The hills are alive….
You know how to continue that sentence right? If you’re not from Austria, let me tell you that a minority of my fellow citizens (and myself) never have seen The Sound of Music (am I missing out anything?) Nevertheless I still can tell you quite something about Salzburg, which – just like Mozart – is my birth town (and that’s the only thing we both have in common!) – and coincidentally this article comes out just before my birthday 😉 I don’t know why it took me so long to write about it although I’ve been visiting this city frequently since my early childhood days. Through the years, I walked a lot through Salzburg’s streets, ate at many restaurants, saw the city changing through all four seasons – so I thought it’s time to share all my knowledge as an “almost” local with you, or in other words: My view as a tourist in my own city. It has turned out to be quite an extensive, photo-heavy guide but I tried my best to sum up the highlights with some insider tips to make the most of your trip! Here we go!
As a relatively small city, Salzburg is easily walkable with its major sights being close to each other. If you want to see as much as possible and save some €, I can recommend you to purchase the Salzburg Card at the Tourist Information or online. In the following list I’m adding a star (*) to those attractions that charge an admission fee which are included in the Salzburg Card. There’s much more you can visit with the card, but assuming that you’ll have only one or two days, here are my personal recommendations:
Mirabell Palace & Old Town
On the east side of Salzburg (the Salzach River divides the city), the beautiful Mirabell Palace with its baroque garden is a great way to start your tour as it offers a fantastic view of the fortress that overlooks the city.
After the palace you’ll soon arrive at a pedestrian bridge, the Makartsteg, that crosses the Salzach River. Since love padlocks have become a thing, this bridge also has lots of them…
On the west side is where the “real” Old Town begins: The Getreidegasse is Salzburg’s most famous street where you’ll find lots of cafes, restaurants and shops of international brands as well as local fashion, arts and craft. Despite this street gets quite busy, it kept its historic character. However don’t forget to explore the numerous passageways and courtyards as you might encounter more hidden shops, cafes and galleries!
Another reason why Getreidegasse has become so popular is composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was born in one of the houses (the one with the yellow facade) that serves as a museum* today. If you’re into history and music this probably shouldn’t be missed!
Salzburg’s most iconic landmark – the fortress Hohensalzburg – is a must-see at any Salzburg visit! You can either walk up or take the cable railway* and transfer yourself back to the Middle Ages. The Audio guided tour through the fortress will reveal its interesting history while you get to see the impressive rooms and spectacular 360° views over the city.
There are lots of museum that cater various interests, but if you’re not so much of a museum person, there’s at least one I can recommend you: Although the Cathedral of Salzburg can be visited without a ticket, the admission fee to the adjacent DomQuartier definitely pays off! The huge baroque complex hosts different galleries and exhibitions but the highlight is the viewing platform from where you get a fascinating, elevated view of the cathedral. Especially the dome is worth a look up!
St. Peter Cemetery and Catacombs
Right at the foot of the fortress there is one of the oldest cemeteries of the world which, thanks to its unique location, is eerily beautiful as well. The catacombs* are carved into the rock of Mönchsberg and date back to early Christian times.
If you got some spare time to leave the city centre, you should head to Hellbrunn Palace in the outskirts of Salzburg. This palace is a fix part of any Sound of Music tour, but you can easily go there on your own by bus (take line 25 from the main railway station or Mirabellplatz – public transportation is also included with the Salzburg Card!) Another beautiful garden awaits you there where fountains play a major role. Spoiler alert: You’re guaranteed to get wet at the trick fountains 😉
-Eat & Drink:
Salzburg has a great variety of restaurants that will satisfy every palate. But trying some of the local specialties should be on your bucket list!
Let’s start with some simple street food: The Bosna is a well spiced sausage in a toasted bun. That type of snack is unique for Salzburg where it has been invented and is popular ever since. While you’ll find Bosna almost everywhere in town, you’ll get the original in a tiny hole-in-the-wall in one of the courtyards of Getreidegasse. Just look out for the pink sign saying “Bosnagrill” and get in line 😉
Whether you’re vegetarian or looking for a healthy alternative, the friendly Bistro Leichtsinn near the railway station might be your spot: From daily changing lunch specials to cake and coffee, they got you covered!
Those having a sweet tooth will find themselves in heaven! For the ultimate traditional cafe experience, don’t look any further than Cafe Tomaselli in the heart of the Old Town. The place has been around since 300 years and even Mozart was one of their frequent guests. The best part though is the cake lady that happily shows you their daily selection of excellent cakes 🙂
Just in case you haven’t had enough cake, there is another tiny cafe that serves delicious sweet treats: Schatz Konditorei is another well-established cafe, quietly located at another courtyard of Getreidegasse.
Although invented way past his death, the Mozartkugel is undeniably one of Salzburg’s most famous and traditional delicacies. The iconic chocolate/marzipan ball has become common in supermarkets and souvenir shops but the original recipe of its founder is still only found at Konditorei Fürst in one of their four locations in the city. Contrary to their mass-produced imitations (which aren’t necessarily bad), each chocolate ball is still made by hand without using preservatives. While most Mozart chocolates use a golden/red wrapping, the original can be easily recognized by the silver foil and the blue logo.
Andreas Hofer Weinstube
After a long day sightseeing, the Weinstube with its rustic, cozy interior and hearty food might be the perfect place for dinner! The Kaspressknödel (best translated as a flat cheese dumpling) was a recommendation of my fellow blogger marestella.me and indeed tasted very good! And while you wait for the food you might wanna pick a few songs from their vintage jukebox 😉
I’m not into beer at all but you can’t get around the plentiful beer taverns in Salzburg. The Sternbräu is one of them that offers a wide range of seating with table service or self service, home-brewed beer and traditional Austrian food. If you want to explore more of the local beer scene, check out Salzburg’s largest brewery Stiegl (they also have a restaurant near the fortress called Stieglkeller) or the beer garden of Augustiner Bräu.
You’ve had your fair share of Schnitzel, sausage and co? I feel you! Locals and visitors alike appreciate a change in diet 😉 If you’re suddenly craving sushi, Chinese or Korean food, there’s luckily a quick solution: Right near the busy Getreidegasse lies this no-frills Kim 168 booth that can be a life saver if you’re looking for something fast but satisfying!
Leks Thai Küche
You know my obsession for Thai cuisine right? I like to eat Thai food not only in Thailand but pretty much anywhere. Salzburg is no exception – in fact, it has quite a few decent spots. Most of them are rather simple joints for a quick lunch or takeout. A local’s favourite is Lek’s Thai a little outside the city centre. Don’t be deterred by the garage-like setting – the food pays off for the lacking atmosphere.
With so many attractions and lots of cultural events, Salzburg is a popular all-year-round destination. Of course, every season, every month of the year has its own charm and it’s difficult to suggest one perfect time to go. I’ve seen the city during all four seasons and I liked every one of them. The official event calendar may be a great help to plan your trip!
Every mid-summer the city turns into a big open-air stage that draws in thousands of visitors, above all the Austrian high society and international celebrities as well. It’s Salzburg’s biggest festival and one of the most prominent festivals for classic music worldwide! To me, this is still on my personal bucket list as I didn’t have the chance yet to visit any of their opera, drama or music performances which hopefully may change soon. Anyways you’ll notice that during the festival weeks the city is busier than usual.
My last visit to Salzburg has been in September and it turned out to be a great time to be there: A guided tour through the Almkanal was a very special experience and is a real insider’s tip yet. Every year in September the canal gets drained and opens up to visitors to give them a unique glimpse of the underground. Unfortunately tours for 2018 may be cancelled due to upcoming construction work but it’s advisable to check for updates here.
No question, the highlight of September’s event schedule is the Rupertikirtag that spans over 5 days in the Old Town. People take these days as an occasion to wear their traditional costumes and enjoy some fairground fun! This is probably one of the most entertaining ways to experience Salzburg, especially if you’re interested into traditional customs and folklore 🙂
Ok this might be my personal favourite: I used to spend Christmas every year with my family in Salzburg, but the magic got me each time like the first time! Salzburg seems to be made for Christmas. The smell of mulled wine and ginger bread, the beautifully illuminated streets and the gigantic Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) that spans over Residenzplatz and Domplatz won’t leave the worst grinch cold. It might be chilly outside but the atmosphere is heart-warming, and there’s always a hot snack or drink you can grab 😉
To me there’s hardly any other city in Austria (or even worldwide) that beats the vistas of Salzburg. Surrounded by a gorgeous alpine scenery and some smaller mountains within the city, there are so many viewpoints to choose from. Let’s take the Mönchsberg for example that thrones like a gigantic rock near the Old Town: The mountain offers countless paths with just as many different views and makes a great place for hiking too!
Every season is beautiful in its own way, so whatever the weather may be, don’t miss out a chance to walk off the beaten path and explore your own little piece of Salzburg!
One of my favourite views is the one from the Museum der Moderne, and if you’re too lazy to walk up there – lucky you, there’s an elevator that does all the work for you 😉
Just as nice are the views from the other side of the river, the Kapuzinerberg. Just follow the stairs that start at Linzergasse and soak it all in!
Of course, that wasn’t by far all that Salzburg has to offer, but I did my best to give you a good mix of different activities and I really hope you enjoyed this guide!
Would you like to see more of Salzburg’s beautiful surroundings? Check out these articles:
Disclaimer: The official Tourism Salzburg guide sponsored my Salzburg Card but my opinion remains 100 % my own.