Probably best known as the birthplace of Mozart, the city Salzburg has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. It’s a wonderful place to go for a weekend or week long break.
Salzburg city centre is one of the best-preserved in Austria and for that matter anywhere north of the Alps. The Altstadt, or “old town”, is dominated by internationally acclaimed baroque towers and churches and the massive Festung Hohensalzburg. Literally meaning High Salzburg Fortress, the Festung towers over the city from atop the Festungsberg mountain. It’s worth a visit for the spectacular sights from its viewing terrace which is accessible.
The architecture of Salzburg is stunning and the city as a whole is beautifully picturesque. But for many tourists Mozart’s association with the city really is the main draw, along with The Sound Of Music – that other titan of musical history (the real Von Trapp family lived in Salzburg). The more touristy areas of Salzburg are full of Mozart souvenirs which can be most generously described as kitsch. Out of these the one worthwhile thing is a Mozartkugel. These sweets are almost a rite of passage for visitors to the city. They’re golf ball sized Mozart themed chocolates filled with pistachio flavoured marzipan. It might be worth buying one just so you can say you have.
Salzburg is an interesting place to go to for the less able because it was named as the 2012 European City Of Access. The award is given annually to the city that has done the most to improve its accessibility in key public areas: the built environment and public spaces; transport and related infrastructure; information and communication, including new technologies, public facilities and services.
It’s a great achievement made all the more impressive considering the geographical diversity of the city, situated on the banks of the Salzach River surrounded by rolling plains to the north and mountains to the south. Access in Salzburg has improved a lot but it is very difficult to be fully accessible (which is rather reminiscent of some recent comments we’ve seen on the Edinburgh Fringe). The key issue is to make people aware of what is and isn’t accessible and the city has done a marvelous job of this. The dedication to this cause is clear on their website and particular through the Salzburg Without Barriers Guide. It’s a pretty comprehensive guide to access and it’s available online. It has lots of details about the accessibility at a good deal of the city’s hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist attractions.
However, you do need to study the guide quite closely to really check the access. For instance, the 4 star Amadeo Hotel Schaffenrath is supposed to be one of Salzburg’s specialist barrier free hotels. But the supposedly accessible rooms have baths rather than wheel in showers. At Blue Badge Style we don’t ever count that as being fully accessible. Especially if the baths don’t have handrails and different accounts differ over whether the baths even have them.
Also, although the initial overview guide implies that the hotel is totally accessible, closer inspection suggests that many of this is ‘limited access’. So even though this hotel is supposedly one of Salzburg’s ‘barrier free hotels’ there does seem to be some barriers to less able people staying there. This serves to highlight the need to really check with venues (particularly hotels) about what they believe constitutes an accessible room.
One needs to be vigilant but if you are you can find some superb places to stay, eat and drink with good access for the less able. Here’s our run down of some top places in Salzburg.
It’s not all bad news on the hotel access front. There are lots of hotels with good accessibility for the less able. For instance, the Heffterhof boasts an almost staggering eight wheelchair accessible rooms (four single, four double), all with wheel in showers and pretty much all you can expect from an accessible hotel room.
Not many hotels have anything near eight disabled guest rooms and when the main problem is that the mirror about the sink might be a little bit too high, you know a hotel is doing alright. It’s also nice when the hotel’s website openly advertises the fact there are barrier free rooms as is the case here but all too rarely elsewhere. The look of the Heffterhof is not exactly groundbreaking and creative stylistically but it is still a trendy and comfortable four star hotel. Simple, sleek and very enjoyable place to stay. 2.5 BBS Ticks.
A little more elegant, the Altstadt Radisson Blu is a gorgeous 5 star hotel in the heart of Salzburg’s old town. The hotel is decorated in a very classic and very classy style. The hotel’s one disabled guest room is well equipped, with a wheel in shower complete with handrails and seat. There’s step free access to get inside and a lift to all floors. They allow guide dogs, have roll under tables and even the plugs have been raised to a suitable height for wheelchair users. Also 2.5 BBS Ticks.
Amusingly, the translation on the website of the Austria Classic Hotel & Gasthof Hölle accidentally describes an average stay there as being Four Star hell but for the less able visitor this hotel is anything but. They have good disabled facilities which are also highlighted by their website in a display including a photo showing what they have. The room has a bathroom with lots of space to move around in, a toilet with plenty of handrails and a wheel in shower with handrails and a seat. They say the hotel has a “classic Austrian” whatever that means. What we take from that is that it’s stylishly comfortable which is what you want really.
The restaurant at the Austria Class Hotel & Gasthof Hölle has accessible open air dining and although the toilet in the restaurant is not fully accessible, if worst comes to worst you could always head back to your room to use the one there.
Restaurants and Bars
Salzburg has the highest concentration of Michelin stars in all of Austria so you can expect to eat well while you’re there. Whether it’s traditional Austrian you want or something a bit different, there’s loads to choose from.
The fascinating Ikarus is somehow more of an experiment than a restaurant. Located in Salzburg’s Hangar 7, each month a new top chef comes over to Salzburg to act as head chef at Ikarus. It provides excellent variety, quality and an element of the unexpected. The result is that you can never truly predict what you’ll be served but you can rest in the knowledge that it will be Michelin star quality. The most recent chefs to do a stint in charge of the kitchen include Richard Ekkebus, Eneko Atxa, Dylan Jones and Bo Songvisava. It’s amazing how the restaurant has to adapt each month and Ikarus is well worth a visit if you can get in. The guest chef concept sounds really interesting and we hope it catches on.
The restaurant also looks brilliant and in terms of disabled access it has everything you could want. There’s a disabled toilet, flat floors, an accessible entrance, roll under tables and it’s accessible for large groups of wheelchair users.
Carpe Diem has disabled facilities that are pretty much as good as Ikarus’ (i.e. very good). It’s a popular meeting place for the trendy people of Salzburg to go for a relaxed meal or even just a drink. It’s another restaurant with a kind of concept, this time created by Dietrich Mateschitz, who also invented Red Bull and is a big figure in Salzburg. The concept here is that they serve a lot of their food in ‘cones’. For instance, one option is a potato cone bursting with prime beef, creamed spinach and horseradish. It’s a bit different, accessible and very stylish.
The Tomaselli Cafe, situated in the old town, has a lot of history behind it. It started life in 1705 as a coffee shop and it is said that even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came to the Tomaselli to drink a glass of almond milk. In 1896 it was bought by Karl Tomaselli and it has been in his family ever since. It’s a traditional little cafe supplying drinks from coffee in the morning to nightcaps late in the evening, with a bakery serving cakes and pastries as well. The accessibility is not great – there is a small step to get inside (about 4cm) and the cafe doesn’t have a wheelchair friendly toilet but you could pop round for a quick drink and sit outside.
GUWE is a very cool and contemporary restaurant, bar and terrace. Chef Christian Kabasser makes imaginative and creative menus and a la carte dishes. The design is very stylish and of the moment. Think charcoals, whitewashed walls and bare wooden table. The building is accessible and has a disabled toilet. It’s advised that it’s suitable for small groups of wheelchair users.
M 32 sits on top of one of the largest hills in Salzburg and therefore offers a fantastic view. You take the lift up to it, although you have to pay (it’s a long lift), and there is a flat entrance onto the terrace from the restaurant. The view is outstanding and the food and drink is pretty special too. They have a fully equipped disabled toilet.
There are so many places to go in Salzburg and a lot of impressive and attractive things to see. We really recommended taking a look at the excellent guide to Salzburg Without Barriers to find out about the accessibility wherever you want to go. It’s particularly handy for checking out whether museums and other sights are accessible. We’d just advise that you print out a copy of the key, which shows what all the accessibility related symbols mean, to make it easier to understand.
It’s the things like that guide that helped Salzburg win the EU Access City Award last year. No, the accessibility isn’t perfect but they’ve done a lot to be more accessible and at least you always know where you stand. We really recommend Salzburg as a place to go for a European city break this year.