Highlights: Mirabell Palace and Gardens, Sound of Music bike tour, Mozart’s residence and birthplace, Hohensalzburg Fortress, Untersberg Mountain, Salzburg Festival
Whether you’re backpacking around Austria, or traveling here on a short trip, this country has a ton to offer for everyone! Foodies will enjoy tasting the schnitzels and strudels, while architecture enthusiasts will want to soak in the cathedrals dating back to centuries ago. Classical music lovers will feel right home tracing the footsteps of countless musicians that crossed through Salzburg and Vienna. And adventure seekers could get lost in the Alps for days!
Most travelers visit Vienna, the hub to much of central Europe. However, our travels brought us to Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, known for its historic fortress, scenic hikes, cobblestone roads, and quaint cafes. We arrived in Salzburg after traveling for a week through Germany. Little did we know, we arrived during the Salzburg Festival, which runs from the end of July through the beginning of August. The festival celebrates opera, music, theater, and has an extensive array of festivities each day. As a music teacher, I was super psyched about this 🙂
Austria is not the cheapest country with many expensive accommodations, restaurants, and activities. Here are our tips on how to save in Austria:
Money saving tips while in Austria:
- Travel during the off season, typically November – March (June – August is high tourist season).
- Walk everywhere! Find a free walking tour, which is a great way to learn about the country and culture. Go on a hike and enjoy the countless free parks and trails.
- Cook your own food, but be sure to book a hostel accommodation that has a kitchen.
- Book a hostel, an AirBNB, or stay with locals and consider Couchsurfing.
We arrived in Salzburg by train from Munich. It’s only about an hour and a half train ride from München Hauptbahnhof to Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (train stations). We checked into our hostel: Muffin Hostel, then spent the day exploring this picturesque city!
Salzburg is very proud to be known as the birthplace of Mozart. You will find countless Mozart statues, fountains, souvenirs, museums, and candy shops, like this one, all over the city! You must stop in for a Mozart Ball, also known as a Mozartkugeln. These quintessential Austrian treats are wrapped up in foil featuring the famous composer’s face. The red balls are for milk chocolate and blue for dark.
We stopped at the Salzburg Residence and Cathedral, a palace located at Domplatz and Residenzplatz in the city center. The cathedral is in the Baroque style of architecture with green bronze domes, and Mozart was baptized here! If you’re interested in a historic guided walking tour of the city and many of these sites, you can find one here.
Later that evening, we wanted to find a viewpoint for the sunset over Salzburg, the Alps, and the River Salzach, the main river running through the city. We followed Imbergstiege path, nicknamed “locally” as the “Dark Staircase” that leads down from the park at Kapuzinerkloster Monastery. You will have several opportunities for great photos!
Our morning started with a stop for breakfast at the infamous Cafe Tomaselli (one of our splurges this trip) and we’d say it’s fairly worth a stop for the ambience. The cafe is located in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town and has been running for over 150 years! If you’re not in the mood for breakfast, you can certainly stop in for coffee and a sweet treat.
We booked two guided tours in advance for today, the Salzburg & Mozart City tour and a Sound of Music bike tour , to visit the Salzburg countryside and learn about Mozart and the von Trapp Family. The tours were led by locals, so you’ll see some hidden gems along the way. I should probably preface this post with the fact that we are VERY huge fans of Broadway musicals and “The Sound of Music”, so this may not be up your alley for a tour.
On our Salzburg & Mozart tour, our first stop was at Mirabell Palace and Gardens, which is a cultural heritage monument and part of the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg UNESCO World Heritage Site. BUT! You may (or may not) recognize it as the location where Fraulein Maria and the von Trapp children sang “Do-Re-Mi.”
After leaving Mirabell Palace, we headed more into the countryside and stopped at Villa Trapp, or Hellbrunn Palace. This was the original von Trapp family house, which the Captain and his 7 children moved into in 1924. Today, the castle houses music students from the Mozarteum Music Academy!
Our next stop was Schloss Leopoldskron, another original shooting location for “The Sound of Music”. In 1736, the Salzburg prince-archbishop built this as the family residence. If you’re not on a budget, maybe you’d like to stay here sometime 🙂
Then, we stopped at Mozart’s Residence where the family lived for about 14 years in the late 1700s. Now, it’s a museum dedicated to displaying artifact’s related to his life. Our tickets were included in our tour, but you can also get tickets here.
Following this, we went to Mozart’s birthplace, where he was born in 1756. The Mozart family resided on the third floor. Our entrance fee was included in the tour, but you can also buy tickets to the 3-floor museum inside here.
From here, we made our way to the “Love Lock” bridge on Makartsteg. If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ve probably come across one of these! This is a century-old tradition in which lovers inscribe their initials on a lock and affix it to a popular footbridge, tossing the key into the river to symbolize their eternal love.
Now, it was time to jump on bikes for our “Sound of Music” tour through the Austrian countryside!
We went to the Nonnberg Abbey & Convent. Besides being the convent from “The Sound of Music” where Fraulein Maria stayed, this abbey was built in 714 (like, what?!) by St. Rupert the patron saint of Salzburg. The Benedictine convent is the oldest Abbey in the world!! From one side of the Abbey you can see the famous Fortress Hohensalzburg and the other side you can take in the Alps.
Our bike tour led us back to Hellbrunn Palace and Hellbrunner Allee, which runs in front of the palace and was used as a filming location for “The Sound of Music”. You can have a fun photoshoot here like we did 🙂
Next, we visited the famous “I am sixteen going on seventeen” gazebo. The site was originally built next to the Palace Leopoldskron, but it’s finally found its home in the Hellbrunn gardens.
Our evening ended with a beautiful stroll along the Salzach River at sunset!
Our last morning in Salzburg started with strolling around the outdoor markets and picking up a cheap, sweet breakfast! This might be pretzel #12…
From here, we made our way to the Festungsbahn, the Cable Railway up to Hohensalzburg Fortress. In less than a minute, you traverse up the mountain to the most popular attraction in Salzburg and to one of the best panoramic views!
You can catch the funicular from the historic district and it runs every 10 minutes, so no need to plan this in advance. However, we recommend buying your tickets to the fortress in advance as it is often sold out!
PRO TIP: Buy your tickets online to enter the Fortress to save a few bucks!
After spending some time at the fortress, we made our way to the outskirts of the city to the Untersberg Cable Car. The cable car has been transporting hikers and nature lovers up Salzburg’s local mountain since 1961! Untersberg Mountain is part of the Berchtesgaden Alps, which straddles the border of Germany and Austria.
The ride in the cable car takes about ten minutes. When you step out at the top, you’re greeted with an incredible view of Salzburg City and Berchtesgadener Land (in Germany). If you are lucky and have good visibility, you can even see all the way out to Bavaria! Unfortunately for us, we did not have great visibility…
But, it’s still worth a trip up the mountain to explore the grounds! If you’re hungry, you have plenty of options for snacks and beverages once at the top of the mountain! And, if you wait long enough, the clouds just may clear 🙂
We made our back into Salzburg for the rest of the evening. We made it to the Christmas in Salzburg shop, which is an iconic hand painted egg store. These eggs are hard to come by once you leave Salzburg, so grab yourself one or three!
PRO TIP: The Christmas in Salzburg shop is open year round. They don’t seem to have a website making it a bit of a hidden gem in the city!
From here, we were a mission to taste the famous Sacher-torte (Viennese chocolate cake) that we had read so much about! We went to Cafe Sacher at Sacher Hotel to experience the Viennese coffeehouse atmosphere while delving deep into this chocolate cake.
When you first walk into Cafe Sacher, you can’t help but notice the elegant design of the rooms adorned with red, pink, and gold tapestries! It’s quite the intimate cafe!
Now, it was time for the cake! Well, what can we say about this piece of art…
One of the best memories from this trip was our reaction to this cake. When it finally arrived at our table, and we bit into it at the same time, we looked at each other and started crying with laughter. The cake was so terrible!! Haha, sorry Austria, but try again. The cake was shockingly bitter and dry. Oh well, another great memory in the books 🙂
For our final night in Salzburg, we headed back to the city center and stumbled upon some musical festivities. We don’t know if this was part of the music festival or something that occurs regularly, but we had a great time enjoying what seemed to be like an “open-mic” night.
And, we enjoyed an outdoor movie night with great views of the fortress!
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night!
Following this trip, Caroline flew home and I took a train to meet some friends in Venice for the next 3 days! It was about a 6 hour journey from Salzburg Hauptbahnhof to Venezia Santa Lucia train station. Be prepared for potentially old, hot trains going to Italy. I vividly remember being quite uncomfortable on this ride! Bring water and food 🙂
If you’d like an idea for how to spend just one day in Venice, check out our post, “Venice in One Day”.
As always, if you have any questions, you can contact us here.