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Salzburg Festival – transforming the city

Salzburg's historic centre is transformed into a large festival zone once a year

A city in an unusual state of affairs. Tourists from all over the world come to the historic centre of Salzburg in summer, but most of it has not been designed for such large crowds. And as soon as the Festival starts, so does the charming and orderly chaos. You might hear a few locals grumble each time, but they actually enjoy getting used to it. People watching and complaining about pedestrian congestion simply go hand in hand in Salzburg. Salzburg is definitely transformed by the Festival.

The Festival district

  • Hofstallgasse: VIPS and Paparazzi: The red carpet is rolled out, it’s Festival time. The wide Hofstallgasse between the Festival Hall and Faculty of Catholic Theology witnesses an unusual extravaganza every year. Limos and sports cars drive VIPS right up to the red carpet. Onlookers on the other side of the street wait with their cameras and discuss current rumours while trying to catch a glimpse of them.
  • Furtwängler Park: The adjacent Furtwängler Park gets turned into a luxury car park, an open-air café and a Prosecco party for Festival guests and employees alike. You can hear the latest stories or find out before everyone else whether Everyman is going to be performed inside or outside on that day – as long as you have the right sources …
  • Domplatz: The huge stage and tribune for the Everyman performances dominate the historic centre during the Salzburg Festival. If the weather is uncertain, then everything is set up in the Large Festival Hall as well as in front of the cathedral and then later dismantled. In the last few years, the entire Everyman procession has walked from the Festival Hall to the stage – a festive procession you shouldn’t miss if you are in the area.
  • Kapitelplatz: Not everyone has the money, ticket luck or the patience to watch an opera production at the Large Festival Hall. For several years now, the Siemens Fest>Spiel>Nächte has been showing the best shows of the last few years on a big screen. Locals bring their own drinks to this public screening, which has also become a part of the Festival‘s tradition – and visitors are welcome to do, too.
© Tourismus Salzburg GmbH, Bryan Reinhart - Salzburger Festspiele

© Tourismus Salzburg GmbH, Bryan Reinhart – Salzburg Festival

Several thousand people involved

Tailors, stage designers, cleaners, lighting technicians, stewards, … Apart from the obvious musicians, actors and organisers, you would hardly believe everything that goes on behind the scenes. Some people are already working on the performances for next year while the first employees start about one month before the festival opens. Half the town is frantically pottering, tinkering, testing and rehearsing, ages before the Festival actually starts. Followed by intense weeks of rehearsals and then the productions get their finishing touches. Once the Festival has started, it’s time for most people to go home.

Crowds in the city

Summer is the peak tourist season. If you can, try and avoid the historic centre on very hot days. Or simply escape to the coffee houses in the cool passageways on Getreidegasse. It’s also not the best idea to visit the main sites and attractions in the city when the Festival is on as there are long waiting times and masses of people. It’s best to take public transport when coming into town but if you’re coming by car, allow for plenty of time to find a parking space.

Nevertheless, you have to experience the Salzburg Festival at least once. Be it at the live performances or simply the hustle and bustle while strolling through the city.

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