Walking through Salzburg is like reading a piece of poetry. The perfectly manicured buildings of the Old Town, their domes and spirals cutting through the sky towards the surrounding hills and mountains, will charm you as you stroll down the winding streets, each of them a testament to the brilliance of the Baroque architecture. Dominating the city’s skyline is the Medieval fortress of Hohensalzburg – a captivating piece of history offering fantastic views of the city.
Salzburg is a place of decadence, a sugar-glazed cherry on top of the cake of Austria’s architectural splendour, and it should be enjoyed appropriately. Bite into a slice of Salzburg’s culinary history at one of the city’s many restaurants, as opulent in style as the meringue-like swirls adorning the buildings’ façades. Enjoy a cup of a deliciously rich hot chocolate or a piece of sachertorte at Tomaselli, Salzburg’s oldest cafe, before you go for a wander to the rhythm of classical music which is bound to be playing from one of the open windows. Appropriate, given that Salzburg is home to Mozart and a location for The Sound of Music.
Salzburg is a treat to all senses and it doesn’t take a hopeless romantic to fall in love with this city. The best way to enjoy Salzburg is on foot – the Old Town is quite small and all of its landmarks are within walking distance from each other. Start by taking a walk down Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s main shopping street and, as you will discover, a homage to the city’s most famous confectionery, mozartkugel, displayed in the plethora of colours in every café window. To try the original mozartkugel, head straight to Fürst where the chocolate was invented and is produced according to the original recipe until this day. To continue your shopping, cross the river towards Linzer Gasse, otherwise, keep walking straight to venture further inside the historical centre. Once you do, don’t forget to stop at Mozart’s Birthplace at no.9 Getreidegasse, directly opposite the charming Hagenauer Square.
If you’re feeling hungry, turn right into the Medieval lane Sigmunt Haffner Gasse and stop at Beerhouse Zipfer for a hearty (and may I add, a very reasonably-priced) meal. Not your usual beerhouse, the place will greet you in a truly decadent Salzburg fashion, with stunning wooden interiors and a richly ornamented coat of arms dominating one of the walls. Take in the atmosphere as an immaculately dressed waiter makes his way to your table across the polished parquet floor, to present you with a meal served on a vintage silver tray. In Salzburg, even the simple act of dining out has a bit of magic to it.
The architecture of the Old Town, mapped out by intricately ornamented burghers’ houses, will enchant you regardless which way you decide to go next, however, my suggestion is to visit Alter Markt. Home to two famous cafes, Tomaselli and Konditorei Fürst, The Old Marketplace is surrounded by pastel rows of doll-like houses, many of them dating back to the Middle Ages but overlaid with more modern façades. From here, you can walk down Goldgasse, a narrow passageway once famous for its goldsmiths, which will lead you to Residenzplatz. This large square with a richly ornamented fountain as its centrepiece is home to two palaces, bringing together Renaissance and Baroque styles.
An unlikely landmark in this city of colour and splendour are the unassuming catacombs, perched on the back of St. Peter’s Abbey. The catacombs are carved into the rock of the Festungsberg hill; once you’re inside, surrounded by the smell of mould and damp rock, you will forget for a second that you’re still in Salzburg. Climb the dim-lit, stone-built stairs to visit a few small rooms with altars and faded murals and stop at the bell tower to enjoy the city view.
The real treat, however, is admiring Salzburg from the top of the Monchsberg hill. While wandering through the baroque lanes gives you a taste of the city’s beauty, seeing Salzburg from above, with all its gentle curves and sublime details mixed together in a painting-like perfection, is the final touch that you need to fully appreciate this city.
To see the view, take the Monchsberg lift at the entrance to the Museum of Modern Art (€3.50 return) or, if you prefer, walk up – it will take you approximately 15-20 minutes. The lift will take you to the Observation Terrace where you will be greeted by the classic view of Salzburg, with the fortress dominating the skyline. To change your perspective, walk along the hill towards the fortress; here, you will get a better view of the mountains and get to see the buildings from up-close. Alternatively, you can visit the fortress and climb the ‘Reckturm’ watchtower for a 360° panoramic view of the city.
Regardless which vantage point you choose, the view will be equally magical and breathtaking. If Salzburg hasn’t stolen you heart, this is the point at which it will.