Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria. A picturesque city-town set amidst mountains and a fortress on one side and the river and its tributaries flowing on the other. The city has multiple sites listed as World Heritage Sites, and is also famously known as the genius 18th century music composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth town. As of 2002, the city’s population is 156 872. Salzburg, which literally means “Salt Castle”, gets its name from the many barges that carried salt on the River Salzach and had a toll imposed on them in the 8th century. The subjection to tolls being placed on barges carrying goods was a customary practice for many cities lining the Eastern rivers at the time. Salzburg is also home to three universities and so attracts many students. But apart from that, it has remained a famous tourist destination for decades now.
Must-See Places in Salzburg
The Hohensalzburg Fortress dates back to the medieval times, perched atop the mountain called Festunsberg. It is a huge fortress, measuring 250 metres in length by 150 metres in width. Work on building the castle began in 1077, at the behest of Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein. It was initially intended to be a simple motte-and-bailey structure. A motte-and-bailey structure was a small fortification castle from early European times, and it consisted of a wall-curtained courtyard and a keep made out of wood or stone, on raised ground. During the Holy Roman Empire, the Archbishops of Salzburg expanded this castle, which continued to be the case in the centuries after. In 1462, Prince-Archbishop Burkhard II von WeiBpriach added the towers and the ring walls to it. Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach continued with the expansions from 1495 to 1519. The external bastions were added later in the 16th and 17th centuries to protect against an impending attack from the Turkish armies. Archbishop Count Paris of Lodron, during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), added various parts to the castle, including additional gatehouses and the gunpowder stores.
While the castle consists of many courtyards and wings, the Prince Bishops’ apartments used to be located in the “Hoher Stock” – the “high floor”. The castle also houses a large aerophone, which is a musical instrument that produces sound as a result of a body of air vibrating. This aerophone is named the “Salzburg Bull”, and consists of some 200 pipes. The Salzburg Bull was built by Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach in 1502. Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach also oversaw the construction of the Golden Hall, which is magnificently decorated, which suggests this castle was not just a place of refuge for the Archbishops in times of crisis, but also a place of residence, up until the 16th century. The ceiling is decorated with little gold buttons to look like the stars in the night sky. The hall’s ceiling is held up by an impressive 17 metre long beam, upon which the coat of arms of the Archbishop, the Holy Roman Empire, and the small powerful German towns linked with Salzburg are painted. This chamber was used for festivities often.
The Geitredasses, or the Grain Lane, is a bustling shopping street in the historic city centre of Salzburg. It was marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, and consists of tall town houses huddled next to one another, and its characteristic iron guilded signs hanging out onto the street as you pass along. This street also houses the place No. 9, where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. The street runs adjacent to the Salzach river.
This street was not always named Geitredasse, or the Grain Lane. Its first mention appears in the year 1150 as Trabegasse, where “trabe” means “to trot”. At the time, this street led from the city centre all the way to the suburb of Mulln to the northwest. When, in the 14th century, the citizens started receiving the rights to display and sell the staples and goods that their barges had just brought in, small and large trading houses began to appear along the sides of this street. Soon, public officials and patricians started building their residences along this street as well – the beautiful courtyards and passage-ways built as part of these residences can still be seen to date. In recent decades, the street has become a lot more commercialized.
House for Mozart
The House for Mozart was known as the Kleines Festspielhaus up until 2006. It is a theatre in Salzburg, and plays, concerts, and operas are frequently performed there. It also happens to be one of the venues for the Salzburg Festival – a famous festival about drama and music, held each summer since 1920, in the city of Salzburg. The place used to be stables prior to 1925, when it was transformed to create the first ever venue for the Salzburg Festival and house plays on a stage. Multiple renovations and redesigns followed through the years. The most recent redesign was done in 2006, by the architect Wilhelm Holzbauer. Micheal Hammers, a German artist, designed its Golden Wall, located in its foyer.
Mozart’s birthplace – Mozart’s geburtshaus – is the place where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. The building is No. 9 on Getreidegasse in Salzburg, and the Mozart family resided on the third floor of this building. Shortly after their marriage, Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl moved into the building in 1747, and lived there until 1773. Wolfgang Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, was a musician himself, and played at the Salzburg Royal Chamber. Out of the seven children that Leopold and Anna had, only two – Wolfgang Amadeus and Anna Maria – survived.
The place has been turned into a museum since 1880. The first floor depicts what the place looked like when Mozart lived there. It contains furniture pieces designed to look exactly like the furniture from that time period. Additionally, paintings and documents from that time also line the rooms. There also hangs an almost-finished portrait of Mozart, painted by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange in 1789. The second floor exhibits Mozart’s life with opera: it especially houses some of the instruments he used to create some of his compositions. The third floor depicts Mozart’s early life with music, musical instruments from his childhood, and family letters from that time. It also shows his life with his wife in Vienna and their family.
Salzburg Residenz is a palace located in the historic city centre of Salzburg. The Prince-Archbishops have resided in the palace for centuries, in addition to using it as their political seat. The palace was first constructed for Archbishop Conrad I. Under Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau, the palace was refurbished from 1587 to 1612, in a Renaissance style. The designs for this reconstruction can probably be attributed to the Italian architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi. In the 17th century, a staircase was added to the south wing, as well as a section called the Carabinieri-Saal, which provides an entrance into the Franciscan Church and the courtyard. Elements in the Baroque style were added later, designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and painted by Johann Michael Rottmayr. The palace was frequently used by the kings as a residence but also for holding social gatherings and settling state affairs. The palace has now been turned into a museum.
The Salzburg Cathedral is a 17th century cathedral, dedicated to the saints Vergilius and Rupert. It is said that Saint Rupert founded the cathedral atop the ruins of a Roman town, in 774. In 842, a lightning strike burned down the building. Archbishop Arno ordered its reconstruction, which began within three years of the incident. Archbishop Hartwig expanded the sanctuary in the western direction, by adding a crypt and a choir, from 1000 to 1080. Under Archbishop Konrad I, the western towers were added between 1106 and 1147. This basilica, though, was severely and irretrievably damaged in 1598. Since it was beyond restoration, Prince-Bishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau ordered it to be demolished. Wolf Dietrich Raitenau, a lover and patron of Italian Baroque architecture, employed Vincenzo Scamozzi, the Italian architect, to build one in that style. Though the architectural plan was laid out by Scamozzi, construction could only begin in Wolf Dietrich’s successor, Archbishop Markus Sittich von Hohenems. By this time, the architect working on this cathedral was Santino Solari, who changed Scamozzi’s plan drastically to design it as per his own design sensibilities. It was completed in 1628, measuring 142 metres in length and 33 metres in height. This cathedral also happens to be the one where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized a day after his birth, on January 28, 1756.
Nonnberg Abbey is a monastery in Salzburg, founded by Saint Rupert in around 712. It was specifically a Benedictine monastery, i.e. a monastery belonging to the Order of Saint Benedict of the Catholic Church. It is located in the historic city centre, and is listed as a World Heritage Site. Saint Erentrudis of Salzburg was the first abbess at the monastery, and was either the sister or niece of Saint Rupert. A fire rampaged through this abbey in 1006, and it was rebuilt within the following three years, with the help offered by Henry II. A fire destroyed it again in 1423, and this time the construction took place many years after, from 1464 to 1509. Three side chapels were added to the church in 1624. In the 1880s, it was renovated in the Baroque style.
The Mirabell Palace, also known as the Schloss Mirabell, was built in 1606 under Prince-Bishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau. It was built north of the medieval city walls and on the shore of the Salzach river that flows past. The Prince was ailing from gout and a stroke, and had this palace built as a beautiful place where to relax with his mistress, Salome Alt. It is said that it was originally named Altenau Castle, after his mistress. In 1612, Wolf Raitenau was deposed and Mark Sittich von Hohenems became his successor. Hohenems expelled Salome Alt and her family from the palace. It was renamed Mirabell Palace, from the Italian word “bella” which means “beautiful”. Between the years 1721 and 1727, the palace was reconstructed in a Baroque style, by the Austrian Baroque architect, Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. In 1866, the Mirabell Palace was bought by the City of Salzburg.
The Marble Hall in the Mirabell Palace is a much sought-after venue for weddings in Salzburg. The palace also boasts a huge and beautiful garden, called the Mirabellgarten. The Mirabellgarten was built in 1687, at the behest of Prince-Archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun. It has geometrically designed small gardens within, each adorned with sculptures of mythical characters and creatures, such as Pegasus from Greek mythology or dwarves, from the 1730s. The garden also houses four groups of sculptures – featuring Paris, Pluto, Hercules, and Aeneas from the Greek and Roman mythologies – designed by Ottavio Mosto, an Italian sculptor, in 1690. It also has a sylvan – an outdoor theatre – and an orangery, which was a building on fancy residences from the 17th to the 19th centuries, where oranges would be stored during the winter.
Salzburg remains to be one of the most historic, well preserved, and scenic city-towns to date. The Hohensalzburg Fortress sits atop the beautiful mountain of Festungsberg, which rises high above the city sprawl, which can be seen from the historic Getreidegasse. The historic city centre opens up to the Salzburg Cathedral on one side and the Salzburg Residenz on the other. Nearer to the River Salzach that flows past Salzburg is the Mirabell Palace and its geometric gardens with its many sculptures of mythological creatures adorned on its fountains or hidden amongst its shrubbery. A visit to Salzburg would be assuredly incomplete without a peek at Mozart’s birthplace at No. 9 on Getreidegasse. Additionally, there is something for the movie buff in Salzburg too. Interestingly, Salzburg, and the Mirabell Gardens, to be specific, are where the 1965 musical drama movie, The Sound of Music, – starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer – was filmed. There are tours in Sazburg that take you through the location! Whether a tourist, a lover of history, a student, or simply just someone who appreciates scenic views and nature, Salzburg brings unparalleled and timeless beauty to the visitor!