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Establishing a dialogue between site management and residents in the Historic Centre of Salzburg (Austria)

A community engagement programme has allowed the city of Salzburg to improve the connection between the Municipality and local residents, providing key data and inputs for the sustainable development of the World Heritage site. 

About Salzburg

Salzburg is a mid-size city in Austria, capital of the province of the same name. With a population of over 155,000 people and an area of nearly 90km2, Salzburg is the 5th largest city in Austria. The economy of the city is strongly driven by culture and cultural tourism, and the city received c. 6 million visitors in 2019.

© Stadt Salzburg/Info-Z

The Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1996 under criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi). Salzburg has managed to preserve an extraordinarily rich urban fabric, developed over the period from the Middle Ages to the 19th century when it was a city-state ruled by a prince-archbishop. Its Flamboyant Gothic art attracted many craftsmen and artists before the city became even better known through the work of the Italian architects Vincenzo Scamozzi and Santini Solari, to whom the centre of Salzburg owes much of its Baroque appearance. This meeting-point of northern and southern Europe perhaps sparked the genius of Salzburg’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose name has been associated with the city ever since.

© Stadt Salzburg/Info-Z

The State of Conservation Reports presented to the World Heritage Committee between 2000 and 2021 highlight ongoing issues regarding the legal and management framework, especially regarding the construction of new development in a way that preserves the Outstanding Universal Value of the site and respecting the existing urban scale and historic patterns. In 2021, the World Heritage Committee reviewed a number of development projects, some of which were completed before agreement was reached on their designs. The Committee welcomed progress made concerning the introduction of new regulations for large-scale developments near the buffer zone and the submission of the revised Management Plan, and requested further updates, as well as a comprehensive Urban Land Use Plan and HIAs for projects which may have a negative impact on the OUV of the property. (Decision 44 COM 7B.41)

According to the site manager, some of the challenges faced by the site include urban development pressures, mass tourism, traffic, infrastructure, a long-standing legal framework (developed in 1967) and the revision of the management plan. On the other hand, the city sees its cultural heritage as a source of opportunities, such as its festival tradition and cultural events.

Establishing a dialogue between site management and residents in the Historic Centre of Salzburg

In order to improve the communication between local residents and the site management authority, a number of community events called “Mülln in dialogue” were organised between 2016 and 2018. The programme included community workshops, meetings, tours, open days, questionnaires and a photo exhibition. The events were co-organised by the City of Salzburg and the Old Town Traders’ Cooperative, with the intention to raise awareness about World Heritage values, inform local residents and collect their input on the challenges and potential future of the historic areas. At the same time, the programme allowed the Municipality to collect data on population, workplaces, businesses and history of the city centre.  

© Stadt Salzburg/Info-Z

As a result, the site managers report an increased sense of identity and awareness of the historic development of the city for local residents. At the same time, the programme had several tangible outputs, such as improved street lighting, bike routes, a publication about the history of the city, the re-opening of the historical cemetery and, most importantly, a collection of citizens’ ideas for political decisions. 

Overall, the programme was seen as largely successful, with large participation numbers and a high interest in the initiative. According to the site managers, the outcomes and impacts have been clearly positive, and the project will be revisited in 15-20 years. The experience has taught the site managers that sustainable living starts with local identity, as only a permanently inhabited city is sustainable. Residents need to identify with their surroundings and have a say in the conservation and development of their own cultural heritage in order to ensure a sustainable future for the World Heritage site.  

Source: Mr Alexander Würfel and Ms Susanne Mayer, Department of Urban Development and Building Authority, City of Salzburg. 

Presentation of the case study by the site manager during the Celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The project aims to contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by promoting residents’ engagement in the management and conservation of urban heritage and identifying key challenges and solutions in a participative manner. 

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Civic engagement tools

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

The initiative aims to contribute towards Sustainable Development by addressing the following Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  • Target 11.3: the initiative aims to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation.
  • Target 11.4: the initiative aims to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage.

Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.

To learn more

© Stadt Salzburg/Info-Z


MA 5/ Department of Urban Development and Building Authority, City of Salzburg, Austria.


Mag. Alexander Würfel, Head of legal department.


DI Susanne Mayer


© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez, Federico Rudari.
All images © Stadt Salzburg/Info-Z

Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.