With over six million visitors every year (over 250,000 of whom come to the acclaimed festival, which got under way last weekend and runs until the end of August), Salzburg has no shortage of hotels, but it can be hard to find a decent place to stay. If you fancy somewhere more personal than the Sheraton (but just as comfy), the Hotel Auersperg is the ideal hideaway.
Family-owned and run, it's intimate yet stylish, with none of that bland anonymity which bedevils so many chain hotels. It's quintessentially Austrian, but there's not a trace of Alpine kitsch – no lederhosen, stuffed animals or antlers on the walls. A pleasant hotch-potch of antique and modern décor, it's a proper slice of Salzburg chic, rather than Sound of Music schmaltz.
The Auersperg gets a lot of repeat business, and it's easy to see why. The walled garden is a real rarity in a compact city where green space is at a premium. Sitting out here in the summertime, you feel more like a private guest in a close friend's house than a paying customer in a hotel. There's no restaurant, but the buffet breakfast is delicious and the convivial bar serves hearty snacks, nourishing enough for brunch or supper.
Hotel Auersperg, Auerspergstrasse 61, Salzburg, Austria (00 43 662 889 440; hotel-salzburg.net). Situated in a quiet side street in the heart of the baroque Neustadt, the Hotel Auersperg is a welcome refuge from the tour groups that besiege the city centre. The medieval Altstadt is only a short walk away, yet most sightseers never venture out this far. Mozart's wife and father are both buried in the local cemetery, and the wooded cliffs of the Kapuzinerberg are at the bottom of the road. The Linzergasse, where most Salzburgers go to shop and socialise, is just around the corner, with as many good restaurants as you'll find in the Altstadt, and a fraction of the tourist traffic.
Time from international airport: Salzburg's WA Mozart airport is only 3km from the city centre. A taxi costs about €20. Alternatively, the number two bus leaves the airport every 10 minutes, terminating at the Hauptbahnhof (central station), 10 minutes' walk from the hotel.
With 52 rooms housed in two adjacent fin de siècle buildings – the main house and the "villa" – the Auersperg feels more like a private club than a conventional hotel. The furnishing in the bedrooms is smart yet understated. The public spaces are more historic, with some fine period furniture and many original works of art. The rooftop spa has a sauna, a steam room and a sun terrace, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The rooms in the adjoining villa are a bit more basic, but slightly cheaper. There's no concierge in the villa either, which is perfect if you prefer the privacy of apartment living to being pampered in a deluxe hotel.
Freebies: free parking, free bike hire, unlimited access to the spa.
Keeping in touch: free Wi-Fi throughout, flat-screen TVs and direct dials in all rooms, DVD players in superior rooms and suites.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at €145, including breakfast, rising to €188 during the festival and at Christmas, New Year and Easter.
I'm not paying that: the three-star Hotel Bergland (00 43 662 872 318; berglandhotel.at) is a few minutes' walk up the road. The building is fairly modern but the interior is quaint and charming. Doubles from €90, including breakfast.