It was salt, passing through the city from nearby mines, that gave Salzburg its name (“Salt Castle”) and filled its coffers in the Middle Ages, a time when salt was as precious as gold. It enriched the city’s princes and bishops so much that they could hire the best craftsmen and architects from across Europe to create their palaces and churches; today this handsome city at the northern edge of the Austrian Alps shows off that generous architectural legacy with pride. The riverside Altstadt ("old town") is thoroughly engaging, with its copper-domed baroque cathedral, narrow streets, market squares and lavish archbishop’s palace, all under the watch of the hilltop Hohensalzburg Fortress.
The hills are alive with the sound of tourists in Salzburg, known to the world for its musical legacies and legends. The hometown of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the setting for the beloved Julie Andrews musical about the singing von Trapp family, Salzburg is a lyrically lovelycity on the Salzach River.
Salzburg, a city of 145,000 in the Salzburger Land province near the German border, has many nicknames, among them "Festival City," so-called for the world-famous summer Salzburg International Festival (of music); and "The Golden City of High-Baroque," a title earned by the city's wealth of Baroque architecture.
Landmarks for both Mozart and the movie musical are swarmed by tourists year-round. Pop a chocolatey "Mozart Kugeln" in your mouth before strolling the Mozartplatz, a city square named for Salzburg's favorite son, where street musicians often play his music. Then tour such sites as Mozart's Birthplace and his Residence, or visit exhibits like the multi-media Mozart Audio and Video Museum and the artifact-crammed Mozarteum. Even the city's enchantingGlockenspiel, atop the Neubau Palace, tells time to the tune of Mozart masterpieces.
If kids wearing clothes made from curtains are some of your favorite things, take the Sound of Music Tour, which stops at such filming landmarks as the Nonnberg Convent ("How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?"), the Mirabell Palace Gardens, the Residenzplatz and Winkler's Terrace.
Salzburg has made its fortune from the likes of Mozart and the movie musical, yet it's intriguing to note that the locals were late-comers to their praise. Only after Mozart's death was he recognized as a hometown treasure (many of his peers saw the brash composer as a spoiled brat), and "The Sound of Music," despite having been filmed here in 1964, flopped with a decidedly unmelodious thud when it opened in Salzburg. Perhaps the locals didn't need to see the sights on film when the real thing was just outside the theaterdoors.