What a change! Bangkok and three months in Asia to Europe. It feels so quiet!
After flying into Frankfurt from Bangkok, we picked up a lease car (I apparently own it now!) and drove down to the German Austrian border. To do this of course you have to navigate the highways where there are NO speed limits! I have never seen cars travel past at such a speed. Definitely the slower lanes for us. The highways are pretty long and boring although very efficient! We did see this gem while stuck in a traffic jam…
We spent one night at an Air BnB in the mountains just to break the trip and explore a mountain bike park and then headed over to Salzburg.
Salzburg is a much smaller city than I imagined and much of it’s beauty lies in the inner city or in the surrounding country areas. It is really worthwhile to purchase a Salzburg Card for 27 Euro per adult as this gives free admission into a number of museums and local sites, free transport and discounts into other sites on the outskirts of the city. Surprisingly, museums, art galleries etc are very expensive in Salzburg so we could have spent the equivalent of 60 Euro each on the first day while using the card. Our actual outlay was just the cost of the card. The card can be purchased at your accommodation and you can get 24, 48 or 72 hour cards. We purchased the 72 hour card and were glad that we did.
We decided to spend the first day exploring the city and selected some key things that we wanted to see.
- A look around the old town
Salzburg old town is worth a look for an hour or so (depending on how keen on shops you are!) It is filled with cute little laneways and small boutique type shops. Many of them sell souvenirs from the area. I spotted a shop that sold Christmas decorations which were all made from painted eggs, a number of shops selling the traditional clothing (dirndl for women and lederhosen for men) and many shops selling Mozart balls ( a local chocolate treat). If you like chocolate hunt out the shop across the love lock bridge (new town side) that sells the famous chocolate cake Sacher torte. You can buy tiny bite size versions or the full blown family size. I am a chocolate cake lover and enjoyed the smallest one. Rich and yummy!
- Mozart’s birthplace
The Mozart family lived on the third floor of this house from 1747 -1773. Mozart himself was born here in 1756. The house is larger than one would expect and there are a number of interesting displays. Worth spending 30-60 minutes to have a look.
- Mozart’s residenceMozart’s residence had a more museum like feel to it and if you are a keen classical museum you will find some of the pieces on display very interesting. Being someone that likes more personal stories, I preferred his birthplace.
- Festung Hohensalzburg (fortress)
The building of this castle began in 1077 and had expansions added over the centuries. Hohensalzburg castle was refurbished from the late 19th century onwards and became a major tourist attraction with the Festungsbahn funicular railway leading up from the town to the Hasengrabenbastei. It stands today as one of the best preserved castles in Europe.
During the early 20th century it was used as a prison, holding Italian prisoners of war during World War I and Nazi activists (before the Anschluss with Germany) in the 1930s.
It is quite a big place and there are lots of things to explore. Definitely worth a couple of hours.
- Don Quartier
Don Quartier is definitely worth a visit. It is a fascinating look into a complex consisting of the palace and cathedral, including St Peters Abbey. It is a true example ofthe archbishop’s power. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Monchsberg lift
This is a quick visit to get a great panorama of the city. At the top of the lift is also the Museum of Modern Art. While not the Tate, they had 3 interesting exhibitions while we were there. Probably only for art enthusiasts.
- Salzach Cruise
This is a free cruise that you can pick up on the river with your Salzburg card. It is well worth the 45 minutes it takes. The captain is fluent in English and German so get a bilingual tour. As you return to the dock, he puts the boat into a “Waltz” also known as about half a dozen slow 360’s. A great tour which costs nothing with the card.
- Untersberg Cable car
We were lucky that we stayed in the town right where the cable car goes but even if you don’t the Salzburg card gives you free transport. Bus 25 takes you right to the base of the cable car so it is really easy. The cable car is also free to go up and back with the Salzburg card and as it is about 23 Euro return it is a big saving. The views are incredible at the top and there are both long and short walks that you can do. There is a restaurant at the top (where the prices are cheaper than Salzburg old town) and it is a nice place to stop and pause.
- Weekend markets
We came upon some lovely markets along the riverside which apparently are only there in the weekends. The products were high end with a number of stall owners that we talked to having travelled up from Italy. Consequently, there were some very nice Italian leather and jewellery products.
Also in the weekend is the Farmers market in the square in the centre of the Old Town. If you are staying in an apartment or just want some nice lunch then this is worth a visit.
- Buy a big pretzel
Not really a place to visit, but I needed to add it. You can buy these enormous pretzels in a number of flavours (including chocolate dipped) from street stalls. Say no more!
- Mirabell gardens
The palace and the gardens are listed as a World Heritage site and part of the UNESCO site (Salzburg). We were underwhelmed but obviously everyone else wasn’t as it was crowded with locals (a number of weddings) and many tour groups (it is part of a number of tours including the Sound of Music Tour). I wouldn’t rush there!
- Salt Mine (Berchtesgaden)
This is a great trip and worth the visit a few kilometres out of town. We had our own car but there are tours that go out there. You need to allow at least an hour for this tour. You start by putting on protective gear (reinforced trousers and a white coat like a chef jacket) and then you get on this little train and go into the mines. The tour is really informative and has digital stories explaining the history at key points throughout the mine. The highlight for me (and the need for the reinforced pants) was the slides that the miners used to use. Great fun!
- Keltinblitz Toboggan
The toboggan is quite close (just a few minutes down the road) to the Salt Mines so these two are easily combined. The toboggan is a nice long one (2.2km). You can control the speed by a stick that sits between your legs. The corners are pretty wicked!
- Eagles Nest and document museum
We severely underestimated the time needed to do both of these things. Allow half a day. The document museum is down by the carpark at the base of the mountain road and is the site of Hitlers bunkers, which you can go into plus loads of information and displays about Hitler and his people. Most people probably need at least an hour here – we spent two.
Eagle’s nest is Hitlers showpiece holiday home where he entertained guests and dignitaries. It is pretty amazing to have the opportunity to be in this building. It is now a restaurant and has been for many years. To get to Eagles Nest, you buy a ticket to get on one of the buses which drive you to the very top of the mountain. It is strictly one way and not for the faint hearted! Once at the top, which is actually the base, you walk through a tunnel and into a room where there is a gold elevator. This elevator is the original one and there have been no changes made to it. It has an old dial telephone and instead of buttons with floor numbers, it is measured in distance. The elevator pops you out into one of his rooms.
A very worthwhile visit.
There are lots of other things to do around the outskirts of Salzburg too so you could easily spend 3-4 days here.