Salzburg: Austria’s shining star

For a town of only 160,000 people, Salzburg is a cultural star. A UNESCO world heritage city, this Austrian gem offers music, festivals, art, beer, food, history, architecture and so much more. Just a short trip across the German border, Salzburg also is nestled next to the Austrian Alps.

Mozart and the Sound of Music

Salzburg is perhaps most famous for music, and rightfully so. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the genius composer, was born in Salzburg in 1756. The city takes the connection seriously. Mozart Week, which is packed with brilliant concerts, is held each January. Visitors can also take a Mozart walking tour, which includes his birthplace, the Mozart Residence, a Mozart monument, and the resting places of many members of the Mozart family (the composer himself was famously buried in an unmarked grave in Vienna).

Anibal Trejo /

Mozart statue on Mozart Square (Mozartplatz) in Salzburg, Austria

Then, of course, there is Salzburg’s connection to the film “The Sound of Music.” Beloved by audiences worldwide (hundreds of thousands of people come to Salzburg each year precisely because of the movie), and based on a true story, the film was shot in and around Salzburg. Today, visitors can tour shooting locations, catch a Von Trapp family-themed dinner show, or take in a special Sound of Music marionette performance.

Festivals year round

The city does really well when it comes to festivals. The world-famous Salzburg Festival takes place each summer, and runs through the end of August. It offers concerts, plays, opera performances, and other live shows (musical and otherwise) that are excellent for the whole family.

Autumn is equally awesome. There is (naturally) a Salzburg jazz festival in October. And Salzburg’s Rupertikirtag (St. Rupert’s Day) celebration is a can’t-miss event. Held near the end of September, Rupertikitag, the festival (which is a shorter, more colorful, more local, and more…Austrian than Oktoberfest) celebrates the 7th-century patron saint of Salzburg.

Kirk Fisher /

Austrians celebrate Saint Rupert’s Day, the patron saint of Salzburg, with festivities, rides, and food booths.

And then there is the Salzburg Christmas market. With incredible lights, outstanding locations, and a Christmas museum, Salzburg during Advent is a must-see. Multiple markets are set up around the city, including ones near the Cathedral, the Residenz Palace, the Heilbrunn palace, and the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

A modern old city

How cool is Salzburg’s historic old city? Well, one entire half of it (the city is split by the Salzach River) is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Highlights include Salzburg Cathedral, Mozartplatz, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mirabell Gardens, and the super-cool Linzer Gasse. But the city walk is almost as compelling as the highlights. The shops, the streets, the lights, the elegance – it is Salzburg at its baroque finest.

At the same time, Salzburg has an unmistakeable sense of youthful energy. It’s easy to understand why. Salzburg is a university town. Music matters, too: even the oldest pieces of music are continually reinvented from generation to generation. The city also has a wonderful Museum of Modern Art, and colorful street art can be found everywhere.

Gateway to the great outdoors

For a big-city jumping-off point to visit the Austrian Alps, it’s hard to get better than Salzburg. Incredible hikes can be found less than an hour away (including the Sound of Music trail, which is a mere 45 minutes south). In the winter, great skiing is right there, too.

canadastock /

Classic view of famous Mirabell Gardens with historic Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background in Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg itself is built for nature lovers. The river is beautiful and peaceful. Parks and gardens dot the city. The Hellbrunn Palace grounds and Mirabell Gardens are manicured masterpieces. Aigner Park is a nature reserve that offers a wilder experience. Best of all, though, are the green spaces and parks that give the city a sort of calm balance.

Getting there

By car, Salzburg is 6 hours from Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden, and 4.5 hours from Stuttgart. Please check with Deutsche Bahn for train information.

Categories: Attractions, Austria, Castles, Christmas Markets, Lifestyle, Markets & Festivals, Rest of Europe, Rest of Europe, Road Trips, Travel