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Tourist Information and Travel Guide

Salzburg Altstadt photo

ABOVE: The Altstadt (old town) on Salzburg's left bank.

Baedeker describes Salzburg, Austria as "both architecturally and scenically one of the most beautiful cities in Europe," while the Michelin Green Guide claims that "an indefinable charm makes Salzburg, over which hovers the shade of its most famous son, Mozart, a city beloved of the Gods."

No matter what adjectives you use, Salzburg is one of the prettiest cities you're likely to encounter in your European travels--especially if you spend most of your time in the Altstadt on the left bank of the Salzach River, which probably has more masterpieces of Baroque architecture per hectare than any other city on Earth.

The town, which has a population of 145,000, lies beneath the cliffs of the Mönchsberg, a rocky hill that is topped by the massive fortress of the Hohensalzburg. The Altstadt is tucked into the space between the cliffs and the left bank of the river; on the other side of the river, the city becomes increasingly modern as it sprawls from the Mirabell Castle and its gardens to the shops and offices near the railroad station.

When to come

Salzburg is pleasant at any time of year, although November can be a bit drab. Our own favorite time is the Advent season, when snow, holiday music, and the Christmas markets make the town irresistible.

  • Tip: Bring an umbrella. Salzburg is famous for its "string rain," a drenching rain that can occur at any time of year. (Fortunately, Salzburg has enough indoor attractions that you can find plenty to do if the weather turns nasty.)

How to reach Salzburg

Salzburg is located on the Austrian-German border, about two hours from Munich and three hours from Vienna by train. It has a modern and efficient airport with flights from London Gatwick, Amsterdam, Zürich, and other major European gateways.

If you're driving, you'll probably arrive on the Autobahn from Germany, which may can be clogged by traffic jams on weekends in late summer, at Easter, and during ski season.

  • Tip: If you're staying in the old town or just visiting for the day, park in the cavelike underground garages that have been blasted out of the Mönchsberg. From the Autobahn, take the Innsbrücker Bundestrasse toward the city until you reach the Neutorstrasse, which leads to the garage entrances by the Neutor.

How much time to spend

We recommend spending at least a week in Salzburg, or even longer if you'd like to take day trips to the surrounding countryside. Still, if you're on a tight schedule, you can explore the old town in a day or two. But try to spend at least two nights in Salzburg so you'll have a full day of uninterrupted sightseeing.

Save money with the Salzburg Card

The city's tourist office, Salzburg Info, markets a Salzburg Card that includes admission to various museums, churches, the zoo, etc. It also entitles the holder to reductions on other local tours and private excursions, and it includes unlimited use of the local transport system.

Next page: Salzburg sightseeing

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