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!
Looks like a TOTAL fairy tale. And geez, what beautiful weather, too!
Hah, what fun seeing my hometown on your blog. And it makes me weirdly happy that we were there at the same time, I was still in high school back then, but studied law two years later.
My favourite thing apart from Hellbrunn is taking the Gondola to Untersberg. You get to the mountain top without the effort of a long hike.
One of my favourite cities too! I was there 2 years ago on a family reunion. We have a lot of the same pictures LOL I think one of the most amazing things for me was up at the top of the Fortress, just strolling around and seeing the restaurants, all the old trees and just imagining what life was like when it was built….and talk about amazing views!!!!
We spent more time at one of the lake areas outside of the city Zell am See where my Aunt and cousins live….so beautiful I think we’re going back next summer. We also stayed in Munich so I’ll be interested to see your review on that too! Thanks Kate.
I can’t wait to get out to the lake region and see more of it Louise, thanks for sharing! Yep the views from the Fortress are amazing!
Ah Salzburg! I love that place! I studied in France for a year during college, and managed to travel around Europe a decent amount while there. I still have some painted egg Christmas ornaments I bought in Salzburg. The Christmas shops were my favorite!
And yes, the long Sound of Music bus tour is worth every penny!
I’ve been there before but only for a quick half day stop. I’m headed back in December for the Christmas markets and can’t wait to spend more time there!
It has been so long since I visited Salzburg (28 years!), but one of my favorite fun places is the one with the dwarf statues. I don’t even remember what it’s called. Thanks for these lovely photos and descriptions.
Looks amazing! We visited there when I was a kid, and I still remember seeing some of the places from The Sound of Music. So neat – looks beautiful again today.
You are one of my favorite blogs, but I am really put off by all the ads intersecting your story and the one that pops up across the bottom of my screen. Sorry, but it hasn’t seemed the same in quite awhile and each time I do visit again, I am put off. I don’t usually give negative comments, but you really had been one of my favorites.
Thanks for letting me know Joel, is it on a phone, tablet, or your computer? I can talk to my ad network.
I agree with Joel – the one on the bottom of the screen is the most annoying – it can’t be closed. I read your blog on my computer.
I was just in Salzburg in July and enjoyed reading about your visit. Such a pretty city!
I haven’t been to Salzburg, but it is on my list! Our family spent 5 days in Munich this summer and we loved it. Looking forward to going back and exploring more of this beautiful area.
After I graduated high school, I went on a European tour (nearly 30 years ago, what?!?) and Salzburg was absolutely one of my favorite stops. We only spent a day in the city but it was what I had always pictured Europe to be. I need to go back and see it again :)
Went to Salzburg three years ago and your photos brought back memories from that wonderful trip. We visited St. Gilgen, another lake town that seems similar to Mondsee. Magical!
Salzburg is magical. A fairy tale city. We visited at Easter & were thrilled to see that everyone has an Easter Egg tree. It seems as if each window was adorned with these colorful beautiful trees. There was an actual Easter Egg store with literally hundreds of thousands of decorated eggs. I treasure the Mozart egg I purchased there. We attended a concert in a palace and I still remember the huge standing candelabra lighting the darkened street as we entered the magnificent doorway. The Sound of Music tour was also a highlight. It is one of the rare European tours done only in English, because it is usually all Americans who go on the tour!
Wow Trisha, sounds like a great time to go is Easter, I didn’t even know, thank you for sharing!!
Beautiful photos! Thanks for armchair visit.
Thanks for posting, I’ll be using your tips in a week when I’m there!
Agree w all the comments about your ads. Very annoying. I lived in Salzburg while in college for a study abroad program. Have been back once since. Love this city!
Thank you for sharing! I’ve been a bit concerned about going to Europe lately, but thanks to you, I’m so inspired to travel now! And you look absolutely radiant!
thank you Linda :)
I’ve not been, but it looks amazing so definitely on my list now!
Thank you for sharing this. :) I visited there for a few days nearly a decade ago and remember it fondly. It is my favorite city as well, and seeing your lovely pictures brought back beautiful memories. The fortress on the hill was also an interesting stop; I remember it provided a glorious view of the city. In fact, my favorite picture from my travels was taken there because a stunning rainbow was shining over the city with the mountains in the background.
Gasthaus Wilder Mann is my favorite restaurant, one small room, one waiter in liederhosen and excellent traditional Austrian food. I will forever be searching for a goulash recipe that rivals the Wilder Mann’s so that I can enjoy it at home.
Sacher Hotel with their torte and adorable tea room.
Steigel has an excellent brewery tour and restaurant
I am itching to go back!
Me too Alyssa, thanks for the suggested restaurants!
It looks like a very beautiful city. Thanks for sharing!
It’s been a while since our short day trip to Salzburg. I am actually in Germany visiting my family right now and looking forward to our trip to the Alps not far from Salzburg. I might just go back this time!
You photos are so beautiful – many of them should be framed! I have never been to Salzburg but it is on my list. Thanks for the tour.
Lovely post, Salzburg is one of my favorite European towns as well. As a matter of fact, we will be back again in October. If you head back to visit the lakes region, just a few miles outside of Salzburg is the lakeside town of Fuschl am See. It is very nice and convenient for exploring the entire region.
Thank you for sharing Karen!
H, Kate! ! Great article and beautiful photos. Where did you take the first photo (the one you can see all Salzburg in one)? My boyfriend and I will be traveling to Salzburg and Hallstatt and he’s an amateur photographer so I’m sure he’d really like to take that photo as well.
I took that photo from the same place I shot the video. If you walk up to the Museum der Moderne there is an amazing view there, and you can walk down a pathway into a small park that looks over the view of the old city. You can also access it when you leave Augustiener Brau, instead of heading down the hill, head across the street to the park and meander the paths, you’ll find it there too.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! We will! :)
Absolutely beautiful!! Planning a trip there next year, where did you stay?