My favorite little spot in all of Europe is the city of Salzburg, Austria. I lived here for a few weeks in my mid twenties, I was enrolled in a law school summer program at the time and spent my days exploring every street, so it’s really special to me.
It was delightful returning to Salzburg fifteen years later and I found not much had changed, it still possessed the same charm as I remembered.
To me, Salzburg is a fairytale city, it’s very small compared to other major European cities, but the fact that it’s so condensed is what makes it so wonderful. Salzburg is completely walkable, there is no need for public transportation at all.
Around every turn is a charming courtyard, shop, or biergarten, and the city is filled with music (which makes sense since it was the home of Mozart, and the place where The Sound of Music was filmed.) Salzburg offers the best of Europe with its food, fountains, gardens, and vistas.
The best thing to do in Salzburg is simply stroll around and let the city unfold before your eyes. You really can see most of it in a day, although spending a few days here lets you savor it even more.
Salzburg is divided by the Salzach River and it’s easy to cross over between the old city to the south and the newer city to the north. Meander through the old city and you’ll find yourself on streets filled with artists, cafes, shops, there is the magnificent Hohensalzburg Fortress at the top of the city and down below it a beautiful cathedral.
Side streets lead to arches which lead to more squares and it’s fun to just roam around, munch on street eats, buy local goods, or duck in and out of courtyards.
The Salzach River runs through old and new Salzburg, it’s easy to cross at the various footbridges and a lovely bike ride too.
Biergartens are a way of life in Austria and Germany and there are several within walking distance of each other in Salzburg. Budget time to hang out at Stiegl-Keller up by the fortress, it has amazing views of the city.
Stern Beirgarten is in the heart of the old city nestled in the shopping district, and a quick place to grab a brew and a bite.
The popular Augusteiner Bräu beer hall is a brief walk up a hill but once you arrive you can grab a table, purchase food from their many vendors, pick a stein, rinse it out, then an attendant will fill it up with beer and you sit underneath the chestnut trees soaking up the surroundings. Don’t miss this!
All that walking justifies that extra beer so drink up, prost!
As many of you know, Salzburg was the location of the beloved musical The Sound of Music, and the film even after 50 years is still a draw to the city, and they run bus tours everyday (I did the 3 hour tour, it was great fun!)
Mirabell Gardens on the north side of the river was where they shot a few scenes from “Do-Re-Mi” and it’s beautiful to stroll but I love it especially in the evening because as you hike up the steps you can get a sunset view of the fortress.
I don’t know about you but I love that feeling when you’re in the exact spot where a favorite movie was filmed. If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll find that in these gardens!
One evening I attended a Mozart performance inside Mirabell Palace, I was transported, I felt like I was in a movie. Catch a musical concert while you’re here if you can!
As I said before, Salburg is so small and condensed it’s a city you can walk around in very easily and there is no real need for public transportation except for the 10 minute cab ride from the airport. You can walk the entire part of the old city easily in one day, but it’s so charming you’ll want to explore it more than once. You’ll see lots of locals on bikes so watch out for them!
Some tourists like to take advantage of a carriage ride through town with a guide to point out the interesting sights.
A few gems outside the city:
– Hellbrun Palace with its trick fountains! Make a reservation for the trick fountain tour. This palace is where the gazebo from the movie The Sound of Music lives today.
– The Sound of Music tour also takes you out to several of the places that appear in the movie, but my favorite spot was a visit to the lake region and the little town of Mondsee, Austria up in hills that surround Salzburg. The next time I return I’m going to spend a few more days exploring the lake region, it was a feast for the eyes.
– A bartender tipped us off to a local day spa at the Rupertus Therme – it costs 22 Euros to take the train and included 4 hours at the Therme bathing in the waters looking at the glorious view, it was a fabulous half day trip!
Salzburg is a city that’s small enough to really enjoy in two days if you’re pressed for time, but I’d recommend four days to absorb it all especially if you want to get out into the beautiful lake region and countryside where Julie Andrews famously sang “The Hills are Alive” in the beginning of The Sound of Music.
One more thing I love about this city is the church bells chime on the hour. Here’s a 26 second video I shot from the hillside overlooking the city and the river and you can hear the bells chiming, I love it!
Salzburg is a 90 minute train ride to Munich, Germany and you can visit both cities within a week. Munich was the last stop on my European tour – right now they’re gearing up for Octoberfest. I’ll share a few of my favorites from Munich later this month.
Have you been to Salzburg? Share your favorite spots, I’d love to know!