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Großes Festspielhaus in Salzburg | © Veronika Zangl
IN FOCUS: The Festival District
Practically like clockwork. Every year in summertime, Salzburg’s Festival District is transformed into a "city within a city" and becomes a unique cultural milieu.
The Salzburg Festival District
It’s hard to comprehend, but the Salzburg Festival District is actually a district that doesn’t officially exist. Nonetheless, it is world-famous and an irresistible hotspot for visitors and Salzburgers alike. Even international celebrities have a penchant for sauntering through Salzburg’s downtown city streets or meeting up with friends to sip on spritzers in charming outdoor eateries.
When we speak of the Festival District, we are referring to the area which surrounds Salzburg’s festival halls – extending from the Pferdeschwemme (“Horse Pond”) to Cathedral Square, flanked by performance venues along the way. The main festival halls actually consist of three different locations: the Grosses Festspielhaus, Haus für Mozart and Felsenreitschule. They originally constituted part of the prince archbishops’ stables, built in 1606 and 1607 by Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau. Subsequent leaders of the church adapted the buildings and contemporaneous architects stamped them with their own personal signatures: The roof of the Felsenreitschule is an ultra-modern construction that can be retracted or extended as needed.
During the festival, performances also take place at several remote venues away from the main buildings. The most famous example? Cathedral Square, site of the impressive “Jedermann” productions. Others include the Great Hall of Salzburg University and various churches. You will even encounter this legendary cultural event at trendy “watering holes” such as the Szene Café, in which case the festival focuses squarely on audiences of tomorrow.
The Festival District definitely has no shortage of culinary gathering spots. The Triangel is especially popular – a restaurant as well as magnet for celebrities. Countless famous personalities have allowed themselves a brief timeout here, enjoying the opportunity to kick back in a casual setting. The Hagenauerstuben radiates authentic charm: Its legendary outdoor dining area in the heart of the Grünmarkt treats guests to a one-of-a-kind view of Collegiate Church, while the bar captivates with its authenticity and warmth. Mozart was born in this selfsame house. A house which can still be visited today and is one of the top sightseeing attractions in all of Salzburg.
Unique Photo Motifs
Also away from the well-trodden paths, this district with a high density of celebrities has much to offer. One insider tip is undoubtedly the Holzmeisterstiege next to the Felsenreitschule. Its stout stone steps lead up the Mönchsberg and definitely exude the aura of bygone days. The views at the top are unique, providing highly popular photo motifs – also the case, incidentally, with the “Gherkins” which you will find in Furtwängler Park. This installation by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm is next to the lawns in front of the Festival Hall and is just one of the waypoints along the Walk of Modern Art.
As for Furtwängler Park, it also happens to conceal an astonishing secret all its own: Standing in the middle of it is an almost 170 years old ginkgo tree. This venerable green figure, along with its handsome neighbor, a Himalayan pine tree, is a remnant of the university’s botanical garden and a true rarity.
All the world’s a stage? It certainly is, and the Salzburg Festival District pens some of the most fascinating plays imaginable. That said, now’s the perfect time to raise the curtain on an epic adventure: experience, marvel and enjoy!