Sitting astride the river Salzach and surrounded by alpine peaks, Salzburg's stunning setting is matched by culture, history and baroque architecture far out of proportion to its modest and easily navigable size. It started in Roman times as a salt-mining town, grew to be prestigious as an archbishopric and remained autonomous until 1816. Its Mozart and Sound of Music connections are big attractions, but Salzburg also has avant-garde museums and a buzzing restaurant scene.
You'll learn plenty about music, genius and period history on the Mozart trail, which starts at his Birthplace (mozarteum.at) in the old town, where you can see the Mozart family's apartment and musical instruments. The Mozarts later moved to the Mozart Residence (mozarteum.at), which now covers the history of the composer and his times. The mid-summer Salzburg Festival (salzburgerfestspiele.at) is one of Europe's top classical music events; at other times of the year the Mozarteum (mozarteum.at) hosts regular concerts.
Braustubl zu Mulln (augustinerbier.at), a beer tavern that has been brewing since 1621, serves foaming tankards of beer, hearty buffet meals and traditional Austrian music to get your inner oompah going. Restaurant Sternbrau (sternbrau.com) is a gastronomic landmark of Salzburg's old town, dishing up Austrian classics such as liver-dumpling soup, goulash, schnitzel and sausages with sauerkraut. Have a nightcap at rooftop Steinterrasse (steinterrasse.at) accompanied by a gorgeous old-town panorama.
Who could resist following in the footsteps of the von Trapps? Start off outside Nonnberg Convent and skip down to the gorgeous Mirabell Gardens (stadt-salzburg.at) with their do-re-mi flight of steps and fountain. The 1736 lakeside Schloss Leopoldskron (schloss-leopoldskron.com) stood in as the family home and is now a hotel that supplies another deja-vu movie moment, though not the glass pavilion in the garden, which has been moved to Schloss Hellbrunn (hellbrunn.at).
Explore the harmonious and rather splendid baroque-era old town before visiting the ornate Residenz (salzburg-burgen.at), home of the archbishop-princes who once ruled the city. Salzburg Cathedral (salzburger-dom.at) opposite is an outstanding example of baroque architecture. Hoof up to Hohensalzburg (salzburg-burgen.at), where you'll enjoy a fine castle and alpine views. Then get contemporary with a visit to Hangar-7 (hangar-7.com) aviation and art museum and the exceptional Haus der Natur (hausdernatur.at) science museum.
Hotel Sacher Salzburg (sacher.com) has magnificent views over Salzburg and the Salzach and combines five-star luxury with sedate and impeccable Austrian family service from the minute maroon-clad doormen usher you inside. High-ceilinged rooms have elegant period appeal and a calming simplicity, with meticulous luxe finishes, and shutters provide the perfect darkness for deep slumber. Don't forget to try the family's original and famous sachertorte in the cafe for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
You'd be mad to visit Salzburg and not venture into surrounding Salzburgerland (salzburgerland.com), where the lake-studded alpine scenery is never short of splendid. Two big attractions are the Hallein Salt Mine (salzwelten.at) and Eisriesenwelt (eisriesenwelt.at), the world's largest ice caves.
The writer was a guest of the Austrian National Tourist Office (austria.info/au).