The city of Mozart and too much baroque.
Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria, located at the border with Germany. The name means Salt city in German, as Salzburg prospered on the salt trade due to the three salt mines in the vicinity. The city itself is divided into two parts on each side of the Salzach river, the baroque Altstadt or Oldtown on the left and the 19th century Neustadt or Newtown on the right. It is most famous as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the renowned classical music composer, and it is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The last time I visited Salzburg was for a few days in May 2019 with my boyfriend, but the city has so much to offer that you could stay there for much longer. Besides being the city of Mozart, Salzburg is also famous as the setting for the popular 1965 movie the Sound of Music and there are many tours catering to the fans, as well as a number of interesting museums, castles and palaces.
The Altstadt is known for its beautiful baroque architecture, as Salzburg was the seat of Prince-Archbishops for quite a few centuries and they were all eager to prove their wealth and power by commissioning increasingly lavish buildings. There are so many, that you would have a hard time visiting all of them, as you would end up with an acute case of baroque overload (trust me, I nearly did). The entire Oldtown consists of adorable narrow streets and passageways, historical squares, such as the Cathedral square, Mozartplatz and Residenzplatz, numerous statues, churches and fountaines, so just walking through the city is an experience in itself.
Impressions of Salzburg
As for museums, Salzburg has about 30 museums altogether, so if that is your jam, get the Salzburg card and explore them all. There are two museums dedicated to Mozart, one at the house where he was born and another in the house where he lived. There are also plenty of places where you can buy Mozartkugeln, the chocolate marzipan balls dedicated to Mozart. Personally, I am quite picky with my museums, as there is only so much information my brain can absorb in a given day, so I tend to skip most of them, except the ones I find really interesting.
With that said, we did visit the DomQuartier museum, which is a relatively new attraction and a great value for money. It is essentially 5 museums blended into the same tour, with a visit to the Salzburg Cathedral thrown in. DomQuartier includes the Residenz, i.e. the Prince-Archbishops’ state rooms, St. Peter’s treasury museum, the Cabinet of Curiosities, housing a collection of all the wonders of the world at the time, and two galleries. The tour also takes you across the terrace with lovely views of the Oldtown, which connects the Residenz with the Cathedral loft, so you also get to see the Cathedral from above, along with its impressive organ and museum.
The DomQuartier and the Cathedral
The entire museum complex is very well-organised, with interesting exhibitions, fully translated into English and with lots of information, so I definitely recommended a visit. Fair warning though, walking through the entire DomQuartier takes a while and, if you are anything like me, you will be sick and tired of anything baroque by the end of it, so be mentally prepared.
Another museum we visited was the Toy museum, which was essentially a small playroom for kids. It was supposed to have a collection of antique toys, steam trains etc., but we were either in the wrong place or somehow managed to miss it. The entrance was just 2.5 € and there was a play area for kids in the basement, with different constructions for marbles and building blocks, and an exhibition with some toys in the first floor. My boyfriend thought it was a total rip-off, but I happily built a huge tower and all the little kids there were in awe. However, unless you have kids, it really is more a waste of time than not, although marbles are fun to play with, as you can see from the video below.
Among others, Salzburg also has a Stiegl brewery museum and a Christmas museum. If you like beer, you can also visit an outdoor beer garden at the Augustiner brewery, which was originally run by the monks of the Augustine order. We did not, as we run out of time and the weather was not that good, but my uncle recommended it, so I imagine it must be good, since he is usually right about anything to do with eating and drinking.
One place we did pass by was the Makartsteg bridge, which got famous due to the huge number of love locks that people have locked on to it over the years. Besides that we also visited the three most famous palaces and castles: the Hohensalzburg fortress, the Mirabell palace and the Hellbrunn palace, which are all quite impressive sights by themselves and thus deserved their own separate posts.
Another interesting sight in Salzburg is not your typical tourist attraction, but I thought it was pretty special: the Altstadt parking garages, carved into the Mönchsberg mountain itself, with low raw rock ceilings and steep, narrow roads.
Travel tip: You can visit most of Salzburg on foot, so the Altstadt garages are a great place to park your car, if there is space. Usually parking in the city centre would be quite expensive, but Salzburg offers something called the Altstadttarif, which works for some garages and parking places (make sure to check which, as it might be subject to change). If you buy something in certain shops, cafes or restaurants in the Oldtown, they can stamp your ticket and the price for 8 hours of parking will only be 6 €. Look for the places with an orange sticker with the word Parking in the window and ask them to punch your ticket through for you when you pay. They were happy to do it for us, but beware: the mark on the ticket is just a simple hole with a hole punch, so the parking machines will not recognise it. You need to show your punched ticket to the worker at the counter and there are no people working in the parking garages on weekends, so you will pay full price if you are forced to use the automatic parking machine like we had to. We did get the discounted price the first day we were there though, so it is definitely worth giving it a try to save some time and money.