The most iconic image for Salzburg is Festung Hochensalzburg, the 900-year-old fortress watching over the whole city. It can be reached by foot (a 15 minutes walk) or by the Festungsbahn funicular. We took the funicular, which reminded me of the one we took a few years ago in Porto (Funicular dos Guindais). Also, the fortress is the largest intact fully-preserved fortress in Central Europe and have never been conquered.
Once in the top, you can enjoy amazing views over the city and the surrounding area (for photography lovers, it’s a feast) and also the museums inside the fortress (access is included in the city pass, which I strongly recommend buying, you will save a lot of money).
Mozart Gebursthaus und Wohnhaus
You’re in his city, the great composer’s place so, you should pay a visit to one of the two houses (or both!) located in Salzburg: the place where Mozart was born (Mozart Gebursthaus) and the other house where he moved later on (Mozart Wohnhaus). And if you are a Mozart fan like I am (being in the grade school, I used to read all the Mozart biographies I could find in the library next to my home), definitely you will be thrilled by this experience.
Again, the access is free with Salzburg pass.
In the Mozart Gebursthaus, the yellow house on the Getreidegasse street, you can find well-documented objects, as the violin he played as a little boy, a lock of his hair and buttons of his jacket. Walking through the rooms it’s like you step back in time and follow his steps through the narrow halls. But, sad to say, the house was not entirely as I expected: it was not properly a house, with the furniture and all the stuff arranged in the rooms, but more a museum with very well documented materials.
Mozart Wohnhaus it’s overwhelming with information and, unlike the house where Mozart was born, here you can have also a free audio guide. But again, don’t expect to find a house, but more a museum / a collection of objects with a lot of interesting stuff to find out about the composer and his family (here I discovered how Constanze, his wife, was involved after the Mozart’s death in promoting and advertising his work).
Don’t miss, in one of the rooms, the original Mozart’s fortepiano!
A great time to visit the Mirabell Palace is, obviously, during the warmer months, when you can deeply enjoy the marvelous blooming gardens. You can find here the Pegasus statue, the Dwarf Garden and also the stairs where Julie Andrews sang in the famous movie “the Sound of Music”.
As we hit that place in a cold winter evening, the gardens weren’t as stunning as in the spring but still nice to see them.
The hotel where we stayed was pretty close to the Hellbrun Palace, so, in one of the mornings, we took our dog and went to see the other great Salzburger palace, Hellbrun. Over the winter, the castle is closed, but, anyway, we wanted just to have a walk around, on the beautiful castle grounds.
The park around the castle is huge (about 60 ha) and it’s full of gardens, statues, lakes and alleys. I can imagine how this place looks in the spring. And, for good reason, the name “Hellbrun” means “healing spring”.
St Peter Cemetery / Petersfriedhof
It might sound strange, but I always like having a stroll along the narrow alleys of a cemetery. I think it’s a place where you can discover a lot about the people who used to live in the area, you get a new perspective on that place, and, besides that, it always has a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. So, on our first day in Salzburg, before climbing to the Festung Hochensalzburg fortress, we stopped for a moment in the St. Peter Cemetery.
That place is all about history and serenity, with well-kept graves, crypts, statues and marks, each of them telling a short story about the people laying there.
Salzburger Dom is a masterpiece of baroque art, whose origins are dating to 767! That is the place where Mozart was baptized and where, later on, he worked as an organist and composed some of his works.
Take your time to admire the beautiful details inside and let your mind have a couple of moments of serenity. The entrance is free, and in the summer are also free guided tours.
Walk along Salzach River
The promenade along the Salzach River was the place where we inevitably ended up when we were going from the new part of the city to the old center. It’s a nice place for a stroll, I liked it most in the warm light before the sun goes down, or late in the dark, when you can see the entire old city and the fortress alight.
Untersberg is Salzburg’s tallest mountain and, for reaching the peak, you can take the cable car. But, if you don’t have a head for heights, bring some extra courage with you. We did the ascending on the first day of the year (once again, I decided to start my year by doing something that I usually I’m afraid doing), when the weather was amaizing and the skies, purely blue.
The trip takes about 10 minutes one way and it’s included in Salzburg card, otherwise, it costs about 23 euro.
Once we arrived at the peak, we stopped for a chocolate at the restaurant near the cable car station. It was a picture perfect scenery! Far away, you could see the snowy peaks of the mountains, the city of Salzburg, the fortress and even the airport. The air was crisp and clean and we could stay in that magical Alpine world for hours, just walking around and being continually amazed by the panoramic views.
There are also some hiking trails you can take, but, keep in mind, especially in the winter, you need to have appropriate clothes and footwear because it can get very slippery and there’s a lot of snow and ice.
Discover the old Cafes
Everytime we travel, we love to discover also the “cafe culture” of the place we’re in. It’s not just about resting and enjoy coffee, but more about looking at the people passing by, discovering the movement of the city and be part of its life. There were two coffee houses we definitely wanted to try – Cafe Tomaselli and Cafe Frust (where we tried the original Mozart Kugeln).
It is said that Cafe Tomaselli is the oldest coffee house in Austria, its origins can be traced back to 1700. Here, the coffee is served in an old fashion way: on a small silver tray, and with a glass of water. They also have a large hand-crafted cake selection: strudels, Linzer Torte, Esterhazy Torte, Black Forest, Kardinalschnitte.
We stopped here after a full day and a strong coffee with a delicious cake was everything we needed. As they didn’t have Maria Theresia Cafe, my favorite, I took a Mozart Caffe (which is served with a little glass of Mozart liqueur) and a chocolate cake. At Cafe Tomaselli you don’t just order your dessert, you are waiting for a lady with a tray full of cakes to come and you pick yourself your favorite!
If I’m to be completely honest, this is not a place with fantastic coffee or sweets (don’t get me wrong, they are good enough, but not as I expected), it’s more of a place you can visit for the atmosphere. The interior is cozy and you can read the local newspaper (they have an old-school newspaper stand), watching the people going by. It can be very crowded sometimes, especially in high season, but if you have the time to go there in the morning when the hoards of tourist are still sleeping, you can enjoy a much more pleasant experience.
Discover the old city
No matter what time of the year you find yourself in Salzburg, go and discover the old city and its squares. Forget Google Maps and have the courage to take the not so well known streets, and just let yourself immersed in the unknown – will give you amazing insights into the local way of life. Enjoy the bridges, the squares, and the old buildings that seem to be there for an eternity (some of them were constructed during the Middle Ages).
Take a pause and listen to the Glockenspiel in Rezidenzplatz – there are 35 bells playing daily between 11 am and 6 pm.
After all, there’s no point rushing from site to site trying to see it all, you can travel slowly and enjoy the experience. Just let yourself be wondered by the unknown!