Salzburg, located on the banks of River Salzach, is a city that captures the heart of every visitor. The old-world beauty of Salzburg blends perfectly with the modern life, making it one of the must visit cities in Austria. We visited the city during beginning of Autumn season and it was a delight to explore Salzburg, as the bright summer colours slowly made its way for the shades of fall. This charming city with its rich history and architecture stole our hearts instantly. Salzburg is a mere 3-hour drive from Vienna city and was also a great base for us to explore other beautiful locales in the Austria.
Home to one of the largest medieval Forts in Europe and also the birthplace of famous composer Wolfgang Mozart, Salzburg was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Salzburg in German means “Salt Castle”, and was named so due to the city’s major influence in the salt trade in olden times. The rich Baroque architecture in the Altstadt (city-center) is well preserved and has stood the test of time all through the World War II, gaining the title of “Rome of the North”.
We stayed in Salzburg city for 3 nights, where an entire day was spent exploring the old city and rest 2 days, we planned daytrips to Hallstatt and Innsbruck respectively. A day was good enough to cover the major sights in town but honestly, we would have loved it if we had a little more time in Salzburg. Well, we might or might not have ticked everything from our list but here are the top 10 thing that one must do when in Salzburg city.
1. Hohensalzburg fort
The majestic fort of Salzburg reigns over the city and can be spotted instantly from distance. The Hohensburg Fort is 900 years old and one of the well-preserved forts in Europe. The fort can be reached through a funicular, which was started in 1892. The Fort Museum gives an interesting peek into the life of Prince Archbishops, who was the head of the church as well as the state. The rooms in the Fortress, which has remained untouched since the 16th century certainly takes you back in time. The fortress has a terrace which we absolutely loved for its uninterrupted view of the entire city.
2. Salzburg cathedral
Salzburg city has about 27 churches, making it fitting to call it as the “City of Churches”. Most prominent among all is the Salzburg Cathedral, which is located in the old town center, a structure hard to miss with its impressive Baroque architecture. The cathedral was first built in the 767 and has gone through many changes over the years. Salzburg Cathedral has many prominent artifacts like the relics of Saint Rupert and Virgil. The Cathedral Square is the home for the annual Christmas Market and also the Salzburg Festival, every year.
3. Mirabell Palace and Gardens
The Mirabell Palace are considered as one of the most romantic locations in the city with its beautiful gardens blooming with colourful flowers, Pegasus fountain, hedge theater and Roman statues. With the Hohensburg Fort in the backdrop the Garden and the Palace are a sight to behold. The Garden are also part of the iconic film “Sounds of Music”, where Maria and the Trapp children danced and sang the “Do Re Mi” gleefully.
4. Take a stroll at Getreidegasse
Getreidegasse is the famous shopping street in the old town center and one of our favourite spots in the Salzburg. It is an absolute delight to walk through the fancy stores that are a beautiful combination of vintage architecture and modern products. The highlight of the street is the gilded metal store signs that hang above every store, they are so unique and eye-catching. This may well be considered as the heart of Salzburg city with its charming stores, cafes, and inns.
5. Tour of Mozart’s birthplace
If you are passionate about music then the Hagenauer House in Getreidegasse, where Wolfgang Mozart was born is definitely a must visit. The Mozart family lived in this house for more than 20 years before moving to the Mozart Residence at Market Square. The Hagenauer House was converted into a museum in the year 1880 and has some interesting memorabilia of the famed musician, one such item being Mozart’s personal violin and clavichord. Also do visit Café Tomaselli, where Mozart frequently visited and sip on some hot coffee.
6. The Salzburg Festival
Salzburg Festival is one of the most prominent theatre and music festivals in the world. It is held every summer for five weeks with some of the finest performances in opera, drama and concerts. Masterminds behind the festival: Max Reinhardt, Hugo Van Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss imagined the entire city of Salzburg as the stage when they found the festival in the year 1920. With over 200 events happening throughout the city, it is a must visit for every music and arts fanatic. One of the major highlights of the festival is the “Jedderman”, a play which has been performed since the first Salzburg festival. This year marks the 100th year of the festival, making it all the more special to attend this magnanimous celebration.
We stumbled upon Petersfriedhof accidentally on our way to the Hohensburg Fort, as it is located at the foot of the fortress. Petersfriedhoff or St. Peters Cemetery is the oldest burial site in the city, the foundation dating back to 700. The cemetery is quite a captivating site with its colourful flower arrangements on gravestones and final resting place for several famous personalities.
8. The Sound of Music tour
If you have watched the Movie “The Sound of Music” and loved it, we highly recommend taking the Sound of Music tour while in Salzburg. The cult classic movie was majorly shot in the city and one can trace the steps of von Trapp family as the danced and sang around the city through the tour. Some of the famous locations of the tour are the Mirabell Palace and gardens, Nonnberg Convent, Hellbrunn Palace, the Trapp Villa, St. Peters Cemetery and so on.
9. Salzburger Nokerl and Pretzels
Trip to Salzburg is incomplete if you haven’t relished on the Salzburger Nokerl and the traditional Pretzels. Salzburger Nockerl is a vanilla flavoured soufflé topped with powdered sugar and seasonal raspberry sauce. This iconic dessert was created in honor of the three peaks surrounding Salzburg: Mönchsberg, Kapuzinerberg and Rainberg. Best places to savour the dessert are at Café Mozart and Hotel Elefant.
The pretzels at the Original 1 Salzburger Brez’lstand is another must have. They have a variety of option in sweet and savoury, our favourite being the cream pretzels, they are super delicious
10. Day Trips
Hallstatt: Plan a day trip to the beautiful town of Hallstatt, which is about 45 miles from Salzburg (1 hr. 15 mins drive approx.). Hallstatt is a quaint little town with breath-taking lakeside scenery.
Eagle’s Nest: Primarily famous as Hitler’s vacation home, Eagle’s Nest or Kehlsteinhaus is located 1820m above sea level at the top of Obersalzberg Mountain. The trip to the top of the mountain is a fascinating adventure on its own, where a special bus takes the tourists from the base through the steep road to the Kehlstein bus stop, followed by special elevator taking you directly to the house. Currently Klausteinhaus has a restaurant and beer garden with fantastic views of the Alpines.
Lake Chiemsee: Less than an hour drive from Salzburg, Lake Chiemsee offers a perfect day trip to relax and enjoy the beautiful lake views. The islands in the lake offer a perfect retreat for its visitors during summers as the sun shines across the lake with the Alps in the back drop.