Salzburg City Break: All Roads Lead to Mozart
Mark Bibby Jackson takes the train from London to Austria, for a Salzburg city break in birthplace of a certain composer.
Even if you wanted to, I think it would be impossible to avoid Mozart on any visit to Salzburg. Arguably, the greatest and most famous composer in the world was born here and produced some of his finest works in the Austrian city before moving to Vienna. So, understandably it is at Mozart’s Residence that I start my brief Salzburg city break.
Salzburg : City of Mozart
The Mozart family lived here from 1773-87. It was the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for just seven years, in which time he composed three operas.
The composer, who was born in 1756 and started playing the piano at the age of three was already well established as a child prodigy by this time.
The museum provides an interesting insight into the composer’s life, but for me the highlight is his viola, which is on display.
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
One of the advantages of Salzburg is that it is a relatively small, and easily navigated, city. Crossing one of the many bridges across the Salzach river, I turn right and take the lift up the cliffs to the Mönchsberg, This is one of five mountains in the city, and a popular cycling and hiking spot. It is also home to a quite wonderful museum.
I suspect the main reason why people take the lift is to experience the spectacular views down to Salzburg Old Town. That would be a pity as the Museum der Moderne Salzburg is definitely worth the visit.
During my visit, the museum was showing We Rise by Lifting Others, a great exhibition by Marinella Senatore that invites people to dance. There are even stages for you perform, should you wish. Working with The School of Narrative Dance, the idea is to create a framework to bring people from different backgrounds together. T The School of Narrative Dance was in 2012 in Berlin. Since then, there have been 30 further editions. We Rise by Lifting Others by Marinella Senatore runs at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg from 22 April to 8 October, 2023.
You can also walk toward the castle ramparts and through the green space around.
Hiking in the Mönchsberg
From here, you can either enjoy the views or walk back down to the city centre. I decided to hike across the Mönchsberg towards the spectacular Hohensalzburg Castle, which was calling out to me like something out of a fairy tale.
Even on one of the hottest days of the summer, the walk is easy – a relatively flat 1.1 kilometres. Along the way, I stop at the 13th century Burgerwehr Fortification to look down towards the city, once more.
Walking through the Mönchsberg is extremely peaceful. It is here I realise how green a city Salzburg is.
On my walk, I stop at one of the many drinking fountains where I drink some fresh mountain water straight from the tap. Close to this is The Richterhöhe Fortification which was settled 5,000 years ago and fortified in 1367. It was a major part of the defence during the Thirty Years’ War (1616-48), and named after Eduardo Richter, whose statue you can find sheltering beneath a tree, understandably so considering the heat.
My walk concludes at the 11th-century Hohensalzburg Castle, surely one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
I ascend through the Third Guarded Archway, or Mayor’s Gate, which was built in 1480. It must be said that this is a steep climb and only for the healthy. You can also arrive by funicular, which is far simpler.
Passing through the beautiful Horse Gate, I ponder whether I have taken the wrong mode of transport. Tempting as it is to stop off at the restaurant that greets me for a typical Salzburg beer, I turn right to see the rest of the fortress where all the tourists who chose the funicular await me.
Even on a scorching hot summer’s day there is plenty of room for all. The devastating views down to old baroque Salzburg below have made all my exertion more than worth it.
Forwards and onwards, I climb to the top of the tower for 360-degree views to the snow-capped Alps, across to where my walk started, and down to Salzburg sitting astride the Salzach river.
Dom Quartier and Salzburg Cathedral
After all my exertion, I decide to take the funicular down the mountain, and within a couple of minutes I arrive in Salzburg Old Town around the corner from the Dom Quarter.
Construction started on The Residence around 1604. There are some 180 rooms set around three courtyards. The Carabineri Hall is the largest of them. It is here where we start the audio tour.
The best part of the Dom Quarter is looking down onto the square below from our lofty perch. Although one painting by Rembrandt is worth the visit alone.
We pass through Salzburg Cathedral, consecrated in 1628, to discover closed, allowing us a private viewing from the gallery. Then we enter the Cathedral Museum and on to the Museum of St Peter’s Abbey. This in the oldest surviving part of the Residence (1604). At the end of our labyrinthine tour, we end up back where we started, like all good tales, but quite how we ended up there I have to admit I have no idea.
Likewise, my whistle stop tour of Salzburg in a day concludes as it commenced a few hours earlier, visiting another Mozart museum. A few streets away and on the opposite side of the river, but at the place where Salzburg’s most famous son made his first bow.
Dining at Humboldt
After, my improv city tour, I enjoy a refreshing beer, before strolling through the appropriately named Mirabell Gardens, where there was a free performance of some Austrian folk music and dance.
Pausing briefly, I cross the river once more to take my dinner at Humboldt, an organic restaurant in the old town, which claims that you are what you eat. In which case I must be either a carrot tortilla stuffed with chickpeas or perhaps a pike served on a risotto, both of which were excellent. Although I must admit the apricot rum highball was perhaps the highlight of the evening.
Humboldt lists all its suppliers on its website, along with its philosophy, which is refreshing transparency.
Walking in the Kapuzinerberg
The following morning, I deliberate over the excellent breakfast – avocado and hummus – at my hotel, the Hotel & Villa Auersperg whether to laze around in the Mirabell Gardens reading a book, or walk up the Kapuzinerberg, another of the mountains surrounding Salzburg.
As I struggle my way up the steep ascent from the old town, I soon regret my decision. But once more, as I reach the summit, I drink in the magnificent views of the city. Entering the most beautiful forest, I have only birdsong and the occasional church bell to keep me company.
The Franziski Schlos is at the end of the mile-long city wall. This marks the furthermost point of my walk. I could carry on through the forest, but that involves my retracing my steps along the streets, so instead I walk back through the forest along a path on the other side of the Kapuzinerberg.
On the way back, I get the most spectacular glimpse of Hohensalzburg through the trees. I turn one final corner and find myself standing beside a statue of Mozart. You see, in Salzburg all roads really do lead to Mozart.
I highly recommend the Hotel & Villa Auersperg for a Salzburg city break. This beautiful and relaxing hotel within easy walking of both the station and Salzburg Old Town. The gardens are stunning, and a great sense of calm pervades the place. The breakfast is both wholesome and excellent.
Salzburg City Break
For more inspiration on what to do in Salzburg, visit the official tourism website. I also recommend purchasing a Salzburg Card, which provides free entry to all the museums I entered, as well as rides on public transport. If you are planning your Salzburg holidays now, you could always considering visiting the amazing Salzburg Christmas Market
Getting to Salzburg Austria
For my Salzburg city break, I took the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris, changing from Gare du Nord to Gare de L’Est and then the train to Stuttgart and on to Munich, arriving at Salzburg some 13 hours or so after I departed St Pancras.
There are Salzburg flights from London, departing from London Stansted with Ryanair, arrive at Salzburg Airport approximately an hour-and-a-half later.
All photos by Mark Bibby Jackson.