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If you’re plan­ning a trip to Aus­tria — Salzburg like­ly falls low on your list of places to vis­it. You’ll like­ly put it well below bustling Vien­na, charm­ing Inns­bruck, and Ins­ta-wor­thy Hall­statt.  In fact, if you’re not a rav­ing Sound of Music fan, like me, there’s a chance you haven’t even heard of Salzburg.  But, hav­ing spent time in Vien­na, Inns­bruck, Hall­statt, and Salzburg, it might sur­prise you to learn that Salzburg was far and away my favorite. And not just because walk­ing through the streets gave me major Christo­pher Plum­mer flashbacks. 

 

christopher plummer sound of music gif

Going weak at the knees over here.

 

Salzburg is a charis­mat­ic, easy-going city, with all the ameni­ties of a boom­ing metrop­o­lis, but more low-key and relaxed.  It was the per­fect pace for our young fam­i­ly.  There was plen­ty to see and do, but we took our time.  Where­as, in Vien­na, there was a fre­net­ic ener­gy push­ing us along, Salzburg was more con­ducive to casu­al mean­der­ing and explor­ing side streets and moun­tain paths.  And the his­to­ry of the city was fas­ci­nat­ing, not just for adults but for kids as well.  There’s some­thing about pok­ing around in the hid­den enclaves of a Baroque fortress perched high on a hill that gets even the most his­to­ry averse kid interested.

The city is man­age­able enough to where it can be seen in just a few days, a pit stop on the way to Ger­many or Switzer­land.  So if you’ve got a day or two to spare, make the stop!  Use our list of all of our favorite must-dos in Salzburg.

 

 

Climb to the top of Fortress Hohensalzburg

 

 

salzburg austria from fortress hohensalzburg

One of the mag­nif­i­cent views from the top of the Fortress Hohensalzburg.

 

Quite pos­si­bly my favorite part of the trip, Fortress Hohen­salzburg is a baroque fortress built into a cliff­side over­look­ing the city.  You can reach it via the Fortress Funic­u­lar, a cable car that trans­ports you to the top, or you can make the climb on foot, through the steep cob­bled streets of the Baroque His­tor­i­cal Dis­trict.  If you have lit­tle legs with you, we rec­om­mend tak­ing the cable car up and walk­ing back down.  But if you’re game for it, the walk up is great exer­cise and takes you right through the quaint lit­tle twists and turns of the Baroque His­tor­i­cal District.

At the top, the Fortress is like a mini-city with­in a city.  Com­mis­sioned in 1077, but com­plet­ed in the 1500s, the Fortress trans­ports you back to anoth­er time, when door­ways were short and cen­tral heat­ing was not a thing 

 

So, word to the wise — if you go in the fall or win­ter, dress warm!

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Fortress Hohensalzburg Christmas Market

The adorable Christ­mas mar­ket at the top.

 

 

At its heart is an open-air court­yard.  We went in late Decem­ber, so the court­yard was expe­ri­enc­ing its final days as a Christ­mas mar­ket, with dec­o­ra­tions and a few food ven­dors ped­dling fresh hot pret­zels, gluh­wein, and hot choco­late, the per­fect snack after the long trek up.  There’s also a cute, if not slight­ly creepy, mar­i­onette muse­um at the top that is great fun for kids.  On either side of the fortress are addi­tion­al court­yards that look out over the city and offer the best panoram­ic views of Salzburg and the wide sweep of Aus­tria and the Alps beyond it.  It’s a per­fect Insta­gram moment.

 

 

Hum a Tune at the Mirabellgartens

 

 

Mirabelle Gartens Salzburg Austria

“Do, a deer, a female deer…”

 

 

If you’ve seen the Sound of Music, you’re famil­iar with the sprawl­ing Mirabell­gar­tens in which Maria and the Von Trapp chil­dren sing “Do Re Mi”.  Today, they’re still exquis­ite­ly man­i­cured, with bush­es trimmed into ornate curlicues and grass cut so per­fect­ly you won­der how they man­aged to get every sin­gle blade exact­ly the same height.  In the back­ground, the Fortress Hohen­salzburg ris­es up like an ever-present sen­tinel over the city. 

The gar­dens are usu­al­ly teem­ing with peo­ple mosey­ing through on their way to some­where else, or par­tak­ing in one of the city’s many Sound of Music tours.  But grab some sand­wich­es at a cafe or street ven­dor, find an out of the way bench, and have your­selves a lit­tle fam­i­ly pic­nic.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bet­ter spot.  Although, pre­pare your­self to hear lit­tle snip­pets of “Do Re Mi” from pass­ing tourists at least a half dozen times while you enjoy your lunch.

 

 

 

 

Visit Mozart’s Birthplace

 

 

mozart's birthplace

Mozart’s Birth­place. Pho­to cour­tesy of Salzburg.info.

 

 

I’ll con­fess to usu­al­ly being a lit­tle under­whelmed when I see the child­hood res­i­dences of famous peo­ple.  For pub­lic fig­ures who end up becom­ing larg­er than life, I always expect to see these huge mon­u­men­tal birth­places.  In real­i­ty, they’re usu­al­ly very mod­est, with noth­ing real­ly dis­tin­guish­ing them from the build­ings around them except for a small plaque on the door. 

The birth­place of the famous eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry com­pos­er Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart, how­ev­er, is a lit­tle hard to miss, con­sid­er­ing it’s writ­ten in giant let­ters across the front of the bright yel­low building. 

Locat­ed in the Getrei­de­gasse in the heart of the old his­toric dis­trict, the cheery walk-up that now dou­bles as a Mozart muse­um is typ­i­cal­ly thronged with tourists snap­ping pho­tos and self­ies out front.  Though we opt­ed not to go to the muse­um, the house itself is def­i­nite­ly worth a walk by, if for no oth­er rea­son than to expe­ri­ence a lit­tle piece of his­to­ry.    

 

 

Partake in All the Local Food

 

Like many of its Euro­pean neigh­bors, Aus­tria has tru­ly fan­tas­tic food.  With influ­ences from near­by Ger­many, and from East­ern Europe as well, their dish­es are hearty and fla­vor­ful.  Stews and meats are their spe­cial­ties, as are their strudels and pret­zels.  Once you’ve had a hot pret­zel in Aus­tria, you’ll nev­er be able to go back to a movie the­ater hot pret­zel again. 

If you have time, grab din­ner at Zum fidellen Offen (also known as the Jol­ly Mon­key in Eng­lish) which spe­cial­izes in authen­tic Aus­tri­an dish­es like schnitzel, goulash, and strudel.  Their beef goulash was amaz­ing, as was their very rich mac­a­roni and cheese.

 

 

Weave your way through the cemetery at Petersfriedhof

 

 

Cemetery at Petersfriedhof in Salzburg

The Cemetary at Peters­fried­hof was so beau­ti­ful and peaceful.

 

A lit­tle known fact about Salzburg is that it is full of church­es, cathe­drals, abbeys, and monas­ter­ies.  So much so that it has earned the nick­name of the “Rome of the North.”  To try to vis­it all of them in just a day or two is a bit of an under­tak­ing.  But there are a cou­ple you def­i­nite­ly should­n’t miss.

One such cathe­dral is St. Peter’s Cathe­dral (or Peters­fried­hof) in cen­tral Salzburg.  The cathe­dral is famous both for its archi­tec­ture (which incor­po­rates ele­ments from sev­er­al time peri­ods due to fires and oth­er acci­dents over the cen­turies that required ren­o­va­tions), its music halls that have wel­comed some of the world’s best com­posers and also for its ceme­tery and catacombs. 

Though the cat­a­combs are admit­ted­ly not the most child-friend­ly attrac­tion (or adult-friend­ly if you spook eas­i­ly), the ceme­tery is very his­tor­i­cal and unique, tucked in between the cathe­dral and a cliff­side.  The grounds are beau­ti­ful and very well-main­tained, espe­cial­ly giv­en that many of the head­stones date back hun­dreds of years.  Most of them are cov­ered in large flo­ral wreaths or have small gar­den plots adorn­ing the top of the graves, mak­ing it one of the pret­ti­er, more peace­ful ceme­ter­ies I’ve visited. 

For Sound of Music fans, the ceme­tery served as the hide­out for the Von Trapp Fam­i­ly when they were mak­ing their escape from the Nazi sol­diers.  Though this tid­bit had lit­tle to no effect on my fam­i­ly, I thought it was pret­ty cool.  Def­i­nite­ly a must-see for his­to­ry and pop-cul­ture fans alike.

 

Don’t Miss! The 7 Things You Must Do On Your Fam­i­ly Trip to Zurich 

 

Tour Nonnberg Abbey

 

the chapel at nonnberg abbey salzburg austria

The Chapel at Nonnberg Abbey.

 

Anoth­er must-see church in Salzburg is Nonnberg Abbey.  Very much off the beat­en path, we hap­pened upon it one morn­ing when we were out explor­ing before we even under­stood its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.  Dat­ing back over a thou­sand years, the abbey still main­tains relics and art­work from the 1300s, which was dif­fi­cult for our minds to comprehend. 

Vis­it­ing the abbey is sur­re­al giv­en how old it is and the fact that it was still in oper­a­tion.  Sit­u­at­ed on a hill­top over­look­ing the city, the abbey is rel­a­tive­ly seclud­ed, and even though it’s still func­tion­al, it appeared emp­ty when we vis­it­ed.  Where­as in oth­er church­es we would see at least a few mod­ern ameni­ties, like TVs dis­play­ing wel­come mes­sages, secu­ri­ty cam­eras, and peo­ple with iPhones or head­sets for guid­ed infor­ma­tion­al tours, the abbey had none of that. 

In fact, after spend­ing some time in their mod­est wor­ship hall on a cold day and near­ly freez­ing our butts off, I’m fair­ly cer­tain they don’t even have con­ven­tion­al heat.  It was a very unique expe­ri­ence.  Like every­thing else in Salzburg, the abbey does have a Sound of Music tie — it’s where the real Maria Von Trapp lived pri­or to tak­ing on the role of gov­erness for the Von Trapp Family. 

 

Hike the Kapuzinerberg   

 

Salzburg from the top of the Kapuzinerberg

This view was worth the hike to the top!

 

If it has­n’t become appar­ent yet, my fam­i­ly loves to explore when we trav­el to a new city.  If there’s a path that looks inter­est­ing, we take it, the less-trav­eled the bet­ter.  Most of this can be chalked up to my nev­er-end­ing curios­i­ty, which I think my hus­band finds both annoy­ing and endear­ing, depend­ing on whether or not it leads us to good drinks and good food.  But I’m hop­ing it’s a trait our kids pick up as well.

It’s this curios­i­ty that land­ed us in the Kapuziner­berg, a small forest­ed area in the city prop­er with hik­ing trails lead­ing up a cliff­side to an idyl­lic lit­tle look­out spot near the top that boasts amaz­ing views of the Fortress Hohen­salzburg. The cliff is home to a cou­ple of small church­es, as well as Capuchin Monastery that resides at its peak.  Rumor has it chamois have also tak­en up bunk on the cliff­side, though we weren’t lucky enough to see any of the mini-moun­tain goats.

The hik­ing is man­age­able, even for kids, and the scenery is beau­ti­ful.  If you enjoy spend­ing a lit­tle time in nature, Kapuziner­berg is not to be missed. 

 

Don’t miss The Trick That Saved Our Fam­i­ly Trip Through Austria

 

When You Go

Get­ting to Salzburg from Los Ange­les is rel­a­tive­ly easy.  Most major Amer­i­can and Euro­pean inter­na­tion­al air­lines offer routes to and from.  Be pre­pared to have a lay­over some­where, though, as direct flights between L.A. and Aus­tria are few and far between.

When it comes to places to stay, Salzburg has a lit­tle some­thing for every­one.  For the trav­el­er on a bud­get, we rec­om­mend the Hol­i­day Inn Salzburg.  Look­ing to splurge a lit­tle bit?  Then the Hotel Sach­er Salzburg can’t be beat, with a cen­tral loca­tion over­look­ing the riv­er.  We stayed at the Hotel Amadeus, a nice mid­dle-of-the-road option that we loved for it’s charm­ing authen­tic­i­ty, spa­cious rooms, and refur­bished bath­rooms.  They also served com­pli­men­ta­ry cook­ies and cof­fee every day in their small café, which did­n’t hurt.  But we can’t rec­om­mend their hotel enough!

We did­n’t real­ly know what to expect when we were plan­ning our vis­it to Salzburg, but we quick­ly fell in love with the town and hope to go back!  If you’re plan­ning a trip to Aus­tria or any of its neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, Salzburg is def­i­nite­ly worth a detour. 

 

 

Mor­gan is a brand design­er and writer who splits her time between man­ag­ing her cre­ative stu­dio, Atlas + Anchor, and writ­ing about her life­long love affair with trav­el. A wan­der­lus­ter at heart, she’s a big pro­po­nent of explor­ing the roads less trav­eled because they often lead to amaz­ing views, mem­o­rable sto­ries, and the most unas­sum­ing but life-chang­ing restau­rants. Orig­i­nal­ly from Ohio, Mor­gan now lives in the heart of Chica­go with her fam­i­ly and is quite pos­si­bly the only per­son with­in city lim­its who hates deep dish pizza. 

 

 

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the best things to do and see with your family and kids in 48 hours in salzburg

 

the best things to do and see with your family and kids in 48 hours in salzburg