On the first of May in 1816, a treaty was signed at the Salzburg Residenz palace, officially making the city part of Austria. The 200th anniversary of the occasion is being celebrated with a host of events and it’s no surprise that Austria is proud of its – relatively recent – acquisition. A hub of both historic and contemporary cultural interest, Salzburg should be on everyone’s radar.
A picturesque alpine city divided in two by the river Salzach, Salzburg has been delighting visitors with its natural beauty for centuries. Beautiful green hills provide a picture-perfect backdrop to an equally charming city, and it’s due to this combination of nature and architecture that the historic centre of Salzburg has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. Home to a rare mix of architectural styles – including medieval, romantic, renaissance and baroque – Salzburg is noted for the preservation of its historic structures, including the city’s impressive classical buildings, some of which were homes belonging to the royal family.
Salzburg’s history has, of course, shaped its present and if any historical figure can be said to have put the city on the cultural map, it is classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The musician was born in Salzburg in 1756 and his birthplace, now a world-famous museum, is one of the city’s must-visit attractions. The legacy of one of Salzburg’s most remarkable sons can be seen throughout the city and those with a sweet tooth should be sure to sample Mozartkugeln. These golf ball-sized chocolates are filled with pistachio-flavoured marzipan and nougat, and were created in 1890 at Café-Konditorei Fürst – still the best place in the city to try the delicious confectionery.
It’s not just traditional treats that can be found here, however. With the highest concentration of gourmet restaurants in Austria, Salzburg has become famous for its modern fine dining scene. Two-Michelin-starred restaurant Ikarus has garnered numerous awards. Leading chefs from around the world are invited to take over the kitchen and menu for month-long residencies in a concept which, despite facing initial scepticism, has been an undeniable success. The project is backed by noted Austrian chef Eckart Witzigmann, who hails from a town just outside Salzburg. Witzigmann and executive chef Martin Klein agreed that the city offered the perfect balance of cultural richness and small city charm for Ikarus.
Senns Restaurant, the other Salzburg restaurant to boast two Michelin stars, is slightly off the beaten track but absolutely worth the short drive from the centre. Chef Andreas Senn’s exceptional food is modern and delicious, pushing boundaries without losing sight of the essence of any good meal – the pleasure of eating. ‘The people here are open to something new,’ says Senn. The city’s international visitors are equally open-minded and Salzburg has become a popular gourmet destination. Michelin-starred Carpe Diem is one of the most celebrated restaurants in the city and offers a unique finger food concept. Most dishes are bite-sized, with both sweet and savoury offerings arriving in handmade waffle cones.
Wherever there are great restaurants, there are great boutiques and Salzburg has a wealth of standout stores. Alter Markt square and the surrounding streets are a must-visit; top international luxury brands including Escada, Hermès and Prada present stunning boutiques here. Independent stores are also well represented. High-end multibrand boutique Diva by Makole on Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse, a favourite among the city’s fashion set, is a stylish space offering clothing and accessories from leading brands such as Victoria Beckham, Gucci and Brunello Cucinelli. The calibre of brands on offer shows that Salzburg’s fashion scene is thriving, and its design scene is too. Möblich is an interior design workshop and showroom that specialises in upcycling and is renowned for its creative approach to retail. The team regularly holds in-store events and performances to enhance the visitor experience and encourage clients to commission bespoke pieces, ensuring a personal touch.
This tailored approach is perhaps what draws people to Salzburg, a relatively small city that nonetheless offers many of the attractions of a larger one. ‘Even if Salzburg does not have the size, it is a cosmopolitan city,’ agrees Franz Fuiko, head chef at Carpe Diem. A unique mix of historical and contemporary cultural draws alongside truly stunning natural and architectural vistas, all in a city small enough to explore on foot, mean it’s no wonder Austria is celebrating Salzburg.