I went to Hungary, Austria, and Germany with my BFF for 12 days during the summer 2014. Our stop after Vienna was Salzburg per her request since she loves The Sound of Music, but the beautiful medieval town has so much more to offer than filming locations and Mozart. Here are my tips about everything we did!Arrived
- At Haupbahnhof from Vienna on a Railjet train booked at http://www.raileurope.com/. We booked several weeks in advance so our paper tickets could arrive by mail.
- at Achat Plaza Zum Hirschen. We couldn’t find any good available Airbnbs, so we went with a hotel and were very happy with our choice. It’s very close to the train station for breezy arrivals and departures. Salzburg is very walkable, but there’s a bus stop very close to take you pretty much anywhere. We loved the room, complete with Mozart chocolates on our pillows, and its giant marble bathroom. The concierge was very helpful, too.
- Mirabell Gardens. The setting for many scenes from The Sound of Music. Have a blast looking like an idiot as you recreate “Do Re Mi.” Even for non-fans it’s a beautiful place.
- Getreidegasse – a delightful medieval street in Salzburg’s old town with wrought-iron shop signs. Take a few hours to stroll, window shop, actually shop, people watch, and soak in the history.
- Kollegienkirche – one of Salzburg’s beautiful churches and worth poking your head in. As an artist, I liked the contrast between the Baroque architecture and a modern, abstract art exhibition on display.
- Panorama Sound of Music Tour – My BFF is a die-hard Sound of Music fan. It was the first movie she bought (on VHS) after saving up her allowance. We agonized over which tour group to go with, since they all cover pretty much the same beat, but were happy with Panorama. It was a well-constructed tour which interwove the songs not in movie order but in a way that complemented our guide Jenny’s narrative. While there are some photo ops and spectacular views, keep in mind some of the filming locations are privately owned, so you can only do a drive-by. Others, like Mirabell Gardens and Nonnberg you can visit on your own. As an amicable non-fan, I both enjoyed my friend’s glee and had a good time myself.
- Mondsee and Basilica St.Michael – The tour gives you about an hour to explore the cute town of Mondsee. We grabbed sandwiches at a cafe (see below), wandered around town in a loop, then visited the Sound of Music wedding church after the rest of our tour group had stormed it. It really is a very pretty church, inside and out.
- Mozart’s Birthplace (Geburtshaus) – Where musical history was born. Literally, you’ll stand in the room he was born in. It’s a mediocre museum but kind of a must-see. The thing that blew me away is that the building itself was built in the 12th century.
- Mozart’s Residence (Wohnhaus) – Per Rick Steves, this house is roomier than the birthplace and has his original piano. You’ll also learn about how the guy wasn’t very attractive – many of the images we associate with him were very much romanticized (or not even him!).
- Hohensalzburg Fortress. Don’t miss for the spectacular views, especially the 360 degree panorama included on the audio tour. There are some fantastic rooms to see, like the Golden Hall and bedchamber. You could spend half a day here covering everything, but we just spun through the museums. One of them only had text in German, which was disappointing but frankly saved us some time. Unless you’re a super hiker, take the funicular up. That’s what we did, and when we hiked down, we saw how steep of a climb it would have been and were very grateful!
- Nonnberg Convent. Get thee to a nunnery! It’s an ideal stop after the fortress, since you can just hike down from it, rather than hiking up to the abbey. It will be familiar to Sound of Music fans, but for the rest of us, it’s a beautifully contemplative place we practically had to ourselves.
- St. Peter’s Cemetery and Catacombs – One of the most beautiful cemeteries you’ll ever see, plus some very interesting rooms carved out of caves.
- St. Peter’s Monastery – another gorgeous church with incredible paintings and preserved frescoes.
- Franziskanerkirche – yet another beautiful church worth a stop. It has a soaring nave unlike any I’ve every seen before.
- Salzburg Cathedral (Dom) – Yet ANOTHER jaw-dropping church. Its architectural details accented with black are like nothing I’ve ever seen. The cathedral is surrounded by large plazas and fountains. A statue of Mozart is just to the northeast.
- Fresh, Asian fast food at MyIndigo, not too far from Mirabell. The curries were great, the service super friendly, and the atmosphere very cool.
- Schnapps and Brandy at Sporer – a tiny, friendly tasting room with a long history. When we asked to try the Kletzen, we were asked if Rick Steves had sent us. Of course the answer was yes.
- Beer at Augustiner Bräustübl – another amazing Rick Steves recommendation that was our most fun and memorable evening of the whole trip! Grab a mug from the shelves on the wall, pay at the cashier, then show your receipt to get it filled up at the tap. Enjoy the Oktoberfest-like atmosphere and maybe even some live music. The locals we sat with said they only came once a month to see the band we happened to catch, “Second Hand Brothers” who played an awesome mix of American oldies and Austrian hits to an enthusiastically singing and dancing crowd.
- Austrian fare and Trumer Pils at Zum Fidelen Affen – a top-rated restaurant with a pretty atmosphere and friendly service. I enjoyed the Affen Steak – a small portion was plenty.
- Sandwiches, hot dogs and doughnut pretzels from vendors in Universitätsplatz, the plaza which Kollegienkirche faces. This market is so lively and old world-feeling, we kept returning for meals.
- Sandwiches and Sachertorte at Café Bäckerei in Mondsee, the town where the Sound of Music wedding church is. This inexpensive little cafe’s cake was way better than the slice we had in Vienna, redeeming sachertorte in my eyes.
- Egger Zwickl Beer at Murphy’s Law, an authentic-feeling Irish pub north of the old town. It’s where we joined Austrians watching Germany cream Brazil in the World Cup.
- Unlike in Vienna, we did manage to get the right city card. The 24-hour Salzburg card we purchased from our hotel’s front desk saved us a few euros on seeing both Mozart houses, the catacombs, riding the funicular to the fortress, plus buses between our hotel and the old town.
Restaurants/bars we researched but didn’t have the chance to visit (mostly recommended from various local AirBnB hosts):
- Zwettler’s Stiftskeller – inexpensive Austrian
- Lemonchili – nice outdoor area
- Café Cult – terrace and great food
- Taj Mahal – good Indian food
- Die Weiss – Biergarten
- Café Fingerlos – great cakes. Looked cute when we stopped by but it was closed during open hours…
Salzburg is a gem of a town soaked in history and music. It’s easy to cover in a few days and a must-see for Sound of Music or Mozart fans. If you’re neither, you’ll still enjoy the lovely ambiance.