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On the banks of the green Salzach river, and under the shadow of its powerful fortress, Salzburg is undoubtedly one of Europe's most beautiful baroque cities. Infused with culture, born of its association with its most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it's a world centre for the arts. Thousands of visitors flock to its charms each year, particularly for the famous Salzburg Festival of July and August when the cobbled streets ring with the music of Mozart and his contemporaries.
But visit at any time of year and you can't fail to be captivated by this most stunning of cities. Pristinely clean, it could almost have been built yesterday. Most of it in fact dates back to the 16th century and the personal vision of one of the city's famous Prince Archbishop rulers - Wolf-Dietrich. Bolstered by the wealth of the nearby salt mines (from which Salzburg gets its name), Wolf-Dietrich ordered the city rebuilt in sumptuous baroque style. It's this Salzburg that visitors find today, a city of fabulous churches, gable-ended buildings, cobbled streets and secluded squares.
Salzburg had previously been a hard working but unremarkable city, typical of the Middle Ages, and before that it was the site of Iuvavum, a Roman administrative town. However, from the 16th century onwards Salzburg was to become renowned as one of Europe's brightest jewels. Nobles and gentry flocked here from the courts of Europe, paying homage to the Prince Archbishop rulers whose state rooms in the Residenz remain as examples of their wealth.
In these very rooms the visiting nobles may have heard the first public performances of the boy genius Mozart. Mozart first played for the court at the age of six and interested visitors can still see the house where he was born in 1756, in the heart of Getreidegasse, Salzburg's picturesque main shopping street.
However, fascinating as this history is, it's far from the only thing that Salzburg has to offer. The students of its university ensure that the pace of the city is lively, and international dining and shopping can be found on the streets and squares of the left bank. In the Bierstuben you find the local beer, Steigl, first brewed in the same year that Columbus landed in America, and it's still quaffed with the same lip-smacking gusto the Salzburgers have been demonstrating for hundreds of years.



Hohensalzburg Fortress
Dominating the skyline above the city the fortress (Festung) is not the most beautiful building in Salzburg but it definitely is the most eye-catching.
Built by Archbishop Gebhard in 1077 as defence and symbol of Salzburg's independent feudal status the Festung is now one of the city's biggest draws, offering the best views down into the old town. The grounds are fabulous for exploring, while the journey up via the funicular is a tourist attraction in its own right. The interior of the inner fortress is no longer an austere 11th-century castle but is a 15th-century gilded Renaissance palace.
Guided tours demonstrate the best of the castle including the sumptuous state rooms and some fabulous Gothic motifs. Also contained within the fortress is the Welt Der Marionetten, a small museum dedicated to the city's famous Marionette Theatre, and the excellent Festung and Rainer Museums (listed below). Walking down from the fortress is preferable to walking up, but the winding path is steep and demands some deserved refreshment in the Stiegl Keller at the bottom.



Fortress and Rainer Museums
Located within the fortress (Festung) these two well-organised museums are a must-see.
The Fortress Museum contains an excellent collection of artefacts relating to the fortress and its daily life. Imaginative displays show off items from cooking implements to instruments of torture via military paraphernalia and musical instruments. It also gives you a good overview of the history and construction of the fort.

The Rainer is named after - and relates specifically to - the military campaigns undertaken by the city's regiment. Weaponry and uniforms from campaigns across Europe from the late-18th century to the World Wars is impeccably presented, but there are also equally interesting pieces relating to the everyday life of soldiers through each period.


Mozart and Residenzplatz
The centre of the old town the twin squares of the Mozart and Residenz together form the hub of the city's major sights.
A bronze of Mozart stands in the square that bears his name, looking benignly down on the cafés and small shops that surround the square. The vast Residenzplatz meanwhile contains a massive ornate fountain, featuring four larger than life horses. Much photographed by tourists the locals studiously ignore this charming centrepiece.
Thrice daily the Glockenspiel, housed in a tower on the building opposite the Residenz, chimes out the hours. Seeing it strike at least once on a visit is a must. Hearing it echo up from the city while standing in the Festung is also popular. Horse and traps stand in line where the Domplatz meets the Residenzplatz, in the north-east corner, offering tourists atmospheric rides through the alleys and archways of the old town.



The "Domkirche" Cathedral
The biggest of Salzburg's three central churches, grouped closely together in the old town, the Domkirche is the city cathedral. The vast central dome was rebuilt following World War II, when it was ruined in an Allied bombing raid, but is as magnificently grandiose as it ever was.
The interior of the church contains some stunning frescoes and memorials although the severe nature of the cathedral is somewhat cold rather than warmly celebratory, the proliferation of skulls on the two memorials either side of the main altar a case in point.
Descend into the crypt to see some of the tombs of Salzburg's great pioneers, but not before admiring the font where one of the world's greatest composers was given the names Wolfgang Amadeus. The cathedral's museum contains a collection of artefacts relating to religion including some fabulous statues, paintings and altar furniture. The incredibly ornate monstrances - used to display the communion host - are particularly eye-catching.
From the museum you can obtain access to the choir above the entrance, offering a fantastic view down into the body of the church. Domplatz.



St Peter's Church
This 18th-century exuberant slice of architecture is easily recognisable by its bulbous spire, reminiscent of Russian cupolas rather than a Catholic straight-sided steeple.
Inside, there's plenty to be admired in the furniture and fittings, if you can penetrate the gloom of the building. The two impressively solid doors ensure the darkness of the interior remains intact, booming shut behind every tourist visitor. Outside the church, through an archway to the right of the entrance, the Petersfriedhof is home to plenty of the graves of the burghers and wealthier citizens of Salzburg. Many of the family plots are still in use today. There are some striking memorials dating from the last few centuries.
The cliffs that rise up next to the church house catacombs (katakomben) hewn from the rock by 3rd century inhabitants of the Roman city that once stood here (Iulanium). Guided tours in German and English will fill you in on the background in season.



The Franciscan Church
Salzburg's Franciscan Church (Franziskanerkirche) is somewhat overshadowed by the cathedral, but is an impressive construction nevertheless.
The side entrance to the church is easily reached through the arches across the Domplatz opposite the cathedral, allowing access to the wonderfully understated interior. The semi-circular choir is the most famous feature of the church, held up on columns, it is a fine example of classical architecture. Nine separate altars and shrines sit in alcoves underneath.
The interior did have an 18th-century redesign at the hands of one Fischer von Erlach, and the fabulous gold freestanding altarpiece, is the result. The pulpit steps contain the oldest feature of the church, a 12th century statue of a lion standing over a man who has plunged his dagger into its side - quite why is never explained. Franziskanergasse. Admission: free but donation requested.



Mozart's Birthplace
Salzburg is most famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and the house of his birth (on January 27, 1756) is where people naturally gravitate towards on arrival in the city. In truth it's hard not to, the Geburtshaus occupies a prime site in the city, right on the famous Getreidegasse and you seem to pass it when you're going anywhere in the city.
Inside you'll find a somewhat confusing mixture of artefacts relating to the young Mozart's life. The building is extremely well maintained and it is thrilling to see the violin that Mozart actually played as a child while standing in the room where he most probably played it. The collection of handwritten musical manuscripts is likewise fascinating, the first drafts of some of the world's most famous classical pieces of music. In other rooms of the museum you can learn about the establishment and growth of Salzburg (for instance that the Alm Canal was blocked once a week so the waters could sluice the garbage from the streets) and what life for the Mozarts would have been like.


The Residenz
The Residenz is the historical home and workplace of the Archbishops of Salzburg. Dating from the 16th century, the massive building forms the east side of the Residenzplatz, facing the Glockespiel Tower, with its north side forming one edge of the Domplatz.
The four wings enclose a central courtyard, and from here you can access the excellent state rooms (Prunkräume) on the first floor and the Residenzgalerie upstairs. The state rooms tour should definitely be taken if available. The rooms are still used for conventions and functions which sometimes restricts access, but it's worth rescheduling should you be turned away at first attempt. An audio-guide takes you round the 14 rooms on show and explains to you the various points of interest including the Knight's Room and the Audience Chamber where Mozart played for the court.
The series of paintings depicting the life of Alexander that dominates many of the official rooms is particularly striking. The Residenz gallery upstairs is a striking collection of paintings from the archbishops' extensive collections dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Residenzgalerie.



Mozart's House
Of the two Mozart museums in the city, the Wohnhaus (where the Mozart family lived between 1773 and 1787 - although Mozart himself was absent for much of this time) is the less central, lying over the river in the new town.
An audio tour takes you around the house, which contains objects from the composer's life, including the amusing targets employed for the sport of bolt shooting and some period musical instruments. The original building was heavily bombed in the war but the museum that now stands in its place does a more than serviceable job in informing the hordes of tourists about Mozart's life and works.



Mirabell Palace and Gardens
The Mirabell Palace was built by the Archbishop Wolf Dietrich in 1606 as a house for his mistress Salome Alt, who bore him 15 children, much to the amusement and pride of Salzburgers who tell the tale today.
Much of the building is turned over to administrative purposes, but it is still a stately edifice. The grounds are open to the public and nobody can fail to be captivated by the formal gardens, designed by the prolific renovator of the Franziskanerkirche, von Erlach.
The focus of the garden is the magnificent bronze of Pegasus, but children (and adults too if they'll admit it) are more interested in the grotesque statuary of the Dwarf Garden. The gardens also contain the Barockmuseum, a smallish collection of religious sketches and fragments of statues from the baroque period.



Stiegl's Brewery World
If you spend any time in Salzburg you'll very quickly become familiar with Stiegl, the locally brewed lager that is consumed almost everywhere in the city. Stiegl's Brewery World (Brauwelt) as the literature will tell you several times over, is Europe's biggest beer exhibition, and is housed in part of the old brewery adjacent to the modern building that churns out today's product.
The exhibition takes you through the beer making process, from hop picking to consumption with a thick slice of humour that keeps the interest up over this rather specialist subject. Marvellously egalitarian in its scope, interactive exhibits and video aren't restricted to Stiegl; instead they range across Austrian and European beer production. The final room contains the world's biggest beer tap and the world's biggest beer mug (with a capacity of 43 litres). Following the exhibit you're treated to two beers from Stiegl's roster, a pretzel and a free gift (beer related of course).


 
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