I have always only recognised Salzburg as the birthplace of Mozart, having attended piano lessons since I was a kid. It was not until we arrived in Salzburg did we realise it was not just about Mozart, but also a lot about the movie Sound of Music - think 'Do, a deer, a female deer'...
Many people - or rather just the tourists - relate to Salzburg with the Sound of Music movie. I have never watched it, but have heard of the songs and the brief storyline. The hostel we stayed in, YoHo international youth hostel, plays the movie every night in the common room for all their guest to watch. And that was when I caught it. The movie was shot in Salzburg and features the beauty of the Austrian Alps, with Julie Andrews singing on the mountains and running through gardens of flowers or rowing a boat. I am sure the Austrians themselves are so sick of people relating this movie to this city already!
Do you recognise this meme? If you do, you'll probably be taking some interest in the Sound of Music, and perhaps Salzburg. Yes, that is Julie Andrews running on the hills and singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" at the opening of the movie. This meme had taken the internet by storm, but I think many do not know it's origins!
Though bombarded with all things Sound of Music and Mozart, one thing they have in common is that they are all music related, which makes Salzburg even more delightful.
Salzburg is pretty small in a sense, and its old town and nearby surrounds could be explored within a day or two. Here's 5 things we did in our short stay in this pleasant city.
1. Admire the Mirabellgarten
Staying at YoHo youth hostel, which is located on the opposite side of the old town separated by the Salzach river, allowed us to take a slow walk through the Mirabellgarten over to the bridge to get to the town. As we were there in Winter, there were flowers regardless but were not in full bloom.
The Mirabellgarten is part of the Mirabell Palace, a large palace of baroque architecture. The gardens was opened to the public by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1854. The current palace is office of the mayor of Salzburg and municipal council.
The walk across the river also allowed us to admire the Festung Hohensalzburg Fortress towering over the old town, as well as the view of some of their architecture from afar.
2. learn more about Salzburg at the DomQuartier
The DomQuartier ticket is a combined ticket to get into several venues like the Palace, the Salzburg Museum, and the Salzburg Cathedral. The museum paints a good picture of the archbishops and bishops who ruled the land. Its ruling system was quite different from the one in Vienna. I always get super in awe in palaces, thinking about how much effort is put in to sculpt all those facades using tools from the past which were definitely less efficient.
A bird's eye view of the Christmas market could be seen from the 2nd level of the DomQuartier that links to the Salzburg Cathedral.
3. Have a panoramic view of the city from the Festung Hohensalzburg
Take the funicular or take a slow hike upslope to get to the Festung Hohensalzburg. As the fortress is perched on a hill, it offers a fantastic view of the city. Who doesn't like a panoramic view? I can never get sick of it! The castle is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Its size grew as different rulers took over the compounds and added on as they passed on their reigns. It was most recently used as a prison in World War I in the 1930s, despite being refurbished in 1892 to welcome visitors and being a major attraction. It is still, now, a huge tourist attraction, and I can totally see why.
4. Visit Mozart's Birthplace & Residence
Though a touristy location, it is a fantastic place to learn more about Mozart and his family. Even if you are not the least interested in music, take a look at the vintage instrument, pen and parchment paper he used in the past. These two places are at different locations. The Mozart family moved to the residence across the river when the place at Getreidegasse became too small for their family.
Be sure to have fun with the Mozart Cam at the Mozart residence and superimpose your face to become Mozart too ;) We had so much fun there and could not contain our laughter as we looked so ridiculous.
5. Take the Untersbergbahn to Untersberg
Untersberg is located a short 20 minutes bus ride away from Salzburg's old town and sure is a popular side trip. Due to its close proximity and the fact that we bought the Salzburg card, we wanted to maximise the use of the card and also experience some snow (hopefully!). Up the gondola, we were greeted with a view of the nearby Rositten Valley and other mountains. The view was very inviting, very sound-of-music-esque. My sister and I were secreting wishing for snowfall.. and I guess you've got to believe to get what you want. Upon stepping out of the gondola, light waves of snow that were like cotton candy, fell and littered the ground. It soon covered the whole mountain with a blanket of white and was absolutely gorgeous. I attempted to make a snow angel, we built some snowmen, and just soaked in the atmosphere. Since we got really excited, it wasn't that cold for us at the end. In fact, I think we overdressed and soon started taking off our layers.
If one is up for adventure, you could even hike up. We chose to spend an hour or two up in the mountain to enjoy the snow. It was our first snowfall since we stepped foot in Europe, the 22nd day of our trip.
I think that even though Salzburg is small, I like it very much and even much more than its big sister Vienna. Salzburg is like the goody-two-shoes of a person who does everything right - It has a bewitching atmosphere, produced a child prodigy, every nook and cranny in the town looks so very perfect, it is cool and has the mountains as a backdrop, displaying a postcard-eque view standing from anywhere in the city. I hope to be travelling outwards to do more activities in future.
See you again soon, Salzburg.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens | Mirabellplatz, 5020 Salzburg | Gardens opens daily dawn to dusk
DomQuartier Salzburg | Residenzplatz 1/Domplatz 1a, 5020 Salzburg | Daily Wed-Mon: 1000 - 1700 (last entrance 4 pm), July & August daily: 1000 - 1700, Wed 1000 - 2000
Festung Hohensalzburg | Mönchsberg 34, 5020 Salzburg | Jan-Apr & Oct-Dec: 0930 - 1700, May-Sep: 0900 - 1900
Mozart's Birthplace | Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg | Daily 0900 - 1730, July & August daily 0800 - 1900, last entrance 30 min before closing
Mozarts Wohnhaus | Makartplatz 8 5020 Salzburg | Daily 0900 - 1730, July & August daily 0830 - 1900, last entrance 30 min before closing
Untersberg | Dr.-Friedrich-Oedl-Weg 2, 5083 Gartenau | May/Jun/Oct: 0830 - 1700, Jul & Sep 0830 - 1730, last ascent 30 min before | Take bus 25, 28 or 840 from main train station and alight at the last stop to take the Untersberg
YoHo International Youth Hostel | Paracelsusstrasse 9, 5020 Salzburg, Austria | +43 (0)662 879-649 | firstname.lastname@example.org | €19-29 per night | One of the few hostels in Salzburg. Breakfast buffet at €3.50 per pax.
Get the Salzburg Card if you are looking to visit most attractions, like the DomQuartier Museum. It also includes the ride up the Festung Hohensalzburg's funicular as well as Untersbergbahn. 2 ways on the funicular was already €20, the 48hour card costs €31.