Beginners Guide to Salzburg Austria
Confession: I’ve only watched “The Sound of Music” once and barely remember it. So I feel a bit guilty writing a guide to Salzburg Austria!
So, I wanna apologize in advance to fans of Dame Julie Andrews! Salzburg and “The Sound of Music” go hand-in-hand. I know. However, I didn’t even take a movie tour during my two and a half days in this adorable Austrian city. Check elsewhere if you’re wondering which “Sound of Music” tour is worth your time and money! Figured you deserved a fair warning.
Moving on from that disclaimer, if you’re planning an Austrian vacation, then Salzburg is probably on your list, right? Of course it is!
Last summer, Salzburg was one of many stops on my epic Central European backpacking trip. Salzburg came at the very end of my journey. I’d already been trekking on the road for a good six weeks. At this point, my throat and sinuses hated my guts, and my achey joints desperately wanted sleep for 10 years.
Still, Salzburg excited and surprised me! Hence the creation of this guide to Salzburg Austria!
Here are a few highlights I hope you can add to your own Austrian adventure. Enjoy! For more help, you can always trust Lonely Planet’s Austria Guide.
Old Town vs. New Town
Ahh, an endless debate. Which is better? Both parts have their perks.
When you visit Salzburg, you’ll spend all of your time in either its Old Town or New Town. The Old Town or Altstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with medieval and baroque buildings, quaint cobblestones, a spire-filled sky, chocolate, and more! I loved every second I spent in the Old Town. Truly.
But as for where you ought rest your head at night? Well. The Old Town would’ve been too packed for my tastes. I like sleeping in less commercial zones, I suppose.
So I personally enjoyed staying in Salzburg’s New Town. More room to breathe, you know? And you’re still central, perfectly within walking distance to all the sites in the Old Town.
For accommodation, my Busabout pals and I booked rooms in Yoho International Youth Hostel. This hostel is both clean and centrally located. Plus it’s a place that attracts backpackers of all ages. I saw gap year kids and families, older solo travelers and small groups of friends. Not a party hostel, but a nice mixture of people.
And Yoho’s staff showed “The Sound of Music” every night, haha.
Of course, since Salzburg draws so many travelers, the city boasts a variety of hostels, hotels, and apartments to suit every person’s needs and interests. Book whatever is best for you. Just be prepared for higher prices in the sunny summer months.
So how about attractions? Like I said, I’m not a huge “Sound of Music” fan, but still discovered so much in this incredible place!
All European cities and towns boast soaring cathedrals located in the main square. These intricate and glittering buildings suck air from my lungs, lemme tell you. Salzburg Cathedral is no different.
Wander around Cathedral square, take in architecture, and go inside. Admission is free, but like most religious sites, donations are accepted and appreciated. Give what you can.
Fun fact: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized here. More about him later, haha.
Want even more amazing shots of Salzburg Cathedral, beyond what you can see in the square? Then you’ll have to climb into the clouds and soak in Salzburg’s charming skyline. There’s a simple way to gaze down and admire the city. A very simple way. Onto our next attraction, woohoo!
Hohensalzburg is – in my opinion – the best attraction in all of Salzburg. If you’re only here for an afternoon or a day, then do yourself a favor and make Hohensalzburg your priority. As for those of you who have extended time in Salzburg, spare a few hours for your visit and enjoy everything the fortress has to offer!
Inside Hohensalzburg, you learn all about life in the fort. It’s cool for history buffs, but that’s not all! The interior also boasts an interesting Marionette Museum, which is included in the cost of your ticket, and very fun to check out. I’d avoid it if dolls and clowns scare you, though.
But the absolute best part of Hohensalzburg, in my humble opinion, are the spectacular views at the top. See for yourself, wayfarers! The blue skies, Salzburg’s skyline, mountains. Be still my beating heart.
Hohensalzburg isn’t the only place to savor the beauty of Salzburg, however. Since I visited in summer, music and flowers filled all the parks I came across in the city. Free concerts are easy to stumble upon. My favorite green space won’t come as a surprise to anyone who already knows about Salzburg’s top tourist attractions, haha.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Mirabell Palace and Gardens are super famous and popular especially with tourists. On my own visit, I understood the gardens’ appeal!
And, as a throwaway for my “Sound of Music” fans, apparently several scenes were filmed in these gardens. I don’t know what scenes, so feel free to tell me in the comments! I could always use an education.
As an added bonus, you can savor a stunning and free view of Hohensalzburg. Lovely!
Where else can you find blooming flowers in Salzburg? At a very historically rich cemetery, of course! No, I haven’t gone crazy. It’s true.
St. Peter’s Cemetery
Okay, cemeteries freak me out. Full disclosure. I don’t like them at all, because I hate being reminded that death exists. It’s a total anxiety thing. I’m still shocked I survived wandering through the catacombs in Paris without falling into a total shaking and sobbing mess. But St. Peter’s Cemetery was actually enjoyable for me, because the bright flowers, adorning every grave site, celebrated the vivaciousness of life far more than death’s emptiness.
St. Peter’s Cemetery isn’t just colorful, but it’s also the oldest gravesite in all of Salzburg. Believe it or not, its origins date all the way back to 700! As an American, I can’t even wrap my brain around such an old burial ground. Furthermore, lots of notable people are buried here, too, including Mozart’s elder sister Maria.
And last but not least! Music lovers flock to Salzburg for a very, very, very good reason.
Welcome to “Mozart Land”
Salzburg’s most famous resident is Mozart. We all know him. We’ve all heard his music. And he’s a gigantic reason why Salzburg receives so many annual tourists! If you’re interested in music, particularly classical, then pay a visit to Mozart’s Childhood Home or Mozart’s Geburtshaus. It’s a small museum so wandering through the rooms won’t eat too much of your time. Some cool items on display include letters and Mozart’s childhood violin.
I’ll be honest, Salzburg is a bit “over the top” when it comes to the world renowned composer. I don’t think I’ve ever see so many Mozart dolls, candies, postcards, etc. in my life. You can even find him holding a selfie stick in souvenir shop windows!
Honestly, I loved Salzburg and want to come back again. Salzburg is one of those destinations where you can roam the streets, shop, pop into random museums, and discover a fun beer garden (my favorite was Augstinerbrau!). You don’t need to kill yourself with research or set a specific plan. You can simply enjoy the musical atmosphere. Have fun!
Are you visiting Salzburg in the near future? Did you enjoy your trip? What suggestions add to this guide to Salzburg Austria? Finally, if you want more information on travel to Austria, make sure to read my post on why I fell in love with Vienna and Grünau im Almtal. And don’t forget your guide!
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