Salzburg: ancient and modern

by Paul.Wade

Music, Mozart and chocolates...that's Salzburg, right? Wrong. The city associated with The Sound of Music, also boasts leading edge art, architecture and trendy restaurants

Salzburg is all about The Sound of Music and Mozart, right? Wrong. The city certainly ticks all the emotional boxes for lovers of musicals and classical music; the Getreidegasse, with its baroque houses, ornate shop signs and cobblestones is busy with visitors during the day. But there is another side to the handsome city on the banks of the Salzach River. 

For example, I have never had lunch in an aircraft hangar before. And even if I had, it would not have been as stylish as Ikarus, the Michelin-starred gastro-experience in Hangar-7 at Salzburg airport. A pet project of Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz, the soaring glass and steel hangar is also home to his collection of planes and contemporary art. It’s the sort of place where Austrian dads and their sons go to bond.

There is more modernity, as well as tradition, up on the ridge that runs high above the city. We board the funicular that trundles up to the menacing fortress, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, then stroll along Mönchsberg. In under half an hour, we reach the Museum der Moderne, the top modern art museum that is usually referred to as the ‘Shoebox’ by Salzburgers. The exhibitions are usually just as daring, as if to deliberately challenge the city’s more conventional image. As for the museum’s m32 restaurant, the views alone are worth the price of the funicular, or the effort of climbing up the hill from the city. Whether you take a table on the terrace or stay inside, you can have a coffee or lunch, a glass of champagne or dinner.

Hitting the shops

We like nothing better than wandering through the old streets, peering into the tiny shops. In Vom Fass (Goldgasse 5), we join locals who are buying not only malt whisky on draft, but also wine, olive oils and vinegars. Equally fun is Sporer (Getreidegasse 39). Small and bustling, this is not just a bar. A good range of Salzburg province schnapps is sold here, and a bottle of blackberry liqueur makes a fine souvenir.

We find another local speciality high on the 2,000-ft Kapuzinerberg hill, thick with tall beech trees. The path up is easy enough and after 45 minutes or so, we reach the monastery named for the Capuchin monks, who have lived here for 400 years. We stop in their tiny café and order a glass of home-made Holunderblumensaft, a refreshing elderberry flower cordial. Then it is an easy 30-minute stroll down again.

Coffee and cake

When in Austria, we always try to do as the Austrians do – and that means stopping for coffee and cake. On the Alter Markt square, we have a choice. Fürst is where they created, and still make, the yummy Mozart chocolates, wrapped in silver foil. On the other hand, Mozart himself, Herbert von Karajan and Niki Lauda have all sipped coffee at Tomaselli, a 300-year-old institution, where the chocolate cakes, Strudels and berry tarts are still irresistible.

To be more like a local than a tourist, grab a hot sausage in a bun at Mosert’s during the Friday and Saturday market. Or chat to the owner of the candlelit Vinothek am Kajetanerplatz for his suggestions of Austria’s best wines by the glass. Not forgetting that Austrians also love their beer. On the edge of town, Stiegl has been brewing since Christopher Columbus discovered America; now you can tour Stiegl-Brauwelt, Europe’s biggest beer exhibition, drink the brew and stuff yourself with more sausage. Oh…and did I mention that Mozart drank Siegl?

Musical interludes

And that brings me back to Mozart and to Maria. Visit Wolfgang’s birthplace and take in a concert. Take a sing-along Sound of Music tour, stopping at locations where the film was shot more than 40 years ago: the Felsenreitschule, where Baron von Trapp sang 'Edelweiss'; the Leopoldskron Palace that doubled as the von Trapp residence; the Residenz Square, where Maria sings 'I have confidence in me' as she travels by bus to the Trapp Villa, and the Mirabell Gardens, where she and the children warbled 'Do-Re-Mi'.


Getting there

Ryanair ( flies direct from London Stansted, and easyJet ( from London Gatwick. Or you could travel overnight using Eurostar, Deutsche Bahn (German railways; 08718 80 80 66,

Places to stay

arthotel Blaue Gans: stylish boutique hotel in a 650-year-old building.

Hotel Stadtkrug: traditional and family-run. 

Salzburg Mitte: funky, modern and just the opposite of the olde worlde Salzburg feel.

Places to eat

Carpe Diem: open all day for trendy finger food served in cones: think goose liver with mango chutney, fillet steak with mashed potatoes; in old town (0662 848800,

m32: the Museum der Moderne’s restaurant with great city views; modern Austrian cooking such as guinea fowl with a tomato risotto (0662 841000,

Ikarus: in Hangar-7 at the airport. Star chef, 21st-century setting, an experience with imaginative dishes such as rabbit with barley, Brussels sprouts and cranberry vinaigrette (0662 219777,

Top tip

Get a card - the 72-hour Salzburg Card provides travel on public transport, plus entry to over 25 museums and attractions, including Mozart’s House. For tourist information, contact Salzburg Tourist Office: 0662 889 870;



Travel-mad ever since exploring Europe by train as a child. Has lived in the USA and Spain, as well as the UK. Speaks Spanish, French, some German, and good at waving arms enthusiastically. Reckons that local dishes and drinks are the best way to understand a country. Award-winning writer for national newspapers, magazines, as well as author/editor of some 30 books. Favourite places are in specialist areas such as New England, Canada, Austria, France and Italy: a Vermont village, eating lobster in New Brunswick, walking in vineyards in Styria, cycling along the Loire Valley, eating lunch on a terrace in Capri.