How to spend a day in Salzburg
As one of the most popular cities in Austria, spending time in Salzburg is high on the list for most travellers. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and invites you to explore the world of Mozart, The Sound of Music as well as a plethora of history, art and culture.
Kick off your day in Salzburg at the Schloss Mirabell and its swirly Baroque-style gardens. The whole site is free to visit, so you can bank precious Euros for a slice of something sugary and a pick-me-up drink for later on.
The palace itself was essentially commissioned to be built as a love letter written in bricks by a past prince, but nowadays it houses the Mayor of Salzburg’s offices. The Schloss Mirabell is an incredibly popular wedding venue due in part to the spectacular interiors with a sweeping fairytale staircase; you’ll most likely spot a handful of brides floating about the grounds.
The Mirabell Gardens were designed into segments – the hedgerow theatre, a curious dwarf garden, the rose garden and some impressive fountains. You’ll recognise the Pegasus Fountain from The Sound of Music where Maria and the children run around the circumference during the ‘Do-Re-Me’ number. And if you turn to the end of that section you’ll see the steps where the film shot the stair-jumping scene as part of the song too.
Wander from the gardens and cross the bridge, which groans under a sea of lovers’ locks. Keep your camera handy as the city’s panorama is beautiful over the Salzach River.
You’re now heading towards the main Altstadt, which is the older part of Salzburg. Pottering through the city’s old town is a must if you’ve only got time to do the one thing during your visit. Getreidegasse is the first place to hit as it’s one of Salzburg’s key arteries. This street is packed with international high-street stores, traditional dress retailers and cafés. If you look up, a parade of ornate wrought iron guild signs hang halfway up the high buildings. They’re legal requirement if you want to set up shop here, even the golden arches of McDonald’s ‘M’ sits in a pretty metal wreath.
Sticking to Getreidegasse, you’ll come face to face with a bright yellow house. Welcome to the birthplace of Mozart. It’s small inside, costing around €10 to enter but you’ll get a real introduction to the young musical genius.
Old Salzburg is a warren of skinny side lanes and gallerias opening up on to a different squares – each with their own personalities independent from the overall atmosphere of the city. Picking your way through the streets is a total feast for the eyes – the countless ice cream hued buildings crowned with decorative mouldings make excellent subjects to brush up on photography skills.
Like many other cities, the place is a living museum. A gentle stroll will lead you in front of fascinating fountains and extraordinary statues along the way, usually complete with a glossy info plaque to explain what you’re looking at.
Tip: Keep an eye out for the city’s Modern Art Trail. This project invites artists from around the globe to create outdoor installation pieces at various sites throughout Salzburg.
By now tummies might be rumbling, so fall back on European café culture and settle in to enjoy a local lunch with a spot of people-watching just off one of the squares. Café Glockenspiel on the edge of iconic Mozartplatz serves a menu of reasonably priced drinks and meals.
Refuelled, pick a few places from Salzburg’s catalogue of churches to visit, like the impossibly tall Salzburg Cathedral or Franziskanerkirche, a Franciscan Church which is unassuming from the outside but a distinctive pearl of Gothic architecture on the inside.
If a museum is more your thing, make your way to the Domquartier, a cultural highlight sporting five wings of opulent state rooms, bygone treasures and art fleshing out the colourful history of Salzburg. Other notable museums include the quirky Spielzeugmuseum, the toy museum or the Burgmuseum, museum of weaponry, is popular too.
Once you’re back outside, jump on the Mönchsberg lift for around €1.80 one-way and take yourself up one of the six mountains that halo Salzburg.
The Mönchsberg is one of the more surreal places to go in Austria. Technically you’re still in the city centre. However it feels like the countryside with forests, meadows and cows grazing on a grassy terrace above Salzburg. Up here you’ll find Museum der Moderne, a restaurant, photo-worthy views, relaxed walking trails and the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
You can either grab the lift back to city level, in which case buy a return ticket, or walk it. Taking the path down will lead you past St Peter’s Monastery and its morbidly fascinating cemetery. Mozart’s sister Nannerl is buried here, and The Sound of Music fans will recognise this as where the von Trapp family hid on their way to leave country towards the end of the film.
A hard day of sightseeing needs to be rewarded with a cup of something warm and a sweet treat. Café Würfelzucker is tucked away opposite the river, almost adjacent to the bridge you crossed earlier in the day. Order a tried and tested Apfelstrudel with a dollop of ice cream out on the eating balcony.
End your tour walking off all that sugar with a slow meander down the river, even if the weather is not playing ball. Salzburg’s unique cityscape changes with every step, giving you memorable views to take home with you