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Salzburg looks a little like the say you might imagine heaven would. Your first glimpse of the old city centre will likely include a postcard view of a river, a colorful old town lined up against its banks, a gleaming white fortress perched atop a hill and, on a clear day, majestic mountain scenery in the background. This glimpse alone will likely be breathtaking enough for you to feel like the visit was worthwhile. Salzburg is one of those rare European cities that totally lives up to the hype surrounding it. Its vibrant old town is thought to be one of the best preserved in Europe—it has even been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. The Old Town of Salzburg is full of beautiful examples of baroque architecture, which nowadays house a variety of cafes, boutiques and souvenir shops, among other shops and services. Salzburg old town is even home to one of the world’s classiest-looking McDonald’s restaurants. Aside from the gorgeous old town (called an Aldstaldt in German), another impressive aspect of Salzburg scenery is the surrounding mountains. Salzburg sits at the northern border of the Alps. Its tallest mountain is the Untersberg, towering above the town at 1972 metres, and sitting just a mere sixteen kilometers away from the city centre.
The Untersberg is a hit with tourists, a popular day trip destination and easily accessible by bus. Outdoor enthusiasts trek up to the top by foot via one of the mountain’s variety of trails and paths. Most tourists, however, prefer to incorporate a little rest and relaxation into their Salzburg holiday and take the cable car instead. The cable car lifts tourists to the Geiereck peak, sitting at a little over 1770 metres in altitude. The scenic ride takes about eight and a half minutes and is a two and a half kilometer journey. Salzburg is Austria’s fourth largest city, home to a population of over 150 000. It’s a real hit with young tourists as well as old, possibly because the city’s three universities give salzburg a youthful atmosphere despite of its old buildings. Salzburg is full of history, but the one of the things that most drives tourists to Salzburg is a fictional story: the Sound of Music. It’s true that Maria von Trapp of the Trapp Family Singers, whose escape from the Nazi regime was made into the musical and classic movie, was born here. The much-loved film was also shot in Salzburg. The city brims with tours taking you to locations where scenes in the movie were filmed. However, these tours are also quick to disappoint visitors by pointing out the film’s inconsistencies, such as that, were anyone really to escape Salzburg Austria via the mountains, they’d end up in Bavaria—in other words, Germany. The Trapp Family Singers are not the only musicians whose legacy propels tourists to salzburg austria. Visitors also come from all over the world to check out the birthplace of musical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg boasts two Mozart museums. One is Mozart-Wohnhaus, known in English as Mozart’s residence.
This is where the Mozart family took up house between 1773 and 1787. Mozart himself was only there until 1780. Hand-held audio tours treat you to a guided commentary, as well as samples of Mozart music. Other features include a slide show detailing Mozart’s early, pre-Vienna years, musical instruments, sheet music, and other testaments to Mozart’s genius. Mozart scholars or hardcore Mozart enthusiasts will find the Mozart Ton-und Filmmuseum equally fascinating. The Mozart Residence was severely damaged in a 1944 bombing, but has since been beautifully restored to its original form. Tourists also flock to Mozart’s birthplace. Tourist guidebooks give mixed reviews—some feel it is worth the money only for diehard Mozart fans—but no tourist can resist taking a picture outside its doors. Also, no need to get a “My family went to Salzburg, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” T-shirt here; Salzburg boasts an impressive array of Mozart-themed souvenirs, including, but by no means limited to, Mozart chocolates and Mozart liqueur. Another sight worth seeing is the Festung Hohensalzburg. This is the gleaming white fortress we mentioned earlier on. Get there via foot—it’s about a fifteen minute walk from the old town—or use the funicular by St. Peter’s Cemetery. (Tourists in R&R mode take note: funicular fare also includes entrance to the castle grounds, so in this case, it’s both perfectly excusable and highly commendable to be a little on the lazy side.) The castle dates back to the eleventh century, is one of Europe’s oldest, and boasts a victorious history; it had never been captured by enemies. There are all kinds of interesting things to see both within and around the castle grounds: there are state rooms, torture chambers, two small museums and more. (Pay a little extra and enjoy a detailed tour of the castle’s interior, highly recommended by guidebooks.)
However, the most interesting and memorable aspect of the castle is, for many tourists, the spectacular views its ground offers. Admire the north of the city, or turn south for an impressive view of the majestic Untersberg. Another popular tourist attraction is the Museum of Natural History, located right in the old town. This tourist favorite can easily fill up an entire afternoon. Here you can admire and discover a variety of flora, fauna and mineral displays, plus check out physics and astronomy exhibits. Highlights included a 42-tank aquarium with its impressive collection of tropical fish, and a reptile house full of crocodiles, creepy snakes, and other fascinating creatures. When you’re done with Salzburg, why not visit some of its neighboring cities? Munich, Germany, lies about 150 kilometres to the west. This colorful, historic, beer-guzzling city is also worth a visit; fantastic Bavarian Alp scenery and the famous Neuschwanstein castle, the inspiration for Cinderella’s home in Disney World, Orlando, Florida, are short day trips away. Another nearby city worth visiting is, of course, the majestic Vienna, a city which epitomizes elegance. It’s about three hours east of Salzburg – a scenic two or three hour train ride away.