Salzburg, Austria

By Tracy A. Burns

Salzburg in AustriaKnown best for its connections with the musical and film The Sound of Music and the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg is now the fourth largest city in Austria and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The name Salzburg means “Salt Fortress,” referring to the salt that was once transported on the Salzach River. Most of the sights in this stunning city are located in the well-preserved and picturesque Old Town.

History of the city

Mozart was born here, and Salzburg was once a prince-bishopric of the Holy Roman Empire.  Its history had its dark days, however. From 1938 until the end of World War II, Salzburg was controlled by the Third Reich. Synagogues were destroyed, and a transit camp was even located in the city. Allied Forces’ bombs destroyed almost half of the town’s buildings. The Americans freed Salzburg in May of 1945.

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Hohensalzburg Fortress

The highlight of the city is the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It holds the distinction of being the largest and best-preserved castle in Europe. While bishops of Salzburg once graced the castle’s halls, it was also used as a prison during World War I. Italian prisoners of war were held here, and then in 1934 Nazi activists occupied the cells. A funicular takes visitors to the top of the mountain on which it is perched. Make sure to look up in the Golden Hall. The star-adorned coffered ceiling is remarkable.

Salzburg Cathedral

Cathedral Dom in Salzburg Austria

Salzburg Cathedral is another top sight in the town. It was ravaged by flames in the 12th and 16th centuries but then got a Baroque makeover. Fate would not be kind to the cathedral again in 1944 when bombs hit it. Restoration from as recent as 1959 has once again made the cathedral a sight to behold. Do not miss the baptismal font where Mozart was baptized. Imagine Mozart playing the organ there, his music resounding in the sacral building.

The Residenz

Tour the 15 staterooms at the Residenz, a place where medieval prince archbishops had lived and worked. Mozart gave a concert here when he was six. First mentioned in writing during the 13th century, the Residenz is enormous, with 180 rooms and three courtyards. Now decorated in Baroque style, the Residenz features an art gallery with works from the 16th to the 19th centuries and the lavish Audienzsaal.

Mozart’s residence

Mozart fans should not pass up the opportunity to see Mozart’s Residence and Mozart’s Birthplace. From 1773 to 1781, Mozart called the spaces now making up the Residence Museum home. The museum was destroyed during World War II and not reconstructed until 1996. Here visitors will get a glimpse into the composer’s everyday life. The eight rooms include authentic documents, musical scores, and Mozart’s fortepiano, among other delights.

Mozart’s birthplace

Mozart was born in the Hagenauerhaus located at Getreidegasse 9 on January 27, 1756. His family resided in this 12th-century building from 1747 to 1773. The room where Mozart was born is on display, and there is a section specifically devoted to his operas.

St. Peter’s Abbey

St. Peter’s Abbey dates from 700, established by Saint Rupert. Romanesque elements can still be seen today. The inside, though, boasts a much more ornate style – Rococo. Mozart entertained here in 1783. It also includes the oldest library in Austria, many spectacular furnishings, and captivating pieces of art.

Schloss Mirabell

Take a trip outside of the Old Town to see 17th century Schloss Mirabell, where part of The Sound of Music was shot. The palace currently serves as the Mayor’s Office, but visitors are allowed to see the lavish Marble Hall. The gardens here are spectacular, too. A grotesque Dwarf Garden features marble figures.

Other sights in Salzburg

There is even more to Salzburg. The Franciscan Church hails from the eighth century while the interior is decorated in 18th-century Baroque style and shows off nine chapels in the choir. The Madonna statue on the red marble and gold main altar dates back to the Late Gothic period. St. Peter’s Cemetery is one of the oldest in the world and includes catacombs and two chapels hailing from Early Christian times. The fountain at Residence Square is stunning, adorned with horses, giants, and dolphins. A sculpture of Titan crowns the piece. A unique artwork dominates Kapitelplatz – a large golden ball is topped with a human figure. Getreidegasse street in the Old Town is perfect for taking a break from sightseeing and doing some shopping.

A must-see city in Austria

Palaces, a cathedral, churches, abbeys, and a castle-fortress are just a few of the sights in this remarkable city that is a must on any traveler’s itinerary for a visit to Austria.

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