Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart, is a city in central Austria, near the German (Bavarian) border with a population of some 150,000 in 2013. If you have seen the movie The Sound of Music , you may think you know all there is to see in Salzburg. Admittedly, it is difficult not to spontaneously burst into song when you’re walking along the Salzach River, or climbing up to the Hohensalzburg fortress which looms over the city. But there is a lot more to this compact, courtly city than Julie Andrews.
Salzburg is the fourth-largest city in Austria (after Vienna, Graz and Linz) and the capital of the federal state of Salzburg. Its “Old Town”, with its world famous baroque architecture, is one of the best-preserved city centers in the German-speaking world and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Origins of name
The name Salzburg literally means “Salt Fortress”, and derives its name from the barges carrying salt on the Salzach river, which were subject to a toll in the 8th century.
Early history and medieval period
Traces of human settlements dating to the Neolithic Age, and later a Celtic camp, have been found in the area. Starting from 15 BC, the small communities were grouped into a single town which was named by the Romans as Juvavum. Little remains of the city from this period.
The Festung Hohensalzburg, the city’s fortress, was built in 1077 and expanded in the following centuries. Independence from Bavaria was secured in the late 14th century.
Salzburg has been the capital of an independent state from the early 14th century until 1805. It was ruled by prince-archbishops, who became rich from the salt mines located in the south of the city. This led to the architectural gem you see today as not only materials, but also architects, were imported from Italy and other European countries. This is also the reason why, compared to other Austrian cities, sacred monuments outnumber the few secular buildings. This is how Salzburg got its nickname as “the Rome of the north”. Everywhere you go in this city, you see and read about the legacy of the Archbishops.