I could almost hear the music resonating from the mountains as we approached the airport and after a compulsory refresher course on the ‘Sound of Music’ I felt that I could not be much more prepared for what Salzburg had to offer.
However, I did not get what I expected. During my short stay I didn’t even feel the need to partake in a single one of the many ‘Sound of Music’ tours on sale and to be honest; what Salzburg had to offer was so much more.
The ‘Sound of Music’ offers merely a glimpse of Salzburg’s beauty. The film does not allow you to feel the crisp cold mountain wind tickling your extremities; you don’t get the chance to breathe in the fresh alpine air and you are not given the privilege to gaze upon the dreamy turquoise waters of the Salzach River.
I’m going to avoid a comparison of Salzburg and the film’s portrayal of the town…there will not be another mention of ‘The Sound of Music’; this is about delightful Salzburg, not Maria’s dulcet tones.
Walking towards the Altstadt quarter (the old town) we called into Schloss Mirabell or Mirabell Palace on the way. The beautiful Baroque style building is probably most famous for the incredible gardens that surround it. Although it was winter and the vibrant colours were slightly sobered, the gardens still aroused admiration. There are incredible, elaborate statues standing between the spiraling flower beds, so although the colours weren’t as vivid, the garden still had an extravagant appeal.
After arriving in the old town, the imposing ornate Salzburger Dom or Salzburg Cathedral (which is also the site of Mozart’s baptism) left us standing mesmerised by the unexpected volume of its ringing bells. Looking down on the cathedral is Hohensalzburg Castle. The castle’s presence is unavoidable. It is visible from virtually everywhere in the old town and it commands a sort of respect through its unapologetically bland and dominating exterior. The castle sits atop a rather steep hill; however there is a cable car to the top for those less able or just plain lazy.
Once at the top we chose not to visit the castle thinking our time would be better spent enjoying the incredible views out over the distant mountains. We walked around a long path separated from a sheer drop by a small wooden fence. The Austrian Alps were a dramatic backdrop as we carried on through the wintry trees towards Salzburg’s Museum of Modern Art. The museum sits on a 60ft. sheer cliff face and offers spectacular views over the old town, the building itself looks like an awful concrete slab. There is an elevator at the museum costing around 2 euros that will speedily take you down the 60ft. cliff face back to the bottom of the old town just a few metres from Getreidegasse, probably Salzburg’s most famous street.
Lined with shops, from Louis Vuitton to McDonalds the most notable feature was the wrought iron signs hanging over the shop doorways giving even McDonalds an unexpected elegance. We continued down towards the most famous building on the street, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Birthplace. Admittedly at first I did not realise this, I was taking photos of the luxurious looking Spar located underneath the building. After stepping back I noticed the huge lettering on the building that read: Mozarts Geburtshaus.
Also in the old town, just along from Mozart’s birthplace is an incredible Christmas shop, filled with thousands of glittering decorations. What was most impressive were the handmade baubles. Eggs painted with intricate patterns; there was row after row of colourful eggs spilling onto the floor and stacked to the ceiling.
It was now about 2.45pm and on a whim we decided to try and make it out to the Untersberg in Grodig. A 6470 ft. mountain that is easily accessible from Salzburg. Realizing the last cable car up the mountain was at 3.30pm we ran to the bus stop and frantically tried to work out what bus to get and how to use the ticket machine.
The ticket machines are easy to use and have English instructions. Although I don’t recommend this, it is always tempting not to buy a ticket as you just have to get on the bus and our tickets never once got checked. Make sure to get the 25 and do not get off at the Grodig stop, it’s the very last stop you need and when u see a decidedly looking Scottish man painted on a building then you’re at the cable car station, the bus stop is just outside.
The ascent in the cable car was probably the best part of the whole day. The views on the ascent are incredible and watching the light bounce off the mountain tops was breath-taking. The cable car climbs quite fast towards what looks to be the top until it suddenly dips over a massive ridge and carries on climbing higher. If you look below you can see tracks in the snow belonging to chamois goats. Allow around 20 minutes to reach the top. There’s a cafe there and some very frost bitten looking chalets partly entombed in snow.
Although we only spent just over a day in this town and could not experience everything it has to offer, I feel the most important experience was the essence of the whole place. From its beautiful baroque buildings to the cold alpine air, the whole town just seems to have been pulled from the pages of a storybook. Now, every time I feel a cold winter breeze, I think affectionately of Salzburg.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN SALZBURG (according to Trip Advisor)
- Visit the Old Town
- Red Bull Hangar (at the airport)
- Salzburg Cathederal
- Mirabell Gardens