48 hours in Salzburg

Mozart's city is a city of chocolate, beer and coffee served with a mountain of cream. But music is the local delicacy.



...crowds flocking into the city for the various festivals: Mozart week in late January; Easter; and the main summer festival which lasts from late July to the end of August. At these times, hotels get booked up months in advance.


Although Salzburg is a great year-round destination, early summer is, to my mind, the perfect time to visit: the climate is pleasantly warm, and the crowds who congregate for the summer festival have not yet started to arrive. Music-lovers need never feel deprived: whatever the time of year there is always a concert on somewhere in the city.


The Mirabell Gardens, on the right bank of the river, is the place where Maria von Trapp and all those children ran around singing "Doh, a deer..." - at least in the Hollywood version of their story. In spite of all that, it's still a very pleasant place for a stroll.


No one flies direct to Salzburg from the UK, so, given that you will have to change somewhere, the cheapest option is to fly with Go (08456 054321) from Stansted to Munich; there are three flights a day, and fares start at £80. A train goes from Munich airport to the main railway station, and from there, the direct train to Salzburg takes just under two hours.


Culture in Salzburg can be summed up in one word: Mozart. He was born in a house on Getreidegasse, christened in the Cathedral, where he was later a chorister, and moved with his family to a bigger place on Makart Square. There is a monument to him in the square which now bears his name, and he wrote the music which is played at most of the many concerts taking place every night in various city venues. Of all this, the family home - the Mozart Wohnhaus - is the most interesting to visit. You are given an individual Walkman, and you walk around listening to music composed for some of the instruments which are on display.


The elegant cathedral, with its greyish-white interior, was built in the 17th century, and rebuilt after its dome was bombed during the war. The only colour comes from the paintings inside the dome, and on the barrel- vaulted ceiling. The sung Mass at 10am every Sunday is worth hearing even if you are normally a non-churchgoer.


Musical purists might scoff, but try not to miss the opportunity of seeing the Salzburg Marionettes performing one of the operas of Mozart, or other selected composers, in their own elegant little theatre on Schwarzstrasse. Although the music is all recorded, and most of the time you can see the strings, the puppets are so lifelike that there are moments when you could believe you were looking at real people up on the stage.


Head for Rudolfskai, on the left bank of the river. The Altstadtkeller is a lively place, and the Wiener Schnitzel here is as good as any: the accompanying live music isn't too distracting, and the service is pleasant. If you prefer something more discreet, though, go up the road to Zum Mohren, where the food is consistently good.


The old - and frankly rather twee - part of Salzburg is sandwiched between the Monchsberg mountain and the river Salzach. Most of this part of town is pedestrianised, which makes visiting much more enjoyable, but adds to the feeling of unreality which pervades the Altstadt. Across the river, the Kapuzinerberg mountain towers over a more modern city. The tourist information office in Mozartplatz is the place to buy a Salzburg Card, which for about £10 will give you free entrance to the city sights for 24 hours.


Once you get to the top, Hohensalzburg and its grounds are worth exploring. It is the largest fortress in central Europe, and is an exceptionally solid structure. Built in the 11th century, it survived a peasants' revolt and was only slightly damaged by Napoleon. On the way to the Prince-Archbishop's private apartments, you pass the Salzburg Bull, an ancient organ which once played every day at four in the morning as a sort of civic alarm call. Walk back down towards the city by the Nonnberg Priory, where once the nuns wondered how they could solve a problem like Maria - von Trapp that is - Salzburg's other musical legend.


If you are not energetic enough for mountain-climbing, take the cable- car which whisks you the short distance up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. The journey only takes a couple of minutes, and is worth it for the view over the city alone. The cable-car station is at the side of St Peter's cemetery, and the cost of the ticket includes the entrance to the grounds of the fortress.


Although white wine is a popular drink in Austria these days, the real favourite is beer. Stiegl is the local brew, and you should find a glass of it in any of the old city cafes.


On the principle of "when in Rome", it would be unfortunate to miss out on that excellent Austrian custom of coffee and cakes. The cakes come in many varieties - Sachertorte and Black Forest gateau are only the beginning - and the coffee comes with a mountain of whipped cream. Try the Cafe Tomasselli on the Alte Markt.


Mozart is the theme here too, unless you are looking for jewellery or Austrian fashion. The local speciality is the Mozartkugel, a chocolate- covered ball of chocolate truffle with a marzipan centre. There are playing- cards, notecards and ties covered with musical motifs, and fruit liqueur in violin-shaped bottles. If you want a more lasting souvenir, the shop at the Festschpielhaus has an excellent selection of live recordings from past Mozart festivals.


The hotels in the Altstadt are the most convenient, since most of the places you will want to visit are within a short walk. Try the Hotel Elefant, in Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse (00 43 662 843397); until the end of June, a single room is Sch950 (about £47.50), and a double Sch1,480 (£70); from July to October a single will cost you Sch1,150 (£55), and doubles start at Sch1,700 (£80). If you have a car, you are better off on the other side of the river, where parking is easier. Try the Hotel Auersperg, in Auersperg-Strasse (00 43 662 889440), where single rooms start at Sch1,290 (£60) and doubles at Sch1,740 (£83); during the festival (23 July until the end of August) singles are Sch1,490 (£70) and doubles are Sch2,140 (£102).


There are plenty of city-centre places which serve lunch - light is not a word to apply to Austrian food. Cafe Streif, at Getreidegasse 50, is a pleasant choice, with a selection of frankfurters, sauerkraut and other typical dishes.

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