re also a great way to see the next wave of Salzburg artists and performers, and mingle with some of the friendly locals.