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The sound of music in Salzburg

My kind of place: Mozart's hometown has retained its character while refusing to get totally trapped in the past, writes Celia Topping.
The fortress Hohensalzburg and the old town of Salzburg. Courtesy of Tourismus Salzburg
The fortress Hohensalzburg and the old town of Salzburg. Courtesy of Tourismus Salzburg

Why Salzburg?

Standing on the terrace of the Museum der Morderne, atop the rugged cliff face of Mönchsberg Mountain, the view is of a proudly historic city not afraid to harness modernity.

The MdM is an icon of minimalism; its white marble interior a far cry from the meticulously preserved Baroque towers and churches of the Old Town quarter below. It stands with a quiet confidence, an important part of Salzburg's cultural fabric, offering a new way to appreciate the city's old-world legacy.

Located on the northern boundary of the Alps, Salzburg enjoys panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and rolling valleys beyond a charming built environment.

That it was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart only broadens its appeal, underpinning a thriving cultural scene. During summer, thousands of music and drama lovers flock to the Salzburg Festival (this year, it's July 19 to September 1).

Until October, enthusiasts can visit Mozart's former home and view a collection of historical portraits that give an alternative view to the classically handsome man in a white wig and red velvet jacket that we have come to know (www.mozarteum.at).

Salzburg hosts world-class concerts all year round, but to revel in all things Mozart, a luxurious dinner show in the Baroque Hall at Stiftskeller St Peter will take you back to 1790 (www.salzburg-concerts.com).

A comfortable bed

In a city steeped in history, it's fitting to stay at a hotel such as Hôtel Bristol (www.bristol-salzburg.at). The five-star property is located in Old Town, opposite Mirabell Gardens, noted for its geometric layout and mythological sculptures. The Bristol's 60 rooms are themed to portray various periods in art and theatre. Standard double rooms start from €225 (Dh1,077), including taxes.

Your dirham may stretch further across the Salzach river in New Town, which, despite the name, is not devoid of old-world charm. The NH Salzburg-City (www.nh-hotels.de) is a good mid-range option and only a 10-minute walk to Old Town. The fit-out is quite plain, but it's clean, efficient and the buffet breakfast will set you up for a day of sightseeing. A standard room costs €103.50 (Dh496), including taxes.

Find your feet

For a bird's-eye view - and to tick off some of the main tourist attractions in one outing - venture up Festungsberg Mountain, a 1,800-foot summit that sits directly behind Old Town.

The Festungsbahn funicular takes sightseers to the doorstep of one of Europe's largest and best-preserved fortresses, Hohensalzburg Fortress, built in 1077. A FestungsCARD costs €11 (Dh53), and includes a round trip and entry to the fortress courtyards, staterooms and museums.

From the fortress, Monchsberg path takes you to a network of summit walks, or it's a quick descent to Old Town. It's easy to pass half a day exploring the ruins and castles dotted around the summit.

Meet the locals

Buy fresh produce from the Schrannen market, in front of the spectacular St Andra Church, where local farmers have been selling their wares since 1906. Early birds can see the market being set up from 5am, and be among the first to sample regional delicacies such as Bauernkrapfen pastries and Austrian cheeses with freshly baked bread. It is open Thursdays, 5am to 1pm.

Book a table

Foodies in Salzburg are spoilt for choice. For a less touristy experience than you are likely to find in Old Town, head to Linzergasse, a quaint cobblestone street known for its independent craftsmen, merchants and, nowadays, restaurants. There are plenty of options, from casual pizzerias that sprawl out onto the pavement to intimate fine dining.

For an atmospheric experience and dependably good Austrian fare, step down into the rustic cellar of Gasthof Alter Fuchs (0043 662 882 022). Hearty meals such as Wiener schnitzel, roasted meats and dumplings are served by lederhosen-clad waiters. Alter Fuchs is often booked solid with a reassuring mix of locals and tourists, so be sure to call ahead. Mains are €10 to €21 (Dh48 to Dh101).

The romantic won't want to pass Hotel Schloss Mönchstein (www.monchstein.at) on Mönchsberg Mountain, with its sweeping views and fancy five-star fare. Mains are €18-€34 (Dh86-Dh163).

Shoppers' paradise

Getreidegasse is the city's main shopping street, a bustling pedestrian strip through the heart of Old Town. Restaurants and boutiques tuck tastefully within landmark buildings, their elaborate façades holding fanciful wrought-iron signage. Even McDonald's conforms.

Bakers, furriers, confectioners and tailors give the street a wholesome feel, such as the costume designer Trachten Stassny, which produces traditional dirndls with a modern twist. Two of the most intriguing shops include Kirchtag, a century-old umbrella maker, and Knopflmayer, with its thousands of varieties of buttons.

Luxury and high-street fashion brands are also plentiful. The flagship store of Austrian label Betty Barclay is hard to resist, with its party frocks and casual chic. For men, Wanger has Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Hugo Boss and many other international brands. The shopping is expensive though, so you may consider settling on a few trinkets while soaking up the surroundings.

What to avoid

Chocolate Mozart balls, or Mozartkugel, make a nice gift but are usually overpriced in souvenir shops and markets. The supermarkets carry the same mass-produced Mirabell variety for half the price.

Don't miss

Take The Sound of Music tour. Yes, it's cheesy, but a really fun way to spend half a day, too. Besides visiting locations where the classic 1965 film musical was set, the tour takes you to the Salzkammergut lake and mountain region, which is hard to reach without a car. We took a Gray Line tour (€35 per adult [Dh168]; www.grayline.com/Salzburg).

Getting there

Return flights with Etihad (www.etihad.ae) from Abu Dhabi to Munich cost from Dh2,250, including taxes. Rail Europe (www.raileurope-gcc.com) runs multiple daily services from Munich to Salzburg from €35 (Dh168) per adult, one-way.

weekend@thenational.ae

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Updated: July 18, 2013 04:00 AM

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