The Hills Are Alive...

Salzburg, Austria

The beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria is situated along the banks of the idyllic Salzach River, at the northern boundary of the Alps mountain range, which provides a breathtaking Alpine backdrop. Salzburg is brimming with stunning architecture, particularly in the Old Town, where you will find perfectly preserved baroque-style buildings – Salzburg's Old Town was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1997 – as well as stately homes, museums and galleries, fantastic shopping, and quaint cafes and restaurants.

The city is well-known for its connection to the renowned 18th century composer, Wolfgang Mozart, as the city was his birthplace in 1756. His former home is now a museum and a popular tourist spot. Salzburg is also associated with the 1965 film, The Sound of Music, as much of the scenery from in and around the city is featured in the film. For the more die-hard fans of the musical, there are various 'Sound of Music' tours available.

There are so many things to see and do in Salzburg, but, no doubt, the first of the city's delightful sights to catch your eye will be the 900-year-old hill-top fortress, Hohensalzburg Castle.

Sitting high above the city, the castle was originally constructed in 1077, and began life as a humble bailey. The grandeur of the fortress' present-day structure owes itself to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Leonard von Keutschach. In the late 19th century, Hohensalzburg Castle was refurbished and has since become a major tourist attraction. The castle is regarded as one of the best preserved castles in Europe and is well worth a visit. There is a funicular railway (Festungsbahn) in operation, providing public access to the castle, with the journey lasting approximately 15 minutes. Once up at the castle, expect to see some truly spectacular panoramaic views of Salzburg, the Salzach River, and the mountains beyond. One of the castle's real highlights is the stunning Golden Hall, complete with a gold-studded ceiling replicating a night sky.

Note: Your ticket to Hohensalzburg Castle also allows access to the Marionette and Fortress museums.

Another Salzburg must-see is the Salzburg Museum, housed in the stunning baroque-style Neue Residenz (New Residence) palace. The museum provides a fascinating journey through Salzburg's  interesting history. The Kunsthalle, located below the inner courtyard, a 500 m2 circular hall with an illuminated ceiling, housing special exhibitions, is particularly impressive. One of the museums highlights is the 'Salzburg Panorama', a 26-metre long cyclorama showcasing an incredibly unique view of Salzburg and the surrounding landscape, as seen from Hohensalzburg Castle. In 2009, Salzburg Museum was named European Museum of the Year and is highly recommended. Salzburg's famous 35-bell glockenspiel is located to the west of the Neue Residenz, and access to the tower is available via a behind-the-scenes tour. Tickets for the tour are available from the Panorama Museum (located next door). The Panorama Museum houses a 360-degree painting of an 1829 Salzburg, by artist Johann Michael Sattler.

Note: Admission to the Salzburg Museum is free. In addition, there is a braille guide for blind and partially sighted visitors, and all areas and facilities of the museum are accessible for wheelchair users.

Your next stop in Salzburg should be the Schloss Mirabell (Mirabell Palace and Gardens). Formerly known as the Altenau Palace, the palace was built by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau in 1606, as a token of his love for Salome Alt. After the death of Wolf Dietrich, the palace was renamed Mirabell by his successor, Markus Sitticus von Hohenems, and later remodeled in a baroque-style by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt in 1721. The palace, which is free to enter, has a beautifully lavish baroque interior. Today, the Mirabell Palace houses the offices of the mayor of Salzburg, as well as the municipal council. The Marble Hall, is considered one of the most beautiful wedding halls in the world, with award ceremonies and concerts taking place regularly. The famous and highly attractive Mirabell Gardens, housing the Pegasus Fountain, by Kaspar Gras, were opened in 1854 and are regarded as a horticultural masterpiece, as well as being a popular location for photographers.

Another Salzburg's highlight is the Residenzplatz (Residence Square), located in the historic centre of the city. The baroque square, with its horse-drawn carriages, street entertainers, and grand palace, is one of Salzburg's most popular places to visit, and, once there, it is easy to see why this is so. The picturesque square is bordered by the Alte Residenz to the west, the Neue Residenz to the east, the Salzburg Cathedral to the south, and historic houses to the north, which now house shops, a bakery, and a cafe. At the centre of the square, is the Residenzbrunnen, a magnificent marble fountain. Today, the Residenzplatz is a popular sporting and music venue, and every year, in early July and August, the square is transformed into an open-air cinema. In addition, it is also houses St. Rupert's Fair in September, and a Christmas market during the Advent season. 

The list of things to keep you occupied and entertained whilst in Salzburg is never-ending, and the city provides an enchanting setting for a culture-filled weekend break or day-visit. Baring in mind, of course, that the city is incredibly popular with tourists, and therefore may be best appreciated outside of peak times/seasons.  

Safety information: As Salzburg is a very popular tourist destination, pay particular attention to your personal belongings at all times, as it is likely that pick-pockets will operate in busier areas. Also, as with any city, avoid poorly lit areas at night.