Salzburg City and Culture

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Salzburg City and Culture
Salzburg's cultural heritage doesn't stop at Mozart. Several castles and palaces show visitors the more elegant sides of the Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, while modern art, enchanting gardens, and historic cafés delight the senses.
By Zac Steger, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by age fotostock
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    In Search of Mozart
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, and lived in the heart of the city for several years. Though his musical genius wasn’t appreciated in the city during his own lifetime, the 18th-century merchant's house where he lived is an absolute must-see. Several floors showcase historic furniture, memorabilia, portraits, and his early instruments, including a childhood violin, his clavichord, and a harpsichord. His family later moved to the larger Mozart-Wohnhaus at 8 Makartplatz when he was a teenager, which today is a fascinating museum with old letters, scores, and instruments providing even greater insight into the composer. Be sure to visit his favorite coffeehouse, Café Tomaselli—above which his widow lived for a several years with her second husband—and the cathedral where he was baptized.
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    Castles and Fortresses
    It's impossible to miss the massive 11th-century fortress of Hohensalzburg towering above the old town: It's one of the largest fully preserved fortresses in Central Europe. Construction was begun in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard von Salzburg; it was enlarged significantly in the early 16th century. The former apartments of the prince-archbishops feature intricate wood carvings, as well as fine items such as the 16th-century porcelain stove in the Golden Room. Medieval art is the highlight of the Burgmuseum, while the Rainer Regiment Museum has an impressive display of arms and armor. But even those less interested in the fortress and its story will still enjoy its views of the city and the Alps. The trip up can be made by foot or on a funicular that departs from the Festungsgasse. The Alte Residenz and Neue Residenz palaces of the archbishops are found in the DomQuartier, while the fantasy palace and gardens at Schloss Hellbrunn outside the city can be reached by a short car or bus ride.
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    Modern Art
    The Museum der Moderne is such a fantastic contemporary-art experience that it has two locations. In the city, the charming Rupertinum building houses new artists' concepts, including excellent graphic and photographic collections, in a baroque-style building. High atop the Mönchsberg is a second venue with works of 20th- and 21st-century art, as well as the best panorama of the city. The MdM has featured pieces from renowned artists, including Ernst Haas, Gerhard Richter, and Helmut Newton. Round out a visit with a meal at the museum restaurant's terrace, which boasts stunning city views. Find other works by Richter and by Andy Warhol at the Rudolf Budja Galerie, and admire Austria’s largest photo library at Fotohof.
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    Austria's Beer Capital
    Salzburg is Austria's beer capital, offering a half dozen good brewery choices. For those who like their beer straight from a wooden barrel and poured into massive steins, the Augustinerbräu at Mülln Monastery is the best place to indulge. Beer has been brewed here according to a highly guarded recipe since 1621, and because it's not next door to a major tourist site, travelers and locals can mingle in relative peace. Enjoy a drink in the warm atmosphere of the Bräustübl—the monastery's pub—or in its quaint beer garden. Beer selections are limited, but the brew will be fresh and delightful. Gablerbräu has a long history as well, and the Stieglkeller boasts a beer garden with wonderful city views. For the city's best weiss beer, venture a little further out from the heart of the old town to the Weißbierbrauerei.
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    The Old-World Splendor of Getreidegasse
    The Getreidegasse has held the unofficial title of Salzburg’s most well-known shopping street since the 12th century. Today, its tall, narrow buildings are lined with mostly high-end boutiques, souvenir shops, and restaurants with ornately designed wrought-iron guild signs, as well as alleyways leading to tranquil courtyards noted for their vaulted passageways and molded cornices. Most stores here are pricey and offer a wide selection of fashion, leather goods, and perfumes—not to mention traditional handmade Austrian clothing from shops like Wenger Trachtenmode and Trachten Stassny. Even if you aren't up for some serious spending, enjoy the Old-World splendor of a stroll down this historic street and indulge in a spot of window-shopping, particularly at night when the old town has cleared of the day-trippers.
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    Performing Arts
    From theater to opera to concerts, the performing arts thrive in Salzburg. This is most evident during the annual Salzburg Festival, first held in 1920. There are, however, many performances worth attending outside of festival time. The Marionette Theatre, established in 1913, is one of the oldest puppet theaters in the world, and stages operas, ballets, and more. It's a unique and delightful experience with an Old World ambience; check out the auditorium's chandeliers and stucco work and the wonderful sets. For more familiar types of shows, fantastic plays, operas, and ballet works can also be enjoyed at the famous Landestheater and Großes Festspielhaus.
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    Churches and Cathedrals
    Salzburg's cathedral, part of the DomQuartier, is one of the most striking landmarks in the city and symbol of its history as a religious center. Many versions of it have been built and destroyed since the 8th century, but the present structure, the first early-baroque church north of the Alps, was constructed in the 17th century. The church contains elaborate frescoes (including works by Donato Mascagni), treasures collected by the archbishops, and the Romanesque font used to baptize Mozart. Check out the 7th-century Stiftskirche St. Peter, with its atmospheric cemetery and catacombs, as well as the Nonnberg convent, one of the world's oldest. Members of the Mozart family and other local dignitaries are buried at St. Sebastian's Cemetery on the north side of the river.
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    Museums and Galleries
    Salzburg's Residenz palace dates back to 1120 and received its current early-baroque face-lift in the 16th century. Here, prince-archbishops held court until the 19th century, hosting a who's who of nobility. Emperor Franz Joseph met with the French Emperor Napoleon III here in 1867, and a six-year-old Mozart performed in the palace as well. Throughout the magnificent state rooms, works from Renaissance, baroque, and classical periods are on display, including frescoes, paintings, clocks, and stoves. The Residenz Gallery exhibits an outstanding collection of European paintings from the 16th to 19th centuries. Further explore the city's history in the Salzburg Museum (at the Neue Residenz). Both the Residenz Gallery and Salzburg Museum are part of the DomQuartier, a collection of sites that were central to the power of the archbishops who ruled here during the Holy Roman Empire.
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    Baroque Architecture
    Salzburg is known for music, sure, but also for its incredible baroque architecture, which can be found throughout the old town. The city's baroque building period began under Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, who brought in Italian architect Vincenzo Scamozzi to design the cathedral (though it was never built). A subsequent design by Italian Santino Solari was completed; later, Austrian Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was responsible for some of the city's most beloved edifices. Several fine examples can be found in the DomQuartier, including the cathedral, the archiepiscopal palace, and the novice's wing of the Stiftskirche St. Peter.
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