Nestled in the Austrian Alps, the city of Mozart weaves a rich musical legacy with unique events, a thriving food and drink scene and plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration.
Salzburg is a city steeped in history and culture, with its unique blend of Italian and German heritage immediately evident in the well-preserved baroque architecture of its UNESCO-listed core. Set on the banks of the Salzach River and surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery, the city acts as a gateway to the lakes, mountains and historic mines of the Salzkammergut region, set to become European Capital of Culture next year. With several landmark anniversaries and a whole slew of exciting events taking place in 2023, here are five reasons to book a trip to Austria’s most musical city.
1. The Salzburg Festival
Celebrating 150 years in 2023.
Arguably Salzburg’s greatest event is the annual Salzburg Festival, a world-class programme of music, opera and drama that runs from late July through to the end of August. The festival traditionally opens with a performance of Hofmannsthal’s play Jedermann on Cathedral Square, just as it did at the first Salzburg Festival back in 1920.
2023 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the festival’s co-founder, the great Austrian theatre director Max Reinhardt, as well as the 80th anniversary of his death — so this year’s event is set to be all the more spectacular. Among the commemorative events planned are a celebration of Reinhardt’s life and work at Schloss Leopoldskron, and a virtual recreation of the set of Reinhardt’s 1933 production of Faust. Already a hugely popular event, these additional celebrations mean you’ll want to book festival tickets well in advance.
2. Musical highlights and history
Enjoy a thriving calendar of events and performances.
The home city of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg leans heavily into its musical legacy. Discover this heritage on a themed walking tour of the historic old town centre, led by musicians and musicologists — or stop to enjoy so-called ‘blind dates’, where musicians who have never played together before are paired up for a spontaneous performance.
Music-lovers can’t visit Salzburg without taking a trip to the house on Getreidegasse where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756. One of the most visited museums in Austria, Mozart’s birthplace tells the story of the composer’s life through objects, letters and anecdotes — from his violin and clavichord to letters from his sister Maria Anna.
Consider visiting in October to take in Salzburg at its musical best, as it hosts the annual Jazz & the City festival. Over four days, you’ll be able to take in performances by leading international jazz and world music artists at settings across the city, from wine bars to the collegiate church. This year’s festival will take place from 19-22 October and, as ever, will be free of charge.
3. Exciting culinary options
From sweet treats to haute cuisine.
From traditional inns to Michelin-starred restaurants, historic coffeehouses and everything in between, Salzburg is a city with no shortage of culinary offerings. Fuel up with hearty stews, schnitzel and freshly brewed beers at cosy, family-run restaurants such as Restaurant Brunnauer or Gasthaus Hinterbrühl, both in the heart of the city.
For a more gourmet experience, head north of the city, to SENNS.Restaurant. Here, diners can enjoy an atmospheric setting in an old bell foundry and a menu that’s as impressive in styling as in substance. Or visit St Peter Stiftskulinarium, located within St Peter’s Abbey. It’s said they’ve been serving food here for around 1,200 years, which would make the Stiftskulinarium one of the oldest inns in Europe. In 2023, the menu includes everything from wiener schnitzel and wagyu beef to chocolate fondue and apple strudel.
Indeed, Salzburg has plenty of places at which to satisfy a sweet tooth, with spots such as Cafe-Konditorei Fürst and Konditorei Schatz in the old town both serving up pastries and cakes with a side of serious Austrian charm.
4. A thriving craft beer scene
Take a tour of Salzburg’s rich brewing history.
Salzburg has a long tradition of beer brewing, stretching back to the establishment of commercial breweries in the 14th century, and subject to a strict ‘purity law’ from the early 16th century leading to brews completely free of preservatives. The best way to appreciate the city’s ever-evolving breweries is on a beer tour, taking in famous heavyweights and atmospheric microbreweries. Highlights include the Stiegl-Brauwelt — which began operations here in 1492 — and the Hofbräu Kaltenhausen, which offers guided tours illuminating the female-led nature of beer production up until the 18th century.
No brewery tour of Salzburg is complete without a substantial stopover at the Augustiner Bräustübl in Mülln, which was founded by Augustinian monks in 1621. Here, traditionally brewed beer is served in earthenware mugs and can be enjoyed in the shade of ancient chestnut trees in Austria’s largest beer garden. Visitors can bring along their own food and nibbles, which can be picked up from nearby shops and stalls, and for true authenticity, should be heaped onto a wooden chopping board.
5. Themed walking tours
Discover creativity, culture and castles.
With its perfectly preserved baroque architecture, UNSECO-listed old town and picturesque cobbled streets — all overlooked by a striking 900-year-old clifftop castle — Salzburg is a city ripe for exploring on foot. It’s simple to create your own route, taking in Mozart’s birthplace, Mirabell Palace and Gardens, the DomQuartier, Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Museum of Modern Art.
Or, for a more specific experience, join a themed walking tour. Options include music and Mozart, of course, but also tours to discover Salzburg’s beer culture, its numerous churches and its most picturesque photo spots. Creative Salzburg is one of the most intriguing offerings, shining a light on a contemporary and quirky side of the city — one that few visitors see.