Exploring Modern Salzburg

In a capital of the Old World, classical heritage with a new energy
Salzburg encapsulates the best of Austria’s heartland—it is quaint yet bustling, and sophisticated yet courteous. And long before Julie Andrews twirled about its Technicolor hills, this stately town at the northern edge of the Alps was ringing with the sound of music. Mozart was born there, and many other composers have called it home. Under the watch of the mighty 11th-century fortress of Hohensalzburg, a tight warren of cobbled streets makes up the city’s Altstadt, filled with marble edifices and timbered town houses that seem to have manifested from storybooks. Dotted with colorful gardens and driven by a bubbling café culture, Salzburg showcases the history and innovative spirit of this mountainous nation at the crossroads of Europe. Here, five places not to miss on your next visit.

Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron

Salzburg’s Prince Archbishop Leopold Anton Freiherr von Firmian loved his opulent rococo palace so much that he left his heart there—literally. Though he was laid to rest at the city’s main cathedral in 1744, in his will he dictated that his heart be removed and buried beneath the chapel of his beloved estate. (True story; look it up.)

Today the 18th-century palace hosts the Salzburg Global Seminar, which draws luminaries from around the world to lead discussions in culture, arts, and social justice, but you don’t have to be part of this international forum to enjoy the stately lakeside grounds. Since 2014, Schloss Leopoldskron’s 12 suites, along with 55 rooms in the property’s refurbished farmhouse, have been transformed into a stylish hotel with more than a thousand original objets d’art and clean-lined modern furniture.

Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron, Leopoldskronstraße 56-58, 5020 Salzburg, Austria, +43 662 839 830


Salzburg may date back to Roman times, but it’s not trapped in its glorious past—just look to the airfoil-shaped dome of Hangar-7 for proof. The light-filled edifice is home to energy drink tycoon Dietrich Mateschitz’s collection of historic airplanes, helicopters, and Formula One cars. The building also seamlessly incorporates exhibition areas throughout, showing off an ever-changing roster of contemporary photography and art. Local architect Volkmar Burgstaller created the effortlessly airy space, somehow managing to make 1,200 tons of steel appear lightweight and unobtrusive: an ultimate tribute to the magic of flight. While you’re there, visit the aptly named Ikarus restaurant, which each month features a different noted chef.

Hangar-7, Wilhelm-Spazier-Straße 7A, 5020 Salzburg, Austria, +43 662 21970
Vintage aircraft, modern design: architect Volkmar Burgstaller’s Hangar-7
Vintage aircraft, modern design: architect Volkmar Burgstaller’s Hangar-7

Hotel Sacher Salzburg

Imitations abound, but there is only one authentic Sacher torte—the signature Austrian cake bearing the name of its originator, Franz Sacher. Back in 1832, while still an apprentice baker, he devised the trademark mixture of rich chocolate cake, apricot jam, and dark chocolate frosting for Austrian Prince Metternich. Sacher’s offspring continue to create the dessert according to a secret recipe at this Salzburg branch of the family-owned five-star hotel, which serves the best in town. Even for those without a sweet tooth, the 150-year-old property is well worth a stop for an afternoon Aperol spritz or alfresco dining on its terrace overlooking the languid Salzach River.

Hotel Sacher Salzburg, Schwarzstraße 5-7, 5020 Salzburg, Austria, +43 662 889 770
Hotel Sacher Salzburg and its renowned chocolate torte
Hotel Sacher Salzburg and its renowned chocolate torte


For creative modern European cuisine at its best, stop in at this Michelin-starred restaurant, which offers bold tasting menus consisting of specialties such as fresh scallops on a bed of onions, speck, and mushrooms, as well as Danube salmon lightened with radicchio, anchovy, and apple. The gorgeously plated dishes are eye-catching enough, but diners can be rightfully distracted by the showpiece glass floor, beneath which a freshwater stream runs its course. While the menu may have all the accoutrements of haute cuisine, the Salzburg native chef-proprietor Andreas Kaiblinger’s food is firmly rooted in his mother’s traditional Austrian cooking—befitting of a place whose German name translates to “dining room.”

Esszimmer, Müllner Hauptstraße 33, 5020 Salzburg, Austria, +43 662 870 899


Pay respect to Salzburg’s most famous son at this monument, museum, and conservatory, where a collection of Mozart’s letters and scores coexists under the same roof as one of Europe’s top music schools (graduates include composer Carl Orff and conductor Herbert von Karajan). The international foundation even picked up and brought the cottage in which Mozart wrote “The Magic Flute” from Vienna to the composer’s hometown. The coming season promises a series of afternoon chamber concerts, with works by Haydn, Brahms, and Schumann alternating with Mozart’s compositions, and a full complement of evening orchestral performances.

Mozarteum, Schwarzstraße 26, 5020 Salzburg, Austria, +43 662 889 400
A cathedral for music worthy of Salzburg’s favorite son
A cathedral for music worthy of Salzburg’s favorite son
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CHANEY KWAK is a San Francisco–based travel writer. He has contributed to Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times, and Afar.
  • Courtesy of Ralph Lauren Corporation
  • Courtesy of Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron
  • Courtesy of Hanger-7
  • Courtesy of Hotel Sacher Salzburg
  • Courtesy of Mozarteum