During a recent tour of Austria, it quickly became evident that Salzburg was one of those short-listed cities my wife and I could see ourselves living in. It’s very scenic, the people were great, and my wife is a huge Mozart fan! We had originally planned on doing a quick day-trip using a self-guided Salzburg Walking Tour, adapted from Rick Steves’ Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol. We loved it so much that we immediately reshuffled plans and added another day!
Salzburg Walking Tour
Our Salzburg walking tour starts a short walk from the train station, at Mozart’s family residence. From there you’ll cross the Salzach River into the old part of town: strolling past Cathedrals, sights from the Sound of Music, and more history of Mozart as a child. Along the way you’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with this city!
Our Salzburg walking tour starts a short trek away from the train station, at Mozart-Wohnhaus – a family residence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The original building was destroyed during WWII, but was reconstructed, opening to the public in 1996. Visitors are led through 8 rooms on an audio-visual tour for about an hour and a half. The Mozart family moved into this home in 1773, and Wolfgang Amadeus lived here until he moved to Vienna in 1781. The family’s history is portrayed through original portraits, documents and furnishings.
2. Hotel Sacher
As you approach the Salzach River, you’ll come to the Hotel Sacher – famous for their Original Sacher-Torte. This cake is touted as the “most famous cake in the world since 1832”, complete with closely-guarded secret recipe! Although I can’t say I completely agree with that moniker, it’s definitely worth a quick stop. The hotel itself is a very nice mix of tradition and modern; it’s easy to picture yourself getting ready here for an evening concert.
3. Mozarts Geburtshaus
Be sure to take in the amazing scenery while crossing the Salzach River, then head to Mozarts Geburtshaus (Mozart’s Birthhouse). As you can gather from it’s name, this house is where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born January 27, 1756. You will spend an hour or so exploring the 3 floors of this townhouse, learning a great deal about Mozart along the way. Among the standard documents and portraits, there are some amazing mementos such as Mozart’s childhood violin and the clavichord on which he composed The Magic Flute.
Exiting Mozart’s Birthhouse, turn left and head west along Getreidegasse. This street is often filled with tourists as it’s famous for its old doorbells and wrought-iron signs. Notice that even newer additions (like McDonald’s) have a wrought-iron sign out front to maintain the street’s character.
As you make your way toward the other end of the street you’ll find it’s easy to spend all day on this one stretch of interesting shops and great restaurants.
When you reach the end of Getreidegasse, turn left followed by another left onto Universittsplatz. Follow along until you reach University Square, across from Kollegienkirche (University Church). You are now entering one of the most important squares in the oldest core of the city center, dating back to the 14th century. This square was once the gardens for a nearby monastery, but today you’ll find an amazing farmer’s market that dates to the 17th century!
6. St. Peter Stiftskeller
From Universittsplatz head up Weiner-Philharmoniker-Gasse alongside Kollegienkirche, and then continue in the same direction along Toscaninihof. The large building on your right is the Festival Hall, which was used during filming of the Sound of Music as the place where the von Trapp family performed at the 1936 Salzburg Music Festival.
Head through the archway and find yourself in a large square, looking at the back of St Peter’s Abby. As you approach the church look to your right and find the St Peter Stiftskeller restaurant. Locals claim this is the oldest restaurant in Europe, and that Charlemagne ate here in AD 803! You may want to return for the nightly Mozart dinner concert.
7. St Peter’s Abby
Take some time to wonder inside St Peter’s Abby, home to one of the oldest monasteries in German-speaking Europe – dating to 696. The present-day building was erected c. 1130, adding the organs in 1444 and the steeple’s onion dome in 1756. The interior was remodeled to its present form from 1760-1782.
For the musicians among you, Mozart’s sister (Maria Anna Mozart: Nannerl) and Johann Michael Hyden are entombed next to the altar. St Peter’s also houses the oldest library in Austria, though it is now only accessible with special permission.
Walking around St Peter’s Abby you’ll find Petersfriedhof – the burial ground and catacombs of the monastery. The oldest preserved graves date to 1288 and 1300. This cemetery was the inspiration for the cemetery the von Trapp family hid out in during the movie The Sound of Music. For a nominal fee you have the ability to climb up the side of the cliff to see some old caves that used to house medieval hermit monks (and some great views of the old city).
9. Salzburger Dom
Exit the St Peter’s burial grounds past the waterfall and a funicular to Hohensalzburg Fortress – an 11th century fortress perched atop the cliffs above the city. Make your way through the square to Salzburger Dom (Salzburg Cathedral), built in 1628. A donation is recommended upon entry to this grand building, renowned for its music during Sunday mass. The cathedral still contains the baptismal front where Mozart was baptized January 28, 1756. Mozart also held the position of organist here from 1773-1775. The cathedral was damaged during WWII when a bomb crashed through the central dome, but was restored to its former glory by 1959.
Exiting the cathedral and head under the skyway to Residenzplatz – a big square modeled as “Rome of the North” in the 1500’s. Walking past the huge fountain toward the far end of the square, you’ll find Mozartplatz on your left. The pink Church of St Michael overlooking the square dates form AD 800.
In the middle of the square you’ll find a statue dedicated to the square’s namesake: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Exiting Mozartplatz, you’ll find yourself back at the Salzach River, completing your Salzburg walking tour – congratulations! You may now want to head back to Hohensalzburg Fortress or St Peter Stiftskeller for an evening concert. If you’d rather head into “new” Salzburg, cross back over the river and continue your exploration there. You’ll find many great sights such as Mirabell Palace & Gardens, or the Stiegl Brewery.
For those of you who are fans of the Sound of Music, I’d highly recommend taking the Sound of Music Tour! This is a great tour that will take you around much of Salzburg and the surrounding area. You’ll see great points of interest such as the Leopoldskron Palace and the Hellbrunn Palace Gazebo. For more tour info, check out this awesome review from Bel Around the World!
I hope this virtual tour of Salzburg has put it on your list for the next time you visit Europe. Be prepared to fall in love with it’s beautiful mix of modern and tradition … we’ll see you there!
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Rick Steves – Rick is America’s leading authority on European travel. Watch any of his videos, pick up any of his books, or visit his website and it’s easy to see why! Learn More
Rick Steves Vienna, Salzburg & Triol– If you’re planning a trip to this area of Austria, you need this book! It’s packed with tips, tricks, and recommendations that will ensure your visit is as incredible as possible. Learn More
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