With some of the most atmospheric Christmas markets in Europe, hearty cuisine and snowy vistas, there’s no better time to explore Mozart’s birthplace, says Lizzie Frainier
Why go? Home to Mozart and The Sound of Music, it’s no surprise Salzburg holds a variety of classical concerts worth travelling for all year round. However, this is a city best-suited to winter. The Unesco-listed Altstadt (old town) fills with traditional Christmas markets and the smell of freshly baked apples, snow floats on to the domes and turrets of its medieval architecture and the alpine panoramas towering above are certainly worthy of a yodel.
What to do Get stuck into the Christmas markets held from 17 November – 26 December right away. You’ll find them in Mirabell Square, Hellbrunn Palace and Sterngarten but our favourite is in the Altstadt. The quality of the traditional handicrafts is excellent and you can pick up plenty of knitwear, wooden toys and gingerbread. On Saturday afternoons, linger on Cathedral Square to witness the Christkind. You may feel you’ve had one glass of mulled wine too many when you see these ethereal ‘angels’ dressed in white and gold robes with feathered wings. Music echoes throughout the square as choirs and brass ensembles perform on the cathedral steps. Later, visit Mozart’s birthplace mozarteum.at where you will find haunting portraits and his first violin. Across the river, Mozart’s Residence is much grander. Read an extensive collection of the classical composer’s letters and piece together his colourful life story. For snowy scenes, ride the 19th-century funicular 98m up to Fortress Hohensalzburg alzburg-burgen.at and explore the mountaintop. The courtyard is the best place to gaze down at people below before touring the ornate royal apartments.
Where to stay? Salzburg is small enough to cover on foot, no matter where you bed down. Stay at Hotel Bristol 00 43 662 873 557, bristol-salzburg.at and find antiques, chandeliers and rooms inspired by different historical eras. Opt for a bedroom at the front for great night-time views across the Salzach River up to Fortress Hohensalzburg bathed in spotlight. We also love Auersperg 00 43 662 889 440, auersperg.at for its quiet location and rooftop spa, complete with sauna and steam room, making it an ideal urban oasis. If you’d rather be right in the thick of it, Blaue Gans 00 43 662 842 491, blauegans.at is your pick. Housed in the city’s oldest inn, the interiors have been given a modern update with more than 120 original works of art and chic wooden accents. On the main shopping street in the new town, you’ll find Hotel Amadeus 00 43 662 871 401, hotelamadeus.at where you can book a room with a four-poster bed and wake to the sound of the tolling bells from nearby St Sebastian’s Church.
Where to eat and drink? Austria’s hearty cuisine is perfect for cold winter nights but Salzburg also offers more refined dining options. Michelin-starred Carpe Diem 00 43 662 848 800, carpediemfinestfingerfood.com is superb. Think succulent venison with Hokkaido pumpkin and saddle of lamb with artichoke. For more traditional fare, dine at Andreas Hofer Weinstube 00 43 662 872 769, dieweinstube.at and feast on Wiener schnitzel (a thin cutlet of pan-fried veal) and bread dumplings with lashings of sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). Barenwirt 00 43 662 422 404, baerenwirt-salzburg.at feels like an Austrian hunting lodge with wooden benches and an oven warming the room. Bring your appetite for huge portions of backhendl (fried chicken) and potato salad. Street food here comes in the form of sausage stands. Try the spicy bosna sandwiched between two slices of white bread and topped with fried onions at local institution Balkan Grill at Getreidegasse 33. In Austria’s hops capital, you’d be remiss to not fill your stein with some frothy märzen lager from a wooden barrel. You can do it for $6 a litre at Augustiner Brau 00 43 662 431 246, augustinerbier.at one of the largest hops cellars in Europe.
Time running out? Make like Julie Andrews and visit the baroque Mirabell Palace and Gardens (you’ll recognise the fountain from the Do Re Mi sequence). Singing and skipping, optional.
Trip tip Stop for a slice of Sachertorte at Sacher Café 00 43 662 889 770, sacher.com, where the world-famous cake was invented. Expect a rich wedge of chocolate with an apricot jam filling.
Currency is the euro. Time is one hour ahead of GMT. Flight time from Dubai is 9 hours. The cost to carbon-offset is $11.51. For more details visit climatecare.org
Emirates flies to Salzburg via Vienna from Dubai daily. emirates.com
Turkish Airlines flies to salzburg via Istanbul from Dubai daily. turkishairlines.com
Salzburg City Tourist Board offers a calendar of upcoming events and local transport information. salzburg.info
The Salzburg Tales by Christina Stead (Virago, $7) is Austria’s version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, with interlinked stories told by many narrators giving an overall picture of the city.