In a nutshell: A grand hotel on the banks of the river with some of the best views in the city – and a surprisingly relaxed, homely vibe
While Vienna may be the first city that springs to mind when planning a weekend break in Austria, Salzburg is arguably more picture perfect. The twinkling Salzach river runs through the city. Baroque architecture and magnificent buildings scatter the banks and Old Town. The iconic Fortress Hohensalzburg perches overhead. All set against the breathtaking backdrop of the rocky Alps. Besides its beauty, Salzburg is best known as the home of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music. Classical music fans can visit the composer’s birthplace or catch a concert in a hall where he once played. For movie lovers, there’s a whole host of set locations to visit where you can sing your “Doe, Ray, Mes”.
And there’s still much more to see and do in this very walkable city. Climb the hill or take the funicular up to the fortress for some history and views of the Old Town, rent bikes and take a ride along the river, stroll through the picturesque Mirabell Gardens, kick back in one of the many old beer halls, and sample some traditional Austrian dishes. We visited on one of the last weekends of summer but the city is even more popular in autumn and winter when tourists flock to the famed Oktoberfest events and Christmas markets.
Hotel Sacher Salzburg is located right in the heart of the city just across the water from the Old Town and minutes walking distance from the most popular sites, so it’s a perfect base from which to explore. Perched right on the banks of the river – a few steps from the Lover’s Locks bridge – you can’t miss the facade of the impressive, Wes Anderson-style five-star hotel greeting you.
At first glance, Hotel Sacher Salzburg appears to be a formal, fancy place. There’s the doormen in traditional attire greeting you at the entrance; the opulent antique furniture and mosaic tile flooring adorning the lobby; the crystal chandeliers and traditional Austrian artwork on display.
It’s the kind of place where you expect to be given a formal dress code for breakfast; where (arriving disheveled after a delayed flight and three-hour train from Vienna) it could be easy to feel out of place. But beneath the surface, it’s actually a much more casual – and delightfully homely – affair with cheerful, relaxed staff there to cater to your needs, but equally hands off if you prefer a more independent travel experience. We especially realised how wrong our initial perception was when we learned that children and pets are not only allowed but actively encouraged to stay, with extra special perks for both young and furry special guests.
There’s thoughtful touches such as children having their very own check-in experience on arrival – so they can feel as involved (and kept busy) as the grown-ups – and receiving a welcome gift of a teddy or rubber duck dressed as a Sacher doorman. Rather than fearing small hands on unique pieces of furniture, children are also invited to explore the hotel with a guide booklet taking them on an adventure among the grandiose antiques, while the hotel’s restaurants all offer “Petit Sacher” menus. For canine guests, there’s dog baskets, leashes, bowls – even dog sitters – available. Ultimately, this is a place for everyone: families, couples, solo travellers with their furry best friends (we even saw an organised coach tour of a few dozen guests arriving).
This family- and dog-friendly vibe is perhaps less surprising when you know the history of the Sacher hotels with the founder’s wife Anna Sacher known for being a big dog lover while the family’s children grew up running round the hotels. It all dates back to 1876 when Eduard Sacher opened the first Hotel Sacher in the heart of Vienna under his family name. Soon it became one of most exclusive hotels in the city as it welcomed celebrities, royals, politicians and members of high society through its doors. Hotel Sacher Salzburg meanwhile began life as the “Österreichischer Hof” hotel in 1886 before changing hands and joining the Sacher empire in 1988, earning its new name in 2000.
Now owned by the Gürtler and Winkler families, the Sacher hotels are still very much a family affair more than a century on, with various family members still running the different parts of the business. Hotel Sacher Salzburg for example recently underwent a major refurbishment by Alexandra Winkler to mark the hotel’s 150th anniversary. All in all, this ode to its heritage leaves you with the quality of service of a five-star hotel and luxury of beautiful surroundings.
Bed and bath
Rooms all lead off the grand central atrium with its gold banisters and sweeping, carpeted stairwell showcased by the sunlight pouring through the vast, glass roof overhead. Every one of the 111 rooms is different, ranging from deluxe rooms at one end of the scale to one and two-bedroom suites in the mid-range and then the spectacular Sacher Sky Suite penthouse complete with its own vast terrace at the other. Many come with balconies and sweeping views across either the river on one side or the opera house on the other.
Decor-wise, rooms continue the traditional Austrian style and local makers and artists feature heavily, with locally-crafted curtains, animal patterned wallpapers and classic furnishings. Modern touches include a television in the bathroom (yes, you read that right), a tablet to communicate with the concierge desk, and an electronic do not disturb button.
In the rooms, all the amenities are very on brand from the fluffy white robes, towels and slippers with gold Hotel Sacher embroidery, even down to the Hotel Sacher branded Nespresso machine and pistachio nuts in the complimentary minibar. A particular special, unique touch comes in its bespoke Time to Chocolate bath products – which leave you smelling as divine as the hotel’s famous Sacher-Torte after taking a relaxing soak in the bathtub at the end of a day’s sightseeing.
Food and drink
Of course, no stay in Hotel Sacher – or Salzburg for that matter – is complete without sampling the Original Sacher-Torte. Created back in 1832 with a special 34-step process that remains a secret to this day, people travel far and wide to sample this famous chocolate cake. You’ll often spot a chain of people lining up outside the Cafe Sacher to get a slice – and it sure is worth the wait. Beyond the cake itself, the Cafe Sacher will also transport you back to the heyday of Austrian coffee culture with its berry-coloured plush velvet seats and wall of photos showcasing some of the famous faces who have passed through its doors.
There are several other dining options to choose from. The Sacher Grill restaurant has a modern vibe offering traditional Austrian fair. We’d highly recommend getting the signature Wiener Schnitzel and the famous SalzBurger before finishing up with the sweetly spiced apple strudel and washing it all down with a local schnapps.
There’s also the hotel bar with its unique twists on classic cocktails (expect to see a mix of both hotel guests and locals stopping by for a drink in this New York-style speakeasy setting). And there’s the Sacher Zirbelzimmer restaurant serving Austrian classics and seasonal fare in an original wood-panelled room adorned with hunting trophies.
For breakfast, expect freshly baked pastries, bread and cake (of course including the Sacher-Torte), cured fishes and spreads, continental options and a vast range of cereals and teas. Beyond the buffet, the breakfast also includes made-to-order dishes. Guests can also sip prosecco, made-to-order viennese coffee, freshly squeezed juices, or one of the huge range of specialist teas on the outdoor terrace by the river or in the warmth of the restaurant overlooking the river.
On top of all the different dining choices – and the temptation to just spend as much time as possible enjoying the unrivalled views from your room – a brand new health club was also added to the hotel as part of the recent refurbishment. Take the designated lift down to the basement (so there’s no risk of passing anyone in the lobby in your robe) and you’ll find an oasis of black, creams and pink. Book a relaxing massage or a personal training session or simply pop down whenever suits to use the gym equipment or to unwind in the sauna and steam bath. For those keen for a little adventure, take advantage of the free-to-use hotel bikes (of course branded) for a ride along the river. Or enjoy the relaxing, lobby areas in where (despite being at capacity when we there) you can easily find some quiet time to yourself among the grand decor.
Nuts and bolts
Room count: 111
Freebies: Breakfast, Nespresso coffee in room, non-alcoholic minibar drinks and snacks, bike rental.
Extra charges: Spa treatments, parking facilities and pet stays are extra.
Disability access: Public areas are wheelchair accessible and certain rooms are accessible.
Pet policy: Dogs are welcome at an additional cost. Dog sitting service can also be arranged by the concierge.
Best thing: The beautiful, homely rooms and suites: it’s tempting to just hang out there gazing at the mesmerising views. And of course the divine Original Sacher-Torte.
Worst thing: Communication on arrival could be better. While the hotel’s relaxed vibe and non-overpowering approach by staff is one of its selling points, the Hotel Sacher Salzburg sells itself short by not telling guests some of the lesser-known perks on arrival (eg. the bike rental).
Perfect for: Couples and families who like the finer things but also want to feel at home.
Not right for: Groups of young friends looking for a lively stay.
Instagram from: The spectacular views from the rooms and terraces.