Take a City Break in Salzburg

The instant reaction to arriving in Salzburg is a sharp intake of fresh, Alpine air.  It's a breathtaking knockout of a city, with piercing spires and Baroque domes set against a stunning backdrop of mountains and the fast-flowing Salzach river winding around it.

Eyes are immediately drawn to the commanding Hohensalzburg Fortress towering above the city, one of the largest, best-preserved medieval castles in Europe.  Hop on the funicular railway to the fortress for spectacular views and explore the interior, including the eerie dungeons and dazzling Golden Hall and Golden Chamber.

Walk along the Monchsberg mountain and you'll encounter more stunning views, plus the striking glass-and-marble Museum der Moderne (the modern art museum) on your way.  Alternatively, wander down towards the cobbled Old Town, with its winding side streets and open squares.

A treat awaits from mid-November, as the Christmas markets open.  Salzburg's picturesque setting makes it an ideal site for lights, music and stalls selling mulled wine and gingerbread.  The ornate fountain in the grand Residenzplatz square is joined by a towering Christmas tree, plus choral singing in front of the cathedral.

Each area has its charms,  with Mozart Square providing an open-air ice rink alongside a statue of the city's most famous son.  Hellbrunn Palace boasts a courtyard lined with flaming torches, an oversized advent calendar and reindeer.

Call in at the Braustubl Tavern, which has been brewing its own beer since 1621.  If it's too cool in the epic, 1,500-seat garden outside, head indoors where friendly locals drink steins of bear in the high, arched ceilings of this former monastery.

Alternatively, the swish Steinterrasse rooftop cafe/bar combines splendid views of the river with cocktails or champagne.  Salzburg offers similarly diverse food options.  Meaty bratwurst might be the main offering in the historic taverns, but there are also gourmet options. Michelin-starred Magazin is the pick, with the majority of its ingredients seasonal and locally sourced.

Cycling or hiking through the lush mountains, paragliding from Gaisberg peak or ice skating on a frozen Leopoldskron Lake in winter, Salzburg has many ways to work up an appetite for its famous delicacies.

Austria will always be most associated with skiing, though, and the Alps within easy distance of Salzburg Airport offer some splendid locations.  The most popular, Obertauern, is just 45 minutes away and provides arguably the most spectacular scenery, as well as snow-sure conditions.

To the south, Gasteinertal offers the bonus of hot springs, while Kitzbuhel is the place to enjoy luxury and fine dining.  That said, all of Salzburg's locations offer stunning mountain vistas and diverse slopes, perfect for snowboarders and skiers of every level of experience.

Lastly, if you're a golf enthusiast, it might surprise you to know that the state of Salzburg is home to 14 different golf courses.  Pick of these is the Baroque elegance of Klessheim Palace, just minutes from the city centre.

Salzburg's charm is not built solely on its historic grandeur.  One exciting new addition is Hangar-7.  Opened in 2003, it's owned by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who has filled a vast space-age structure with some incredible boys' toys.

Formula1 cars, motorcycles, helicopters and 25 vintage aeroplanes are proudly displayed.  Best of all, it's free to visit and contains a regularly changing art exhibition, two bars and Ikarus, an upmarket restaurant.  It's next to the airport, so keep an eye out for near 50ft-high glass and steel hanger as your flight touches down.