The annual cultural events, which reach their peak at the Salzburg Festival, overshadow any after-dark amusements such as dance clubs and beer halls. Clubs come and go in Salzburg fairly rapidly.
It's said that there's a musical event -- often a Mozart concert -- staged virtually every night in Salzburg. To find out what's playing, visit the Salzburg tourist office, Mozartplatz 5 (tel. 0662/889870; www.2.salzburg.info), or get a free copy of Offizieller Wochenspiegel, a monthly pamphlet listing all major and many minor local cultural events; it's available in most hotels. The annual Mozart Week is in January.
Free Concerts & Special Events -- Free concerts are frequently presented by students in the Mozarteum, Schwarzstrasse 26 (tel. 0662/8894030; bus: 1 or 5). In summer, free brass-band concerts are performed in the Mirabell Gardens on Wednesday at 8:30pm and, depending on the venue, either Saturday or Sunday at 10:30am; Sunday chamber-music concerts are held throughout the city at major landmarks such as the Residenz.
The second-most famous music festival in Salzburg is the Osterfestspiele (Easter Festival), which features high-quality operas and concerts performed in the Festspielhaus. Some, but not all, of the music focuses on works associated with the resurrection of Christ as interpreted by the great 18th- and 19th-century composers. Established by Herbert von Karajan in the 1960s, the festival requires that spectators purchase tickets to the opera and each of the three concerts associated with the event. Prices for the series are anything but cheap: They range, per person, from 90€ to 720€ ($144-$1,152). For information and ticket purchases, contact the Osterfestspiele, Herbert von Karajan Platz 9, A-5020 Salzburg (tel. 0662/8045361; www.osterfestspiele-salzburg.at; bus: 1).
Christmas Eve in Salzburg is unforgettable. Traditionally, in the little chapel of Oberndorf, north of Salzburg, "Silent Night" is performed. Franz Gruber wrote the melody to that song here when he was an organist in the early 19th century.
Buying Tickets -- If you don't want to pay a ticket agent's commission, you can go directly to the box office of a theater or concert hall. However, many of the best seats might have already been sold, especially those at the Salzburg Festival. Despite the availability of ticket outlets in any of the below-mentioned theaters, many visitors head for the larger umbrella ticket agency, Salzburger Ticket Office, Mozartplatz 5 (tel. 0662/840310), which is affiliated with the city of Salzburg and adjacent to Salzburg's main tourist office. Open Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm (to 7pm in midsummer) and Sunday 10am to 6pm, it's the single best source for cultural information and ticket sales in town, usually with tickets to virtually every musical event in the city on sale -- except, of course, to those events that are sold out long in advance.
Curiously, though Salzburg is known as a city of music and culture, it has no famed local troupes. However, it does attract visiting guest artists with blue-chip credentials in the world of performing arts.
The Salzburg Festival
One of the premier music attractions of Europe, the Salzburg Festival celebrates its 87th season in 2007. Composer Richard Strauss founded the festival, aided by director Max Reinhardt and writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
An annual event is Hofmannsthal's adaptation of the morality play Jedermann (Everyman), performed in German and staged outside the cathedral in Domplatz. Concerts are usually conducted in the Rittersaal of the Residenz Palace (Mozart conducted here) and in the marble salon of Mirabell Palace (Mozart's father, Leopold, conducted here). The Salzburger Marionetten Theater also presents performances. Ballet performances are usually given by the Vienna State Opera Ballet with the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Philharmonic. International soloists are invited annually, and the London Symphony or the Berlin Philharmonic is also likely to be invited.
Festival tickets, however, are in great demand, and there never are enough of them. Don't arrive expecting to get into any of the major events unless you've already purchased tickets. Travel agents can often get tickets for you, and you can also go to branches of the Austrian National Tourist Office at home or abroad. Hotel concierges, particularly at the deluxe and first-class hotels of Salzburg, always have some tickets on hand, but expect to pay outrageous prices for them, depending on the particular performance you want to attend. At first-night performances of the major productions, remember that evening dress is de rigueur.
Subject to many exceptions and variations, and without agent commissions, drama tickets generally run 30€ to 200€ ($48-$320). Opera tickets can begin as low as 45€ ($72), ranging upward to 300€ ($480).
For festival details, contact the Salzburg Festival box office, Hofstallgasse 1, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria (tel. 0662/8045; www.salzburgfestival.at).
Although the Salzburger Landestheater, Schwarzstrasse 22 (tel. 0662/8715120; www.theater.co.at; bus: 3, 5, or 6), doesn't always play for summer visitors, you can see its regular repertoire of operas (not just Mozart) and operettas if you're in Salzburg from September to mid-June. You might see a thrilling performance of Verdi's Traviata. Opera tickets usually range from 25€ to 64€ ($40-$102). In July and August, Salzburg Festival performances are held here.
Salzburger Marionetten Theater, Schwarzstrasse 24 (tel. 0662/8724060; www.marionetten.at; bus: 3, 5, or 6), presents shows from Easter to September, as well as special shows at Christmas and during Mozart Week, the last week of January. The puppets perform both opera (usually Mozart) and ballet, to the delight of adults and children alike. Founded in 1913, the theater continues to be one of the most unusual and enjoyable theatrical experiences in Salzburg. You might forget that marionettes are onstage -- it's that realistic. Tickets are 20€ to 40€ ($32-$64).
The Club & Music Scene
The best alternative music spot is Rockhouse, Schallmooser Hauptstrasse 46 (tel. 0662/884914; www.rockhouse.at; bus: 1 or 4), which also has a cafe. Local and European bands are booked to play this tunnel-like venue, which offers everything from blues and funk to jazz and techno pop. Sometimes groups from the United States or even Africa appear here. The structure itself is from the 1840s, having once been a wine cellar and ice-storage depot. Cover is 9€ to 30€ ($14-$48), depending on the act. Call to see what's happening at the time of your visit.
There's something disheveled and disorganized about the Republic Cafe, Anton Neumayr Platz 2 (tel. 0664/841613; www.republic-cafe.at; bus: 2), but it's a hotbed of countercultural activities in Salzburg. It defines itself as a cross between a bar and a cafe, with a "radical performance space." Its nerve center is a battered street-level bar and cafe, open Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 1am, Friday and Saturday from 8am to 4pm. You can hang out at the bar, chatting with hard-rock music fans, rave participants, and all kinds of grunge musicians, and ordering mugs of beer costing 3€ to 4€ ($4.80-$6.40). Radiating from the cafe are several performance spaces which might or might not be booked by local jazz ensembles, avant-garde theater groups, performance artists, or nihilist poets, depending on the week's schedule. Frankly, there's a lot that's slipshod and disorganized about this place, but part of its charm derives from a haphazard schedule and its own sense that it's a cauldron for artistic-statements-in-the-making.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.