Salzburg’s vibrant street life and love of art, combined with its long history as an ecclesiastic principality, mean that there are many absolutely free things to experience here. Here are a few, some close to the city centre, some a little further out.
Climb Untersberg mountain. In another list of Free Things to Do, I suggested climbing Kapuzinerberg in Salzburg’s city centre. For the more adventuresome, here’s another challenge: Set aside a day and climb Untersberg, the tallest Alp near Salzburg. The best trail head lies just over the German border on the S160/B305 just before Marktschellenberg. A number 28 bus from Salzburg will get you there. The elevation at the trail head is about 450 metres; at the top of the trail, the elevation is about 1,450 meters, an ascent of approximately a kilometre. The climb requires moderate fitness and some head for heights above the tree line, but among locals it is a popular activity for young and old alike.
Maria Plain Pilgrimage Church. Sitting high on a hill just at the northern border of Salzburg is Maria Plain, a gracious Baroque church visited by pilgrims from around the world. It contains an image of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child that’s said to be miraculous because it survived a fire in the city of Regen in Bavaria during the Thirty Years War of the 17th century. The site of the church was already considered to be a pilgrimage site, so the Prince-Archbishop of the time commissioned a church here to house the painting.
Not only are the church and its contents interesting, the view from the hill where the church stands is spectacular. To the north you can see the Salzach snaking along toward the plains. To the east, you can see Salzburg laid out, with the domes and spires of its many churches.
Photo by Lorraine Seal
Friedhof Cemetery. For many, the cemetery next to the Franciscan church of St Peter is famous because of its connection with the film, The Sound of Music. In a largely fictional account of the Von Trapp family’s exodus from Salzburg, the film has family members hiding in a set re-creation of this lovely cemetery. Be that as it may, it’s worth a visit nearly any time of the year because of its charming grave markers and bright flowers. The oldest cemetery in Salzburg, it is filled with statuary and remarkable relief sculptures, wrought-iron markers, many of them brightly painted, and an abundance of flowers and shrubs. Surrounded by the domes of nearby churches and the ancient catacombs carved into Mönchsberg flank, it is a fascinating place to visit.
Photo by Lorraine Seal
Follow the Art Trail. The Salzburg Foundation has, since 2002, commissioned artists to create public art to supplement the city’s cultural standing with a collection of contemporary sculpture. Perhaps the best known of these works is the large bronze ball topped by a standing man, which is installed in the large platz immediately west of the Dom. What many don’t realise is that there is another component to that sculpture, a much smaller statue of a woman tucked into a niche on Mönchsberg side.
The foundation offers information about the works and where to find them as well as background on the sculptors that created them. It makes an interesting way to see the city, on the trail of its modern sculpture.