Visiting the Neighbors – Salzburg, Austria

The view of the town centre and river from the fortress which overlooks Salzburg.
The view of the town centre and river from the fortress which overlooks Salzburg.

The Hills are Alive, with More than Mozart

It goes without saying that most peoples’ familiarity with Austria’s fourth largest city focuses on it being the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the setting of many of the scenes from the film “The Sound of Music”. However, knowing those two facts barely scratches the surface of what this beautiful city has to offer.

Salzburg is at once historical and modern. While the entire centre of the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, Salzburg is a university town which attracts many international students. As such, there’s a lot of young people around from many places who give the city a lively and more cosmopolitan feel to balance the historical aspects.

Let’s take a brief look at what one can do in and around this city:

A view along the banks of the Salzach River.
A view along the banks of the Salzach River.

A Town Worth its Salt

A good place to start exploring Salzburg and understanding its deeper history would be to take a boat cruise along the Salzach River which runs through the city. The name Salzburg translates directly into “Salt Castle” and was taken from the major role the salt trade played in the historical economy of the city. On such boat cruises you will get a running commentary about the salt barges which once plied the river and the tolls imposed on them which, in turn, were a major financial engine of the city.

Looking toward Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Looking toward Hohensalzburg Fortress.

From there, the very walkable city centre has numerous preserved buildings of primarily Baroque architecture to see and explore. The city’s cathedral is definitely a must see as are the Mirabell Palace and its gardens to name but two historical attractions in the centre.

Of course, the imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress stands high above the centre and can be seen from almost any point in the heart of the city. The fortress is over 900 years old and is noted to be the largest fully preserved fortress in central Europe. Hohensalzburg has served as a residence for royalty and clergy, as a military barracks and also as a prison in its long history.

Old Marketplace Square
Old Marketplace Square

Each street and square in the city centre has its own particular charm and atmosphere and its well worth simply taking a general self guided walking tour and discovering it for yourself.

The centre isn’t all historical; the Museum of Natural History features several interactive exhibits and the MdM modern art gallery at the top of a cliff overlooking the centre will give you some stunning views of the city that will compliment and contrast with those you can get from the fortress.

Stiegl Brewery Museum.
Stiegl Brewery Museum.

A Bit Further Out

As with any well rounded city, Salzburg offers much more than what’s in the centre. In a suburb of the city, you will find the Stiegl-Brauwelt beer and brewing museum. If you’re at all a beer fan, this is a very informative self guided museum that includes vouchers for beer in the brewery restaurant in the ticket price.

If motor sports and aviation are to your tastes, a trip to Hangar 7 at the city’s airport should go on your itinerary. This facility is a showcase for the fleet of automobiles and aircraft owned and maintained by the Red Bull energy drink company.

A Formula 1 car on display at Hangar 7.
A Formula 1 car on display at Hangar 7.

It should be stressed that what’s at Hangar 7 represents a private collection rather than a museum. The surroundings are polished and posh and the vehicles on display are painted as the owner wishes rather than to historical accuracy.

If you visit with that fact in mind and don’t expect a museum, I can’t imagine that you’ll come away disappointed by it. The exhibits at Hangar 7 are also quite changeable as many of the aircraft are active flyers and regular airshow performers and will be rotated in and out of the display hangar.

The view from Untersberg on a misty morning.
The view from Untersberg on a misty morning.

The Outskirts and Beyond

Two well known attractions on Salzburg’s outskirts are Untersberg Mountain and Hellbrunn Palace with its gardens and impressive fountain display. Both are accessible by city public transport and well worth a visit.

Salzburg state offers many attractions which make for good day trips outside of the city. So if you find yourself in need of escaping the city itself, which is busy with tourists year round, you aren’t without options.

Links and Learning More

The first two links are for the city of Salzburg; the first link is the official city tourism page and the second is an unofficial page authored by residents of Salzburg themselves. Both have lots of good info and are both worth looking at:

http://www.salzburg.info/en

http://www.visit-salzburg.net/general-info.htm

This site is the official tourism site of the state of Salzburg:

http://www.salzburgerland.com/en/

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