With picture-perfect views, pretty baroque architecture and a charming old town, Salzburg makes for an invigorating city break.
Visitors will feel energised by the whirl of cultural events throughout the calendar in Mozart’s birthplace and can sample delicious Austrian fare.
Here’s how to see the best of it in 48 hours.
With picture-perfect views and pretty baroque architecture, Salzburg makes for an invigorating city break
Day one – morning
Flights from the UK usually arrive late morning. After touching down, check in to the Hotel Goldener Hirsch on picturesque Getreidegasse – one of the oldest and most enchanting hotels in Europe. Its guests have included everyone from Maria Callas to Placido Domingo and Julie Andrews. It also happens to be just a few doors from the house where Mozart was born.
Take a stroll from the hotel across cobbled Karajan Platz, past the famous Horse Pond, with its 17th Century frescoes and equestrian statue, where parade horses from the Prince of Salzburg’s stables used to be groomed.
Take a horse-and-carriage ride to Salzburg Cathedral, founded in 774
Get your first taste of Salzburg hospitality in the 300-year-old Cafe Tomaselli, with its rococo marble tables and parquet floors.
It is frequented by men in lederhosen and women in snappy trachten jackets. Choose from a selection of 200 cakes, including the legendary sachertorte, and revive yourself with the house coffee, which comes with chocolate liqueur, whipped cream and flaked almonds.
From the square, take a horse-and-carriage ride to Salzburg Cathedral, founded in 774 and completed in baroque style in 1629. During weekdays and on Saturdays, there are daily concerts between Mass.
Salzburg has plenty to offer those with a sweet tooth
Have a late lunch at nearby Zirkelwirt, Salzburg’s oldest restaurant. Try the beef consomme with semolina dumplings, roast pork with white beer sauce and dumplings, and finish with traditional curd cheese strudel.
Most of old Salzburg is pedestrianised, but the streets can involve vertiginous climbs. Walk off your lunch by visiting Mozart’s birthplace, now a museum, on Getreidegasse, where there are always performances of his most famous compositions.
Afterwards, saunter to the winter markets on Residenzplatz, the heart of the old town, below the often snow-capped Hohensalzburg Fortress. There is always choral singing to accompany mulled cider, punch, sugared nuts, stollen and baked apples. There are some really lovely ornaments for sale, as well as exquisitely carved music boxes, linen and cheeses.
Due to the salt mines found in the Middle Ages, the archbishops of Salzburg were the richest in Austria. Wrap up and cross the bridge to the romantically lit Mirabell Palace, built in 1606 by Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich. Its opulent marble hall is the setting for nightly chamber concerts. Afterwards, head back to the restaurant in the Goldener Hirsch for tafelspitz (a local delicacy of boiled beef) and Salzburgerknockerl – an egg-white souffle baked to resemble the peaks of the three mountains that surround the city.
Day two – morning
Walk to the Alter Markt for breakfast at Cafe Furst, founded in 1884. The house specials include the famous Mozartkugel, a pistachio and marzipan ball covered in chocolate and served on sticks, and Salzburger schilling, a crunchy baked nougatine. Alternatively, try the poppy seed brioche in the shape of a crescent.
A cardboard-cut-out reminder of the city’s most famous resident
Return flights to Salzburg cost from £43 with Ryanair (ryanair.com), from £85 with British Airways (ba.com) and from £88 with easyJet (easyjet.com). Classic rooms at the five-star Hotel Goldener Hirsch cost from £228 a night (marriott.com). The Salzburg Festival (July 18 to August 30) is celebrating its centenary. For details, see salzburg.info.
After breakfast, potter along the river and take in the local shops. Buy a traditional loden coat at Lanz of Salzburg. Then climb up the hillside road to the Hohensalzburg Fortress to marvel at its turreted ivory splendour.
Built in the 12th Century, the fortress recreates tableaux of medieval life. By the time you have toured the castle and made your way back to the Alter Markt, you will have worked up a hearty appetite. Sate yourself at Restaurant Triangel at 7 Philharmonikergasse – foodies judge it the best restaurant in Salzburg.
Sit at one of its cosy wooden tables and have a white wine spritz before choosing between veal goulash with home-made noodles, trout with truffled potatoes, or pork belly with white cabbage.
Round off your meal with apricot pancakes.
Return to the hotel and take a taxi to Schloss Hellbrunn, ten minutes out of Salzburg. The gardens are famous for their trick water features (prepare for a drenching, should you choose to take the guided tour). You can catch a bus from here to Schloss Leopoldskron, with its swan lake, which becomes a skating rink in winter. Watch the sunset turn the sky an iridescent rose-pink, known as Alpine glow.
Have an apricot brandy at the cosy bar at the Goldener Hirsch, which has a roaring fire. Then venture out into the bracing Salzburg air and spend the evening at one of the city’s famous Fortress concerts. (If you can’t face another walk up the hill, take a horse and carriage and snuggle under fur rugs.) The concerts take place in the resplendent Golden Hall and include a three-course dinner in the panoramic restaurant.