We visit neighboring Austria quite often. In addition to returning to our beloved Vienna, we try to explore new regions, too, and Salzburg has been on our list for a while. Finally, we spent a beautiful long weekend there last October.
I couldn’t tell you that it became our favorite place in Austria, because the fact is that whatever places we visited in Austria feel like favorites. Majestic Vienna is one of our favorite cities in the world, Hallstatt is the prettiest mountain village we’ve ever seen, and the Alps… well, they are the Alps. Astonishing in every season. 🙂 But we also have the same passionate love for Salzburg now.
Salzburg’s Old Town
The heart of Salzburg is its Baroque Old Town. With the winding narrow streets, giant cathedrals and countless colorful coat of arms it stole our hearts instantly. And then we bought some Mozartkugels, and Salzburg seemed even nicer. In case you haven’t heard about it, Mozartkugel is a bonbon made of pistachio, marzipan and nougat, and covered with dark chocolate. It’s the best of its kind if you ask us – and it originates from Salzburg, so buying and tasting it (and buying even more to bring some home) was the right thing to do.
Anyway, let’s not get too distracted by Mozartkugel so that I can name some concrete places to start your wanderings in the Old Town. Linzergasse and Getreidegasse are two of the busiest and most famous streets.
There are several pretty squares, too: Mozartplatz with the Mozart Monument in its center, the Old Marketplace, Cathedral Square with the Salzburg Cathedral, Residenzplatz with a richly decorated baroque fountain and Kapitelplatz with views of Hohensalzburg Fortress. Not to mention all the random laneways and cute cafés that tempted us to leave our planned path all the time.
Mirabell Palace & Gardens
Mirabell Palace and its spectacular Baroque gardens are also among the highlights of Salzburg’s center. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a child made music performances in this palace, while today it hosts weddings, conferences and awards ceremonies.
Mirabell Gardens are accessible to the public. They are the most romantic garden in Salzburg with majestic fountains, a rose garden and also a Dwarf Garden with marble dwarf statues. Oh, and views of Hohensalzburg Fortress. It’s a shame that we visited it on a foggy day, this place has to be experienced in the sunshine.
Hellbrunn Palace & Trick Fountains
Hellbrunn Palace is a bit further from Salzburg’s center, but still easily reachable by public transport. It’s one of those palaces that again reminded us that no matter how many palaces we’ve been to, we could still find such unique gems that we haven’t even imagined existing.
Hellbrunn is a pleasure palace. It was built as a summer residence for Markus Sittikus, the archbishop of Salzburg in the 17th century. And the main reason of its existence was exactly as its name says: pleasure.
The interior of Hellbrunn is very pretty, its large gardens are for long, romantic walks, but it’s the Trick Fountains that are the real attraction there. They are unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Trick Fountains can be visited with a guided tour only. The reason for that: your guide will tell you about each tricky piece, but most importantly they will put them into action for you. We found the many and varied hydraulic attractions fascinating! They were used for entertainment in the time of Markus Sittikus, too, and they are just as captivating today. This is something to be experienced rather than told too much about.
Hohensalzburg Fortress on the top of Festungsberg towers above the rooftops of Salzburg. This is probably Salzburg’s most well-known attraction – and with a good reason: it’s the biggest fully preserved castle in Central Europe.
There are several museums in the fortress, and it offers one of the best views over Salzburg. We got up there by funicular, but you can also choose to walk up. With the Salzburg Card we got the basic ticket for free, and that includes a tour of the castle with audio guide, some other exhibitions and the funicular. It doesn’t include access to the most spectacular part of the fortress though: the Prince’s Chambers. So we bought separate tickets for that.
The Prince’s Chambers are only a tiny part of Hohensalzburg Fortress, but they are so pretty! The Princes’ Hall, the Golden Chamber and the Golden Hall are the most richly decorated rooms in the whole fortress.
DomQuartier of Salzburg
The DomQuartier is a special architectural complex in the historical center of Salzburg. It consists of the Salzburg Cathedral, the Residenz Palace and the Benedictine St. Peter’s Abbey. A single ticket allows entrance to all of these attractions.
Our favorite parts of the DomQuartier were the extravagantly furnished state rooms of the Residenz Palace and the terrace above the cathedral arches with views of the city center. But there are tons of exhibitions to choose from: galleries, exhibitions of art and spiritual treasures, and other special exhibitions. Chances are high you won’t even have the patience to carefully examine everything – or is it just us? 😀
Austria’s oldest cemetery: Petersfriedhof
Is that strange if we like strolling through old, historical cemeteries? We do. They have such a unique atmosphere, heavy with the past, with peace and quiet. The cemetery of St. Peter’s in Salzburg (Petersfriedhof) is one of the world’s most beautiful and oldest cemeteries. Old gravestones surrounded by all the greenery and flowers. A small Gothic chapel in the middle. All in the shade of Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Even more museums
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, at No. 9 Getreidegasse. Today his birthplace hosts the Mozart Museum, one of the most visited museums in Austria. That’s actually the reason we ended up not visiting it. We got there on our last day, and the queue were so long that we realized we won’t have time to see anything, because the museum will close just about the time we reach the entrance.
We started searching for anything nearby that would cheer us up, and the Christmas Museum drew our attention. It’s a tiny museum on Mozartplatz, and we still had about an hour until its closure. Perfect. It turned out it really is. We were told about the history of Christmas, the origins of some Christmas traditions, and we could marvel at an exciting collection of old toys, postcards and other quirky things related to Christmas. It was fun.
Whatever you think about the fact that we enjoyed the Christmas Museum instead of the super famous Mozart Museum, well, you think what you think. As for us, we were happy about our day. It was perfect being as imperfect as it was. Like so many days – travel days or not.
The best views over Salzburg
With Hohensalzburg Fortress towering above the city, the view of Salzburg is an iconic one. Where to go for the best panorama?
View from the top of Mönschberg
Getting to the viewpoint at the top of Mönschberg is the best in our opinion. From there you can see it all: panorama of Salzburg, the fortress and the surrounding hills and mountains. It’s amazing day and night! And the viewing terrace is accessible by a lift, too, if you’d spare walking.
Viewpoint above Hellbrunn Palace
There’s a viewpoint at the top of the hill in the garden of Hellbrunn Palace. It offers a more distant view of Salzburg and its white fortress, but you get more of the landscape and the grounds of Hellbrunn from above.
View from Hohensalzburg Fortress
Finally, the view of Salzburg’s Baroque rooftops and giant cathedrals from Hohensalzburg Fortress is spectacular. The only reason we liked it less than the view from Mönschberg should be obvious: it lacks the view of the fortress itself. 🙂
Is the Salzburg Card worth it?
First of all, we are no advertisers for the Salzburg Card. On the other hand, we happily used it when visiting the city as it was a good option for public transport, museums and castles. These visitor cards are worth checking out whichever touristy city you visit. They almost always worth the price if you plan to visit at least some museums. And it was very well worth for us in Salzburg.
It includes free public transport in the city, and with the card we could get free tickets to all the places we wanted to visit, too: Hohensalzburg Fortress (except the Prince’s Chambers), Hellbrunn Palace, the DomQuartier, the Christmas Museum… It even included a ride with Mönchsberg Lift.
That’s not to say it’ll worth for everyone. It depends on where you stay, how often you plan to use public transport (the historical center is quite walkable, however, Hellbrunn Palace is not walking distance from there), how many museums and castles you plan to visit. You can check the details here and decide for yourselves.
How many days do you need?
Our answer to this is always the same annoying one: it depends… It depends on the number of museums and castles you’d like to visit. It depends on your travel style (whether you start your day at 8 or 11 am, whether you eat your lunch for 2 hours in a nice restaurant or just buy some street food to stuff your face while walking around).
We spent 2 days in Salzburg, and all that we mentioned above fit in. (You bet we don’t wake up at 11 am or spend hours in restaurants though.) And we are more or less satisfied with that. Given more time, we could have visited the Museum of Natural History (Haus der Natur) or the Zoo. But wait, we actually had more time. We spent that time doing some amazing day trips that we found just as exciting as the city itself.
Day trips from Salzburg
Sorry, this is just a teaser. This post is already long enough. But another long, fat post is on the way to tell you all about the charming castles, alpine lakes, waterfalls and hiking opportunities we found in the area. Stay tuned…
Have you visited any Austrian cities? Would you like to visit Salzburg?
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