According to a recent report published by TravelBird, the most inspiring city in Austria isn’t the capital, Vienna, or even it’s second city Graz – it’s the town of Salzburg.
Nestled in the eastern Alps on the banks of the Salzach river, this historic city (its name literally means Salt Castle, named after the barges which carried salt up the river) was ranked the seventh most inspiring city to visit globally. It was beaten by places such as San Francisco, Bruges and Miami, which came first.
Cities were ranked according to a variety of factors, including their performing arts institutions, art schools, galleries, museums, film industry, startup scene and general romantic feel.
So what is it about Salzburg that makes it so special?
Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There’s a Mozart College for musicians, and plenty of opportunities to hear his music. More recently, the city was the setting for the incredibly popular film and musical The Sound of Music. But apart from this it’s also a city with a flourishing arts scene, well-kept parks, good restaurants and picturesque side streets, echoing with the strains of classical music. Salzburg has three universities and a buzzing student population. It stages some 4,200 concerts a year – you can literally enjoy music morning, noon and night.
Salzburg's Unesco-listed “Old Town” (Altstadt) is renowned for its baroque architecture and is one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps. It hasn’t changed much since Mozart’s day. Graceful domes and spires are set against a clifftop fortress and the mountains.
Salzburg's most visible landmark is the 900-year-old cliff-top fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg) on Mönchsberg Mountain, one of the biggest and best preserved medieval castles in Europe. It was built for Prince-Archbishop Gebhard in 1077, and offers magnificent views over the city's spires, the Salzach River and the mountains. It’s an invigorating 15 minute walk from the centre, or take the glass Festungsbahn funicular. Make sure to visit the Golden Hall – where lavish banquets were once held – featuring a gold-studded ceiling imitating a starry night sky. Concerts are held in the Golden Hall, often focusing on Mozart’s work.
Salzburg’s Dom is a masterpiece of baroque art. Bronze portals symbolising faith, hope and charity lead into the cathedral. In the nave, the intricate stucco and Arsenio Mascagni’s ceiling frescoes depicting the Passion of Christ guide the eye to the polychrome dome. Much of Salzburg’s grandeur, including the cathedral, is due to Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau. Arriving from Rome in 1587, he set out to create a Baroque city north of the Alps as splendid as Rome. He commissioned Italian architects to design the cathedral and, for his mistress, the Mirabell Palace. During Advent the Domplatz is the setting for one of Austria’s prettiest Christmas markets.
Summer Academy of Fine Arts
The Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1953 by artist Oskar Kokoschka as the “School of Vision”, in Hohensalzburg Fortress, is the oldest of its kind in Europe. Every year, around 300 participants from more than 50 countries attend courses offered in two locations: Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Kiefer quarry. Well-known artists, curators and critics from all over the world offer courses focusing on producing art, curating, and writing about art.
This prominent festival of music and drama was established in 1920. It’s held each summer, for five weeks starting in late July. A highlight is the annual performance of the play Jedermann (Everyman) by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
High above the city, the boxlike Museum der Moderne hosts exhibitions of edgy art, with the bonus of sensational views across the old town.