Top things to see and do in Salzburg

Thursday, 15 December 2013 4:41 PM

If you are thinking about booking holiday chalets and apartments in Austria for your next break, you may well be planning to stay in Vienna. However, before making a final decision, make sure you take a look at what Salzburg has to offer.

This beautiful city is best known as the birthplace of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but is also steeped in history. Spend a few days here and you can look forward to seeing some fine period architecture, including palaces, cathedrals and castles.

In fact, Salzburg has so much to offer people who love history and culture that its entire Old Town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk round it there are great sights at every turn, with buildings dating back to the Middle Ages and some Baroque masterpieces by Italian architects Vincenzo Scamozzi and Santini Solari.

You may find the best way to enjoy the Alpine city's attractions during family villa holidays is to set out from your accommodation and see where you end up. However, if you prefer to be more organised, you could draw up a list of places you wish to visit.

One thing that should be on your programme is Hohensalzburg Fortress, which has stood atop the Festungsberg mountain since the 11th century. Take the funicular railway up to the castle and you will be treated to some magnificent views over Salzburg.

It was built on the orders of Archbishop Gebhart and gradually expanded to become one of Europe's largest medieval fortresses. It has a fascinating history, which you can learn all about by taking a tour of its museum and the extravagantly-decorated princes' apartments.

Another must-see attraction in Salzburg is Mozart's Birthplace. The apartment in Hagenauer House on Getreidegasse 9 where the musical genius was born in 1756 has been preserved and transformed into a major exhibition about his life.

The museum first opened in 1880 and has been extended on a regular basis ever since, so you can now see personal documents, portraits of the composer and a collection of the instruments he used, including his concert violins, clavichord and harpsichord.

You are also sure to want to explore Hellbrunn Palace, which was built as the summer residence and pleasure grounds of Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems. He commissioned Solari to build the villa and the architect's design is now widely regarded as one of his masterworks.

The interior boasts a magnificent ballroom and lavish living quarters, but the complex is more famous for the water features in its beautifully-manicured gardens. The Wasserspiele were designed to entertain the prince and include a fountain hidden in a marble table, which he used to spray water at his dinner guests.

Salzburg Cathedral is another Baroque masterpiece designed by Solari in the 17th century. Built on the site of a much earlier church that burned down in 1598, it boasts a magnificent facade and dome, and houses a spectacular organ and the font where Mozart was baptised.

The city also has a large number of museums, including many that have pieces by the artists who flocked there in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is well worth making time to visit the Residence Gallery to see its collection of works by leading European painters, including Rembrandt and Rubens, and local creatives, such as Waldmuller and Makart.

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