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The Secret Heart of the City

Where the peaceful “Frauengarten” of the Benedictine Abbey once stood, has been the site of the colorful Grünmarkt for the last 150 years. On one side, it is flanked by the resplendent buildings of the former archbishops, and on the other by the handsome homes of Salzburg’s once prosperous middle classes. We invite you to join us for a short safari through Universitätsplatz square.

Fresh Regional Products

A visit to the Grünmarkt, generally on Saturday morning, is practically a weekly duty for every true-blue Salzburger. Partly because it is virtually impossible to find products that are any fresher or more delicious anywhere else. Much of the regional produce they offer, you can only find right here: homemade pastries and sausage, for example, trout and Arctic char (also smoked) from Lake Fuschlsee, along with the widest-imaginable selection of cheeses sold by dedicated, passionate producers, including absolutely irresistible sheep cheeses. For regular shoppers, knowing the best stand to buy tomatoes or lettuce, to find beautiful chanterelles in autumn and the juiciest, fullest-flavored apricots in June, is very much a badge of honor.

On the other hand, at the Grünmarkt there’s also a hint of wanting to “see and be seen”. Which is why the stylish ladies of Salzburg love nothing more than to don their smart dirndl outfits, while their male counterparts not only do their duty as bearers of ever-heavier Shopping baskets, but also sport their own dashing linen janker jackets and/or lederhosen pants – adding yet another appealing optical note to the already colorful scene of the Grünmarkt. Any full-fledged visit to the market, of course, has to include a stop at the hot-sausage stand, maybe for a couple of familiar frankfurters with horseradish and mustard and a slice of fresh bread, or one of the many other less well known, but equally enticing sausage manifestations that are impossible to say “no” to in this part of the world. Though as a “trendier” alternative, and just across from the sausage stands, you can now even order a delectable fish soup accompanied by a glass of Chablis.

Baroque Splendor & Clever Heads

However you ultimately decide to satisfy your culinary cravings, the backdrop for this bustling market is provided by the magnificent main façade of the Collegiate Church. Without fear of exaggeration, we can fairly claim that Baroque architect Bernhard Fischer von Erlach created what would prove to be his absolute masterpiece here at the end of the 17th century. He was commissioned by archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun, who wanted to build a church adequate to the needs and prestige of his freshly founded Benedictine university. With its elegant dome and twin towers, the Collegiate Church has contributed its own distinctive mark to the skyline of Salzburg ever since.

The elongated building of the Old University, right next to it, is somewhat modest in comparison. Originally built in 1618 as the city’s first high school, barely 9 years later cathedral architect Santino Solari was tasked with transforming it into the Catholic university. Today, the building houses the university’s Department of Theology.

The Bourgeois Side

No concerts, but rather the music of nature itself will catch the ear of attentive explorers on the far side of the square: There, we can hear and even watch the rushing waters of the Almkanal, a canal which was built more than one thousand years ago in order to bring fresh drinking water from the foot of the Untersberg into the heart of the city.

Actually, this so-called “Bürger Seite” of the square grants all kinds of new insights practically every few meters; not least thanks to a row of buildings very typical for Salzburg, known as Durchhäuser (lit. “through-houses”), which allow pedestrians to cross from the Universitätsplatz through any one of a dozen different passages to the Getreidegasse – where they then discover the other side of the selfsame building. Perhaps the most prominent example: No. 14 Universitätsplatz, the house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born, recognizable by its beautiful, sunny-yellow baroque façade. Today, this building – formerly known as the Hagenauer House – is owned by Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg and is home to a wonderful museum, the entrance to which can be found at their “main address” located at No. 9 Getreidegasse.


At the southern end of the square, we once again find ourselves smack dab in the middle of intriguing history: The beautiful archway of the Ritzerbogen gate leads from Universitätsplatz to the very heart of that part of the city that was once totally dominated by the omnipresent prince-archbishops, towards Café Tomaselli, the Alte Residenz, Neue Residenz and the Cathedral District. History has so much to teach us. In the Middle Ages, for example, there wasn’t actually a square at the site of today’s Grünmarkt. Instead, it was the site of the “Frauengarten” belonging to the Benedictine Abbey, and this “Women’s Garden” actually lay outside of the city itself, only accessible via a narrow passageway. The establishment of the Grünmarkt, along with the still-young university and church, led to the city’s powers-that-be deciding to transform the cramped thoroughfare into a resplendent arched gate.

Worn out by vegetables, dirndls, Mozart, baroque facades and enlightened erudition? In the Zipfer Bierhaus at No. 19 Universitätsplatz, with a little bit of help from a veal goulash, schnitzel or a roast pork in beer jus, you are guaranteed to find all the Salzburg-style sustenance you have been craving.