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Austria from Mozart to Strauss

Jonathan van Bilsen



November 3, 2023

Austria from Mozart to Strauss

Having been born in the southernmost part of the Netherlands, travelling to the Rhine was less than an hour away and even exotic cities like Vienna and Salzburg, were all doable in a relatively short time.

Both the Rhine and Danube are spectacular rivers, with extremely picturesque country sides, dotted with castles and historic buildings. One of my favourite cities of the region is the Austrian city of Salzburg, named after the salt mines it was once famous for.

Salzburg is of course the home of the great composer, Mozart, born in 1756, and a visit to the house where he was raised is an interesting experience. It is located along the main square of the city, surrounded by very picturesque buildings.

If castles are your thing, there is no shortage. Hohensalzburg, a majestic fortress nestled atop a hill, is a must see. Make sure to take the funicular for a scenic ride and enjoy breathtaking views of the city below.

Another must see attraction in Salzburg is Schloss Leopoldskron. I was transported back in time to an era of grandeur and elegance. This historical gem, dating back to the late 18th century, was originally built for the Archbishop of Salzburg and was used as a filming location for the classic movie ‘The Sound of Music’.

Another favourite locale of mine is the gardens at Mirabell Palace. They offer a mesmerizing landscape with perfectly manicured lawns, vibrant flowerbeds, and charming sculptures. It is a great place to stroll leisurely and joy the picturesque foliage.

I have been to Salzburg several times and always make time to visit the Cathedral. Upon entering, you are immediately captivated by the stunning architecture, with its towering spires and intricate detailing. The interior was equally impressive, adorned with magnificent frescoes and ornate statues.

The highlight of the visit was undoubtedly the abbey's library, which houses a trove of ancient manuscripts and books. The shelves adorned with leather-bound volumes stretch as far as the eye can see.

No visit to Austria is complete without a stop in Vienna, the country’s capital. Vienna's vibrant cultural scene is a haven for art lovers. The numerous museums and galleries, such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Albertina, house exquisite art collections that highlight the city's artistic legacy.

Beyond its architectural marvels and cultural treasures, Vienna boasts scenic parks and green spaces that offer respite from the bustling city streets. The charming Prater Park and the tranquil Vienna Woods are perfect for leisurely strolls, picnics, or simply basking in the natural beauty that surrounds the city.

One of the most spectacular churches is St. Stephen's Cathedral, rich in history and breathtaking beauty. Construction on the cathedral began in the 12th century and continued for over seven centuries, resulting in a stunning combination of architectural styles, from Romanesque to Gothic.

My next stop was Hofburg Palace, which dates back to the 13th century. It served as the residence of the Habsburg dynasty, one of Europe's most influential royal families.

You may have heard of the Lipizzaner stallions and visiting the Spanish Riding School is a must. I was captivated by the rich history and a magnificent display of equestrian artistry. The Spanish Riding School, founded in 1572, is one of the oldest riding schools in the world and has preserved the classical tradition of haute école riding.

My adventure continued with a visit to the Vienna State Opera. It is historic and prestigious and one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Its rich history dates back to its opening in 1869.

Attending a performance at the Vienna State Opera is a truly enchanting experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the world of classical music and be captivated by the performances of talented artists. The opera house has a seating capacity of around 2,200, ensuring a grand and intimate atmosphere for each performance.

Probably the most well-known palace in all of Austria is Schönbrunn Palace, built in the 17th century. Schönbrunn Palace was originally a hunting lodge, but was later expanded by the Habsburg emperors to become their summer residence. It served as the residence for numerous emperors and empresses, including Maria Theresa and her famous son, Emperor Franz Joseph.

Walking through the palace's lavish halls, adorned with beautiful frescoes and exquisite chandeliers, I was in awe of the grandeur that surrounded me. The elaborately decorated rooms, like the Mirror Room and the Great Gallery, showcased the lavish lifestyle of the imperial family.

The palace also boasts a stunning garden, featuring meticulously maintained flowerbeds, labyrinthine paths, and a magnificent Neptune Fountain. I enjoyed taking a leisurely stroll through the gardens, soaking in the beauty and tranquility that they offered.

If you have an opportunity to visit Austria during the weeks leading up to Christmas, do it, for you will never be in a more magical place on earth.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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