With Alps soaring above its dome-encrusted baroque skyline and cliffs dropping to the river like a theatre curtain, Salzburg has a backdrop to make you want to yodel out loud. And there’s no doubting that the city where Mozart was born and Julie Andrews taught the world to sing has music is in its DNA.
While the big event is summer’s Salzburg Festival, set to pull out all the stops for its centenary in 2020, Salzburg has groove in its heart year-round, with highbrow chamber concerts in gilded palaces, live jazz and rock, beer garden oompah-pah fests, and sing-as-you-pedal bike tours all in the mix.
Rock me Amadeus
Salzburg owes its love of music to its early patrons, the prince-archbishops whose 600-year legacy lives on at their former stomping ground, the Residenz. Right in the heart of the Unesco-listed baroque Altstadt, this lavishly frescoed, chandelier-lit palace is a fabulous setting for intimate afternoon concerts of Mozart’s music, played on historical instruments. Incidentally, Mozart gave his first court performance here at the ripe old age of six.
Nobody has rocked the city quite like Amadeus since, of course. Born on Getreidegasse in 1756, he swiftly pushed Salzburg into the global spotlight with his jaunty operas, symphonies and concertos. While central Salzburg goes in for Mozart overkill – the bewigged genius pops up on everything from chocolate balls to aftershave – it’s still quite something to visit his birthplace, where little Wolfgang spent the first 17 years of his life. On display is the mini violin he played as a child prodigy, identifying a pig’s squeal as G-sharp aged two. True fans won’t want to miss his residence, either, where he lived with his family and prolifically composed such works as Idomeneo.
For a classical feast starring the music of Mozart and other Austrian and German greats like Strauss, Hadyn and Brahms, check out the dinner concerts at Salzburg’s cake-topper of a medieval fortress, Festung Hohensalzburg. Or head over to the other side of the Salzach River to Schloss Mirabell, which hosts nightly chamber music concerts in its baroque marble hall.
Problems like Maria
If you experience déjà vu in Salzburg it’s little wonder. You probably have seen it before in The Sound of Music. This is where Maria (Julie Andrews) waltzed on her way to mass at Benedictine Nonnberg Abbey, belted out ‘I Have Confidence’ as she frolicked in the fountain on Residenzplatz, and taught the von Trapp kids to tunefully sing ‘Do-Re-Mi’ in the gardens of Schloss Mirabell.
It’s easy to put together your own self-guided tour, but if you fancy hooking up with a group, try Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tours for a jolly two-wheel, half-day spin of the film locations – singing optional. And if you’re really mad about the movie, you can see it performed on a miniature stage at the enchanting Salzburg Marionette Theatre.
Classical and beyond
Salzburg’s obsession with music goes way beyond Mozart and Maria, however. The Mozarteum keeps things classical, with a roster of events that swing from Thursday evening concerts with the resident orchestra to Tuesday after-work concerts. Close by sits the 18th-century Landestheater, Salzburg’s premier venue for opera, operetta, ballet and musicals, where you’ll often find the Mozarteum Salzburg Orchestra in the pit.
More in tune with Salzburg’s spiritual side are the uplifting sacred music concerts performed at the Dreifältigkeitskirche (Holy Trinity Church) from mid-June to mid-December, and those reverberating in Salzburg’s mighty baroque Dom from July to October.
Beyond its classical glories, Salzburg is sprinkled with venues that shine a different light on the city’s music scene. Slightly north of town is Jazzit, where the music skips from avant-garde jazz to soul, funk, reggae and electro swing, with the bar staging free gigs and DJ sets on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Also on this side of the river, the Rockhouse is terrific for live music, with rock, pop, folk and metal gigs several nights of the week, as well as a tunnel-like bar hosting DJs (usually free) and bands.
Much closer to the Altstadt is Stage Bar, a nicely chilled spot for a beer and a gig, with black-and-white portraits of music legends on the wall and a cracking line-up of jazz, swing, Latin and blues (Thursday nights are given over to jam sessions). To swim away from the mainstream further still, make for ARGEkultur near Unipark Nonntal campus. This cultural centre gives Salzburg urban edge, with cabaret, DJ nights, poetry slams and music from experimental jazz to electronic and acoustic.
The Salzburg Festival is turning 100 in 2020 and word has it the classical music fest will be phenomenal, with a more-impressive-than-ever line-up of opera, concerts and drama, plus special exhibitions and events, held in grand venues across the city over the course of six weeks from late-July to August. If you’re serious about going, you’d better book months ahead as tickets sell out in a flash.
Besides this massive summer shindig, there are a number of other key diary dates in classical musical spheres. At Easter, the Osterfestspiele brings high-calibre opera, orchestras and chamber concerts to stages across the city, while in a similar vein the Whitsun Festival attracts orchestras of world renown with its repertoire of concerts, opera and recitals. And if Mozart is your man, try to time your visit to catch a performance during Mozartwoche in late January.
August brings folksy, stein-swinging oompah-pah sessions to the monastery-run Augustiner Bräu Mülln brewery, while chillier autumn days are enlivened by the five-day Jazz & the City in mid-October, when venues from churches to wine bars fling open their doors for free concerts.
Where to sleep and eat
For a stylish stay with a musical slant, you could opt for boutique-chic Hotel Goldgasse, combining 700 years of history with minimal-cool interiors graced with large-scale prints of Salzburg Festival operas. At the other end of the price spectrum, Yoho offers fun hostel digs and daily screenings of The Sound of Music. Better than watching it on the screen, however, is a stay at Villa Trapp, the elegant former abode of the Trapp family, tucked away in the Aigen district.
For a flavour of the festival year-round, head to poster- and picture-plastered Triangel right near the festival halls, where there’s always a good buzz and a menu packed with old-school Austrian faves from schnitzel to veal goulash with noodles.
original source: lonelyplanet