Salzburg was the perfect start to our vacation. It felt like the full stop that I just needed after crazy days at work leading up to this, which was also the reason I didn’t do a good job researching on what to do and where to go so I had been winging the plan thanks to Google and bloggers out there.
Salzburg gives you that small laid back city vibe. I felt it right after we stepped out of it’s streets. People (including us) would sit on the grassy banks of the Salzach River in the afternoons watching kids skipping stones on the opposite rocky bank, and waiting until the sun sets. It’s a very bike friendly city, with bike lanes everywhere and locals riding their bikes to work everyday.
On our first day, we walked around old town, orienting ourselves on where everything is. Our hotel is right on Gertreidegasse, the pedestrian-only shopping street of Salzburg, and is an easy and pleasant walk to most of old town. We walked to Mozartplatz, Residenzplatz, through the Cathedral and walked along the river. It was a Sunday so the path that runs along the river was lined with vendors selling crafts and food. We kept walking and found Barenwirt where we had our dinner of sausages and fried chicken.
Waking up very early, there were not many cafes open yet but we found Cafe Bazar right across the river. This cafe had become one of my favorite things in Salzburg. We would sit right by the path along the river, sip our capuccinos, have several of their delicious buttery flaky croissants and watch people bike to work. To our delight, Cafe Bazar turned out to be one of the traditional Viennese cafe’s in Salzburg. There are newspapers hanging on wooden racks, complete with a wooden spine to help you hold it upright while reading. Locals do come to have coffee and read newspapers! I love the neighborly and laidback vibe in this coffee house. We ended up coming back to this cafe for our breakfasts.
After breakfast we headed to Mirabelle Gardens. This town is all about Mozart and The Sound of Music, you can’t escape it. We definitely didnt plan on doing the whole Sound of Music itinerary, but Mirabelle Gardens which is another location for the film, was a delight to wander around in. There’s a dwarf garden, of course the famous fountain where Do-Re-Mi was filmed, well manicured grass and flower beds, benches to sit and rest, and some sculptures.
Afterwards we wandered through Linzergasse street, the quieter calmer shopping street on the other side of the river. This street feels more like a working neighborhood, with neighborhood stores and fruit stalls, bakeries, cozy cafes, and pharmacies.
Back on the old town side of the river, we found ourselves in Universitat platz where they have the traditional Grunmarkt (green market). I had some big figs while we sat on the steps of the Collegiate Church and we had to try the giant pretzels at the Salzburger Brezen pretzel stand.
Next up was St Peter’s Abbey, cemetery and the catacombs. GPS took us to a long maze of round about way to get to St Peters we probably circled the entire old town before we found the abbey. It was interesting to see recent dates in some graves in this cemetery, which is the oldest in the German-speaking world and where several famous people had been buried. Inside the church is apparently where Mozart debuted his Mass in C Minor. Going up the catacombs entailed climbing steep stone steps that were carved into the Monchsberg mountain. The catacombs date back to 15 AD , built by early Christians during the Migration Period and used as secret place of worship during the later Roman times. The catacombs are also used in the film Sound of Music as the passageway when they supposedly escape towards Switzerland. There’s a balcony you can step out into with beautiful views of Salzburg.
Dark clouds were starting to move in so we decided to look for a place to sit and eat. We passed by Kapitelplatz in front of the the cathedral with its giant chess board and the Sphaera sculpture, a giant golden globe with a man standing on top. We ended up in a beer garden called Sternbrau which was a perfect lunch spot: an open courtyard with lots of big shady trees, beers and sausages. We are in Austria after all.
We walked around more, had some gelato and rested back in our hotel before going back out again for dinner at an Indian restaurant.
Day 3 brought us to the high places of Salzburg, saving the best views for last. But of course the day starts with breakfast by the river at Cafe Bazar. I always get more croissants than I really need, its that good. But stuffed are we both were, we wanted to try the pastries at Bacherie Funder so we stuffed ourselves more after breakfast and it was so worth it. We needed something to wash those pastries all down so we walked and looked for another cafe, and found one tucked farther away from Linzergasse. What I like about Salzburg is, despite being a city, it doesnt feel hectic. This cafe had several group of students just hanging out studying with their laptops and books and seems like they plan on being there all day.
Walking along Linzergasse again, we spotted a big Franciscan stone arch with a road that goes up and I wondered if that was the way to Kapuzinberg, which I;ve read about the night before. So up we walked the steep road, hoping to burn all those pastry calories, finding little chapels with stations of the cross along the way and eventually leading us to a medieval fortress with beautiful views of the old city We skirted the fortress along a path and found even more spectacular views. I loved seeing a group of kids plopped down on the group, with their sketch pads and pencils, drawing the scenery in front of them. We walked down the stone steps at the end of the monastery balcony which led us back to town, near the Bacherie Funder. The stone stairs goes thru houses behind walls and charming little gardens with fences overgrown with flowering vines.
Next up in our day’s walking list was the Hohensalzburg fortress. We took the funicular which was right next to the St Peter’s Abbey. I went up the tower for yet another gorgeous panoramic view of Salzburg, the Salzach river, the plains and the Alps. There are a couple of restaurants inside the fortress with beautiful views but we weren’t ready for lunch yet. What we really wanted to do was take the Monchberg trail from the fortress to the Museum of Modern Art. All of the blogs I’ve read kept mentioning the trail starting next to the funicular. After going around the fortress several times we still could not find the trail, and there was nothing right next to the funicular. We finally gave up and started walking down the ramp the goes back to town. It was a pretty steep ramp that can get slippery from the pebbles if you’re not careful. There was an exit/entry gate halfway down and the path goes under the funicular railway, and that is where the Monchberg trail is !
Walking the Monchberg trail to the Modern Art Museum is a must! It’s a beautiful walking path lined with tall trees. Just a few steps in and you will feel so far away from the city. We were starting to get hungry and as we kept going, the path led us to another medieval fortress which I later found to be Burgerwehr. We went in a stone arch and it led us to a guest house with an outdoor restaurant right on the edge of the mountain with one of the best views of Salzburg. We waited for a bit as there were no tables available but lucky to have snagged a table just before it started raining. Husband got obsessed with the spinach dumpling from this restaurant and kept looking for spinach dumplings ever since.
After having our late lunch, we continued on to the trail to the Museum of Modern Art. The museum itself didn’t have much. There were 3 floors, one of which is under construction and not much on the 2 remaining floors either. We were in and out of the museum quickly. Right outside the museum though is the Winkler Terrace that offers yet another beautiful viewpoint (might be my favorite?) of the city. We took the elevator back down and headed back to the river and watched some cruise boats go by.
We had dinner at our hotel’s restaurant (Hotel Elefant) and as it is our last night in Salzburg, I had to order the Salzburger Nockerel , alight and fluffy souffle that is made to look like the Austrian Alps. We capped our night with drinks at the rooftop terrace of Hotel Stein, with the lit fortress across and the river brimming with street lights down below.
On the day we were leaving Salzburg, we walked over to Cafe Tomaselli for breakfast which is also a traditional Austrian coffeehouse, and has been family owned for centuries. In the old days, celebrities like Mozart had frequented this coffeehouse. It is best to come here in the early morning as it really does take you back in time. This is where I tried the classic Viennese coffe house “egg in a glass” which is soft boiled egg served in a stemmed glass, served with a Kaiser roll which would be the “soldiers” that you would have to dunk into the egg. Oh, another tradition in these coffee houses as well is that coffee is always served with a glass of water.