Salzburg in autumn is a special place. Often overlooked for its more glamorous and cosmopolitan sister city Vienna, Salzburg during the rest of the year is the second city in Austria. As the days begin to cool however, Salzburg takes on a special attraction, as festival after festival brings the city to prominence and the cooler weather thins the tourist crowds, both in the city and beyond.
Days of Culture in Salzburg
Salzburg’s greatest appeal has always come from its deep devotion to culture and history. One of the most eventful times of year is the autumn, for this is the season when all things cultural are celebrated and there is an endless variety of things to see and do.
One of the biggest event of the season is the world famous Salzburg Festival, which brings with it majestic operas, plays and other performances during the months of September and October. Then there is the Salzburg Jazz Autumn, when the syrup-smooth sounds of jazz play on as the golden-brown leaves fall on the streets outside. And if that is not enough there is the Salzburg Culture Days, which especially focuses on operas and classical concerts.
There are also many traditional folk celebrations held during the autumn. One of the biggest of these traditional events is the Harvest Festival, the modern continuation of an ancient festival of thanksgiving. Also, late in September there is Rupertikerday, a celebration of Saint Rupert, Salzburg’s patron saint, which brings all manner of crafts and street theatre to the city square around the cathedral.
Autumn attractions in Salzburg
The coming season also heralds a change in the crowds, which quickly thins from its bustling summertime strength to a more negotiable stream of festival goers and intrepid vacationers willing to brave the cooler days. For many independent travellers, the autumn is the best time to visit, holding as it does not only the attraction of the Salzburg Festival, but also of lesser crowds.
Even during the brisk days of autumn, many of the sights still draw a steady stream of admirers, and one of the loveliest places in the city, in any season, is the Mirabell Gardens. Formal in the traditional German style, the carefully laid beds of flowers and immaculately kept lawns were once the pleasure grounds of a decadent prince-bishop and his mistress and are still a popular place for a stroll. Quite often the Garden is host to the charming scene of a wedding party merrily posing in front of flowerbeds and fountains, after having completed the civil marriage ceremony in the mayor’s office housed in the castle.
Many of the other attractions of Salzburg continue to draw visitors through the autumn season, and right through to winter, most especially the historic old quarter of the city, the Alstadt. A delightful warren of narrow, cobblestone streets and charming little squares, the Alstadt is home to gushing fountains, ancient cafes, gracefully baroque houses and all the little quirks of geography and design which are the legacy of a city over a thousand years old. The Alstadt is at its most vibrant during the autumn, when many of the events take place in or near this enchanting quarter.
Onwards to the Countryside
When even the charms of Salzburg begin to pale, the neighbouring countryside beckons, with its wide green meadows, jagged mountains plunging down to rushing streams and endless forests.
Dotted about this landscape are the iconic villages of Austria, steep roofed and peaceful. For visitors tired of the crowds of the Salzburg, a pleasant escape can often be found just an hour’s drive beyond the city, in the traditional charms of a village inn.
In these villages, many of the ancient traditions are still observed by the residents and during the autumn, there is no more powerful tradition than the harvest festival celebrations. Many of the villages still celebrate the harvest festival traditionally, with dances, songs, feasts and games in the village square.
Whether in the villages or back on the cobble-stoned streets of the city, autumn is one of the most delightful times to visit Salzburg, as the cooler days bring with them an abundance of festivals to enjoy, thinner crowds to fight and the chance to enjoy Austria during one of its most beautiful seasons.