Simply breathtaking SalzburgPosted on: 09 December 2009 by Mark O'haire
Picture book pretty, Salzburg is a mosaic of cobblestone alleys, Baroque architecture, museums and a splendid castle that overlooks the city.
Mozart's City' is quite simply one of the most romantic destinations in Europe, a chocolate box beauty of soaring church spires and rambling cobbled streets, topped off with a castle and embraced by the Alps all around.
The Sound of Music, in both senses, sifts through the old streets with dependable regularity as it has ever since Mozart called Salzburg home and not a lot has changed since the eighteenth century; this is not a city for the avant garde or harbingers of change.
Well geared to tourists there are charming luxury hotels, Mozartkugel chocolates and numerous classical recitals, making this a perfect weekend break destination for those who like their city breaks with a serious dash of culture.
Hohensalzburg Castle is the place to start, offering guided tours as well as sweeping views out over the city. The city's ecclesiastical buildings can easily swallow up a whole day: don't miss the Nonnberg Benedictine Convent, Salzburg Cathedral, the Church of St. Cajetan, the Church of St. Michael and the Archbishop's Palace.
Mozart lovers should head to Mozartplatz, where his statue sits, as well as his birthplace, before following in his footsteps with a coffee at the Café Glockenspiel. A horse and cart tour is an enjoyable way of getting a feel for the city. Hiring a guide is the best way to get under the skin of a city whose every building seems to have at least one tale, tall or otherwise, behind it.
Salzburg's shops cater for its tourist visitors in style, though prices are by no means cheap. If you are in the market for Mozart memorabilia you have come to the right place with a phalanx of Mozart themed options from chocolates (the Mozartkugel) through to ornate figurines so you can take your very own Mozart home. Chocolates are generally a very good buy with a sprinkling of excellent shops dotted throughout the old quarter.
Austrian cooking in itself does not exactly enjoy worldwide acclaim, but given the number of well-heeled tourists breezing through the city there are some very good restaurants. Influences from Germany, Italy and France combine with the hearty local cooking to offer plenty of choice.
Traditional dishes include the Salzburger Nockerl (soufflé omelette) and strudel (most commonly apple). On a cold winter's day Kassuppe (cheese soup) is a welcoming warm option.
Salzburg's cafes are legendary. Settle in with a coffee (which will usually come complete with a glass of still water and a wafer/biscuit) and an expertly crafted cake and slip back in time. Café Glockenspiel was Mozart's favourite café, but for a coffee with a view make the effort to get up to Café Winkler, high up the hillside behind the city, with great views of Salzburg as it spills out around the banks of the Salzach river.
Salzburg is far too refined to be a real party city. It was undoubtedly more nefarious in Mozart's time, but these days it has settled into a relaxed middle age where it does not have to try too hard with trendy bars or buzzing nightclubs.
A night out in Salzburg starts with an aperitif in one of the city's classy bars, before a light dinner in anticipation of the main event, a classical music performance in one of the city's grand venues.
This is what Salzburg does best; try to arrange tickets in advance to avoid disappointment, though even last minute arrivals can usually manage to arrange something. Many visitors time trips to coincide with the city's various music festivals.
The hills are indeed alive with the Sound of Music so if you want to live out all your Julie Andrews fantasies just head out of the city for a spot of hiking. A great way of exploring the surrounding area is hiring a car and making a loop around the mountain villages and towns, stopping of at a restaurant for a hearty traditional meal as you go. Mozart fanatics can head for sleepy St. Gilgen, where the composer's mother was born.
Getting There & Around
The introduction of direct budget airline flights from the UK has really opened up Salzburg. The airport is just outside the city with the railway station on the other bank of the river.
Getting around on foot is easy given the small size of the city, though there is an efficient bus network for those who need it or want to make trips out of town. Taking a horse and cart tour can be a fun hour's distraction.
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