My favourite season is without a doubt spring. As winter wanes and the days grow longer and warmer it’s a sign that it’s time for us to shake off our winter doldrums. The fresh air and blossoming spring landscape inspires us to put an end to our winter hibernation and explore the world around us. If I could choose any place in the world for a spring holiday it would be Salzburg.
The Austrian city stretches out along the Salzach River, on the northern rim of the Alps. The city is not only famous as the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music, but it also has some of the world’s most magnificent examples of Baroque architecture.
The Altstadt (Old Town) is my favourite part of the city. Beyond the main squares and famous sights I discovered charming alleys and cobbled streets that lead to quaint chocolate shops, souvenir shops, and cafés with beautiful gilded signs. Spring is the perfect time to walk around the city. Leave your map in your bag and just let your feet take you where they will. With beautiful Baroque buildings, old burgher houses and a skyline of church spires and cupolas, it’s a wonderful city to explore on foot. I felt Salzburg working its magic on me as I rounded every corner. As wonderful as these narrow side streets are to wander through, I don’t recommend buying anything here. The Old Town is notoriously over-priced.
I found the Salzburg Card to be invaluable. It’s sold at most hotels as well as tourist information offices. You can also purchase the card online. The card allows you free admission to the museums and main attractions as well as public transport in the city. Not only does the card save you money, but I find you’re able to spend longer in the attractions you enjoy, and breeze through the less interesting attractions, without worrying about whether you’re getting your money’s worth.
Fortresses, Mozart and spring blossoms
Many of the city’s most popular attractions are located within the Altstadt. A favourite attraction with tourists, myself included, is Festung Hohensalzburg – the 900-year-old, cliff-top fortress that overlooks the city. You can reach the fortress via the Festungsbahn funicular (the fare is covered by the Salzburg Card), but if you have plenty of energy you can take a 15-minute walk up the steep hill. The historic fortress has impressive interiors including a banqueting room used for festivals and events, known as the Golden Hall courtesy of the gold-studded ceiling. Your kids will be pleased to know that admission to the fortress also gets you into the fabulous Marionette Museum. As far as fortresses and palaces go, Residenz Castle and the beautiful Baroque villa Schloss Hellbrunn, are also well worth visiting.
If you enjoy visiting churches and cathedrals you’ll love Salzburg. There is Dom zu Salzburg (Salzburg Cathedral), St. Peter’s Church and Catacombs, and Franziskanerkirche. If you’re more interested in Mozart than cathedrals, then you should visit Mozart’s Geburtshaus (birth house) and Mozart’s Wohnhaus (residence). On the subject of the famous composer, don’t forget to buy Mozartkugeln (Mozart balls)– chocolate-covered marzipan candy balls. Just don’t buy them from one of the souvenir shops or cafés – I found exactly the same brand available at the grocery store for a fraction of the price.
I discovered the best place to see colourful spring blooms was in Mirabelle Gardens. From May there are carpets of colour in every direction. The best time to visit the manicured gardens is early in the morning before most of the tourists arrive. When I went to Mirabelle Gardens with my daughter, aside from one other couple, we were the only ones there. The thing that was most appealing to my daughter was not the spread of exquisite flowers but the fact that it was the place where Fräulein Maria sang ‘Do-Re-Mi’ with the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music. My daughter couldn’t resist breaking into song as she jumped down the steps and walked around the Pegasus fountain.
Out and about
Although spring in the city is wonderful, the countryside that surrounds Salzburg is spectacular in the spring. Take a bus to the picturesque holiday resort of Zell am See, visit the Krimmler waterfalls, go hiking on the Untersberg, hop across the border to the German village of Freilassing, or enjoy nature at Königssee. The German city of Munich is only two hours away and makes a great day trip if you’re based in Salzburg.
Where do you love to go in spring?