Everyone knows Salzburg as the birthplace of the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and, indeed, you see Mozart inspired shops and events everywhere in this Austrian city, from chocolates to toys to keychains, but Salzburg has much more to offer, including beautiful architecture, a lovely Old Town and a rich history. Of course, it also has its claim to fame as the land where Sound of Music was filmed, but we take a different look at the city and see what else we can discover in this historic town.
The first thing you see as you approach the city is a giant fortress on a hill, looking like a castle, called the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It’s especially impressive at night, when it is all lit up by flood lights, casting a glow on it that makes it stand out over the city. To get to the fortress, you can either take a funicular ride (for an extra 3 EUR or approx. 3.34 USD) or walk for about 15 minutes uphill. Note that the walk is the road less traveled, as it is quite a steep hike, with lots of stairs and an inclined path, but the views going up are beautiful and you get to enjoy it more than the funicular ride. Plus, walking is the cheaper option among the two.
The fortress has brilliant views of the city, as well as the nearby Alps, where you can see a few solitary homes scattered in places where houses are precariously built on the edges. Inside the fortress, you can also see historical weapons, jewels, uniforms, portraits, and other interesting items. There is a sole café inside, but it’s overpriced, so your best bet would be to head back down into town for lunch.
When you walk around the city of Salzburg, you quickly notice that many of the streets are cobblestones, and while the center of town can get busy, especially the shopping area, you never feel too crowded. There are many cute and quirky shops in the Old Town, and many good cafes and places to eat, including a wonderful burger bar, BioBurgerMeister, which serves various types of burgers, including veggie ones. If you like a little bit of a spicy kick in your food, try the Habanero Burger, which has some heat, but does not overwhelm the other flavors. As you walk around, you might miss a mustard-colored building right in the middle of all the shops, Mozart Geburtshaus, which is in fact the birthplace of Mozart and contains a very nice museum with a good history of Mozart’s life.
Schloss Mirabell (Palace & Garden)
In addition to the aforementioned Hohensalzburg fortress, Salzburg also has a castle, Schloss Mirabell, and while the interior is elegant and charming, the real beauty lies in its gardens. They are, in a word, breathtaking. Once you step inside the large wrought iron gate, there is a tremendous amount of color and variety in the gardens, and many well-sculpted statues of Greek Gods. The grass is richly green and has interesting patterns. The trees and bushes are meticulously landscaped and there is a stunning Pegasus Fountain in the center of it all. Walking through the gardens is like walking in a fantasy land, something to be enjoyed and treasured, and best of all, entrance to the gardens is free. If you are on a budget, don’t bother paying the extra euros for the entrance fee to go inside the palace, as you will only be allowed access to a certain number of rooms.
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Of course, we can’t talk about Salzburg and miss one of its great attractions, the Salzach River. You can stroll by the riverbank and eat ice-cream or pretzels, sip Austrian beer, or take a boat tour. The riverbanks are very popular with the locals for picnics, or just hanging out with their friends or loved ones.
Salzburg: An underrated gem
Salzburg doesn’t have the large scale of its more famous Austrian counterpart Vienna, but it contains a tremendous amount of history, architecture, culture, and elegance, and offers many enjoyable experiences. For anyone wishing to explore Austria, Salzburg is a must-see, even for a brief day trip on your way to or from Vienna. If you have the time, do stay for a few more days, as these trip options are just the tip of the iceberg, with more to see within a few minutes’ drive outside the old town.
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