Austria: A weekend in Salzburg

By Will Hawkes

Will Hawkes spends 48 hours in the city of Mozart's birth and finds there's more to it than music and marzipan.

Salzburg's sublimely manicured Mirabell Gardens are the perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing. Photo / Thinkstock
Salzburg's sublimely manicured Mirabell Gardens are the perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing. Photo / Thinkstock

WHY GO NOW?

Salzburg is always a magnificent prospect, but August is when the Austrian city really comes alive, courtesy of the annual Salzburg Festival.

This year, the festival (which runs until September 2) includes 242 performances of opera, theatre and concerts, staged in 17 venues. Many will feature the music of the city's favourite son: Mozart. Tickets are hard to come by for one of the central performances - The Magic Flute - but those wanting a Mozart fix should check out the Mozart Matinees.

Performances of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Jedermann, which is staged in the Cathedral Square, are an annual highlight.

For more information on events see salzburgerland.com.

TOUCH DOWN

W A Mozart Airport is 4.8 kilometres southwest of the city centre. Trolleybus No 2 departs for the city's main train station every 10-20 minutes, taking 20 minutes. Tickets cost €2.10 (NZ$3.20) from newsagents in the terminal or from the bus driver. A taxi to the station will cost between €10 and €14, depending on traffic.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Salzburg is divided by the Salzach river: many of the most interesting tourist sites are in the Altstadt (old city), on the south side of the river, although the main station is on the north side, in the Neustadt (new city).

Getting around the city is easy because of its fairly compact size, but those who wish to take the bus would be well advised to invest in a Salzburg Card, which includes not only public transport but entry to most of Salzburg's most popular sites. A 48-hour ticket costs €34 and is available from the tourist office on Mozartplatz in the old town.

CHECK IN

Hotel Auersperg, located in the Neustadt at 61 Auerspergstrasse, is modern and relaxed. Doubles from €155, including breakfast.

For those on a budget, Motel One at 92-94 Alpenstrasse is ideal although you are some way from the city centre: buses number 3 and 8 will take you back into town. Doubles start at €59; a buffet breakfast is €7.50 per person.

Rather grander is the Hotel Bristol at 4 Makartplatz, which has played host to Sigmund Freud and Emperor Franz Josef over the years. Doubles start at €225, including breakfast.

DAY ONE

Take a hike

Start in the Neustadt at the tranquil elegance of St Sebastian's Cemetery, where some of the city's most famous sons and daughters, including Mozart's relatives, are buried.

From there, head south along Linzer Gasse, checking for "stumbling stones", copper plaques in the ground that pay touching tribute to residents who were deported during the Second World War.

Once you reach the river, turn right and cross Makartsteg bridge, from which hangs thousands of padlocks, placed by couples in a display of love.

On the south side, head for Getreidegasse, the old town's narrow, atmospheric main shopping street. Take a right through the Schatz-Haus passage into Universitätsplatz, home to a small food market. Turn left down Churfürststrasse and continue until you reach Residenzplatz, where you'll find the city's magnificent Baroque cathedral (website in German).

Turn south and cross Kapitelplatz, then take the funicular railway up to the Hohensalzburg (€11), a huge, brooding medieval fortress.

Lunch on the run

Close to the fortress is St Peter Stiftskeller at 1 Sankt-Peter-Bezirk, a restaurant that claims to have served its first meal in the year 803. At its centre is a courtyard, where you can tuck into tafelspitz, boiled beef with fried potatoes and spinach for €20.50.

Window shopping

Expect to find international superbrands such as Louis Vuitton at 45 Getreidegasse. Those looking for something a little more local should seek out Jahn-Markl (website in German) at 3 Residenzplatz, which sells traditional Salzburger attire - including, of course, lederhosen.

Take a ride

There are more than 170km of designated cycle lanes, but you don't have to get too out of puff if you rent a Movelo bike, with a small electric motor. Prices vary but expect to pay €15 for a half-day. There are 10 hire locations in the city and two for recharging.

An aperitif

Salzburg is Austria's beer capital, so there's only one thing you should be drinking. The most charming spot to drink it is the Augustiner Bra at 7 Lindhofstrasse. Fetch your stoneware stein, pay for the beer (€6 a litre), and then watch it be filled with sweetish, mellow Märzen from a wooden barrel.

Dining with the locals

At the Tardis-like Die Weisse (website in German), 10 Rupertgasse (closed Sunday), find a spot in the chestnut tree-shaded garden and try one of the local dishes such as schweinekotelett, roast pork with dumplings and cabbage (€12.90).

Bärenwirt (website in German) at 8 Müllner Hauptstrasse, also serves excellent traditional cuisine.

DAY TWO

Sunday morning: Go to church

There are plenty of churches in Salzburg - such as the Franciscan church at 5 Franziskanergasse, whose Romanesque origins can still be spotted underneath its Gothic splendour. The key religious site in Salzburg is the cathedral dedicated to Saint Rupert. High Mass is at 10am with a regular mass at 11.30am.

Out to brunch

In a city so rich with views, it can be hard to decide which is the best - but M32 at 32 Mönchsberg, the restaurant attached to Salzburg's Museum of Modern Art, has a decent claim. From here you can see pretty much all of this magnificent place and enjoy a variety of breakfasts, or even dive straight into an early lunch. The 'Vital' breakfast (€10.90) includes coffee or tea, freshly squeezed apple or carrot juice, wholegrain bread and yoghurt.

Cultural afternoon

Having finished your brunch, wander into the Museum of Modern Art (10am to 6pm daily except Monday; to 8pm Wednesday; €8). An exhibition devoted to John Cage, the American musician, runs until October 7, 2012.

Down in the town you'll also find the Panorama Museum at 9 Residenzplatz (open 9am-5pm daily; €3), which has a huge amount of paraphernalia from The Sound of Music and a magnificent panoramic 19th-century image of the city by Johann Michael Sattler.

For Mozart-fans, a visit to his birthplace at 9 Getreidegasse (open 9am to 5.30pm daily; €10) is a must.

A walk in the park

Cross the river from the old town for a stroll in the sublimely manicured Mirabell Gardens. It's the perfect spot for a break from sightseeing.

Icing on the cake

At the Hotel Sacher, 5-7 Schwarzstrasse, you'll find the Sacher Café, one of two homes (the other is in Vienna) of the Sachertorte, a rich, luxurious chocolate cake. A slice costs €4.90.

If that's not enough for you, make your way to Paul Fürst (website in German) on Alter Markt, the home of the Mozartkugel - a chocolate, nougat and marzipan sweet costing €4 for a pack of three. There are many imitators but locals insist Fürst's is the original (invented in 1890) - and the best.

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