Sound of Music City Salzburg

Sound of Music City Salzburg: What to do, what to see

Sometimes you arrive at a new place and instantly feel at home. This is what happened to me when I first laid eyes upon Salzburg. Globally most known as the location for the Academy Awards winning musical movie “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, heaps of tourists come to the city each year to roam in the footsteps of the von Trapp family. Fans of classical music flock to Salzburg because it’s the place where Mozart was born, and lovers of the “old Europe” visit to check out its many historic landmarks. One thing is certain: Salzburg has so much to offer and you won’t know where to look first! Whether you are a lover of culture, history or nature: This city is for you!

Salzburg: Some quick facts

The fourth biggest city in Austria, Salzburg (which means “salt fortress”) is located on the border to Germany and was founded in the seventh century. The river Salzach divides the city into left bank and right bank. On the left bank, you will find the old city with lots of medieval and baroque buildings and large squares. On the right bank there’s the newer part of the city (dating back to the 19th century). Most landmarks are part of the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Salzburg captivates its tourists with amazing views of the Eastern Alps and is surrounded by several smaller hills such as the Mönchsberg, the Kapuzinerberg or the Festungsberg. All the towers, domes and hills make for one unique and instantly recognizable skyline!

What to do, what to see first?

Upon arrival, you are presented with one problem: What to to, what to see first? If you are like me, you feel this sense of urgency and want to see everything at once, which can sometimes spoil your enjoyment of a new city. I always feel it’s best to have some sort of game-plan and plan for one or two more days than recommended by most travel guides. This gives me ample time to get to know the city, enjoy the atmosphere and spend some leisurely hours in parks or cafés without panicking about missing out on something.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to buy yourself a Salzburg Card first. This will give you free entrance to all of Salzburg’s major tourist attractions as well as free access to public transport, and believe me, it’s well worth it. You’ll save a lot of money. There are options for up to three days available, and you can buy it online and download it to your phone – so convenient!

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

My first way took me to Mirabell Palace and its gardens – the best place to start your Salzburg adventure!

Situated on the right shore of the river Salzach, Mirabell Palace and its geometrically arranged gardens (the “Mirabellgarten”) are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Salzburg – and rightfully so! Stand right on the steps at the entrance of the gardens (flanked by two giant unicorns) for a beautiful view to Fortress Hohensalzburg.

Step inside the palace (which is mainly used for administrative purposes nowadays) to check out its unique marble staircase and its huge marble hall (popular for weddings and as a concert venue).

Fortress Hohensalzburg/Festung Hohensalzburg

“If you haven’t visited the Fortress Hohensalzburg, you haven’t been in Salzburg.” This popular local saying points out that going to see the fortress should be a up high on your to-do list. Did you know that the fortress is the largest fully preserved castle in Central Europe? It was built in 1077 and is situated right on top of the Festungsberg – fantastic panoramic views of the city and its surroundings guaranteed! You can walk along the Panorama Trail, visit the small fortress chapel and check out some of the museums located inside of the castle.

This iconic landmark can be reached either by foot (some level of fitness and endurance is required, however) or by the Fortress Funicular (way more comfortable, especially on hot summer days).

The Old City

Cross the Markartsteg – a pedestrian bridge covered by hundreds of lovelocks -to make your way to the old city. This part of town with its baroque buildings and magnificent squares will remind you of Italy. Fun fact: Some people even call Salzburg “the Rome of the North”. By the way: If you feel the urge to add to the locks, you can buy love- or lucklocks in some shops in the old city.

I would recommend spending an entire day to explore all the sights in the old city. Just stroll through the cobbled streets, pop into all the churches (because they are as gorgeous from the inside as they are from the outside) and don’t forget to sit down in one of the many cafés to enjoy some of Austria’s best food and desserts. I skipped the Salzburger Nockerln advertised everywhere in favor of Palatschinken ( basically pancakes, but oh so good). The iced coffee served at renowned Café Tomaselli – the oldest Austrian coffee house still in operation – is also delicious!

Getreidegasse is the main pedestrian zone in the old town. Mozart’s birth house can be found right in the heart of it. There are lots of stores, confectionaries, cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops, but also don’t neglect to check out the small streets on the left and right side of Getreidegasse. Window shopping is quite an experience here – you will even find a Christmas shop!

All of Salzburg’s squares are beautiful, but Residenzplatz is particularly lovely. For the best view of it, visit the museum DomQuartier. It’s not only the center of baroque art, but you will also be able to see the state rooms of the Residenz – the former prince-archbishopric center of power. The tour will also take you through the Cathedral Museum (with a spectacular view of the cathedral itself) and St. Peter’s museum. Although I am not a huge art fan, I enjoyed my visit a lot!

One of my favorite spots in the old town is the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter and its cemetery. St. Peter is said to be the oldest existing monastery in the German-speaking area and was founded in the seventh century. Walking around the monastery grounds will soothe your soul and quiet your mind – at least that is what it did for me. It is a beautiful area to explore.

Hellbrunn Palace and Zoo

It only takes fifteen minutes by bus to travel to Hellbrunn Palace, home of the popular trick fountains: Water automats, grottos, fountains – what a fun experience for young and old alike! For your tour of the trick fountains, the palace museum and the palace gardens, plan at least 2 hours. The palace itself is a huge Baroque villa and was used as a day residence back in the days.

The trick fountains or water games are very popular with tourists from all over the world and were invented around the 1750s as a series of practical jokes to be performed on guests.

Situated adjacent to the palace grounds, Hellbrunn Zoo awaits your visit. The best time to go there might be the early afternoon when all the school classes have left. What makes the zoo stand out is not only its Alpine surroundings, but the fact that it considers itself a “geo zoo” – the first of its kind. That means Hellbrunn Zoo is committed to keeping the animals in a habitat that is as close to their natural habitat as possible. Fun fact: In the 15th century, Hellbrunn Zoo already served as a wildlife park for Salzburg’s archbishops.