It’s difficult to believe, but most Austrians have never seen The Sound of Music. Even stranger might be that one mention of the classic film brings about blank stares. Though, just because the von Trapp family is all but unknown by locals doesn’t mean that the hills of Salzburg are silent. This is the city of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, after all.
Apply dubbed, “The Stage of the World,” Salzburg plays host to over 4,000 cultural events each year encompassing art, theater and music. Add to those the multitude of museums, galleries and public art, and it’s simple to see why Salzburg draws over five million tourists year around.
In January, an entire week is dedicated to Mozart, Salzburg’s most famous son. The city shakes off winter come April and celebrates the Easter Festival. During this time, Salzburg is adorned with hand-painted Easter eggs and music fills the air. For approximately six weeks in the summer the Salzburg Festival is held and features the best musicians, singers and actors from around the globe. Come December, the snow-covered city celebrates with the Winter Festival. Festive music and songs, including “Silent Night,” which was written by Joseph Mohr in Salzburg, ring throughout the city.
Fear not, The Sound of Music lovers, Salzburg has not forsaken you. Companies such as Salzburg Panorama Tours and Salzburg Sightseeing Tours offer The Sound of Music themed tours. Film locations such as Mirabell Palace and Gardens, Residenz Square, Hohenwerfen Castle and the Mondsee Church are just a few places visited on these tours. In addition, The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show entertains guests with songs from the film, while they dine on traditional Austrian cuisine.
Though the arts are deeply engrained into the culture of Salzburg, there’s plenty more to offer. For instance, the Old City was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once an ancient Roman settlement, the Old City lies on the left bank of the Salzach River and is filled with pedestrian-only roads, narrow alleyways, cobblestone paths and a variety of architecture styles from the Middle Ages, Romanesque, Baroque and Renaissance periods.
Days could be spent exploring the Old City alone. Dating to 1077, the Hohensalzburg Fortress stands watch over Salzburg. Religious sites abound in the Old City with some of the most impressive being the Baroque-style Cathedral, St. Peter’s Monastery and its adjoining cemetery, Franciscan Church and Kollegienkirche, also known as the Collegiate Church.
As with so many European cities, Salzburg has no shortage of great squares in the Old City. The most well known include Residence Square, Mozart Square, which includes a statue of the great composer, Old Market and University Square. Filled with magnificent fountains, art, music, food and fiakers (horse-drawn carriages), these squares are gathering places for visitors and locals alike. On any given day, games of chess are played; impromptu concerts are heard; and portraits by local artists are sketched. If the weather is nice take a seat at of one of the surrounding café patios and have a pint of Stiegl beer, which has been brewed in Salzburg since 1492.
There are plenty of opportunities for shopping in Salzburg’s Old Town. Browsing the shops along Getreidegasse, one of the most picturesque commercial streets in the world, is not your average shopping trip. Landmarked buildings house everything from high-end designers like Louis Vuitton and Gucci to more accessible brands like H & M and Zara. Local designers such as Aschauer Hüte KG and Andrea Eberle, offer traditional and contemporary Austrian clothing and accessories. Each business along this road features a traditional iron sign hanging above the entrance; even McDonald’s has one. Don’t miss out on the alleyways, which contain a treasure trove of smaller, locally owned shops.
Dining options abound in Salzburg, including a number of Michelin-starred restaurants. The historical St. Peter dates to the year 803 and is the oldest restaurant in Central Europe, while the modern Hangar 7, located at the airport, is where thrill seekers can have a side of adrenaline with their meal. Hangar 7 has three dining options, including a gourmet restaurant featuring visiting chefs from around the world, and also houses the historical Flying Bulls aircraft fleet, along with a few Formula 1 cars.
When thinking about Austrian food, kaspressknödel, käsespätzle and wiener schnitzel come to mind. Sausages, cured meats, cheeses and various kinds of breads are also popular, but what is likely to stand out while exploring Salzburg are the number of bakers, chocolatiers and confectioners. All this deliciousness around each corner might prove to be a mighty big temptation.
Konditorei Schatz, near Mozart’s birth home, looks like dollhouse, complete with perfect pastries. Consider finding a table in this tiny place a sign that a mélange and slice of engadiner nußschnitte must be ordered. Grab a seat on the outdoor balcony at the family-run Café Tomaselli for a traditional apple strudel or Salzburger nockerl, a type of local soufflé. Near Café Tomaselli is Braun, a chocolatier and confectioner. Based in nearby Hallein, Braun has been creating deliciousness for over 100 years. While there, make sure to pick up a couple of truffles. Cafe-Konditorei Fürst is famous for creating the original Mozartkugel. Dating back to 1890, Mozartkugel have a pistachio center and are surrounded by marzipan and nougat. They’re then coated by hand with chocolate. The original Mozartkugel is distinguishable by its silver wrapper. Don’t be fooled by the mass-produced imitators with gold or red wrappers.
Salzburg is a treasure, one that gets discovered and re-discovered yearly by millions of people. Despite the throng of visitors, Salzburg still maintains its quaint and uniquely Austrian charm. The city of Mozart offers unparalleled beauty, culture and history right at the edge of the Alps. Perhaps many first come to know and love Salzburg because of The Sound of Music, but they certainly leave with a much deeper appreciation for the city, which truly is “The Stage of the World.”