A year ago, as I was finishing my guidebook Daytrips Bavaria, I added a one-day visit to Salzburg in Austria because it is so close to Bavaria and so easy to get to from Munich. This same chapter is also in my guidebooks Daytrips Austria and Daytrips Germany.
Squeezed between mountains and the Salzach River, Salzburg's picturesque historic district overflows with Baroque treasures lining the narrow streets and spacious square. This combines with a world-renowned musical heritage and a stylish flair for good living to form what is surely one of Europe's very best attractions. No visitor to Munich should miss this Austrian treat, less than two hours away.
Although settled since prehistoric times and a thriving place during the Middle Ages, Salzburg's grandest moments occurred during the Baroque period of the 17th and 18th centuries. Throughout this time the city was ruled by its archbishops, whose influence extended south all the way to Italy. It was not until 1803 that Salzburg was secularized, and it did not become a part of Austria until 1816. The coming of the railway in the mid-19th century put it right on the main line connecting Paris, Munich, Vienna, and Budapest. Now easy to reach from anywhere in Europe, Salzburg prospered as a major destination for lovers of music and art.
The names Salzburg and Mozart are practically inseparable, with memories of the composer popping up just about everywhere. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91), of course, was born here and, although he traveled extensively throughout Europe as a young man, spent considerable time in Salzburg before breaking with the archbishop and moving to Vienna.
Salzburg became famous for music of a rather different sort when the Hollywood hit The Sound of Music was filmed in and around the town in 1964, bringing a flood of tourist dollars that has not abated to this day. Several firms offer Sound of Music guided bus tours, which might be fun if you enjoyed the film. Ask the tourist office about current offerings.
Every year, from late July until the end of August, Salzburg holds its renowned musical festival, the Salzburger Festspiele, as it has since 1920. There's plenty of Mozart, of course, but also many other kinds of music as well. During this period the hotels are full, restaurants jammed, streets crowded, and prices high. Be sure to book well in advance if you intend to visit at that time.
The walking tour described here begins with a glorious view of the historic center, explores the narrow streets, visits some of the major attractions, takes a funicular up to the old castle, and ends — if you like — in a beer garden overlooking the town.
Trains, many of the high-speed variety, connect Munich with Salzburg, a ride of 1½ to 2 hours.
By Car, Salzburg is 142 km (88 miles) southeast of Munich via the A-8 Autobahn in Germany and the A-1 in Austria.
Salzburg may be enjoyed on any day in good weather, but unless you're coming for the Festival you might avoid the period from late July through August, when the town is jam-packed with visitors. For Festival information check their website.
The Tourist Information Office is located at Mozartplatz 5, T: (0662) 889-87-330. There is also a branch in the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) at Track 2a, T: (0662) 889-87-340. Ask about the economical Salzburg Card, which covers the museums, sights, and public transportation. This is a real bargain for the one-day walking tour described here.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Being one of Europe's major tourist destinations, Salzburg abounds in all types of restaurants, at all price levels. Here are a few suggestions for local and regional cuisine:
Zum Eulenspiegel (Hagenauerplatz 2, near the river, north of the Geburtshaus) Several floors of tiny dining rooms for a cozy experience; Austrian cuisine. T: (0662) 843-180. €€ and €€€
K+K Restaurants am Waagplatz (Waagplatz 2, west of Mozartplatz) Four floors of restaurants with traditional Austrian and International cuisine, all at different prices. T: (0662) 842-156. €, €€, and €€€
Bologna—Zum Mohren (Judengasse 9, north of Residenzplatz) A cellar restaurant in a 15th-century house near the river. Austrian and Italian cuisine. T: (0662) 840-680. X: Sun. €€
St. Peter's Stiftkeller (St. Peter's Bezirk 1/4, west of the catacombs) An historic eatery with atmospheric dining rooms, plus an outdoor courtyard for alfresco meals. T: (0662) 848-4810. € and €€
Wilder Mann (Getreidegasse 20, near the Geburtshaus) A rustic place for typical Austrian dishes. T: (0662) 841-787. X: Sun. €
Sternbräu (Griesgasse 23, behind Getreidegasse, 2 blocks west of the Geburtshaus) Solid Austrian fare, either indoors or in the courtyard garden. T: (0662) 842-140. €
Weisses Kreuz (Bierjodlgasse 6, just north of Festsungsgasse) Tasty Croatian cuisine at modest prices. T: (0662) 845-641. X: Tues. €
Stieglkeller (Festungsgasse 10, near the lower station of the cable car) A huge, sprawling beer hall and garden serving basic Austrian dishes, but mostly beer. T: (0662) 842-681. €
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Begin your walk with a great *view of the castle rising above the old historic center. This is best had from the gardens of Schloss Mirabell (1), a palace built in 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich for his mistress, who bore him ten or more (they lost count) children out of wedlock. Just six years later the archbishop was thrown into the dungeons of Hohensalzburg Castle; his successor, Markus Sittikus, taking over the palace and renaming it Mirabell. Later remodeled in the Baroque style, it now houses city government offices. When the doors are open (Mon., Wed., Thurs. 8-4, Tues.+Fri. 1-4. Free), you can take a peek inside to view the monumental Marble Staircase and the ornate Marble Hall. The marvelous *Gardens were laid out in the Baroque manner arounf 1690 by the gifted architect Fischer von Erlach, who created so much of Salzburg's splendor. Stroll through them, perhaps getting a glimpse of the tiny Zauberflötenhäuschen in the grounds of the adjoining Mozarteum music school, near the southwestern corner of the gardens. It was in this hut, originally located in Vienna and later transferred here, that the impoverished Mozart supposedly composed The Magic Flute in only five months during the last year of his life, 1791.
Exit the gardens between two wonderful statues. To your left, across Makartplatz, stands the Mozart-Wohnhaus (2), a.k.a. the Tanzmeisterhaus. It was here that young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived with his family from 1773 until his heated dispute with the archbishop in 1781 forced a quick move to Vienna. Partly destroyed during World War II, the house has been rebuilt and is now a museum devoted to the early life of the composer. T: (0662) 874-227-40. Open daily 9-6, remaining open in July-Aug. until 7. €€, combo with birthplace €€.
Follow the map across the Salzach River and into the historic center, beginning at Rathausplatz. Turn right on *Getreidegasse, the lively main shopping street of Old Salzburg. In a short distance, on the left, you will come to:
MOZART'S GEBURTSHAUS (3), T: (0662) 844-313. Open daily 9-5, remaining open in July-Aug. until 6:30. €€.
You can hardly miss the old house in which Mozart was born in 1756 and in which he lived with his family until 1773. Beautifully restored with period furnishings, this upstairs home is filled with Mozart memorabilia such as his childhood instruments, harpsichord, manuscripts, letters, portraits, and even a lock of his hair.
Continue on Getreidegasse, taking in the whole colorful scene, all the way to its end. There make a hard left into Bürgerspitalgasse, passing on your right the ornate Pferdeschwemme (4), surely the most elaborate horse trough you'll ever see. Built around 1700, it was reserved for the exclusive use of the archbishop's horses. Just beyond this a tunnel pierces the Mönchsberg mountain, carrying Neutorstrasse into the western suburbs and the airport. Continue past the massive Festspielhäuser (5), a partly-underground complex of three performance halls cut into the mountainside and used for the annual Festival as well as other events.
At the far end of this, across the street, is something you might not expect to see in Baroque Salzburg. The Rupertinum Gallery (6) houses a collection of contemporary art augmented with excellent temporary exhibitions of modern painting, sculpture, and photography. The 17th-century building is unusual, having been remodeled by Austria's master of Fantastic Realism, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. T: (0662) 842-2200. Open daily 10-6, remaining open on Wed. until 9. €€.
Across Sigmund-Haffner Gasse stands the Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church) (7), consecrated in 1223 but altered several times since. Its long history is evident as the Romanesque nave gives way to a late Gothic chancel and a Baroque altarpiece.
The route now goes through a passageway opening into Dom Platz (Cathedral Square), the setting for the annual Festival production of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's 1911 play Jedermann (Everyman). In the center stands the Mariensäule, a column of 1771 with a figure of the Virgin. Cathedrals have stood on this square since the 8th century; the present Dom (8) is from the 17th. When its predecessor burned down in 1598, the then-archbishop Wolf Dietrich (see Schloss Mirabell, above) planned a truly monumental replacement. After Wolf went to jail for his political manipulations, his successor, Markus Sittikus, engaged the architect Santino Solari to design a more modest structure in a restrained Italian style, which was consecrated in 1628. The infant Mozart was christened here in 1756, in the 14th-century font, and later served as organist from 1779-81. At the cathedral's entrance are three massive bronze doors of 1958, representing Faith, Hope, and Charity. Just inside, to the right, is the entrance to the Dommuseum with its collection of cathedral treasures and some "arts and wonders" from the 17th century. MuseumT: (0662) 844-189. Open mid-May through Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-6. €.
Stroll north into the adjacent Residenzplatz, where a great 35-bell Glockenspiel (carillon) set atop the Neubau Palace plays tunes at 7, 11, and 6, followed in season with a mighty organ response from the Hohensalzburg castle on the hill above. In the center of the square is the Residenzbrunnen, an enormous marble fountain of the 17th century, often regarded as the finest of its type outside of Italy. Mozartplatz, a few steps to the northeast, is home to the tourist office as well as some cafés. The western side of Residenzplatz is dominated by the:
*RESIDENZ (9), T: (0662) 804-226-90. Open daily 10-5. €€, includes audio-guide device and Residenzgalerie.
Like the Residenzplatz and other places in Salzburg, this palace is mostly the creation of the unfortunate Archbishop Wolf Dietrich, who wound up in the dungeons of Fortress Hohrnsalzburg for his trouble. The archbishops certainly liked to live in style as they performed their ecclesiastical duries — witness the fantastic Prunkräume (state rooms) that you will wander through as your audio-guide explains everything in English. Also included is the Residenzgalerie, a masterful collection of European paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, with an emphasis on 17th-century Dutch and Flemish works by Rembrandt, Brueghel, Rubens, and the like.
Follow the map through Kapitelplatz, home to the Kapitelschwemme, another magnificent white marble horse trough, and to the Erzbischöfliches Palais (Archbishop's Palace) of 1602. Pass through a gateway into St.-Peter's- Friedhof (10), an unusually peaceful cemetery with graves dating as far back as the 17th century. Mozart's sister, Nannerl, is buried here, as is a part of Haydn's brother Michael. The tiny St. Margaret's Chapel in the corner was built in the 15th century. Of prime interest to visitors are the ancient Katakomben (catacombs) cut into the rock face, with a 3rd-century chapel where secret masses were celebrated during Roman times. T: (0662) 844-5760. Catacombs open May-Sept., Wed.-Thurs. 10:30-3:30, Fri.-Sun. 10:30-4. €.
What may well be Salzburg's most beautiful church, the *Stiftskirche St. Peter, stands just west of the cemetery. Begun in the 12th century in the Romanesque style, it was drastically altered during the 18th century in the full-blown Rococo manner. Enter through the 13th-century marble Romanesque doorway on the west front to admire the gilded wrought-iron grille dividing the porch from the nave. Saint Rupert, who in AD 696 basically founded Salzburg on the remains of the Roman settlement of Juvavum, is buried here. Open 9-12:15 and 2:30-6:30.
Nearby is the base station of the Festungsbahn (11), a funicular that carries you up to that ancient castle high above the town. Operates every 10 minutes May-Sept., daily 9-9; rest of year daily 9-5. €€, includes entrance to castle grounds but not interior or museum; buy an "up" ticket only as you'll be walking down.
*FESTUNG HOHENSALZBURG (Fortess Hohensalzburg) (12), T: (0662) 842-430-11. Grounds open daily mid-June to mid-Sept., 8:30-8; mid-Sept. to mid-March, 9:30-5; mid-March to mid-June 9-6. Interior and museum hours slightly shorter. Combo ticket €€.
Salzburg's mighty fortress was begun in 1077 bt Archbishop Gebhard as a stronghold in the struggles between the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, reached its present form in about 1500, was more heavily fortified during the 1600s, and abandoned during the Napoleonic wars. In 1861 it was partially restored and put to use as a military barracks, prison, and arsenal. You can walk around the grounds for some wonderful panoramic *views, after which you might want to take a tour of the interior rooms and visit the two small museums.
While on the hill, you can visit the nearby Stift Nonnberg (13), the oldest convent in the German-speaking world. Founded by St. Rupert around AD 700, it remains in use today — and was home to the real Maria von Trapp of The Sound of Music fame. Its Gothic church is from the late 1400s but incorporates frescoes from an earlier Romanesque church.
Return to the lower town via the steep Festungsgasse. Since this is the end of your tour, you might want to relax at the conveniently-located Stieglkeller (14), an enormous beer hall with a delightful outdoor beer garden overlooking Salzburg, a great place to watch the sun set over the mountain.
There are several small attractions very close to Salzburg that might interest you, especially if you're staying overnight. Two of the best are:
Schloss Hellbrunn — the archbishops' fabulous pleasure palace is located just three miles south of Salzburg. Built around 1615 for Archbishop Markus Sittikus, the palace has an interesting interior noted for its trompe l'œil decorations. Its main attraction, however, are the gardens with their cunning wasserspiele (water play) tricks that douse unsuspecting guests with hidden sprays of water. Be prepared to get a little wet! Get there on bus #55 from the station, Mirabellplatz, or Mozartsteg, in the direction of Anif. By car, bike, or foot take Hellbrunner Strasse south. T: (0662) 820-3720. Open July-Aug., daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; May, June, Sept., daily 9-5:30; April and Oct. daily 9-4. Combo ticket €€.
Stiegl's Brauwelt — the glorious history and culture of beer around the world is celebrated at this vast brewery museum, where visitors end their tour with a sampling of the local product, a pretzel, and a souvenir glass. Bräuhausstrasse 9. Take bus #1 or #2 to Bräuhausstrasse. By car, head west through the tunnel by the Festspielhaus, then take Neutorstrasse, Moostrasse, and Nussdorfer Strasse to Bräuhausstrasse. T: (0662) 838-714-92. Open daily 10-5, until 7 in July-Aug. €€.
Copyright © 2007 by Earl Steinbicker
Why are the pictures in Black & White? Because that's what I needed for the book. The photo above of the Getreidegasse is a much older one that I took in 1970 for the cover of Opera News magazine. Here are some links:
And some related trips:
Also, Salzburg is only a stone's throw from Berchtesgaden in Germany.
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
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