As an Australian used to warm festive seasons, I was in search for a city that epitomized a European winter wonderland. I was in Ireland for a week over Christmas and heading to the slopes in Obergurgl, Austria for January, so needed a convenient segue. I was very lucky to have stumbled across picturesque Salzburg.
From mulled wine in winter markets, to fireworks in old towns and concerts in castles, all of which laced with delicious food, the following are my five tips for a three night winter adventure, in the magical city of Salzburg.
1. New Years Fireworks
Arriving around 2pm on New Years Eve with no set plans, we decided to leave ourselves to the whims of Salzburg. We walked from the central train station to our hotel, a chilly 10-minute walk, (next time I would take a quick 5 Euro cab), where we were thankfully greeted with a glass of sparkling. At 5pm we left for the evening to see what the streets of Salzburg had in store…….
The atmosphere was electric. As we walked through the new quarter towards the old town, the Christmas lights sparkled with an abundance of food and drink stalls crowed with merry locals. You could not help get in a festive mood with the Austrian music playing and the warm mulled wine (or better know as Gluhwien) flowing.
As midnight drew close, we positioned ourselves at the entrance of the main bridge to the old town, where we had the view of fortress Hohensalzburg hovering above, making us privy to the most picturesque fireworks we have ever seen.
Now, in Australia I know we are pretty spoilt with one of the best fireworks in the world, however this display lit up the old town with colour and charm. As fireworks are legal in Salzburg, the locals set off fireworks around you (sometimes only a few meters away), making it even more exciting and adding to the overall experience of the main display. With the locals singing and plentiful places to eat and drink, it was a memorable experience if you want to feel part of one, big bursting celebration.
2. Get lost in the Medieval City
The old town is the absolute gem of Salzburg; it is small enough so you can walk leisurely around the whole town in under an hour, however has an abundance of activities, shops, sites and restaurants. The narrow cobbled, 16th-century Steingasse lined with shops, galleries, restaurants and Christmas lights, really gave it that enchanting feel.
The horses in the centre of the square charmed us and indulging in our tourist status wetook a horse and carriage ride around the town for 44 euros. Charming as it was, if you are on a budget you can walk the 20-minute route and see just as much by foot.
In the Mozartplatz, near the Mozart monument, there was an ice-skating rink where for 9.50 euros you could hire skates and ice-skate for as long as you liked to love ballade covers. For the not so sturdy, they had penguin and bear beginner pushers, although designed for children a useful tool to help you on your way.
Bike rental is also very popular and most hotels offer this service free. This was fun to do along the Salzach River and around the old town however we did not last long with the temperature around two degrees.
Even though all the fountains and statues were covered for the winter there was still a multiple of sites to see including Mozart’s birthplace, endless chocolate shops such as the Braunpunkt, Old Market Square, Alter Markt, Salzburg Cathedral, baroque churches and the Calvary Chapel with its beautiful cemetery at the base of the Fortress.
3. The Christmas Market – Mulled Wine and Worst
The Christmas markets, with its local crafts and food stalls are a real treat. The stalls sell warm mulled wine, worst, their local sausages, Brezen, the local pretzels and other snacks. We also managed to get some oysters with our new years Champaign toast. If you love warming with mulled wine and perusing local stalls, then Salzburg is ideal over the Christmas season.
4. Enjoy a concert in a Fortress
Renowned as the birthplace of Mozart, we booked an evening concert high up in the Fortress on the hill. After taking the funicular, we entered into a grand room for the concert. This is an absolute must as the sounds of Strause and Mozart echoing within the halls of the Fortress was a surreal treat.
5. Food glorious food.
We were pleasantly surprised how many eateries, offered not only good, solid Austrian food, but also exceptional high-quality varieties of other cuisines.
From the Michelin star Carpe Diem where we experienced culinary decadence – a delicate amuse-bouche, followed by the table carving of fine steak and then the exquisite cheese trolley, to the fresh and light Italian at La Cucina and finally to the hearty Austrian pork knuckle at Alter Fuchs. It was sensational.
However, our favourite Austrian restaurant which deserves a special mention was Zum Eulenspiegel, a quaint, multi-storey old house, laden with traditional interiors, which we returned to twice. If you want, melt-in-your-mouth amazingness, then you have to try the Spinach and Ewe dumplings in a tomato soup. So simple, but absolutely drool worthy.
We could not fault the food and recommend you go there putting any all diets aside.
Some language tips
Although almost everyone can understand English, here are some tips to help you feel a bit like a local:
· Good Morning is Guten Morgen
· Good Day is Guten Tag
· Good Evening is Guten Abend
· Goodbye is Auf Wiedersehen
· Thank You is Danke
· You’re Welcome is Bitte
· And the all important Cheers for a toast is Prost
We travelled from Dublin to Munich by air and then caught the train through the glorious countryside to Salzburg. The train system is so easy to use and really makes the journey so much more scenic, I would highly recommend it.
Also, if you are looking for a place to stay, we stayed at Hotel and Villa Auersperg, which was an absolute delight. In the new area of Salzburg, a short walk to the old town, it is a perfect location on the outskirts of the luxe shopping area and filled with culinary choices at your doorstep.
If we had more time we would have tried to see the view from the Monastery and Winkler Terrace, sought the Sound of Music sights, visited the Residenz Palace and Museums, visited Hangar-7, the fantasy toy collection from the founder of Red Bull, and seen the Mirabellagarten in the summer with its Roman gods protecting the entrance.
We left Salzburg with a fresh winter’s snow making it a picture perfect winter wonderland. I fell in love with Salzburg and I know you will too.