Let’s start at the very beginning…
Saltzburg is in the west of central Austria, close to the border with Germany in the foothills of the Alps. It’s most famous son is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and its most famous family are the Von Trapps immortalised in the 1965 film the Sound of Music. Salzburg is an ancient town full of Medieval and Baroque buildings crowned by the impressive Festung Hohensalzburg, a magical fairytale fortress at the top of the cliffs.
Salzburg has cold dry winters and warm wet summers when the rain can be so strong that the locals call it string rain. We visited in September when the weather was a perfect mid to upper 20 degrees with warm sunshine. Salzburg is ideal for families of all ages but has most appeal for couples seeking a place to mark the start of their lives together, those with anniversaries of a successful marriage or partnership or those just wanting to have fun.
The first thing that strikes you about Salzburg are the beautiful hills that surround the town. As you take the short taxi drive from the airport to the old town you are transported to a world rich in beauty and history and very definitely Austrian. As you reach the fast flowing river Salzach and cross the bridge to the old town you are immediately surrounded by buildings from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries perfectly presented but retaining their original charm and grandeur. Walking around Saltzburg is a must with many delightful squares boasting small coffee shops and bars which can break the day as you explore the city.
Possibly the best option to get your bearings is to join the hop on hop off tour bus from alongside the Mirabell palace gardens. One bus will take you around the wider city including the impressive Hellbrunn Palace and Gardens which contains the pavilion used in the Sound of Music. An alternative tour takes you around the old town by a mini bus. If motor transport is not for you, you can enjoy a boat ride on the Salzach or a horse and carriage ride from Residenzplaz.
A must do is to take the funicular railway from the old town to the fortress on the cliffs. The entrance can be found behind the St Peter’s monastery complex and cemetery which is one of the prettiest places of rest you will find. From the top of the cliff the views over the town and countryside are amazing and there are bars and restaurants where you can eat and drink whilst taking in the scenery before or after you explore the fortress. The fortress is one of the oldest and best preserved in Europe and contains some impressive interiors in the Golden Chamber and Golden Hall. From the top you will notice a house in a park far away from the town in large grounds of its own. Apparently it is the hangman’s house and nobody wanted to live next door hence its isolation.
A visit to Salzburg would not be complete without experiencing the music of Mozart. Born in the town in 1756 Mozart is possibly one of the most prolific and famous composers the world has known. Salzburg plays host to a number of music festivals throughout the year but most any day you can find someone somewhere playing his music in a live concert. A popular choice is to enjoy an evening with dinner and music held at one of the oldest monasteries in Europe, St Peter’s Salzburg. The St Peter’s Stiffskeller stage a performance of extracts from Mozart’s most famous operas in a Baroque Hall. Tables are laid for a formal dinner and fine wine and food are interspersed by a truly excellent performance from soloists accompanied by a string quintet. A great experience for all music lovers.
Fast forward two hundred years you can spend an enjoyable afternoon on the Sound of Music Tour. Four hours of information about the making of the film, the real lives of the Von Trapp family and of course stops at all the sights used in the film. Beginning at the Mirabell Gardens you can walk around the carefully tended flower beds and spot the locations used in the famous” do ray me” song from the film. Boarding the coaches you are driven around the town and surrounding lakes and mountains entertained by a live commentary and a witty driver. The trip will take you to the locations used in the movie and will include a visit to Lake Mondsee and town containing the beautiful church of St Michael where the “Hollywood” couple were married. Spend a while looking around the church and then treat yourself to a coffee and a slice of Apple Strudel a must have dessert when in Austria.
Salzburg boasts some fine hotels and restaurants to meet all tastes. The Aldstat hotel is a fine five star hotel right in the centre of the old town whilst across the river many more hotels have been built which have hosted everyone from Hollywood stars though to world leaders. If you want to finish with a final view of the town and fortress then an open air dinner on the roof of the Hotel Pitter is to be recommended. Fine food and wine accompanied by excellent service and an illuminated view across to the castle will certainly be among your favourite things.