Dona Cherian, Guides Writer
Where is Salzburg?
Salzburg is an Austrian city, bordering Germany and with views of the Eastern Alps. One of the best places to go for an authentic white Christmas experience complete with snow, festive markets, Nordic festivities and more. It is known for being the birthplace of the music legend Mozart.
How to get there?
You can either fly from Dubai on a non-direct flight to Salzburg; or you could make a trip of it and fly directly to Vienna, and then take the train to Salzburg, which takes around 2.5 hours.
Where to stay
Our top recommendation would be Blaue Gans, the oldest inn in the whole city converted into a boutique hotel. Full of character, all 35 rooms and suites are individually designed with natural materials and mastered by local artisans.
Only a few steps from Mozart's birthplace and a stone’s throw away from Salzburg cathedral is our next recommendation, the authentic boutique Hotel am Dom is a gorgeous 800 year-old restored townhouse found at the heart of Old Town.
History and design lovers should look no further than the artistic Hotel Goldgasse. Once a 16th century coppersmith's workshop is now a boutique hideaway situated right in the centre of Old Town on Goldgasse – a street steeped in history.
Want to sleep in a real Austrian palace? Sleep like royalty and stay in the historical Schloss Leopoldskron.
Nestled beside the Salzach River and set against a dramatic backdrop of the snow-capped Alps, this cultural capital radiates music, theatre and art – so much so, you can’t help listening out for the sound of music, be it Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Maria.
Story Unheard contributed to this travel guide. They create custom itineraries for trips including places to stay, eat and visit and updated recommendations for signed up travellers. Prices start at Dh250 per trip.
Awaiting you beyond the city is SalzburgerLand’s myriad of crystal-clear lakes, breath-taking mountains, wild adventures, dreamy spas, culinary pioneers and otherworldly cosy hideaways.
10am: Set off
It’s your first day in Salzburg, so there's no better way to spend the morning than getting your bearings. Begin at the majestic Schloss Mirabell (Mirabell Palace). In the summer, it’s Baroque gardens, abloom with hundreds of thousands of flowers, however during winter it is still a spectacle to be seen, as the palace becomes a dazzling winter wonderland, especially when the winter market Salzburger Weihnachtsmarkt takes over Mirabellplatz.
Start walking towards ‘Alstadt’ (Old Town), a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site that holds some of the oldest buildings in the Alps. You can cross the Salzach via Makartsteg footbridge on which you will see thousands of lovelocks clasped to its fencing.
There’s no street more beautiful to shop along in winter than the Getreidegasse with its charming buildings bejewelled with ornate wrought-iron guild signs and exciting little passageways that lead to pretty courtyards all lit up with festive decorations. You’ll find everything from Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Moncler to Old World splendour.
Make your way up to Mozarts Geburtshaus (Mozart’s Birthplace). The house has been converted into museum where you can walk through Mozart’s kitchen, living room and bedroom.
Shopping and treats
Pop into Schatz Konditorei for one of their famous sweet treats or pick up some Mozartkugel (Mozart balls) at the original shop Cafe Konditorei Fürst where the Paul Fürst family has been making these celebrate pistachio, marzipan and nougat filled chocolates since 1884.
Stroll down the iconic Goldgasse street – a postcard shopping street fringed with antique and jewellery shops – before you grab a quick pick me up at 220° café. These guys roast the beans at their own roasting house, which you can buy at the cafe. Don't miss out on your first Mélange (similar to cappuccino) of the day.
Pass by the quaint concept bistro Bauchladen for a leisurely lunch and a little browse around. Here you’ll find a delicious menu inspired by cuisines around the world - from fresh quiches and local cheese to ice tea with orange blossom water and pumpkin humus sandwiches. Our recommendation is the pastrami sandwich with smoked beef, cheese, gherkins and Russian dressing served hot and end on a sweet note with the oriental crumble with rose water and dates.
The Green Garden is another great escape from the cold with its warming Asian bowls of goodness, delicious vegan burgers and wild garlic risotto with caramelised goat’s cheese.
3pm: Top view snaps
For awe-inspiring snaps of Salzburg’s glittering rooftops and Austria’s Alps, take the funicular at Festungsgasse, which whisks you up to Festung Hohensalzburg (Hohensalzburg Fortress) at Mönchsberg. While you’re there you can have look around its ramparts and opulent State Rooms’ gold rosette studded ceilings. The Golden Hall is also a must-visit.
4.30pm: Tea and decadence
Warm up with a smart afternoon tea at Café Sacher Salzburg – housed within the luxury Hotel Sacher Salzburg – and order the traditional sachertorte (a decadent chocolate cake thinly coated with delicious apricot jam and topped with chocolate icing) which originated here.
If you’re after something a little more authentic, head to the historic Café Tomaselli for a slice of apple strudel or their iconic Erdbeerschüsserl (sponge cake, Parisercreme, vanilla cream, redcurrant jam and fresh strawberries) along with an Einspänner (strong black coffee with a dash of whipped cream).
6pm: Winter fests the original way
From mid-November until Christmas Eve, Salzburg’s squares transform into glittering festive markets with charming wooden stalls from where vendors sell everything from maroni (roasted chestnuts) and homemade gingerbread to beautiful handicrafts and decorations that make brilliant gifts back home.
Wander around the magical Salzburg Christkindlmarkt spread across three squares (Domplatz, Kapitelplatz, Residenzplatz) around Dom Zu Salzburg (Salzburg Cathedral) with a mug of Christmas punch in hand as you listen to the sweet melodies from choirs and musicians. If you have time we would thoroughly recommend popping your head inside the cathedral to enjoy its opulent ceilings
8pm: Live shows
Catch one of the Winterfest contemporary circus shows in Volksgarten or an evening musical concert at Schloss Konzerte Mirabell held at Mirabell Palace.
If you’re visiting with children, you must go to the Salzburg Marionette Theatre and see an incredible puppet opera performance of Hansel and Gretel, The Magic Flute or The Nutcracker – the figurines and stage displays are out of this world.
9.30pm: Dinner and rest
For a truly delightful experience, dine beneath the vaulted ceilings of Blaue Gans’ Gasthaus and opt for one of its three epic set menus (Open Fire, Winter Fun, Christmas Spirit) or the classic ‘ Wiener Schnitzel’ served with juicy cranberries.
Prepare to be amazed at the extraordinary restaurant Paradoxon where creation and inspiration are given full rein. Packed with personality and surrounded by ultra cool décor, you’re promised a night to remember.
10.30am: Brekkie or brunch
Ludwig’s hip and casual interiors are every instagrammer’s dream. These guys serve (allegedly) the meanest burgers in town.
If you find yourself in Salzburg on a Saturday morning and are looking for something a little more special, do not miss out on Paradoxon’s brunch (10am – 2pm).
12pm: Unwind and relax
Spend the rest of the early afternoon unwinding at the sensational Genussdorf Gmachl’s Vitarium Spa (approximately 10 mins by car and 7 mins on the S1 train from Salzburg HBF to Bergheim b.Salzburg). Its incredible ‘Roof Spa’ comes with an impressive infinity rooftop pool that looks out over Salzburg’s district Bergheim. There’s also a panorama infusion sauna with insane views, a brine steam bath, ice pool and cosy yet modern relation areas with hanging loungers and rest beds. For more personal experiences there’s the Private Spa.
A little further out is the sumptuous Romantik Hotel Gmachl’s Horizont Spa with its panorama indoor infinity pool that boasts awesome views of Salzburg and the Alps. It has a separate ladies’ spa as well as gorgeous resting areas with open fireplaces and plush treatment rooms.
If an afternoon of rejuvenation is not for you, then you can’t miss out on visiting one of Salzburg’s many extraordinary modern galleries. At the top of Mönchsberg lies the Modern Art Museum - the ‘summit of modern art’ – an eye-catching modern building that has housed top-class exhibitions from legends such as Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Henri Matisse and Seurat as well as Austrian and international artists. While you’re up there soak in the Alpine vistas over a coffee at the sleek restaurant M32.
Another great one to check out is Salzburg Museum, which has teamed up with Salzburg-born artist Lois Renner with an outstanding Austrian contemporary art exhibition that takes you on a journey of discovery to the history and future of painting (showing until 28th March 2018).
If you have some time to spare, head to the historical Residenz zu Salzburg (Salzburg Residenz Palace), which is part of the DomQuartier and have a nosy around the extravagant chambers with one of their tours – the Throne Room and Ante Camera Room are particularly spectacular!
Grab lunch at the fabulous Balkan Grill – a unique sausage stand on 33 Getreidegasse that serves the classic Bosna (a Bulgarian-inspired, Salzburg-born hot dog consisting of grilled beef bratwurst, onions, fresh parsley and a secret blend of spices).
6pm: A festive market
Make your way to Schloss Hellbrunn (Hellbrunn Palace) where you’ll discover the enchanting festive market Hellbrunner Adventzauber in its royal grounds (bus number 25 takes approximately 20 mins). Take a wintry walk through the famous Trick Fountains as you gaze upon the surrounding enchanting forest list up by twinkling fairy lights and red baubles. Wander through its powdery white covered stalls selling lovely trinkets and delicious treats.
8.30pm: Dine and rest
For an unforgettable gastronomic delight, dine at Restaurant Brunnauer situated in one of the city’s oldest and trendiest districts Nonntal where Richard and his team are making new waves in the culinary scene.
St Peter Stiftskulnarium, nestled within St Peter's Abbey, gets all dressed up for winter and becomes an enchanting place to dine if you’re eager to soak up some festive cheer. While the restaurant is recognised as the most ancient in Europe, the kitchen is turning out innovative dishes using the freshest local produce.
If you’re up for an evening adventure, about a 30 minute drive outside Salzburg perched on the banks of Lake Wallersee is one of the city’s most interesting dining locales, Weyringer Wallersee. Chef Emanuel Weyringer produces some truly fantastic contemporary fish dishes along with impeccable service – it really is the place-to-be for connoisseurs.
Staying on for an extra day?
We would thoroughly recommend taking a day trip to the salt mine village of Hallstatt. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful that the Chinese made a replica of it. You can get to it by bus or train – both take under 2.5 hours, bus being 20 mins faster. If you take the train you will need to take a ferry ride too as the station is located on the other side of Lake Hallstatt. Otherwise driving to the village takes around 1 hour 15mins.
Besides exploring this village on foot, there are numerous thrilling snow sports you can experience this time of year in and around Hallstatt, including skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, husky sledge rides and even tobogganing. There are even picturesque sleigh rides through snowy white landscapes for those looking for something a little less adventurous.