Salzburg - Sound of Music Haven or Hotspot?
Scenic backdrops from the Sound of Music, the birthplace of the famous Mozart, and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site - Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria and definitely a tourist hotspot. With that in mind, those who dislike touristic places (like myself) might be wondering if it’s even worth visiting Salzburg? I can wholeheartedly tell you: Yes. There is so much more to the city than just the Cathedrals and Castles - in fact, it’s surrounded by beautiful mountains and lakes.
On my first two visits, I did not exactly come away with a great impression of Salzburg due to the mass tourism and I found the attitude towards certain visitors a little rude at times. But as the saying goes: “Third time’s the charm” and my most recent visit definitely swayed my opinion to a positive one.. What made the biggest difference on this third visit, was staying away from the touristic side and seeking out the paths less taken. Of course, there are some touristic spots, which are also very beautiful and worth seeing if you are in the city. In this article, I’ll share with you my recommendations for both the Touristic and Non-Touristic places in Salzburg, - plus some extra practical info at the end.
Touristic Hotspots Worth Seeing
Best Non-Touristic Highlights
Accommodation & Extra Info
1. Touristic Hotspots Worth Seeing
Mirabell Palace & Garden
If you’re coming from the train station (Salzburg HBF), then the Mirabell Palace and Gardens will most likely be your first stop. Be prepared for a very crowded garden from 9-10am onwards, therefore, my best tip to avoid the crowds would be to get here early... around 7-8am. Be one of the first to soak in the early morning rays with a nice stroll through the gardens and a coffee in hand - perfect way to start the day!
Love Lock Bridge - Makartsteg
From the train station side, you have to cross a bridge to get to the Old Town of Salzburg and while there are a few bridges to choose from, the Makartsteg Lock Bridge is quite a unique one to walk over, with colourful love locks all the way across.
Old Town - Altstadt
After the bridge, it’s just a short walk to the Old Town of Salzburg. This is the prettiest area in the city, full of narrow cobbled streets, old Baroque style buildings and quaint alleyways - you feel like you’ve gone back in time, walking around the maze like town. This is also where you’ll see lots of (touristic) shops, cafes and markets.
Some of the highlights within the Old Town are:
Grünmarkt (Green Market): Located on the University Square, this is an open air market offering lots of fresh produce - however, I personally found it to be rather expensive. They are also known for selling giant Pretzels in all sorts of flavours. (Open Monday-Friday from 7am to 7pm, Saturdays from 6am to 3pm, and closed on Sundays.)
Getreidegasse: Host to many well-known brands and the Birth Place of the famous Mozart, this is probably the most famous street in Salzburg. Very beautiful to walk down while admiring the decor and architecture.
Cathedrals and Squares: Close to the University, you’ll find many Baroque style buildings and squares all clustered close together, such as: the Salzburg Residence where the royals and aristocrats once lived; the Baroque 17th Century Salzburg Cathedral; the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Dom Quartier, where you can do guided tours to learn more about the art, history and culture behind this magnificent Baroque complex; the Residenzplatz Square with it’s stunning Baroque style architecture; the Kapitelplatz Square with a view towards the Hohensalzburg Fortress, and the Mozartplatz with its memorial statue of the famous composer.
Built as a castle in the 18th Century, it is now turned into a luxurious hotel in front of a beautiful lake and surrounded by lush green gardens. The Leopoldskron made a feature in the Sound of Music, therefore, it can be quite crowded if your visit coincides with one of the tour buses, but it’s spacious enough that you can find some nice quiet spots. To get here, you can either take a bus from the city (20-25mins) or it takes about 40mins to walk from the Old Town. Definitely worth a visit!
You can find more information and photos here: Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron
Built in the 11th Century, this fortress is the Icon of Salzburg. You can either pay for a Funicular up to the castle, or walk up. Since I love walking, it’s not a surprise that I’d recommend using your own two feet - but really, it’s an easy walk up and offers a stunning lookout point over the Old Town of Salzburg (see photo below). Unfortunately, to enter the Fortress grounds, you have to pay a minimum of 10 Euros for the Basic Pass and that excludes many of the interior museums/exhibitions.
My brother and I decided last minute that we would rather spend the remaining few hours exploring the beautiful hilly surrounds than to be inside on such a sunny day. I will share more in the next section about the non-touristic locations that are within walking distance of the Fortress.
Best Non-Touristic Highlights
Just a short walk away from the touristic Fortress, you’ll find a maze of paths adjoining the fortress to other parts of the Mönchsberg hill, which offer some stunning views of the alpine region. Instead of spending hours exploring the Fortress, my brother and I spent hours walking to the other side of Mönchsberg before descending back down into the city of Salzburg.
From the Hohensalzburg Fortress, continue to the right and you will soon come across the Freyschlössl-Roter Tower, where you get a nice unobstructed view of the Fortress.
If you keep going left, you’ll soon reach the Richterhöhe View Point, which is a must-see! This spot offers a really cool perspective of the Fortress and surrounding mountains. The area around here is so green and very peaceful to walk through.
As you loop back to the main path, follow the signs for Bürgerwehr via the Doktor-Ludwig-Prähauser-Weg. It’s a good stretch through some nice green forests before you reach yet another stunning view point at the Bürgerwehr.
If you are getting hungry at this point, you can follow the Mönchsberg path towards the Museum der Moderne and stop for a drink or meal at the M32 Cafe/Restaurant, which has a nice outdoor terrace. You can choose to walk back into the city from here or keep walking to the next two spots.
You can find out more information about tickets and exhibitions here: Museum der Moderne
Following the signs for Johannesschlössl, we did a nice detour around to this 14th Century Mansion, which has now been turned into a Guesthouse. From there, we started the descent back down the hill and passed the very luxurious Hotel Schloss Mönchstein, before making our way back into the Old Town.
There are so many beautiful (and quiet) spots up on the Mönchsberg, it makes for the perfect escape from the tourist spots and crowds.
This is one of those areas I have personally not yet explored, but have heard about and being a Topo-Satellite Map Nerd, I just know it’s one of those places I would love! So I’m including it here because from what I’ve heard and seen, it’s worth checking out.
Basically, it’s a huge park with some nice trails through the forest and amazing views towards the Fortress Hohensalzburg. Apparently, there’s a nice Restaurant/Castle Inn called Franziskischlössl awaiting those who make it all the way up to the top! Will definitely be coming here on my next visit!
You can view more photos and information about the Castle Inn here: Franziskischlössl
Accommodation & Extra Info
Accommodation: Yoho Ho
I stayed at the Yoho Hostel a few years ago and really enjoyed it. The hostel is just a short walk from the train station and there was good atmosphere, friendly staff, the rooms were nice and clean, plus they have their own bar!
Here is a link to the Hostel: Yoho Hostel
Lockers at the Train Station:
If you are travelling with lots of luggage and just in Salzburg for the day, then you might want to consider leaving some stuff in the lockers at the Train Station. Depending on the size of the lockers, it costs between 4-6 Euros for the day.
At just 26 Euros per person, this card can save you a lot of money. With free and unlimited use of public transport, you also get free admission in to many of the main sights, discounts on other museums, concerts and events.
If you’re interested, here is a link for more information and you can also book the card online: Salzburg Card
Disclaimer: Some of the links included in this blog article are my personal affiliate links. This means that if you make a booking or purchase via these links, I will receive a small commission from the company - but it has absolutely no effect on the prices for you at all. Using these links to make your bookings or purchases, would be a way to support this blog so I can keep writing more! Your support means the world - thank you! :)
If you have been to Salzburg before, I’m interested to hear what some of your favourite places were and what you thought of the city in general. If you are planning a trip to Salzburg and have some questions for me, comment down below or message me through my social media handles.