Romantic Salzburg

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Romantic Salzburg
While the city may not have the glamorous reputation of Paris or Vienna, Salzburg still delivers on romance. As if the surrounding Alpine views and quaint, cobblestoned streets weren't enough, there are exquisite gardens, spas, and sweet treats for two.
By Zac Steger, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by age fotostock
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    Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
    For many, the most romantic way to see Salzburg is by horse-drawn carriage, traveling the old town the way Mozart and the archbishops did in centuries past. Carriages can be hired at Residenzplatz in the DomQuartier; you'll have a choice between a 25-minute and a 50-minute tour. In winter, service begins around 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.; hours are extended until 9 p.m. in the summer months. Even the shortest tours take in many of Salzburg's most notable sights, including the cathedral and Mozart’s birthplace. Although a little expensive, the experience is worth it for couples on a romantic escape.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Parks and Gardens
    Follow the sound of music to the exquisite gardens at Mirabell Palace, where Fräulein Maria and the von Trapp children sang "Do-Re-Mi" so delightfully. While the 17th-century palace is today a municipal building (housing what is considered to be one of the world's most beautiful wedding halls), the gardens were opened to the public back in 1854 by Emperor Franz Joseph. With charming flower beds, statues of Roman gods, a hedge theater, the Pegasus Fountain, and a collection of marble dwarves, it's the best of the city's botanical refuges. Hellbrunn Palace—located just outside Salzburg—also offers gorgeous green space alongside its famous fountains.
    Photo courtesy of Tourismus Salzburg
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    The Trick Fountains of Hellbrunn
    There's no shortage of places around Salzburg for couples to take memorable vacation photos, but the stunning Italian-style Renaissance palace at Hellbrunn may earn the top honor. It was designed in 1613, under the auspices of Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus, as the ultimate Lustschloß, or pleasure palace. Its spacious park, with grottoes, sculptures, and unique Trick Fountains, makes for a playful and photogenic experience. (The "trick" is trying to stay dry when water shoots out of them without warning.) Don't forget to also snap shots together at Mirabell Palace and Gardens, in front of the mighty Hohensalzburg Fortress, and atop the Mönchsberg mountain.
    Photo courtesy of Tourismus Salzburg
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    Relax at the Spa
    For the ultimate in Alpine wellness, head for the four-star Tauern Spa at Zell am See near the ski resort Kaprun. Relax and rejuvenate in its world-class sauna and aromatic steam baths; there's even a special sauna area for those who aren't comfortable going nude. Indoor and outdoor pools, spa treatments, and six different restaurants and bars complete this luxurious approach to mountain adventure. The breathtaking views of the Alps from the comfort of the Skyline Pool alone make it worth the trek out of Salzburg. Within the city, enjoy body and facial treatments at the spa of the Hotel Schloss Mönchstein or revive at the Sporrer Sauna.
    Photo courtesy of Tauern Spa at Zell am See
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    Romantic Dining
    Dating back to 803, the St. Peter Stiftskulinarium claims to be Europe’s oldest restaurant and, with 12 grand and historic salons, it’s also one of the most elegant and romantic. The menu reflects influences from across Europe, with a special emphasis on traditional Austrian fare, and is known for its three-course Mozart Dinner with exceptional local musicians performing in period costumes. The Zirbelzimmer at the famous Hotel Sacher has an atmosphere of old-world elegance with wood-paneled walls, classic Austrian and contemporary European dishes, and the famous Sacher torte. For gourmet experiences, try the modern European flair of Esszimmer or the lively Carpe Diem. No visit to Salzburg is complete without stopping for coffee and pastries at the famous Café Tomaselli, a favorite haunt of Mozart during his time here.
    Photo courtesy of Tourismus Salzburg
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    Atmospheric Cafés
    Café culture is an important part of Salzburg, and the historic Café Tomaselli is absolutely the place to go for coffee and dessert. Dating back to 1700 and owned by the Tomaselli family since 1852, the café has served a notable clientele—including Mozart. The outdoor seating is great for people-watching in the summer, but it's the warm ambience inside that makes it perfect for couples looking to enjoy a cozy evening. Sip a traditional Einspänner, mocha in a glass with whipped cream, and pick out one of the amazing pastries or cakes proffered by the "cake maid," who brings selections to the table. The historic Café Sacher in the famous Hotel Sacher is sure to win hearts with its namesake torte. The less atmospheric but equally delicious Café Fingerlos and the traditional Café Bazar next to the Salzach River are also good choices.
    Photo by Ingolf Pompe/age fotostock
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    Picturesque Ice-Skating Rinks
    Each winter, Mozartplatz turns into Salzburg's open-air ice rink. Couples can glide across the ice, surrounded by baroque church towers and other historic buildings in the heart of the old town. While that's certainly romantic, particularly under Christmas lights, an even more enchanting experience occurs once the nearby lakes have frozen over. Lake Zell provides the ultimate ice-skating experience: Skaters here can enjoy a clear vista of the snow-covered mountains surrounding this massive natural rink. On a bright winter day the sun glistens magically off the ice, warming even the chilliest of hearts.
    Photo by Martin Siepmann/age fotostock
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    Award-Winning Sweets
    From chocolate to cakes to pastries, Salzburg has a sweet reputation. The simple golden soufflé called the Salzburger Nockerl is popular in the city, but the most famous sweets are the delicious marzipan-and-pistachio-filled chocolate balls known as Mozartkugeln. They were invented in 1890 by a Salzburg confectioner named Paul Fürst, who received a gold medal for them at the Paris Exhibition of 1905. These "Original Salzburger Mozartkugeln" are still created, using the same family recipe, by Fürst's great-grandson, Norbert. They can only be purchased at one of his four namesake Cafe-Konditorei Fürst locations in the city. (These outposts also sell truffles and other delicacies.)
    Photo courtesy of Cafe-Konditorei Fürst
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    Classy Cocktails and Local Wine
    With its sweeping views of Salzburg's old town, Steinterrasse is one of the city's hot spots. Located atop the luxurious Hotel Stein, this rooftop bar features a sleek, contemporary design that stands in beautiful contrast to the historic skyline, dominated by the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Drinks are pricey and the service can be hit-or-miss, but drop in for a cocktail or a glass of wine to experience the modern side of Salzburg. To enjoy some of Austria’s fine (and generally underrated) wines, head for the warm, cozy ambience of Köchelverzeichnis. Rieslings and grüner veltliners here come from the family’s own vineyards in the Wachau region.
    Photo courtesy of Hotel Stein
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