Until 1816, Salzburg was a city-state, independent of the Hapsburgs and ruled by powerful prince-archbishops. It is situated on the northern border of Austria, 70 miles (113km) southeast of Munich, in a picturesque setting surrounded by mountains.
Mozart was born here and the city's fascination with its most famous son is best demonstrated during the Salzburg Festival, which presents world-class performances of opera, drama and concerts each summer. Even the non-musical will find it difficult to resist Mozart's impression on the town: his image is on every postcard and chocolate box and both his birthplace and family house are now museums offering detailed insight into his life and work.
The city is also the hometown of Baroque and the south side of the river is a beautiful Baroque sprawl of charming churches, squares, houses, and fountains. The original buildings were cleared in the late 1500s by Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau in order to create a 'German Rome'.
All the main sights are within walking distance of the spacious old city (Altstadt), which is now largely pedestrianised. A few miles to the south of the city are the historic towns of Hallein and Werfen and to the west are the lakes of Salzberger, which are especially worth visiting during the spring and summer when the wild flowers are out.
The 11th-century Hohensalzburg Castle stands on a rocky outcrop approximately 394ft (120m) above the city. Although originally built by Archbishop Gebhard to repel attacks from the neighbouring Bavarians, the present-day fortress was largely rebuilt in the early 16th century by Archbishop Leonhard Von Keutschach, who added the grand state apartments.
Visitors can walk around the courtyard and outskirts of the fortress at no cost unless they take the guided tour around the state apartments. The tour finishes at two small museums that display a selection of weapons, uniforms, and armour, together with instruments of torture such as the Schandmasken which petty criminals had to don as punishment for their crimes. The castle can be reached by funicular or by a walking path.
The cathedral is one of the city's most recognisable symbols and the massive south tower, standing at 445 feet (136m) tall, is a dominant feature on the Vienna skyline. The 343 steps can be climbed for a fantastic view over the city. St Stephan's Cathedral is the most important religious building in the city and is one of the greatest Gothic structures in Europe. It has been in a state of continual preservation and repair since its original construction in the 12th century due to fire, city sieges and bombardment.
The cathedral is built of limestone and has an ornately patterned and richly coloured roof covered by glazed tiles. The interior is rich in wood carvings, sculptures and paintings and has numerous chapels and altars, as well as the catacombs, which can be visited on a guided tour. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was married here, had children baptised here, and his funeral was held in the Chapel of the Cross.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 at his family's home in Getreidegasse. The house has since been converted into a museum displaying exhibits which include the violin played by Mozart as a child, his concert violin and clavichord, a pianoforte, and various portraits. The museum was first opened in 1880, by the International Mozart Foundation, and restored in 1994.
It is now said to be one of the most frequently visited museums in the world. Tours of the museum are available but need to be arranged in advance. A basic tour of the exhibition takes about an hour. The museum provides a fascinating introduction to the Mozart family and how they lived, as well as detailing the early life of Wolfgang Amadeus.
Salzburg has a continental climate with Alpine influences because of its proximity to the mountains. Summers are warm and pleasant, although rainy days are common. Winters are cold, with temperatures hovering just above or below freezing, with plentiful snow.
Salzburg experiences a long, beautiful summer lasting from Easter through to mid-October. But the most popular months for a holiday in Salzburg are July and August, when the main festivals take place. Obviously, though, these are also the most crowded months when tourists throng the streets. Winter brings winter sports enthusiasts into the city on their way to or from the ski slopes.
The hills (or rather mountains) around Salzburg, as well as the city itself, are indeed alive with the sound of music. But if you travel to Salzburg you will find this Austrian chocolate-box city is also a visual delight, its opulent Baroque castles, palaces, concert halls, and churches a feast for the eye and the soul.
Any classical music-lover worth his or her salt should not miss a holiday in Salzburg, hometown of Mozart, but the city is also a haven for romantics who will revel in the scenery, architecture, and lyrical setting.
The most popular and worthwhile tourist attractions in Salzburg include the mighty Hohensalzburg Fortress, the two Mozart museums situated in his birthplace and former residence, the Museum of Modern Art, the Salzburg Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Salzburg Zoo, and the Hellbrunn Palace.
Those planning on doing a lot of sightseeing should look into buying the Salzburg Card which provides free entry or discounts on attractions, public transport, and even concerts and theatre performances. The card can be purchased at info booths in the city and at many hotels.
The central core of Salzburg is easy and pleasant to explore on foot. There are buses and streetcars available, for which a 24-hour pass can be bought which includes the use of the Hohensalzburg Funicular. Taxis are plentiful at visible ranks throughout the city, but they are expensive.
The Salzkammergut is a lake area spanning Upper Austria, Salzburg, and Styria, and was formerly home to the salt mines of the Hapsburg Empire. The many lakes and mountains in the region lend themselves to a variety of activities such as water sports, golf, cycling, and hiking, as well as relaxing at the beautiful shore and hillside retreats.
Take some time out to enjoy the local kaiserschmarrn (sugared pancakes with raisins), lebkuchen (gingerbread) and krapfen (doughnuts), and the spectacular scenery in one of Austria's most lovely regions. Parts of the region have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the towns of Hallstatt, Obertraun, Gosau and Bad Goisern.
Dating as far back as the 17th century, Schloss Kleßheim Palace was used by Adolf Hitler during World War II and today serves as a casino with an elegant atmosphere and beautiful gardens. The palace also featured in the 1965 film The Great Race starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Peter Falk.
The casino holds some historical interest because of the association with Hitler during the war, and the eagles displayed at the palace entrance are reminiscent of the Third Reich. However, the main appeal is the chance to gamble and party the night away in style!
Guarded by a water-spouting giant, Swarovski Crystal World is one of the most popular attractions in Tirol. The museum is underground, featuring 14 interconnected rooms with an eclectic multimedia gallery showcasing dazzling work by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Marc Chagall, among others, all featuring the distinctive glint of the famous Austrian crystals.
Another popular sight is the largest crystal in the world, located in the first room. Just a 15-minute drive from Innsbruck and less than two hours drive from Salzburg, Swarovski is a popular excursion from both cities. The Swarovski Crystal World gift shop has an equally sparkling array of souvenirs available at lower prices than in town, with the opportunity for a tax rebate for foreign visitors.