On a chilly day in December, my companions and I arrived at the Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg in a haze of the long fingers of rain well-known to locals as ‘string rain’. I was therefore glad to find that the repute of our hotel meant there was to be no dithering on the part of our driver in finding the entrance to the 600-year-old building, and that said entrance was on the shop-lined Getreidegasse, so that further episodes of the unrelenting rain would not affect our exploits.
Once within and dry enough to take in our surroundings, we found ourselves appreciative of our drivers’ reverence upon telling him where we were staying. Defining the je ne sais quoi that demarcates a good hotel and a great one is of course a tricky business, but the Goldener Hirsch reveals more than a few clues as to how the feat of greatness can be achieved. Aside from the usual markers of excellence (cleanliness, punctiliousness, location), it has character and style. Not merely an old shell with modern interiors, it is a work of restoration where everything from the beams to the staircases have been preserved as far as possible, with modern additions to allow for expected comforts. It is a smorgasbord of old and new, courtly and comfy.
The service was equally well pitched, with a concierge that clearly understood the protocol of Salzburg’s elite establishments and is happy to inform – even if that meant advising me that vegetarianism is not the thing in Salzburg (fret not, they found me a suitable back alley turnip shop).
While on food, it is worth mentioning that breakfast is not to be missed, not only for wide variety of breads and cheeses, but also for the people-watching element: the Goldener Hirsch’s clientele is fascinating to behold, and as such we spent far longer over our semmel than necessary in order to take them in. We also tried the hotel’s informal Herzl restaurant next door for traditional fodder in the evening and were suitably impressed.
This is the sort of hotel you will return to – but do remember to book well in advance, particularly if you wish to stay for the Salzburg festival. If my word doesn’t suffice, a peek at the list of the famed who have stayed may well do it: Oscar de la Renta, Caroline of Monaco, Liz Taylor, Clark Gable, The Prince of Wales and Yves Saint Laurent have all peeled back the duvet to find the printed weather forecast left nightly on the pillow next to the chocolate as a last little goodnight and a reminder that at the Goldener Hirsch string rain won’t dampen anyone’s spirits.