With its hills alive with the sound of Mozart, baroque grandeur, white gleaming spires and a warming winter atmosphere, the enchanted city of Salzburg is an Austrian gem
Nestled in a punchbowl at the foot of the Alps, Salzburg is an enchanted city. A cobalt blue river runs through its centre. The baroque towers and spires are as white as the gleaming snow-capped foothills that you can gaze at from almost every street corner. Look up high and you will see the ashen fortress that has protected Salzburgers for centuries.
An independent ecclesiastical principality governed by elected archbishops until 1803, the city has retained an air of exclusivity and Hapsburgian grandeur. Then, of course, there’s Mozart. Salzburg was his birthplace, and his spirit is everywhere from the house where he was born, now a museum, to the yearly festivals held in the week of his birthday (January 27).
What to do
Soak up the classy atmosphere of Getreidegasse, probably the city’s most famous shopping lane. Warm your cockles in the Tomaselli café (reputedly the oldest coffee house in the whole of Austria and one of Mozart’s hang-outs), and then embark on serious sightseeing.
In the old town (now a Unesco World Heritage Site) there’s the handsome cathedral, claimed to be the most impressive early baroque building north of the Alps. Visit Mozart’s birthplace on Getreidegasse where the composer is brought to life by architect Robert Wilson’s use of light and sound installations. Punctuate the culture with shopping in Salzburg’s stylish boutiques. Make sure you pass through Mozart Platz, where his statue stands, and Kapitelplatz with its giant chessboard. The Franciscan church is also a must-see, with its three different architectural styles (romantic, baroque and gothic).
Then, head for the hills. On one side of town is the Museum of Modern Art (00 43 662 842 220 401), spacious and thought-provoking, with a superb restaurant/café, Mönchsberg 32 (www.m32.at). Stop here for a glühwein while the sun sinks over the Sound of Music scenes below. On the facing hill is the Festung Hohensalzburg (00 43 662 842 43011), an 11th-century citadel surrounded by gleaming white walls. Inside there are museums and look-out points with magnificent views of the Alps. Afterwards, take in an evening concert at the Mirabell Palace. Ascend a magnificent staircase adorned with cherubs to a gilded and marble concert room with superb acoustics.
Where to stay
Hotel Sacher on Schwarzstrasse is the place to stay. You’ll be following a parade of the well known and well-to-do from Woody Allen to the Dalai Lama. For something upbeat try the funky Blaue Gans, Getreidegasse. Rooms are arty and modern, though the building itself is 100 years old. Hotel Goldene Ente, Goldgasse is right in the middle of town and one of Salzburg’s oldest inns with lots of interesting antiques and artwork.
Where to eat and drink
For innovative cuisine, Carpe Diem (00 43 662 848 800) could be a world first. All dishes come served in cones, each with a delicious fusion of ingredients, from pickled perch with artichoke in a polenta cone to yellowfin tuna with avocado and ginger in a pumpkin cone. The atmosphere is vibrant – it’s where all trendy locals go.
For traditional regional dishes there’s plenty of choice. Go for the places away from the main thoroughfare such as Humboldt Stubn (00 43 662 843 171) serving succulent veal and delicious vegetarian food. Or try Hagenauerstuben (00 43 662 842 657) for its hearty local atmosphere and home-made chocolate speciality – Venus Nipples.
For an utterly Austrian high-society evening, go to Stiftskeller St Peter (00 43 662 841 268 0). The food is tasty, and if you book in advance you can make your visit coincide with a Mozart concert by local musicians. A little way out is Auerhahn (00 43 662 451 052). Go there if you’re after fabulous Austrian cuisine at reasonable prices. Try a soup with pumpkin oil made only from the seeds of pumpkins grown in the Steiermark region – earthy and delicious.
Time running out?
Nip to the Café Konditorei Fürst chocolatier for some rich and tasty Mozartkugel (Mozart chocolate-truffle balls).
The Salzburg card is a ticket to a successful stay. It gives access to all public transport and historical sites of interest.
Currency is the euro. Salzburg is one hour ahead of GMT and a two-hour flight from London.
Austrian Airlines (0870 124 2625; www.aua.com) flies to Salzburg via Vienna from Heathrow six times a day. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) flies to Salzburg from Stansted three to four times a day.
Salzburg Tourist Office: Auerspergstraße 6 (00 43 662 889 870; www.salzburg.info). Visit the website for seasonal opening hours.
Mozart’s Women by Jane Glover (Pan Books, £6.99). A detailed and compelling study of the important role that female influences had on the life and work of the genius composer.
This guide first appeared in Food and Travel magazine.