After a week in sunny Brazil, I returned to the UK with just a week and a half to go until Christmas. I was ready to get back into the winter spirit, complete with snow. Lucky for me, I had been invited to fly on easyJet’s inaugural flight from London Luton Airport to Salzburg, Austria.
I took the train to the airport on Saturday morning and met the other 18 members of my group when I arrived. We sped through the check-in and security lines and soon found ourselves flying high above Europe. The flight was a smooth one, and with an hour and a half on the plane, we had time for some celebratory Champagne and bacon sandwiches before touching down at W. A. Mozart Airport in Salzburg.
There we were met with a beautiful dusting of snow as we tasted our first Mozartkugel chocolates. Afterwards there was a quick photo op and reception in the airport to commemorate the airline’s newest route.
From the airport we drove to the city center, which was just 15 minutes away. Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, was located near the old town. The rooms were spacious and the ensuite bathrooms were far superior to the pay-by-the-minute showers I used in a hostel on my last trip to Salzburg eight years ago.
After getting settled into our rooms, we departed on a sightseeing tour of Salzburg. Our guide, Heidi, took us all over the city to show us the highlights. First we stopped at the Mirabell Palace with its beautiful gardens. The purple and yellow pansies looked perfectly happy among the manicured trees and gravel paths.
From there we walked to the old town, where we saw Mozart’s birthplace before taking a quick look at the oldest restaurant in Europe. Dating back to 803, the St. Peter Stiftskeller restaurant had a labyrinth of small dining rooms on the ground floor and several stunning ballrooms one flight up.
Leaving the restaurant, our Salzburg tour continued with a walk through a courtyard that led to the famous catacombs. High above them sat the stately Salzburg Castle. The stunning building dominated the night sky as low white light illuminated its medieval walls.
Our tour of Salzburg ended at the Baroque cathedral. The third one to be built on the site, it dated back to 1628 and was designed by architects and artists from Italy. The building was beautiful both inside and out, and on that particular evening it was fronted by a choir singing carols at a Christmas market in the square.
Like the markets I visited in Cologne a few weeks ago, the Salzburg Christmas markets were impressive feats of festivity. Rows of chalets packed the square in front of the cathedral as well as two adjacent plazas. They sold everything from ornaments and nativity scenes to bratwurst and Gluhwein.
We spent several hours exploring the markets. Starting with a hearty plate of sausages and sauerkraut, we worked our way through chocolate and Sachertorte before finishing up at a place that sold wooden Christmas tree ornaments. Afterwards we made a quick stop at Furst, the original makers of Mozartkugel, to pick up some more treats.
That evening our group had dinner at the restaurant at the K+K Hotel in Salzburg. It was located near a winter ice skating rink, and our private dining room was festive for the season. We feasted on schnitzel and potatoes, and enjoyed plates of fresh cookies for dessert.
The next morning we were up early to travel to Innsbruck, an even snowier, more Christmassy Austrian city. As our train pulled out of Salzburg station, we had gorgeous views of the castle, the cathedral, and the old town across the river. From there we sped through snow covered countryside beneath stunning white mountains. It was the perfect winter scene. I came to Austria wanting to get into the winter spirit, and it proved the perfect place to do so.