Grand Escapes: A Sweet Mix of Old and New in Salzburg, Austria
In the north-west of Austria, surrounded by Alpine peaks and dotted with centuries-old architecture, Salzburg, a picturesque medieval town of 150,000 inhabitants, is filled with a sizeable amount of cultural landmarks.
For many international travelers, however, the most recognizable thing about this riverside town is that this is where many scenes from. The sound of music have been filmed, and a huge percentage of visitors come specifically to see these Silver Screen locations. Many of them only come a few hours before heading to their next destination or returning to their cruise ships.
As fun as it may be to live out your Maria von Trapp fantasy for half a day, there is plenty to do in Salzburg as it has nothing to do with climbing every mountain or fording every stream.
For history (and beer) buffs, for example, there’s the huge Stiegl brewery, which was erected in the 15th century; the imposing Hohensalzburg fortress, which dominates Salzburg, is one of the largest on the continent; the city played an important role during the Protestant Reformation, and it is covered with innumerable baroque churches; and then there is the wonderful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Despite the impressive number of imitators you might see walking around Vienna, it was actually in the old town of Salzburg that he was born.
And more contemporary experiences are superimposed that speak to today’s Salzburg, where the von Trapps are only a small part of the story. Austria has just announced that it has reopened its borders to American travelers, which means that there is no better time to find out what makes this city black and white other than now.
WHERE TO STAY
For classic luxury, there’s really only one choice: the Sacher Salzburg Hotel, the five-star mainstay that has been home to politicians, royalty and celebrities since the 19th century. Its riverside perch offers stunning views of the Old Town, but inside it’s all about feeling like stepping into a noble residence. Think: lots of beautifully carved wood panels, perfectly layered curtains, priceless antiques, and oversized crystal chandeliers. The staff are only too happy to serve guests a slice of the famous Sacher Torte, the chocolate cake invented at their sister hotel in Vienna.
Arthotel Blaue Gans, located in the center of Getreidegasse, offers more minimalist accommodation. A boutique property specializing in clean and tidy interiors, the Blaue Gans combines exceptional architectural details (thanks to the building’s history dating back to the 16th century) with more modern furnishings. Original wooden beams, decorative stucco moldings, and vaulted ceilings are remarkably complemented by plush velvet sofas, mid-century side tables, and sculptural light fixtures. Throughout, find over 100 original works by artists like Timm Ulrichs, Christian Ecker and Julius Deutschbauer.
Where to eat and drink
Inside Hangar-7, the museum-like tribute of billionaire and Redbull owner Dietrich Mateschitz to planes and racing cars is Ikarus, a two-Michelin-starred dining destination that features a rotating program of guest chefs. The culinary program is overseen by Eckart Witzigmann, who travels the world to recruit temporary cooking partners. Previous names invited to create modern, multi-course tasting menus here include Sicilian chef Ciccio Sultano, whose Ragusa restaurant Ciccio Sultano Duomo is known for showcasing spectacular and extravagant meals. And in September, Belgian Tim Boury, whose restaurant Boury in the Tony town of Roeselare also has two Michelin stars, will oversee the Ikarus kitchen.
For something more traditional, the walls of St. Peter’s Abbey claim to house Europe’s oldest restaurant: first opened in 803, the elegant interiors of the St. Peter Stiftskulinarium consist of hand-painted walls and spectacular chandeliers, which perfectly complement authentic Austrian cuisine. Start with the black bread dumpling soup, topped with a Stiegl beer foam, followed by beef goulash sticking to your bones, before engaging in an iconic Salzburg dessert, the three-mound Nockerl, similar to a breath. At Meissl & Schadn you can savor another national delicacy: schnitzel. They take their schnitzel so seriously here, you can even choose the oil it’s fried in.
For a meal with a view, head to Steinstrasse, on the roof of the Hotel Stein, for its world-inspired menu and the city’s best gastronomic views. The terrace overlooking Salzburg’s Baroque rooftops draws an affluent crowd, who pair platters of king crab tiradito and teriyaki meatballs with classic cocktails crafted with spirits distilled in Austria.
WHAT TO DO
For those coming from outside of Europe, Salzburg has become one of Austria’s most popular tourist attractions largely because of the music: the birthplace of Mozart in the 18th century (now perched in the top of a supermarket chain) can be visited in the old town. The 1965 Oscar-winning film The sound of music was filmed in and around Salzburg, and many guided tours stop at its filming locations, including the Mirabell Gardens and the Pegasus Fountain, where Maria and the Von Trapp children sang Do Re Mi. The famous Christmas carol Silent night was written nearby.
And every year the classical music community comes to the city for the Salzburg Festival, which held its 100th edition last year. While some of the celebratory events took place last year, the city will continue to celebrate this milestone until summer 2021 with 14 performances of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s dama. Jederman and concerts by classical music bigwigs like the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Christian Thielemann and Riccardo Muti, who at 80 is making his 50th appearance at the festival.
But if you want to give your auditory nerves a break, there’s still a lot to do to make a well-rounded route: before the multi-course feast at Ikarus, it’s definitely worth exploring the grounds of Hangar-7. Redbull is based in a small village on the outskirts, and this stunning all-glass gallery near the airport is a grand showcase for an invaluable collection of Formula 1 racing cars, historic fighter jets, and other paraphernalia. brand. Hangar-7 also hosts rotating art exhibitions, from photography to sculpture, so the space offers more than just a fancy dinner.
And for a more modern expression of performance art, check out SEAD, or Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, a small studio that hosts a variety of shows that revolve around contemporary choreography hosted by its own company (as part of the program Bodhi Project) or by visiting international troops.
For a little retail therapy, take a stroll down Getreidegasse, home to super traditional shops marked with ornate guild signs. One of the more handcrafted is Kirchtag Umbrella (Getreidegasse 22), which has been around since 1903, making high quality umbrellas, most of which can be custom made and each piece is created by hand, from the stem of the handle to the canopy fabric. . Getreidegasse is one of the city’s most popular tourist arteries, and there’s a McDonald’s, but for the fast food chain to blend into its medieval surroundings, even its double arch sign has been redesigned to look like emblematic centuries of the district. Judging by how many people have their picture taken of it, it’s safe to say that they absolutely love it.