The Austrian city rewards Jenny Southan with gourmet finger food, celebrity video portraits and surprising nightlife.
The Alpine city that earned its name from centuries of salt mining in nearby mountains suffered severe bombardment during the Second World War, but has since been beautifully restored. The pristine Old Town offers fine examples of Baroque architecture and the cathedral, located between Residenzplatz and Kapitelplatz, makes a good starting point for your walking tour.
Although its grand dome was destroyed in air strikes, it was rebuilt in the late 1950s, and with a pearly white marble façade and spearmint copper roofing, the cathedral looks glorious. The war wasn’t the first time the building met with disaster, having been ravaged by fire several times since the original construction more than 1,200 years ago.
Today’s edifice was thrown up in the 17th century in 15 years – a remarkable feat considering the lavish ceiling frescoes and marble ornamentation inside. For any Austrian who takes religion seriously, it’s likely that they’re paying taxes (1 per cent of income for Catholics) for the privilege to worship here. This is thanks to a law Hitler introduced that was never repealed. Open daily from 8am until between 5pm and 7pm, depending on the season. Open from 1pm Sundays. Entry is free. Visit salzburger-dom.at
Upon leaving the cathedral, there are a few ways you can walk to the Getreidegasse shopping street – go via Residenzplatz and you can admire its central baroque fountain, said to be the largest in Central Europe. However, take a detour left into Kapitelplatz and you can admire the Sphaera – a nine-metre-tall golden ball with a sculpture of a man on top of it. At Getreidegasse, look out for the quaint decorative wrought-iron signs sticking out from the walls pointing to Zara, McDonald’s and other well-known brands.
Kirchtag (kirchtag.com) at number 22 has been selling handmade umbrellas (ranging from €180 to €555) since the early 1900s, and Stassny (stassny.at), an Austrian outfitters, is at number 35. Surprisingly, wearing items of national dress such as lederhosen (leather britches) and dirndls (a dress composed of a bodice, blouse, apron and full skirt) are very much in vogue, and it’s not uncommon to see youngsters in full regalia. At number 39 is Sporer liquor and punch manufacturers (sporer.at). A family-run business, this tiny standing-only bar specialises in schnapps and spirits in dozens of flavours. You can knock back a shot or buy a bottle to take home. Most stores are closed on Sundays.
If you are feeling hungry, continue down to Carpe Diem at number 50. This high-end restaurant was opened in 2005 by Salzburg resident and cofounder of energy drink Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, and has carved out a niche for itself by serving “finest finger food”. The concept revolves around bite-sized meals served in small savoury cones – it’s a tad gimmicky but worth trying for the unusual flavour and texture combinations and artistic presentation. Tidbits include beef tartare with mashed potato and cress in a sancho pepper cone, tuna and avocado salad with ginger in a pumpkin cone, and fresh basil ice cream in a sweet-flavoured cone. A “menu of the big appetisers” offers between three courses for €20.50 and seven courses for €43.50. More conventional à la carte dishes are also available, but if you like the idea of the cones and are in a rush, remember you can also get them to take away. Open daily 8.30am-12am. Tel +43 662 848 800; carpediemfinestfingerfood.com
MUSEUM DER MODERNE MONCHSBERG
Around the corner, one of the city’s best modern art galleries is built into Monchsberg mountain’s cliff face. Exhibition halls are built into the rock, and on level three there is a viewing platform with a vista of the whole city. The museum opened in 2004 and has regular exhibits of international art. On until October 16 is Robert Wilson’s bizarrely alluring collection of video portraits. The subjects include Johnny Depp, Marianne Faithful and Dita von Teese – at first, each appears quite still, but then they start to move or look around. From October 29 to February 5 is an exhibit of watercolours, etchings and graphics by 20th-century German expressionist Emil Nolde. Open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, Wed until 8pm. Entry is €8. Monchsberg 32. Visit museumdermoderne.at
Across Staatsbrucke bridge over Salzach River is Hotel Stein (hotelstein.at) at Giselakai 3-5. Take the lift up to level seven and step out on to the expansive glass-walled roof terrace (if it’s cold there is indoor seating too). Open daily 12pm-12am, this trendy hotspot is popular with both visitors and locals, has panoramic views and an extensive cocktail menu. Try one from the “Stein Liquid Luxury” range – Basilico is a blend of blue gin, fresh basil, mango puree, fresh lime, pineapple juice and passionfruit syrup. Note that even squeaky-clean Salzburg has a dark underbelly – located around the corner, past drag cabaret and gay bar Zweistein (zweistein.at) on cobbled street Steingasse, is one of two brothels in the city. You can’t miss it – it’s clearly marked “Maison de Plaisir”.
The perfect place to end (or start) your tour is Hangar Seven as it is right next to the airport, a 15-minute taxi drive (€13) from the city centre. The striking steel and glass space was built in 2003 to house Dietrich Mateschitz’s squadron of historic Red Bull-sponsored F1 racing cars and planes belonging to the Flying Bulls aerobatics team. The energy drink partners with air shows and hosts competitions such as “Red Bull Flugtag”, which awards “birdmen” who can fly the furthest over water in a homemade contraption. Hangar Seven also hosts modern art exhibitions and has an innovative fine-dining restaurant, Ikarus. Across the tarmac is Hangar Eight, which puts a roof over Red Bull’s fleet of more than 20 working planes. Wilhelm-Spazier Strasse 7A. Museum is open 9am-10pm daily. Entry is free. Visit hangar-7.com, flyingbulls.at
Go to salzburg.info