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WHY GO NOW?
Winter is an ideal time to visit this enchanting Alpine city. There are far fewer tourists than in summer, and Salzburg's rococo skyline looks especially pretty in the snow. And next month (5-29 March), the city that gave us Mozart hosts its first Biennale – a new festival of new music (00 43 662 840 1990; salzburgbiennale.at).
Fly to Salzburg's Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart airport, just 3km west of the city centre, from Gatwick on British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) or easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com); from Stansted on Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com); from Leeds/Bradford on Jet2 (0871 226 1 737; jet2.com); or from Exeter or Southampton on Flybe (0871 522 6100; flybe.com).
Trolleybus 2 (00 43 800 660 660; salzburg-ag.at) leaves Salzburg airport every 10 minutes (half-hourly on Sundays) and takes 25 minutes to reach the Hauptbahnhof (main station) (1), within reasonable walking distance of the city centre.
A single ticket costs €1.80, but if you plan to see the sights, your best bet is to buy a Salzburg Card for €30 from the newspaper kiosk at the airport. It provides 48 hours unlimited public transport, plus free entry to almost all the attractions covered here. You can also buy one in most hotels, or at the two tourist offices at the Hauptbahnhof (open 8.15am-8.30pm daily) and on Mozartplatz (2) (open 9am-7pm daily) (00 43 662 889 870; salzburg.info).
Salzburg combines well with Munich, featured here last week; trains between the cities take as little as 90 minutes for a fare of €29 (08718 800 866; bahn.co.uk).
GET YOUR BEARINGS
Salzburg's medieval Altstadt is sandwiched between the fast-flowing river Salzach and the Mönchsberg – a huge cliff that towers over the old town like a wall. Most of the main sights are crowded into the cobbled streets below, and many visitors never venture beyond this network of narrow alleys. However, there's also lots to see and do (and far fewer sightseers) in Salzburg's baroque Neustadt, on the other side of the river.
For a peaceful refuge from the coach parties that besiege the city centre, the four-star Hotel Auersperg (3), at Auerspergstrasse 61 (00 43 662 889 440; auersperg.at), is ideal. It's hidden down a side street in a quiet corner of the Neustadt, but the Altstadt is only a short walk away. Smart yet understated, with a secluded garden and rooftop spa, it's a tranquil urban hideaway. Doubles from €130, with breakfast.
On a tighter budget (doubles €90, with breakfast), the three-star Bergland Hotel (4), at Rupertgasse 15 (00 43 662 872 318; berglandhotel. at), is a quaint alternative, around the corner from the Auer-sperg, and has been run by the same family since 1912.
TAKE A HIKE
Salzburg is bliss for pedestrians, with plenty of car-free lanes. A circular tour of the Altstadt will acquaint you with many of the highlights. Start at the tourist office on Mozartplatz (2), and admire the sculpture in honour of the composer. If you time your visit right (7am, 11am and 6pm), the carillon should ring out from the nearby Archbishop's Palace.
Slip away from the crowds by aiming south-east towards Kajetanerplatz (5), then bear right to the foot of the Nonnberg steps (6); if you can summon up the energy, a diversion to the lovely priory at the top is worthwhile. Kaigasse leads to Kapitelgasse and Kapitel-platz (7); here, take snaps of the majestic 18th-century fountain and its statues of Neptune and rearing horses – it was once used as a trough by the archbishops' horses.
Make your way into Domplatz (8) and along Franziskanergasse, past the Franciscan Church (9). Admire the beautiful structures along Hofstallgasse, beneath the escarpment, then swing around into Universitatsplatz (10), the location of an outdoor market.
If you want more than the market (10) has to offer, Salzburg's prettiest shopping street, the Getreidegasse, is just north. The original and finest Mozartkugeln (pralines made of chocolate, nougat, marzipan and pistachio) are sold at Café-Konditorei Fürst (11) at Brodgasse 13 (00 43 662 843 7590; original-mozartkugel.com); 8am-9pm daily (Sundays from 9am).
For a more authentic shopping trip, cross to Neustadt and take a stroll along Linzergasse (12) , where the locals hang out. One of the most fascinating shops in Salzburg is open only nine hours a week (Friday 2pm-6pm and Saturday 9am-2pm): Postgeschichte Weissenbock (13), at Wolf Dietrich Strasse 6a (00 43 1586 3222; wiener-werkstaettepostkarten.com, sells antique postcards of Salzburg or virtually anywhere else in Austria from as little as €1.50.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
Salzburg's Weissbierbrauerei (14) at Rupertgasse 10 (00 43 662 872 2460; dieweisse.at) is best known as a brewery and bierkeller, renowned for its malty wheat beer, but it's also known for its hearty, high- quality cuisine. Located in a residential neighbourhood, it attracts a lively local crowd.
Expect to pay about €15 for a filling main course (sausage, cabbage and fried potatoes is typical) plus a couple of tangy Weissbiers to wash it down. Open 10.30am to midnight, daily, except Sunday (meals served 11am-11pm).
Mozart was born and raised in an upstairs apartment in Salzburg's Altstadt, and spent his late teens and early twenties in a house in the Neustadt, over the river. Both buildings are now museums, and despite all the trinkets in the gift shops, they're not as sentimental as you might suppose.
Mozarts Geburtshaus (15) at Getreidegasse 9 (00 43 662 844 313; mozarteum.at), where the composer spent his childhood, is more atmospheric, with some dreamlike installations by the American stage designer and director Robert Wilson.
Mozarts Wohnhaus (16), at Makartplatz 8 (00 43 662 8742 2740; mozarteum.at), where the composer lived as a young man, is more informative, with an intimate selection of his letters and a comprehensive archive of his recordings. Both museums open 9am-5.30pm daily, admission €6.50 each – but only €10 for both with a joint admission ticket.
Salzburg is a beer-drinking city. Pick of the bierkellers is Augustiner Brau (17) at Lindhofstrasse 7 (00 43 662 431 246; augustinerbier.at), a cavernous hall beside a monastery, where Augustinian monks have brewed their own beer since 1621. Collect a litre (€5.20) or half-litre (€2.60) earthenware mug, wash it out and fill it up with crisp lager. It's open 2.30pm-11pm at weekends (from 3pm during the week).
DINING WITH THE LOCALS
A chic boutique hotel in a medieval building, the Blaue Gans (18), at 41-43 Getreidesgasse (00 43 662 8424 910; blauegans.at), is also one of Salzburg's best restaurants, with a menu that reflects the ethos of the hotel: traditional local staples served in a light international style.
A plate of Tafelspitz (boiled beef) will set you back €17.80, and an Austrian cheese platter costs €12.90, but if you fancy something lighter, you can choose a big salad for €4.80. Closed on Sundays.
SUNDAY MORNING: OUT TO BRUNCH
Café Tomaselli (19), at Alter Markt 9 (00 43 662 844 4880; tomaselli.at), is Austria's oldest coffee house (founded in 1705), and Salzburg's most elegant rendezvous. Everyone from Mozart to Herbert von Karajan has enjoyed the coffee here. Tomaselli's forte is its homemade cakes (tarts €3.40, strudels €3.10) but if you prefer something savoury they can rustle up a ham- and-cheese omelette for €7.20. Open from 8am to 9pm on Sunday, 7am-8pm during the rest of the week.
GO TO CHURCH
Salzburg was an independent bishopric until the fall of Napoleon, and its ecclesiastical heritage has left it with a wealth of historic churches. There are English services at 5pm in the flamboyant St Peterskirche (20), but Salzburg's most arresting place of worship is its Italianate cathedral, St Rupert's (21) where there is a sung Mass every Sunday at 10am. With a heavenly choir and majestic organ music, it's the best free concert in town (although contributions are welcome). On your way out, don't miss the precious relics in the Cathedral Museum (00 43 8047 1870; kirchen.net). Open 11am-6pm on Sundays, 10am-5pm other days, €5.
TAKE A RIDE
Built in 1892 and still going strong, Austria's oldest funicular, the Festungsbahn (22), at Festungsgasse 4 (00 43 4480 9750; festungsbahn.at), runs up the Mönchsberg to the Festung Hohensalzburg (23) at Mönchsberg 34 (00 43 8424 3011; salzburg-burgen.at), a thrilling knights-in-armour castle that dates back to the 11the century. The €10 admission covers the funicular, the fortress and several museums inside. Open 9am-7pm daily.
The Mönchsberg is also the location of the city's Modern Art Museum (24), a pleasant 1km walk away at Mönchsberg 32 (00 43 662 842 220; museumdermoderne.at). This bold, brutalist gallery is a great place to see some of Europe's best touring exhibitions, and its sleek restaurant, M32, is a great spot from which to admire the Alpine vista below. Open 10am-6pm daily (Wednesday until 9pm), admission €8.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Fans of The Sound of Music will adore the Mirabell Gardens (25). In the film, this was where the Von Trapp children sing "Do-Re-Mi". For a longer stroll, first catch bus 25 for around 15 minutes to Helbrunn (26) (00 43 820 3720; hellbrunn.at). In this grand Schlosspark, you'll find the gazebo where Liesl and Franz first met to sing "Sixteen Going On Seventeen".
WRITE A POSTCARD
Compose your missive over a glass of Stiegl lager in a classic Salzburg bierkellers, the Stieglkeller (27) at Festungsgasse 10 (00 43 662 842 681; imlauer.com; 10am-11pm daily). Its leafy garden has great views over the Altstadt.
ICING ON THE CAKE
You really shouldn't leave Salzburg without hearing some of Mozart's joyous music, performed in the original venues where it was first played. The ideal location is the Barocksaal of the Stiftskeller St Peter (00 43 662 828 6950; tiny.cc/skp75), carved into the cliff opposite St Peterskirche (20).
Stiftskeller St Peter itself is reputedly Europe's oldest restaurant, with records dating back 1,200 years (the Emperor Charlemagne ate here in 803). A Mozart dinner-concert at costs €48 including an "18the-century" three-course meal, while singers and musicians perform the greatest hits from The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.Reuse content