Salzburg: Austria’s tiny gem at the edge of the Alps

Despite being the fourth largest city in Austria, Salzburg's compact size combined with its multitude of things to see and do make it a traveler's gem.

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Salzburg is a combination of great architecture and classical music (Wikimedia.org)

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA, July 29, 2017 — If it is true that good things come in small packages, then Salzburg, Austria may just be the origin of that adage. Despite being the fourth largest city in Austria, Salzburg’s compact size combined with its multitude of things to see and do make it a traveler’s gem.

The name Salzburg means “salt fortress” thanks to the abundance of salt mines in the region. Thanks to Julie Andrews and “The Sound of Music,” most Americans probably know Salzburg better from the popular 1965 film than they do as the birthplace of Mozart. But no matter. Salzburg, like Vienna, always returns to its musical heritage.

There is no such thing in Salzburg as “too much Mozart.”

Salzburg Fortress overlooks the Salzach River (wikipedia.org)

Nestled along the banks of the Salzach River with the dominating Hohensalzburg Castle (Festung Hohensalzburg) overlooking the Old Town, it is easy to get the sensation that Salzburg is smaller than it really is.


Hohensalzburg, one of the largest castles in Europe, peers out at the city protectively from its perch at the northern boundary of the Alps where it was one of the key backdrops in “Sound of Music.” It has long been a favorite destination for visitors.

Mozart’s birthplace is a popular attraction (wikipedia.org)

Old Town has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997, and it only takes a few minutes walk through the meandering narrow streets filled with a Gothic and Baroque architecture to see why. Salzburg is a city of churches and palaces that capture the imagination of travelers from every corner of the planet, especially Americans.

Germany sits on the opposite shore of the Salzach, making Salzburg an easy place to use as a base to visit much of Bavaria as well as Austria itself.

Sound of Music tours are extremely popular with tourists (wikipedia)

Salzburg is not a place to rushed. Rather it is a destination that should be absorbed through the pores. It is an ideal location to immerse yourself into all the reasons why people say they want to travel.

Hellbrunn Palace is an attraction that many people miss — don’t (wikimedia.org)

Though Austrians are still amused by the hordes of Americans who sign up for one of the “Sound of Music” tours, there is no denying the revenues derived from those tours are no laughing matter for the city.

Several companies operate SOM trips, which include visiting many sites in Salzburg proper where the film was shot as well as an excursion into the countryside to visit the church where Maria and the Baron were married. Don’t be surprised if the church looks smaller than it did in the film.

One of the best parts of the trip is the fascinating trivia guides provide, which some might say ruins the story, but which also puts the true history into more proper perspective.

For example, late in the movie when the von Trapps are escaping from Austria and heading to Switzerland, the guides point out that if the family actually went in the direction depicted in the film they would really be crossing back into Germany instead. But that’s only a detail and all part of the fun.

Among the sites not to be missed are the previously mentioned Hohensalzburg Castle, the historic city center, Salzburg Cathedral, Mozart’s birthplace as well as his residence, the Franciscan Church and Residenzgalerie, an art museum in the Salzburg Residenz.

Palatial Mirabell Castle features stunning gardens (wikipedia)

If that isn’t enough to occupy your time, venture out to Mirabell Palace with its fabulous display of gardens, flowers and fountains.

The trick fountains of Hellbrunn Palace make it a popular site, especially in summer (wikipedia.org)

There is also Schloss Leopoldskreon, a rococo palace and national historic monument as well as Hellbrunn with its world famous “water games” designed Markus Sittikus. Do not go if you are afraid to get wet.

No one ever tires of the magic of Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein (wilipedia)

With its proximity to Germany, Salzburg is also a great base for day trips to Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle, Oberammergau (home of the Passion Play), fun-loving and festive Munich and Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” (Berchtesgaden), which sits atop Germany’s third highest mountain overlooking Salzburg about 20 miles away.

View from Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgadan
(wikipedia)

Along the main street in Old Town is a tiny shop that is sometime difficult to find because they do not advertise or use the Internet to promote their location. The shop is a treasure trove of painted eggs that make superb gifts for Easter and/or Christmas. Some are works of art in their own right, and therefore you will likely not get a bargain, but it’s worth the effort to find it and, if nothing else, window shop its unique array of gifts.

Salzburg means music, and music in Salzburg means Mozart (salzburginfo.com)

One word of caution: Unless you have reserved hotels well in advance, Salzburg is NOT the place to visit during a music festival, especially if it features Mozart. The throngs of visitors crammed into the narrow labyrinth of streets is not conducive to an enjoyable experience.

Otherwise, Salzburg is a gem of Tyrolian culture that justly calls itself the “stage of the world.” It is certainly the place where, as Julie Andrews sang “The hills (indeed) come alive with the sound of music.”

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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