Nestled high amidst the snow-capped Austrian Alps and dissected by the River Salzach which runs through its centre, Salzburg is a charming and captivating city offering stunning panoramas, beautiful Baroque architecture, a rich musical heritage and a wealth of sightseeing attractions to tempt any visitor. An independent city-state ruled by prince-archbishops until 1816, Salzburg remained very much in Vienna’s shadow until the end of World War II when a flourishing economy and growing tourism industry put the city firmly on the map. A UNESCO World Heritage site, today Salzburg receives as many visitors as Florence and Venice, little wonder therefore that it is one of Europe’s most popular short break destinations.
Revered as the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg’s many associations with this legendary composer are proudly displayed throughout the city, from his birthplace – the Gerburtshaus – to Mozartplatz where Mozart’s bronze statue is to be found. Perhaps its second claim to fame is as the backdrop for the hugely popular cult film The Sound of Music and fans will delight in exploring the many locations in which filming took place. One such location and a definite must-see has to be the beautiful Mirabell Gardens, dominated by the palatial Schloss Mirabell and offering a year-round riot of colour with its flower beds, fountains and Statue of Pegasus around which Maria and the children sing Do-Re-Mi in the film. There’s even The Sound of Music musical, currently running until the end of May 2014 at the Salzburger Landestheater.
Dominating the Salzburg skyline is the Hohensalzburg Fortress, the city’s main landmark and in fact Europe’s biggest and most fully-preserved fortification in Europe, from which magnificent views over the city’s skyline and as far as the Alps can be seen from its hilltop location. Below this magnificent edifice, you’ll find the delightful Old Town (Altstadt), containing a maze of narrow streets and Baroque buildings. Wander the shops of the Getreidegasse with their ornate wrought-iron shops signs. Visit the 17th-century Salzburger Dom (cathedral) and the magnificent Rococo Peterskirche, and the Residenz Neugebäude with its 18th-century musical clock. And don’t forget the Residenz State Rooms, former official apartments of Salzburg’s prince-archbishops, or indeed Hellbrun Palace, built at the foot of the Hellbrunn Mountain in the early 1600s and world famous for its trick fountains.
From an architectural perspective, there’s plenty of new to complement the old. From the thoroughly modern and futuristic looking Europark, Salzburg’s award-winning shopping centre on the edge of the city, to the Museum of Modern Art’s marble-fronted Mönchsberg building, set overlooking the Old City rooftops on the edge of the steep Mönchsberg cliff and boasting a wide collection of modern art in a contemporary setting.
Meanwhile at the airport, Hangar-7 is a unique steel and glass edifice, a fabulous feat of architectural brilliance no less, housing the historical Flying Bulls fleet and a collection of Formula 1 race cars. It also plays host to a number of temporary art exhibitions throughout the year and currently on display until the end of October is ‘Culture in Cans’, a series of works by cartoonist Dietmar Kainrath, who interprets the works of internationally-renowned artists, architects, writers, composers and singers in his works including Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Frank Sinatra, William Shakespeare, Gustav Klimt and Zaha Hadid, about whose work I blogged recently.
From a dining perspective, you’ll find plenty of atmospheric Tyrolean restaurants offering traditional fare alongside a wealth of cafes and restaurants with ethnic and international cuisine on the menu. Indeed, Salzburg boasts the highest concentration of gourmet restaurants in Austria and enjoys a centuries-old history of beer brewing, with no less than ten breweries situated in and around Salzburg. No Salzburg city break would be complete without a coffee at Café Tomaselli, Austria’s oldest café, or sampling Mozartkugel, a dark chocolate ball comprising nougat and marzipan inside. If you really want to experience Salzburg at its kitsch best, then why not try a Mozart dinner concert or a Sound of Music show with dinner? You certainly won’t find it anywhere else!