I had always heard that Salzburg Austria was one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It’s famous for its baroque architecture, its compact and historic old town, and music. It’s the birthplace of Mozart, and classical music literally pours out of the buildings and streets. As I started planning an itinerary for our wedding/honeymoon trip to Central Europe, after settling on Lake Bled Slovenia for our wedding, a visit to Salzburg seemed a must. Salzburg is only three hours from Lake Bled by car, and only 1.5 hours from our E.U. gateway city Munich Germany. Spending 2 days exploring Salzburg Austria fit perfectly into our itinerary. Here’s my ranked list of the things we were able to see in Salzburg Austria during our 2 days there.
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My favorite site in Salzburg was the castle complex that sits high above historic old town. Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. The various buildings that make up the castle complex are all very photogenic and reason enough to visit. But the 360 degree views out to the surrounding alpine landscapes is the icing on the cake. The castle can be reached by hiking up a steep path, but we opted for the much easier funicular.
Exploring Salzburg Old Town
The entire old town of Salzburg is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since our time in Salzburg was short, I ensured that we maximized our time soaking up this historic area by staying right on the famed shopping street – the Getreidegasse. We stayed in the City-Center apartments which you can see here on Booking.com. Our studio room was located on the top floor of a 1000 year old building. Our host Manfred, who also owns the gelato shop below, was very friendly and helpful.
With our central old town location, we were able to easily absorb Salzburg’s famed baroque architecture during our short stay. I can be easily entertained just wandering the narrow streets and byways of such a place, peeking into old buildings, churches, shops, while tasting local delicacies from the various vendors scattered throughout.
Historically, Salzburg was part of Bavaria and shares a lot culturally with it’s southern German neighbors, including a love for beer gardens. We made it a point to enjoy this Bavarian tradition. We visited two beer gardens while in Salzburg.
On our first evening, we went to the beer garden at Stieglkeller. This beer garden and restaurant sits on the lower portion of the Fortress hill, and offers a commanding view across old town. We enjoyed steins of their house beer along with large chewy pretzels, while sitting out on one of their outdoor balconies, admiring the view across the baroque towers and green domes. As we relaxed there, all the church bells rang across old town in unison, playing a classic Mozart melody. It was Mrs. Thorough Tripper’s most memorable moment from Salzburg.
On our second afternoon, we went to Augustiner Bräustübl. This beer garden is located about 1 km south of old town and is easy to reach by walking along the pathway next to the Salzach river. Walking affords great views of the castle and old town on the way back. This is a large beer garden with many stalls selling lots of traditional Bavarian food to enjoy along with their house beer. Part of the fun is selecting your stone-made stein, rinsing it with cool water, and presenting it to the barman for the pour. We hadn’t intended on eating here, but there was too much tempting us. We ended up filling up on Schweinshaxe or roasted pork knuckle (basically like smoky ham), and fresh mackerel cooked rotisserie-style.
Churches and Cemeteries
There are 27 churches in Salzburg’s historic center. Their many bell tower’s mark the old town’s skyline. We popped into two of these – the baroque Salzburg Cathedral and the church at St. Peter’s Abbey. While at St Peter’s, we also wandered the cemetery and explored the catacombs carved into the adjoining hillside. These catacombs date back to the 12th century. We always make it a point to visit cemeteries wherever we go if possible. It’s always interesting to observe how different cultures bury and honor their dead.
The Mirabell Palace and Gardens
This 17th century palace and it’s extensive gardens are located just across the river from old town and are within easy walking distance. These gardens are a famous Sound of Music movie location and draw lots of tourists. This was the most crowded site we experienced while in Salzburg. The ample number of tourists did detract somewhat from the serenity that you would hope to find in a garden, but did not detract from the garden’s beauty. The view across the garden to the Fortress above the old town is an iconic Salzburg image.
Concerts in Salzburg – especially concerts featuring the music of favorite son Mozart – are another popular attraction for tourists. A popular concert series takes place regularly in Mirabell Palace’s famed Marble Hall. Mozart himself performed for Royalty in this Hall. We did at least walk through the Marble Hall while at the Palace. If we had stayed in Salzburg longer, we probably would have attended a concert here, but didn’t have quite enough time this trip.
You can also use Viator to find additional recommendations for Salzburg:
Overall though, I think 2 days in Salzburg Austria was just about right. We saw the major sites, had enough time to soak up the old town, and sampled the local cuisine. Plus, we will always remember Salzburg fondly as the precursor to the most important part of our journey – our wedding at Lake Bled Slovenia.