World Cultural Heritage Old Town
Salzburg's spoiled residents often fail to notice the unique charm of the Old City – a backdrop that's easily overlooked in every day life – until their guests are enraptured by its breathtaking beauty.
Enthusiastic remarks such as "It must be wonderful to live in such a lovely city!" sometimes make the average Salzburg resident feel embarrassed when he realizes how little attention he pays to its stunning appearance.
The city of Salzburg - and especially its historic city center – is in fact one of the loveliest places in Europe, winning international acclaim in 1997 when it was designated a world heritage site by UNESCO.
What is so special about Salzburg? For one, its convenient location. The Salzach River, flowing from the Prealps in the south, winds through the city as its historic lifeline and separates it into two halves, the so-called left and right banks of the Salzach. The left bank of the Salzach is the "older part" where ancient Roman settlements once stood. The Nonntal Bridge, Mozart Footbridge (pedestrians only), State Bridge, Makart Footbridge and Mülln Footbridge (both for pedestrians only) connect the two sides of the city.
The Old City is picturesquely surrounded by the Mönchsberg, crowned by the Fortress which is visible for miles, and the mighty Capuchin Mountain on the right banks of the river. Salzburg residents find the term "mountain" slightly exaggerated since both of the city's mountains have extensive walking paths to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. A mountain walk is very worthwhile since it affords one of the loveliest panoramic "postcard views" of the city.
The Old City with its variety of building styles is a true architectural delight, also a result of the city's strict preservation laws. A walk through the countless narrow streets (the most famous being the Getreidegasse, Judengasse, Goldgasse, Kaigasse, Linzergasse and Steingasse) features buildings from the Middle Ages, Romanesque, Baroque and Renaissance periods as well as the elegant classical burghers' houses dating from the monarchy. Hardly any age failed to leave its architectural imprint on Salzburg.
Since much of the Old City is a pedestrian zone and relatively small, it is ideal for walking and window shopping – it only takes about 20 minutes to walk from Nonntal (the southern end) to Mülln (the northern end). Those in a hurry can take a taxi whereas those with time to spare can indulge in a Fiaker ride, an oldtime horse and buggy creation, for a leisurely tour of the city.
The city's most famous squares include Residence Square with its splendid fountain, the neighboring Old Market, University Square, as well as Mozart Square with the memorial of the city's genius loci. The square also features the city's most central Tourist Information Office.
There is no lack of imposing buildings, the most striking of which include the Cathedral, Hohensalzburg Fortress, the Residenz, St. Peter's Monastery with its impressive cemetery, the Franciscan Church and Collegiate Church as well as the Large and Small Festival Halls and the Summer Riding School in the Festival District. On the right banks of the Salzach one should not miss Mirabell Palace with the romantic Mirabell Gardens (one of the city's most popular snapshot scenes) or St. Sebastian's Church with its charming cemetery. Hellbrunn Palace with its trick fountains and the zoo is situated just outside of the city gates.
Salzburg has an abundance of attractive venues. If you're planning to visit Salzburg be sure to have enough time to take in the unique atmosphere and the bustle of the city. Whether you're coming for the culture, the shopping, a stroll through the town, the cafés or simply to spend "a day in town" - the Old City has many charming facets. By the way: tours of the Old City are possible by land as well as by water – a panorama ship has cruised on the Salzach since 2002, offering spectacular views of the city.