I feel like Salzburg is one of those places many people have been to at one point or another, but that no one really *talks* about. And to me, that’s crazy. I love Salzburg! It’s one of the prettiest, most charming little cities you can spend a day or two in, and a perfect stopping place when transitioning between Western and Eastern Europe.
And, of course, the setting for one of the best movies of all time—The Sound of Music.
So I’m going to share a little about this city, which manages to feel both traditional and quirky, depending on the day. I’ve actually been twice, both times several years ago (so my pics aren’t quite as epic as my usual standard). The first time, my mom and I took a night train from Paris to Salzburg (and went on to Prague and Sofia to round out our trip), and the second time my mom and dad and I started in Munich before heading on to Salzburg and Vienna.
What to do in Salzburg, Austria
It was in Salzburg that I discovered what they call dumplings (or at least did on my menus), but they’re not the big doughy balls. These—from my avid internet searching—are egg fried dumplings, and they’re totally delicious. I ate them for almost every meal in both Salzburg and Prague.
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Sound of Music tour
The first time we visited Salzburg, I knew that a Sound of Music tour absolutely HAD to happen (and I think my dad was secretly bummed we didn’t do it again when he came!). I grew up watching this movie, can sing all the songs and quote all the lines. It was one of my “stress watching” movies in college, meaning at any point in time my roomie could come into our room and I’d be sitting on the couch between classes watching it and crocheting. So yeah, it had to happen.
We boarded the bus with Panorama Tours and over the course of a few hours got to visit several different sites in the movie. The first is the backside of the Captain’s house (you can see the railing where a lot of scenes happen), the gazebo from “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, and the front of the house where she’s singing and running. They lead singalongs on the bus but it really depends on the group you get—unfortunately our group was kind of shy so we didn’t do a lot of belting things out.
One thing that’s great about the tour vs. trying to do it yourself is that you get up into the mountains and see some gorgeous scenery, but without having to rent a car.
The hills really are alive…
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We also got to go to the church where they film the wedding, up in Mondsee, Austria. It’s a pretty little town in its own right, so if you do have a car, it and the mountain scenery could be worth a day trip from Salzburg.
But let’s get back to Salzburg proper…
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Mirabell Gardens is one of the big draws in Salzburg, both from a Sound of Music standpoint but also just because they’re awesome. We spent some time just walking around the gardens on both trips. The view up to Salzburg Fortress is also amazing.
Even though our trips were only a couple months apart (we went early September one year, and early November the following year), you can see how the flower beds themselves look so different, depending on the season.
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I was OBSESSED with this covered arch where they bike and sing through…
If you don’t want to take the official tour but want to visit various filming sites yourself, this list is a good one to go off of. There are several on there that the tour doesn’t hit, so you could even round out your Captain and Maria adventure one your own. On our second trip, we went over to Nonnberg Priory, where some of the abbey filming was done (outside, I think?).
The views from this area are really pretty too, since it’s up on a hill.
Random cute details
One thing I found super charming about Salzburg was the random little touches on a building or sculpture that spoke to such a sense of fun. Like this unicorn statue…
And I’ve saved one of the best things for last. Hohensalzburg Fortress is an omnipresent view from pretty much anywhere in the city, and it’s a must-do when you’re visiting. We took the funicular up to the fortress on our last evening in Salzburg to enjoy the history and the views.
The biggest fully-preserved castle in Central Europe, it’s been an icon of Salzburg since it was built in 1077. It’s open year-round, and you can choose to climb up there on foot or take the funicular. You can find more about opening times and ticket prices at the official website.
So, alas, our time in Salzburg is done. We had time for some last dunkel (dark) beer and my favorite egg-fried dumplings (and some “pancakes”, a delicious dessert popular in the area), and headed on for new adventures.
Did I miss any of your top tips for what to do in Salzburg? Hit me up in the comments, I’d love to hear them—this city is so cute, I’m always down for another visit!
Where to stay in Salzburg:
We stayed in different places each time, and liked both. The first time we stayed at Mercure Salzburg City, and the second time at Hotel Mozart. I’d recommend both. The only thing to know about Mercure is that it’s not as central, lovely hotel but a bit further away from the town center.
Other cool smaller European destinations to explore:
- Rovinj, Croatia: the Jewel of the Istrian Peninsula
- Why A Visit to Medieval Kilkenny, Ireland, Is a Must
- An Afternoon in Sofia, Bulgaria
- (Less Than) 24 Hours in Lucerne, Switzerland
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