Europe

2 Days in Salzburg Austria

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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Hohensalzburg Fortress

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.

View from the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg Austria
Building within the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg Austria
More buildings inside the Hohensalzburg Fortress
View from the south side of the Hohensalzburg Fortress
This is the view from the south side of the Fortress

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. 

The Getreigasse in old town Salzburg Austria
The Getriedgasse

Beer Gardens

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.

View across Salzburg from Stieglkeller beer garden

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.

View while walking along the river in Salzburg Austria
Walking along the Salzach river on our return from Augustiner Bräustübl

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. 

Looking up to the dome inside the Salzburg Catherdral
Looking up to the dome inside the Salzburg Cathedral
Looking up to the ceiling of the church at St. Peter's Abbey
Looking up to the ceiling of the church at St. Peter’s Abbey
Graves at St Peter's Cemetery
Graves at St. Peter’s Cemetery

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.  

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

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.

For a look at some other beautiful places in Europe, check out my posts on the Luberon area of Provence France and Rovinj Croatia and Andalucia Spain.

14 Comments

  • Lannie travels

    nice intro to Salzburg! I’ve been 3-4 times through the years and it has ALWAYS rained on me!! I think that’s just my luck though. 🙂 It’s a must visit, if you’re in the area or if you’re a Sound of Music fan, and I will definitely keep going back!

    Never went inside the cathedral though – but it’s stunning!

    • thethoroughtripper

      Yes, as you can see from every single cloud-covered picture, it rained off and on. But it wasn’t cold (September), and it didn’t deter us.

  • Becky Exploring

    This looks like a wonderful couple days in Salzburg, Steven! My family took a day trip from Munich to Salzburg when I was 17 for the Sound of Music tour, but we missed seeing what else the city has to offer. I’d love to go back and see the Hohensalzburg Fortress – it looks amazing! Not to mention all the beer gardens. 🙂

    • thethoroughtripper

      After thinking about those Salzburg beer gardens all weekend, we recreated it as best we could last evening with some brats, sauerkraut, and Bavarian beer out in our garden 🙂

  • Linda Kouwenhoven

    Loved this! I’ve been seeing more about Salzburg recently and it looks so pretty. Just love the architecture here and the rolling hills…and I am a bit of a Sound of Music fan 😀 All those churches too! Wow…might have to see how this would fit into an Italy trip hehe.

    • thethoroughtripper

      I’ll bet you can find a quick cheap flight from one of the bigger Italian cities. Though don’t know if that will be as easy in a post-COVID world yet. I did a week in England and two days in Prague that way. Also did a week in Denmark and two days in Paris another time.

    • thethoroughtripper

      We just missed the tourist crush by a few days (we were there in early September) and so overall it was indeed pretty quiet. We even had that entire balcony at the beer garden to ourselves, so the bell ringing moment was even more amazing.

  • wendy white

    Hohensalzburg Fortress looks amazing but I’m in love with the old town. So beautiful, as is the cathedral. It’s a city we hope to visit one day and your post has inspired me even more.

  • Jan

    Salzburg – a city that reminds any traveler that classical music uplifts the soul and soothes those who are weary. Love to be back to this small and picturesque Austrian city that transports the senses to Mozart’s whimsical musicality 😉

  • Ruth

    I just love Saltzburg. It is absolutely beautiful and your photographs are really great. I agree you don’t need too many days in Saltzburg it’s so compact. But once you gave been you will want to go back.

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