March 20, 2009 / 11:27 AM / 10 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Salzburg

SALZBURG, Austria (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore the musical, magical Austrian city of Salzburg?

Visitors look at musical instruments displayed at the exhibition "Viva Mozart" celebrating Mozart's 250th birthday in Salzburg's New Residence in this file photo from January 26, 2006. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to the city that is the birthplace of Mozart, and ground zero for “The Sound of Music.”


6 p.m. - Check into your hotel which, in a place with many centuries of hostelry tradition, can be a big part of the experience. At the high end, the Hotel Sacher, which opened in 1866, offers elegance on the banks of the River Salzach, which bisects the town.

In the older part of the city, a few steps away from Mozart’s birthplace at 9 Getreidegasse, the rambling but posh “The Goldener Hirsch” hotel celebrated its 600th year in 2007. More modest accommodations offering a warm welcome and a nice price abound around the train station and in the Nonntal area, at the foot of Hohensalzburg Fortress.

8 p.m. - It’s hard to go hungry in Salzburg and it is possible to eat well on a budget. For a cheap-eat find, next door to Mozart’s birth house and the pricey but excellent restaurant at the “Goldener Hirsch,” the “Nordsee” chain offers seafood dishes, from 2 euros ($2.74) and up.

Higher up the food chain, but with great location and good prices, the Bio Wirtshaus Hirschenwirt, behind the Mozart birth house at Saint-Julienstrasse 23, does echt-Austrian wursts, schnitzels, pork cutlets, zander fish and kraut for about 20 euros per person.

10 p.m. - So you’ve been here four hours (not counting the ludicrously short trip from the airport) and you haven’t heard any music? Possibly because you didn’t book any tickets?

The bar/club scene is the answer and while it doesn’t hold a candle to Vienna, it’s possible to while away a few hours in four venues clustered together on the south bank of the Salzach.

For those admitting they are “mature” tourists, start at Chez Roland at Giselakai 15. Not everyone inside is acting their age, but the cellar decor is winning and the wine good. The downside on a recent visit was a sound system that made Alan Parsons’s “Year of the Cat” seem longer than a Wagner opera.

The insanely popular Watzmann, two minutes away, turns up the volume and doles out drinks by the bottle — Grey Goose vodka in spiffy techno-carrier trays for the madding crowd.

Music-lovers will enjoy Finnochio or, last but not least, Daimler’s, where the locals who can’t squeeze in to Watzmann go.


10 a.m. - Hotels serve stupendous breakfasts but for some reason, about an hour later, you may feel hungry again, especially when you see those tortes, cakes, strudels and various and sundry in the cafe and “bakerei” windows.

Austrian cafes are famous and perhaps Salzburg’s best known is Tomaselli at Alter Markt 9. This bustling but easy-going old world cafe serves 14 types of coffee and every form of Mittel-Europa cake and pastry imaginable. Newspapers hung on racks, pet dogs sitting with their masters, friends greeting friends and making new ones, it’s a microcosm of Salzburg.

If that is not enough to enrich your day, hazelnutty Mozart “Kugeln” candies, are available just about everywhere.

Salzburg is a place where you can breathe in culture, and calories, while standing still.

12 p.m. - If it’s the annual “Mozart Woche (Week)” musical fete in January for Mozart’s birthday (he was born on January 27, 1756), you will already have missed the 11 a.m. concert. But Salzburg abounds in museums, shopping opportunities and wonderful walks — most of them not strenuous, except for hiking up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress and Museum on the hill behind town, best done by the fortress funicular, which is Austria’s oldest.

2 p.m. - The downtown pedestrian area around Mozart’s birth house offers almost every fashion house known to woman or mankind. From Hermes to Gucci to a range of local or Austrian brands, they’re all here, in charming boutique versions, up and down narrow cobbled alleyways.

Other attractions include the Museum of Modern Art — up on the heights above the city, another Mozart house containing one of the pianos he played, plus a famous family portrait, and about 35 churches, some of which are stunning.

7:30 p.m. - This is the musical witching hour, when the performance usually begins, be it at the old-style Mozarteum, the Grosses Festspielhaus where the late Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan ruled the roost, or the “Haus fur Mozart,” a modern hall alongside.

During “Mozart Woche” it is mostly recitals, orchestral concerts and chamber concerts with top-notch musicians like Andras Schiff, Magdalena Kozena, Mitsuko Uchida, Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim dropping by. For the summertime Salzburg Festival, it’s concerts and operas, with stellar casts.


10 a.m. - After all that music, and possibly another stop in the Four Sister Bars of the Apocalypse, perhaps it’s time for a relaxing boat cruise on the Salzach. From spring through fall, the boat leaves regularly and takes a leisurely cruise up and down the river.

12 p.m. - Another no-stress possibility is to visit the salt mine just outside of town — Salzburg takes its name from the trade in salt that went on for centuries along the river. And there are sidetrips to some of the charming surrounding villages to while away an afternoon.

2 p.m. - Have we left enough time? Can you still get a ticket? If you are among its legions of fans, then you will not want to miss one of the seemingly innumerable official “Sound of Music” film tours.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Many of the exterior shots for the 1965 classic musical starring Julie Andrews as the governess Maria and Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp were shot in Salzburg — giving rise to a movie tour industry catering largely to Americans.

An estimated 300,000 people — double the city’s population — visit Salzburg each year just to view the steps the von Trapp children skipped up and down during the song “Do-Re-Mi,” and other such heartwarming (or blood-curdling, depending on your point of view) sights.

Whenever you go, Salzburg is a city steeped in music, usually of the very highest caliber. And the hills, of course, are alive... (Writing and reporting by Michael Roddy, editing by Paul Casciato)

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