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Things to do in Salzburg, Austria

Kathy Wood (Kaydee)

Our family has visited Salzburg three times, and I was there once before my husband and I were married. We've been there in mid October and then twice over Christmas. Obviously, it's a place we really enjoy. Christmas is an especially wonderful time, but I would enjoy Salzburg in any season.

Things to do in Salzburg

  • Allow lots of time just to wander around and savor the city ... peek into churches, shop, have a coffee and dessert in a cafe. Be sure to walk down the famous Getreidegasse, a narrow shopping street where each store has a unique iron sign. Explore the many squares and plazas. Be sure to cross the river and walk up the Linzergasse, another shopping street that's less crowded.
  • Take the funicular up to Hohensalzburg, the big fortress/castle that towers over the city. The views are fabulous and the castle is interesting too.
  • Wander around the beautiful gardens at the Mirabell Palace, especially the Dwarf Garden. You can pose for photos where Maria and the children danced to "Do Re Mi".
  • Speaking of which, go ahead, do it ... go on the Sound of Music tour! It's hokey but it's fun and a good way to see a lot of the city. I've actually been on this tour three times, though I have to say I probably won't do it again! You can even sing "Do Re Mi" while you're on the tour! The tour takes you out into the Lake District, which is a nice change of pace. You visit St. Gilgens and then Mondsee. When we went in October, we even got to do a little sled ride.
  • Go to a concert. On our second trip we also went to the Marrionetten Theatre ... a very unique experience. (See below - Classical Music in Salzburg and Vienna.)
  • Take the elevator up the Monchsberg to the Cafe Winkler ... another spectacular view. The elevator goes right up through the mountain rock! Or, on the other side of the Salzach River, you can walk up the Kapuzinerberg (the other mountain) for a different view of the city.
  • See the "Mozart" sights -- his birthplace, the house where he lived, the statue in the plaza. He's definitely Salzburg's favorite son.
  • Eat, eat, eat! There are some great restaurants. We especially have enjoyed "Herzl," the less expensive cafe in the Goldener Hirsch, Salzburg's most exclusive hotel.
  • Daytrip out to the Lake District. (See info below - Day Trip to Salzkammergut and Hallstatt.)
  • Daytrip to Berchtesgaden, maybe 30 minutes away. Lake Konigsee is spectacular -- you need half a day for the boat trip. We've also enjoyed the Salt Mines ... really a lot of fun. I haven't been there in season to go up to Eagles Nest, but that's on our list for our next trip.

Whatever you do, be sure to wear good walking shoes and take your camera! This city is absolutely beautiful -- mountains on either side with the countryside below ... fantastic architecture, history, music, and the Sound of Music!

Classical Music in Salzburg and Vienna

"Take this waltz, take this waltz, it's yours now. It's all that there is."
- - Take This Waltz (After Lorca), Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man, 1988 - -

Salzburg and Vienna (Wien) both offer many opportunities to experience classical music -- right in the cities and venues where Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss et al lived, wrote and performed. If you are visiting these beautiful cities, you can make arrangements before your trip to attend a concert. Tickets can also be secured once you are there. We enjoy classical music and are season ticket holders for our local symphony, but even if you don't think you're much for classical music, this is a part of the cultural experience in these two cities. And opportunities abound to attend various programs in wonderful concert settings.

On our recent trip, we went to concerts in both Salzburg and Vienna. We made arrangements via email through the hotels where we were staying (the Wolf-Dietrich in Salzburg and the Marriott in Vienna). You can also get information on potential concerts and book tickets on the Internet for both Salzburg and Vienna.

In Salzburg we went Christmas night to a wonderful performance at the Mirabell Palace-- a chamber concert of music by Vivaldi, Mozart and Schubert in an intimate setting. This was a performance in a series of concerts throughout the year called the "Salzburger Schlosskonzertes." In 1999 we attended a concert in the Mozarteum. There are other concerts available at the Hohensalzburg (old castle/fortress up above Salzburg) and also at St. Peter's. There is a central tourist/ticket office in downtown Salzburg, I believe on the Mozartplatz.

In Vienna we attended a wonderful performance by the Wiener Residenzorchester in the Majorats Palais. The first half of the program was music by Mozart and the second half was Strauss. This was a very different experience, and our daughter (age 10) especially enjoyed it. The musicians were in period costume, and several pieces featured opera singers or dancers ... sometimes even a bit of comedy. There was even a Strauss piece that we all sang along to.

We didn't notice this in Salzburg, but in Vienna there were people out on the street hawking tickets in several locations. The salespeople were particularly out in force (in costume) in the square by St. Stephens. I'm sure there are many wonderful performances, but for a truly enjoyable evening out, we especially recommend the Vienna Residence Orchestra. (And we did notice these tickets being sold out front of St. Stephens.)

Day Trip to Salzkammergut and Hallstatt (Lake District)

We spent this past Christmas in Salzburg and made a day trip out to the Salzkammergut and Hallstatt the day after Christmas. We did have a car, and I really would recommend having a car for this trip -- even if you rent a car just for the day. I think the car gives you so much more flexibility to stop and explore, to take a photo.

On the way out we drove down the south side of the Wolfgangsee. At Bad Ischl we turned south toward Hallstatt. We spent maybe an hour and a half in the village ... the day after Christmas not much was open, but we did have lunch in a little restaurant. We walked up to the church about midway up the hillside. There's a tiny cemetery, with an ossuary containing 1200 skulls and many more bones. Apparently since space is at such a premium, bodies in the cemetery are dug up after a few years to make room for "new people," and the bones are stacked in this little house for all to see. My daughter and I barely peeked in -- we relied on my husband for his report and for a photo.

On the way back to Salzburg we circled the tip of the Hallstattersee and had a lovely drive through the mountains to Bad Aussee. We then headed back the way we came, but we stopped at the lovely village of St. Gilgen. (Mozart's mother was born in this village on the Wolfgangsee.) We took a cable car that left right from the village, crossed the road and went to the top of the mountain, the Zwolferhorn. From the road you can't even see how high you go. There's a ski area up there (and a small inn), but you can walk around a bit on foot and the view is spectacular. This was a highlight of our day, more so than Hallstatt.

Two other places we have visited in the Salzkammergut are the villages of St. Wolfgang and Mondsee. St. Wolfgang is a pretty little place, with a famous hotel called the White Horse Inn (Zum Weissen Rossl). We had a very good lunch in the hotel dining room, looking out over the lake. Mondsee is also very pretty -- a nice place to stop for coffee and cake. The big church in this village is where the wedding scene from the Sound of Music was filmed.

This is why I'd encourage you to have a car on this day trip -- so much more to see than just Hallstatt!


Woods Family Grand Tour of Europe: List of articles and photo albums by Kathy Wood Salzburg Ticket Service Vienna Information

The Wood family from Knoxville, Tennessee are veteran travelers who successfully pursued their dream of living and traveling in Europe. Kathy, Charley and daughter Kelly (then 10 years old) began their fourteen-month "Grand Tour of Europe" in June 2004 and returned home in August 2005. Their trip focused on four major areas: France (33 weeks including 6+ months living in Provence), Great Britain (11 weeks), Italy (11 weeks), and the German/Austrian/Swiss Alps (6 weeks). Kathy is a regular Slow Travel contributor and maintained an extensive blog during their travels - Our Grand Tour of Europe.

Kathy is a former Human Resources executive who now works as a consultant and part-time college professor. She and Charley also lead The Luberon Experience (, a week-long, small-group trip based in Provence.

© Kathy Wood, 2004

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