Mozart and marzipan

Rudolf Abraham travels to Salzburg, on the northern edge of the Austrian Alps – city of Mozart, city of salt and already a UNESCO World Heritage Site for more than 25 years.

Blick über die Salzburger Altstadt vom Mönchsberg

Paid partnership with Austrian National Tourist Office

Mozart and marzipan

Rudolf Abraham travels to Salzburg, a city of Mozart and salt, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for more than 25 years.

All images © Tourismus Salzburg

Mozart and marzipan: to listen along to this story on Salzburg, or to pause the playback, click the play button:

Two buskers are playing the violin beneath the acoustic-rich arches of the imperious Cathedral of Saints Rupert and Vergilius, in the Domplatz in the heart of Salzburg.

I take in the rest of the spectacular DomQuartier complex, which also comprises the Museum of St. Peter’s, the Cathedral Museum, the State Rooms and the Residenzgalerie, once the centre of power of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg.

The princes ruled the city, which sits on the banks of the river Salzach, for several hundred years. Under their influence it was transformed into one of the finest ensembles of Baroque architecture anywhere in the world, such as the breathtaking Hellbrunn Palace and its ‘Trick Fountains’, constructed between 1612 and 1615.

Be sure to pop into the breathtaking State Rooms, lavishly decorated with stucco and ceiling paintings, and the Residenzgalerie, with its superb art collection including works by Rembrandt and Rubens.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the State Rooms of the Residenz becoming part of the DomQuartier; see domquartier.at/en for details on the celebration.

Salzburg’s Baroque Cathedral dates from the 17th century, when the previous structure was demolished and rebuilt on a grand scale. Stepping inside, the hushed interior feels vast, its decoration and sheer scale emphasising the power of the Prince-Archbishops.

On a smaller scale, it’s here that we find the 14th century baptismal font in which Mozart was baptised. I feel its dark surface has been worn smooth, over centuries of aficionados come to pay their respects.

Exploring the city on foot, we wandered from the squares flanking the cathedral, through Alte Markt and the café-lined Universitätsplatz, alive with chatter from the market stalls, over to the Pferdeschwemme (Horse Pond).

Here, the houses sit tucked against a sheer cliff, along the narrow, busy shopping street Getreidegasse, then across the river to the flower-scented gardens of Mirabell Palace.

Salzburg’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was born in the city in 1756. The house at Getreidegasse 9 where he was born, Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozarts Geburtshaus) was one of the first places I visited on my earliest trip to Salzburg.

It’s a beautiful museum (that much I had expected) but I also discovered plenty about the composer’s life and his relationship with his family, in particular his sister. 

Getting to see some of the instruments owned and played by Mozart is always going to be rather special. My daughter had just started playing the violin when we visited, and when she saw his famous childhood violin, she was awestruck.

Speaking of music, the Salzburg Festival is one of the greatest festivals of music, opera and drama in Europe, founded over 100 years ago, and running from mid-July to the end of August. Every summer, the whole city is transformed into a stage, with performances scattered across Salzburg, from the annual Jedermann played out on the Domplatz, to performances at the Salzburg State Theatre, Festspielhaus and more. 

There can be few better examples of the city’s evident Lebensgefühl (joie de vivre), than its obvious love for this festival. The Salzburg Festival is not the city’s only festival, however – try to catch the Salzburg Easter Festival for world-class opera, Sommerscene in June for amazing contemporary performance art, and the vibrant Jazz&TheCity in October for, well, jazz.

Salzburg is also the natural gateway to the Salzkammergut region, an exquisite landscape of lakes and mountains. Here, the spa town of Bad Ischl – the Salzkammergut’s secret capital – will be celebrated as the European Capital of Culture in 2024. 

It’s just 45 minutes by bus from Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (main station) to the shores of Fuschlsee where I spend a lazy morning walking a circuit of the lake, stopping to dip my feet into the bracing water on the far side.

Given that much of Salzburg’s illustrious history and wealth is founded on salt, a day trip here seems doubly appropriate.  

Salzburg is great for cycling, with around 180km of cycle paths including some lovely routes alongside the Salzach, while bike rental and bike-friendly hotels further add to the reasons to explore Salzburg and its surrounding on two wheels. 

There are also plenty of longer cycling routes running through Salzburg, including the Tauern Cycle Trail between Krimml and Passau. Sections of this can easily be combined with taking the train out in one direction, and cycling back to Salzburg – Burg Hohenwerfen on the Tauernradweg remains one of the most jaw-dropping castles I’ve ever seen. 

You’d be forgiven for not immediately associating a city on the edge of the Alps with swimming – but Salzburg does indeed have swimming spots aplenty, both in the city itself and the surrounding area.

One of my favourites is Lieferinger Badesee, a lake near the Salzach on the northern edge of the city, and an easy bike ride from the centre. There are toilets and changing facilities, and plenty of space on the surrounding lawns for picnicking and sunbathing. 

The city’s narrow canal, the Almkanal, is another place for a quick dip – though the current is quite strong – while just south of Salzburg, the rushing Königsseeache (a tributary of the Salzach, arriving fresh from the Bavarian Alps) is another beautiful albeit chilly spot for a swim, its gently sloping rocky banks backed by shady trees. 

Salzburg is a city with a fabulous array of places to eat and drink, from traditional taverns to Michelin-starred fine dining. There are also plenty of landmark coffee houses and cake shops, including the likes of Konditorei Schatz and Café-Konditorei Fürst – both of them going for the best part of 150 years – which come complete with exquisite cakes and pastries.

I remember Konditorei Schatz as a particularly memorable stop after visiting Mozarts Geburtshaus, for an indulgence in feathery light Cremeschnitte and delicious Topfenstrudel. 

Speaking of cakes and pastries. If there’s one sweet treat which sums up Salzburg more than any other, it’s Mozartkugeln – balls of marzipan and pistachio, surrounded by praline, and coated in dark chocolate. In any case, a visit to Salzburg is not complete – at least in my case – without shopping for some Mozartkugeln.

Mirabell is the most widespread brand, but the original Mozartkugel can still be found here in Salzburg – at Café-Konditorei Fürst, surrounded by the whiff of coffee and display cases full of cakes, where the recipe was invented back in 1890, and where they’re still made by hand.

On our last afternoon in Salzburg we take a stroll along charming Linzergasse, then up the steep lane and long flight of steps leading up to the Capuchin Monastery.

Pausing for a breather near the top, we turned – and were treated to the perfect view back across the river to the old town, the green dome and twin bell towers of the Cathedral defining the city’s iconic skyline along with the vast Hohensalzburg Fortress.

The Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg have created something really rather marvellous.

Need to know

Getting there

With an average direct flying time of only 2 hours from most major UK gateways, flights to Austria are the quickest option.

Best time to go

The best months for good weather in Salzburg are May to September. Fortunately this is when most of the events and festivals are on, too.

Where to stay

Salzburg is home to global hotel brands, boutique B&Bs and spacious rentals. Go to salzburg.info for details.

Must-pack item

Walking boots and swimming costume — get out into nature for a hike and a swim in the breathtaking Salzkammergut region.

How to do it

The Salzburg Card offers free admission to tourist attractions and museums, free use of public transportation and additional discounts.

Anything else

Learn more about the salt that built Salzburg’s wealth at the Old Salt Works in nearby Bad Reichenhall, where you can join a subterranean guided tour.

More information

This article was brought to you in partnership with Austrian National Tourist Office.

Go to austria.info for more details, suggested itineraries and booking.


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