Take a tour of Salzburg with Rebecca Underwood

Take a tour of Salzburg with Rebecca Underwood

Salzburg, Austria’s fourth largest city evokes memories of childhood fairy tales and it truly has music at its heart. Located on the banks of the Salzach River at the northern border of the Alps, this city is the birthplace of Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart and it was the setting for Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1965 unforgettable musical, The Sound of Music.

The Untersberg Mountain, which is only ten miles from the city centre, featured in the opening and closing scenes of the film, which was awarded the Oscar for best picture, in 1966. Soaring 6,473 feet into the blue Alpine sky, the Untersberg attracts visitors and locals keen to show off their skiing skills during the winter months and it’s a popular spot for hiking, climbing and paragliding in the warmer months when many a tourist can be seen running at full speed with arms outstretched impersonating the Von Trapp’s with abandon. Another of Salzburg’s most popular attractions is the imposing Hohensalzburg Castle, which is perched high on a hill overlooking the city and dates back to the 11th century.

I hopped on the glass Festungsbahn cable car and was richly rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the city and valley on one side and the mountain on the other. The medieval fortress features state apartments, dating back to 1498 and highlights include the Golden Chamber; richly furnished, with walls that were once covered in leather tapestries embellished with gold and the glittering Golden Hall with its gold studded ceiling supported by a sturdy beam, which is 17 metres long. The Golden Hall is the venue for more than 300 concerts every year when the most talented musicians from all over the world celebrate the works of Strauss, Haydn, Schubert, Vivaldi, and of course Mozart. Salzburg’s most famous son was born in 1756 and at the tender age of five he was proficient on both the violin and keyboard and began to write music. He composed his first symphony at the age of eight and records show that he performed in Venice at the age of fifteen. To learn more, visit Mozart’s Geburtshaus, located on Getreidegasse.

The townhouse where he was born and spent his first 17 years is a museum which exhibits a fine collection of instruments including a small violin that he played in his childhood and the clavichord on which he composed The Magic Flute. A selection of family portraits is displayed on the walls and there are personal letters and early editions of his music. Visitors are welcome to listen to his music, using the headphones provided, and standing in his home serenaded by his genius is a truly spellbinding experience.

Whilst my mood was high, I wandered around Alstadt, which is Salzburg’s old town, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Visitors flock to admire the exceptional examples of baroque architecture and to appreciate the towering domes and spires. I took a leisurely stroll around Herbert von Karajan Square, named in honour of the Austrian conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, and I paused to admire the magnificent Horse Pond, designed and built in 1693 by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach, the Austrian architect and sculptor.

To add a little romance in my life, I sauntered around the Mirabell Palace, the office of the mayor of Salzburg. Surrounded by breath-taking gardens, the property was built by prince-archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau in 1606 as a token of his love for Salome Alt. In 1854 Emperor Franz Joseph declared the site open to the public and highlights include the elaborate staircase adorned with figures of angels and there’s a delightful selection of sculptures in the alcoves. The Marble Hall is not to be missed as it is where Leopold Mozart, his son Wolfgang, and daughter Nannerl performed. After my tour, I rested awhile in the stunning early baroque Mirabell Gardens and breathed in the Alpine air amid the rich and fragrant floral displays. I then embarked on a stroll around the Pegasus and Grand Fountains, the Orangery and the Rose Garden.

For weary travellers seeking some luxurious pampering the Hotel Sacher, founded in 1876 and located in the heart of the Old Town, is ideal. This elegant property features 113 spacious rooms with contemporary furnishings and up-to-date technical equipment. The junior suites measure 40 to 50 square metres with bright interiors and wonderful views over the river and the spacious bathrooms offer under floor heating with separate showers and bath tubs. For an exceptional dining experience, the hotel’s Zirbelzimmer restaurant offers the highest standards of comfort and service. The dining room’s walls and ceiling feature traditional wood panelling, tables are dressed with crisp fine linens, and the food is outstanding. I sampled the delicious truffle ravioli with parsley and ‘Goji’ berries and of course accompanied by my preferred tipple. I raised my glass high and made a toast to Saltzburg, it truly is a city with music at its heart.

Tip: Be sure to make a note of the Salzburg Festival, which began in 1920, as is the city’s most popular event and usually opens in late July 22 and continues until August 31. Performances include opera, concerts and plays. The programme includes a number of dates for ‘Introducing opera to children’, and regular performances of Don Giovanni and Mozart Matineés. There is the opportunity to see performers of the Vienna Philharmonic and Salzburg’s Mozarteum Orchestra performing works by Mozart and Haydn.

Images, excluding the Hotel Sacher, courtesy of Tourismus Salzburg and SaltzburgerLand Tourismus.

Sound of Music Mirabellgarten

Hotel Sacher Salzburg