Ahh, Salzburg. Where do I even begin to describe your divine beauty? If this sounds like the beginning of a cheesy love letter to a long lost lover, well, you wouldn’t be wrong because I kind of did have a love affair with Salzburg. This city, which is situated on the banks of the Salzach River and at the northern boundary of the Alps in Austria, oozes charm with its harmonious mix of romantic Baroque architecture, charming cobblestone lane-ways and awe-inspiring Alpine scenery that drapes itself along the edges of the city.
Yes, Salzburg is the city of music being the birthplace of one of my personal favourite composers, the great genius that was and always will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Yes, Salzburg is the home to the classic and world renowned musical film, The Sound of Music. And yes, you will find oodles of souvenir shops catering to the mounds of tourists that visit this beautiful city just for these reasons. But, Salzburg has far more to offer than Mozart souvenirs and The Sound of Music Tours, although, if that’s what you are into, than go for it!
Salzburg has inviting squares within the city to sit down and people watch, more than enough dazzling churches to explore, a slew of mountains, hills and trails in and around the city to get some seriously stunning views, a thriving restaurant scene and even a shopping street that has more history on it than you may know.
I spent two days in Salzburg during my Austrian journey and I could’ve easily stayed longer. Located in one of the most alluring parts of Austria, the SalzburgerLand area is teeming with hundreds of lakes and sleepy villages to explore and has some of the most epic scenery I’ve ever seen. It’s a city that didn’t feel like a city to me, but rather like a place straight out of a historic storybook.
If you ever decide to come to Austria, make sure you visit Salzburg. Trust me, you’ll be penning your own love letter to the city shortly after visiting as well. Now without further adieu, here are my suggestions on how to spend an epic two days in Mozart’s birthplace.
Schloss Mirabell & Mirabell Gardens
In the heart of Salzburg lies the Schloss Mirabell and the beautifully manicured Mirabell Gardens. Built in 1606, the Palace was frequented by Mozart himself as he made music there, but nowadays, you’ll find mostly weddings, conferences and award ceremonies taking place within the palace. The dazzling gardens are designed meticulously and are filled with thousands of blooming flowers, which create a bright, cheery and colourful display for visitors. Even in mid-October the gardens were still in bloom, but be warned, Mirabell Gardens and the Palace get pretty busy with tourists, so your best bet is to arrive early in the day. Some notable pieces of sculpture and fountains are located within the gardens, so it’s best to take some time, aimlessly walk around, or enjoy kicking up your feet for a bit on one of the many benches perched throughout the gardens. You may recognize also recognize some famous areas within the gardens as Mirabell Gardens was used in the famous “Do-Re-Mi” staircase scene within the classic movie, The Sound of Music.
Indulge With Traditional Austrian Cuisine
One cannot come to Salzburg and not indulge in some hearty Austrian cuisine. One of my absolute favourite dishes is the Tyrolean Gröstl, which is essentially a breakfast hash on steroids. It comes complete with roasted potatoes, chunks of beef and pork, a fried egg all served in a little frying pan for that traditional touch. Another one of my favourite dishes is one for the cheese lovers. I’m talking about the ooey gooey, deliciously thick and cheesy Spätzle, which are a kind of soft egg noodle that will leave you full and satisfied. If they offer bacon on it as well, get it…it takes the dish to a whole other level. And of course, make sure to order a nice cold beer to wash it down with. Yum!!
Visit A Traditional & Modern Coffee House
Vienna isn’t the only Austrian city big on its café culture. The coffee and cake scene is alive and well in Salzburg too. With so many cafés to choose from, be sure to visit at least a couple different ones to really get a taste of different styles of roasts and blends being offered. From centuries old cafés to modern little hipster haunts, Salzburg will definitely live up to its coffee house big sister, Vienna. My favourite traditional coffee house was definitely Café Tomaselli. With its sleek and traditional wooden interior, friendly staff and a history of over 300 years, Café Tomaselli is one of Austria’s oldest cafés and is still family owned to this very day. Cakes are presented to you directly at your table as though you are being shown and sold pieces of colourful fine jewellery on display. The staff was kind and patient as I asked what each piece was while being quite indecisive; they all looked so good! Another traditional favourite of mine was the small and cozy Café Getreidegasse, which had a fantastic selection of cakes. If you’re looking for a more modern twist on a coffee house, how about visiting Salzburg’s smallest café? Located in an old toll station at the end of the Mozartsteg (Mozart Bridge), you’ll find the tiny shop called “We Love Coffee,” which has a large selection of coffees to take away. The shop is just about big enough for the coffee machines and the barista, but the coffee is delicious and the service is wonderful. Another place to check out would be Café San Marco for a mean cappuccino. If you’re not a smoker though, you may want to take your coffee to go, as the place is smoking friendly and small, so it may be a bit too much for the non-smoker.
Explore The Altstadt (Old Town)
Walking around historic cobblestone streets is one of my favourite pastimes while travelling and Salzburg’s Altstadt (Old Town) delivers the goods. Listed as an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1996, the Salzburg Altstadt includes numerous attractions and some of the oldest buildings and monuments in the Alps. The best and only way, in my opinion, to explore the Altstadt is by putting away the map and getting lost in the streets, numerous squares and wander down the small tucked away alleyways throughout the city. Salzburg is a city with so much history and beauty, so you’re bound to spend endless hours walking through the Old Town and gazing up at Baroque architecture at its finest.
Dom zu Salzburg
Salzburg is known as the city of churches, and with a church around every corner of the city, I can see why. The most impressive is the Dom zu Salzburg, or Salzburg Cathedral and is located adjacent to Residenzplatz and Domplatz in the Altstadt (Old Town) area of the city. Completed in 1628, the Dom Salzburg has one of the most intricate and beautiful interiors that I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. The impressive dome was partially destroyed during WWII in 1944 by an Allied aircraft bomb. In 1959, it was fully restored to what we see today. With its two large domes rising high into the sky, Dom zu Salzburg is a standout structure within the Salzburg skyline. The large outdoor square is home to the Salzburg Festival and the famous Christmas Markets, which lights up the city every year during the holidays.
St. Peter’s Church & Cemetery
Since being found in the 7th-century, St. Peter’s Church and Cemetery have been the spiritual centre of Salzburg and a must see for visitors to the city. You may also enter the mysterious Catacombs, which are carved right into the side of the Mönchsberg and for a small fee (or free entrance with the Salzburg Card), you can enter the “Gertrauden Chapel” and the “Maximus Chapel.” Take a few minutes out of your day to peacefully walk around in solitude and admire the perfectly manicured cemetery.
Walk Along The Salzach River
The mighty Salzach River is the pride and joy of Salzburg. Separating the Old Town and New Town, the Salzach River is the heart of the city and on any given day, you’ll find locals and tourists walking, biking, or enjoying a picnic along the banks of the river. From both sides of the Salzach, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the city and it’s Baroque architecture. Enjoy an evening, or early morning stroll along the banks, a laid back river cruise, or a meal overlooking the river to truly appreciate the beauty of the Salzach and the Alps acting as a magnificent backdrop.
Sitting tall on the top of the Festungsberg in the heart of the Altstadt, Hohensalzburg Fortress holds a commanding view over the entire city of Salzburg. Noted as the oldest preserved castle in Central Europe, the Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the main draw cards for tourists to the city and to Austria in general. Built in 1077, Hohensalzburg Fortress’ main purpose was to protect against attacks, but all these years, the fortress has never once been taken over by foreign troops. Today, tourists can take the FestungsBahn (funicular) from Kapitelplatz all the way up in a matter of seconds and enjoy the many biergartens and epic views of the Alps and surrounding smaller mountains of Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg. If you don’t feel like dishing out the Euros for the FestungsBahn, you may also take the footpath up to the fortress as well. All tickets, pricing and timetables are located here.
Drink Stiegl Beer
One cannot come to Salzburg and NOT drink a glass of Stiegl beer. In a city that has been brewing beer for over 600 years, Stiegl is the golden nectar of Salzburg and has been around since 1492. The Stieglbrauerei is the most popular and successful brewery in Salzburg and definitely produces one of the most delicious beers according to traditional ways. Its crisp and clean flavour is achieved by their incorporation of pure, untreated spring water from a well located deep below the Untersberg. Knowing that they pay such attention to detail in making a great product make it one of my personal favourites and it doesn’t hurt to enjoy a glass with an epic view of the Alps either.
The Getreidegasse is the main shopping vein of Salzburg’s Altstadt and also the birthplace of Mozart. The Getreidesgasse is bustling with tourists and locals throughout any given time of the day. The charming street is jam packed with narrow houses, businesses and restaurants and has an array of arcade passageways which often lead from one street to another, almost like a secret and discreet alleyway. One of the main highlights of the Getreidegasse are the traditional metal shop signs that protrude from the buildings, which had elaborate designs and sometimes showcased shop’s name, which acted as a form of advertising back then.
One of the prettiest squares in the city has to be Kapitelplatz. As you walk directly into the square from the Dom zu Salzburg (Salzburg Cathedral), you’ll have a gorgeous view of Hohensalzburg Fortress and be surrounding by many little souvenir stands selling anything and everything from magnets, hand painted trinkets, steins and even pretzels. Kapitelplatz, or Chapter Square, is full of people enjoying their day, while shopping, taking in the sites, playing a life sized game of chess, or admiring the uber cool art piece called “Sphaera” by Stephan Balkenhol. It’s the golden ball with the little man standing on top…you won’t miss it. 😉
Located in the heart of the Altstadt is the bustling Mozartplatz with a bronze monument of the famous composer. The statue was unveiled in a ceremony that took place on September 5th 1842 and is the main focal point of Mozartplatz. The Mozartplatz is a lively square that is surrounding by many souvenir shops, restaurants and is a popular meeting place for tour groups as well. The lively square has numerous benches to sit down and enjoy some people watching while listening to street performers bust out a tune on an accordion, or guitar.
Take A Day Trip To Hallstatt
The Salzkammergut region is home to one of the cutest, prettiest and the most popular tourist villages in all of Austria. If you guessed Hallstatt, then you are absolutely correct. This tiny alpine village of an approximate population of 3oo people, gets up to a staggering one million tourists every single year. It’s a place Ive always wanted to visit, even before Instagram shot it to fame. The mighty Dachstein mountain range provide a stunning backdrop to Hallstatt’s timber houses that are built up on what looks like the side of the mountain making it the quintessential fairy tale looking village. From Salzburg, a day trip to Hallstatt is about a 2.5 hour trip, one way by train with one transfer, therefore making it one, if not the most popular day trip from the city.
Hike The Surrounding Mountains
Kapuzinerberg, Untersberg and Mönchsberg, oh my! With so many mountains in and around the city of Salzburg, one will be spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing which one to ascend to get incredible views. The closest alpine peak would be the 1,972 metre high Untersberg. This mountain is less than 16 kilometres (approximately 10 miles) from the Salzburg’s city centre and can be accessed by taking bus route #25 to the last stop. The Salzburg Altstadt is dominated by its baroque towers and churches and the massive Hohensalzburg Fortress. This area is surrounded by two smaller mountains, the smaller Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg, which still offer breathtaking city views and can be done in one day easily.
If you’re ever in Austria, you can’t skip Salzburg. Being so close to the Alps, beautiful lakes and pretty villages makes it a great starting point in discover other parts of Austria. Have any of you been to Salzburg, or the Salzkammergut region? If so, what did you like the most about it and did you visit any neighbouring villages? Let me know in the comments below! xo
While staying in Salzburg, I stayed at the beautiful Hotel IMLAUER & Bräu Salzburg located just minutes away from the Old Town and the Main Train Station. The rooms were clean, comfortable and the restaurant downstairs is dynamite!