Salzburg Cathedral

Salzburg: The Stage in the Alpine Foothills

With an incredibly beautiful Old Town setting against the backdrop of the majestic Alps, Salzburg is a perfect stage for any show. By a twist of fate, the legendary composer Mozart was also born in this heartland of Europe, making it a city of music and theatrical performance.

Situated on the bank of the Salzach River, Salzburg has been continuously inhabited for the last two millennials. The city has witnessed the rise and fall of many regimes throughout its history. That includes the Celts, the Romans, the Bavarians, as well as the Habsburgs. The name “Salzburg” (literally: Salt Castle or Salt City) derives from the barges carrying salt on the river, which were subject to a toll in the 8th century.

These days, Salzburg is Austria’s fourth-largest city and the capital city of the federal state with the same name. The city spans on both sides of the river, with Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Old Town on the western bank, facing the 19th-century New Town on the eastern bank.

The bridge connecting the Old and New Town

1. Hohensalzburg Fortress

Clinging on verdant cliffs, Festung Hohensalzburg (Hohensalzburg Fortress) was the first thing that captured my attention. At an altitude of 542 meters, it offers a sweeping view over the city, along with the surrounding mountains. The imposing fortress was first erected in 1077 as the residence for the Prince-Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg. Yet his successors were responsible for the expansions during the following centuries.

Today, the structure is one of Europe’s largest intact medieval fortresses. It serves as the emblem of this Prealps city. Inside, visitors set out on a journey into the past. They can visit a museum of medieval weapons or opulent chambers once frequented by the wealthy-arch bishops.

Hohensalzburg Fortress
Salzburg – The stage on the Salzach River

2. Salzburg Old Town

Stretching beneath the cliff-top fortress is Salzburger Altstadt, the best-preserved historic core in Central Europe. The town is strongly influenced by Italian culture, with Baroque churches and mansions predominate. However, none can surpass the magnificent DomQuartier. Once the center of the Prince-Archbishop’s power, this complex comprises lavishly decorated chambers and galleries. There is also a beautiful cathedral that features two graceful spires and an imposing façade.

Since 1997, UNESCO has listed the entire area as a World Heritage Site. Aside from the architecture, Salzburg Old Town is also known as the birthplace of the genial composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. More specifically, his family house on No.9 Getreidegasse – the city’s most attractive shopping street – is now a museum and a “pilgrimage site” for many Mozart fans.

The DomQuartier

3. Mirabell Palace

Across the river, the Mirabell Palace with its splendid Marble Hall is equally fascinating. It was built in the early 17th century by the master Baroque builder Lukas von Hildebrandt for Salome Alt – the beloved concubine of the Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Reiternau. The name “Mirabell” actually originates from two Italian words: Mirabile (admirable) and Bella (beautiful).

The Prince-Archbishop wanted to be as close as possible to his family. Thus, he built a palace that is directly opposite to his office in the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Outside, visitors find themselves meandering pleasantly in a masterpiece of garden art – the Mirabell Garden. The garden was completely redesigned under Archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun in 1690. However, the underlying geometric form, which is typical for the Baroque, is still visible.

Mirabell Garden

4. Salzburger Norckel

The Mozartskugel (Mozart Ball) – a small, round sugar confection made of pistachio marzipan, and nougat, covered with dark chocolate – is the city’s typical sweet treat. Yet it is not the only sweet specialty in Salzburg. This city is also home to Salzburger Norckel – a soufflé made of egg yolk, flour, and vanilla. They are always freshly prepared and served with sugar powder or raspberry sauce. Additionally, its appearance takes the shape of three hills surrounding the city center.

Salzburger Norckel – a special sweet treat of Salzburg

Tips for visiting Salzburg

  • Hohensalzburg Fortress is accessible by either foot or funicular. However, it is worth buying the all-inclusive ticket (15.90€) which includes the funicular, the entrance to the fortress and all related exhibitions.
  • Salzburg’s centre is relatively compact and explorable by foot. Between Old Town and New Town, there is an intensive network of buses and trams. Most of them pass by or stop around Mirabellplatz (just outside the Mirabell Palace).
  • A good address to try this Salzburger Norckel is Hotel Elefant. The soufflé requires a minimum waiting time of 25 minutes. And a portion is enough for two or three persons.

42 thoughts on “Salzburg: The Stage in the Alpine Foothills”

  1. heavenhappens – Welcome to my life. You can share my grown up world here at where I blog my thoughts, my life, my travels, my photographs and my poetry. Growing up just after the war was a grim experience. So, now that I have 7 grandchildren, I am reclaiming my childhood by seeing the world anew through their eyes. Every minute I spend with them is magical. So this blog is for them ~ Ben, Rosie, Tiffany, Stanley, Thea, Mateo and little Olivia, who was born right at the start of the year 2019! I hope, when they are all grown up, they will enjoy reading it and finding out about their grandma’s life and how very happy they made her. I hope you enjoy reading my posts, leave a comment or a link and I will get back to you.
    heavenhappens says:

    Oh how I dream of visiting Sazburg. I doubt if i ever will though so THANK YOU for the mini tour and fabulous photos.

  2. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    The afternoon (or morning?) sun light over Hohensalzburg Fortress is really breathtaking! It makes the fortress gleaming over the Salzach River. It’s really heartening to know that the Salzburg’s Old Town survived the World War II, as many places across Europe were not as lucky. Yet another fascinating post with beautiful pictures of old palaces and castles, as well as a delicious image of the norckel! — which I’m now really intrigued with.

    1. Thanks a lot, Bama! The photo was made at dawn, after a heavy rainy day. I seriously thought that I couldn’t make any photo of Salzburg because a storm was directly over the city. But at the end, I had some sunny moments (briefly though) 🙂

  3. Mel & Suan – Singapore – Mel works his day job for a living, but lives for antiquities, history and geography at all other times. He enjoys writing and thought sharing and obviously traveling. Suan is a homey person, who like girlie stuff such as cross stitching etc. Enjoys shopping & modeling for Mel. What a match!
    Mel & Suan says:

    Yes Salzburg was a fantastic trip for us. And the Hellbrunn palace too!
    We enjoyed potato dumpling too!

    1. I missed the Hellbrunn! 🙁 It was raining so we could not do much outdoor activities. Only had some sunny moments on the last day. Europe does not have summer this year (at least in Northern Germany) 🙁

      1. Mel & Suan – Singapore – Mel works his day job for a living, but lives for antiquities, history and geography at all other times. He enjoys writing and thought sharing and obviously traveling. Suan is a homey person, who like girlie stuff such as cross stitching etc. Enjoys shopping & modeling for Mel. What a match!
        Mel & Suan says:

        Oh. Well now you need to go back!

  4. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
    Jolene says:

    Wow that elephant soufflé looked a bit scary… is it dessert or elephant meat?
    Here’s how bad my memory has become, I was there probably about a week ago and now I don’t even remember the places in your post… 😂 Excellent post though, thanks for triggering my memory!

    1. It is a soufflé but one portion is massive enough to feed a baby elephant 😉 I regretted ordering one portion for myself. I almost could not breath after eating it 🙂 Greedy is NEVER good!

      1. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
        Jolene says:

        Hehe, greed is forgivable when you are on holidays.

    1. Have a lovely time there! 🙂 If you have time, I suggest hiking the Mönchsberg for a better view of the city. I could not make it because it was raining 🙁

  5. Mirabell Palace looks stunning! Thanks for the mini tour. The streets remind me of Prague and Wroclaw in Poland. Mozartskugel sounds delicious!

    1. You welcome! If you like pistachio and marzipan, the Morzartskugel is just right for you 🙂 You can likely find this sweet everywhere in Austria, but only the Café Fürst in Salzburg sell the original one.

    1. It is really beautiful and not far from Munich. In fact, you can go from Munich to Salzburg by a State Ticket (in this case the Bavaria Ticket) 🙂

  6. Nano @ Travels With Nano – Tokyo, Japan – Hi, I'm Nano! Welcome to my site! Travels With Nano is filled with everything I am passionate about: uncovering the world one sight, bite and cultural experience at a time. I'm here to share savvy travel tips and inspire (not influence!) your future travel adventures. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have you here reading!
    Nano @ Travel With Nano B. says:

    You brought wonderful memories Len. I loved loved loved Salzburg – so picuresque, quaint and refined at the same time!

  7. Sonia Malysz – Photography has always been my passion. I grew up with a German Praktica hanging around my neck and taking black and white photographs. I like photographing the tranquility of nature where the colors, however extravagant, always seem in agreement with each other. I enjoy finding things hidden away in unexpected places and beauty in ordinary life. I enjoy the creativity of people in all its diverse forms and find it fascinating to capture it on photographs. Join me on the road to visit the old, familiar places and discover the unknown.
    Sonia Malysz says:

    Great photogaphs of Salzburg Len 🙂 I have been there twice and played with the huge chess set on the square, although the huge gold ball wasn’t there! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sonia! I think they set it up just a few years a go. It matches quite good with the surrounding Baroque buildings though 🙂

  8. jmacindoe – Toronto, Ontario – New blogger writing about travel, photography and whatever else peaks my interest.
    jmacindoe says:

    Great collection of shot! Looks like a great trip!

  9. Seeking Wonderful – Ljubljana, Slovenia – Hi. I'm Janja from lovely little country in the heart of Europe called Slovenia. I am constantly planning new trips, even if I can't afford to take them. Seeking wonderful in the world around me and travel with my love to see some more of it. Love big cities, green nature, little surprises, Taiwanese ice teas, chocolate and sea.
    Seeking Wonderful says:

    Salzburg is such a pretty city. I visited few years ago and would love to explore it again.

  10. Mabel Kwong – Melbourne, Australia – Writer and multicultural blogger based in Melbourne. Writing to help you navigate cultural identities and confidently pursue creative passions.
    Mabel Kwong says:

    It sounds like a peaceful time in Salzburg, Len – and also your way around Europe. Incredible to see the fortress in 1077 is still standing strong and it does look quite formidable, and a good reminder of history and how far the place has come. Didn’t know Old Town was influenced by Italian culture and that is so interesting to know. Mozart is one of the iconic composers in history – and also interesting to know his home is alongside a now-busy shopping strip. Iconic person, iconic location perhaps. I think I would like the Mozartskugel. Never heard of the Salzburger Norckel but it does sound like a sweet treat.

    1. It’s not only a sweet treat but a meal in itself! What you see in my photo is just one portion. I’m glad that it came at the end of the dinner. Or else I couldn’t eat anything at all. The Mozartskugel is a better choice if you don’t want to have sugar-rush 😛 Thanks for visiting, Mabel!

  11. I’ve had many a Mozartskugel but you got me with the Norckel. I love soufflé and will have to give this a try when I get back to beautiful Salzburg some day.

    1. That soufflé is definitely worth a try 😛 I’m sure you will be surprised by how massive it is. The Salzburgers are serious about their special sweet treat haha.

  12. Alison and Don – Occupation: being/living/experiencing/travelling In our sixties, with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our apartment and car, sold or gave away all our stuff and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia, South America, Egypt, Japan, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We travelled full-time for nearly six years, and then re-established a home in Vancouver. We now travel 2-3 months per year. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both. Interests: In no particular order: travel, photography, figure skating (as a fan), acceptance, authenticity, walking/hiking, joy, creativity, being human, adventure, presence, NOW. Same for Don except replace figure skating with Formula One motor racing.
    Alison and Don says:

    I do so dream of visiting this place, and more of Europe generally. So much history to delve into. The opening photo is particularly powerful, and the one with the light on the fortress from the river very beautiful. You entice me to go!

    1. My pleasure 🙂 I got luck with the photo of the fortress. Just minutes ago it was raining cat and dog. I still keep the umbrella that I needed to buy on that day. A kitschy umbrella full of music notes haha

  13. I’ve been wanting to visit Salzburg for so long! It seems like such a beautiful city, and your photos prove that fact to me. As a fan of Mozart’s composing, I would like to visit his house, even though I’m not a huge fan of what it is reported is personality was like😅that soufflé only made me want to go there even more!

    1. Thansk for your compliment, Nic 🙂 The town itself is beautiful. But the soufflé is a delightful (and massive) add-on. My tips: don’t try to eat it by yourself 😛

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