The impression I went with to Salzburg was that of a mini-Vienna, a bit more beautiful, a bit less inclined towards music (what with the absence of any Opera house) and a bit more closer to Mozart. And boy, was I wrong. Salzburg is so beautiful that it becomes difficult to even start writing about it.. Going with low or ground to earth expectations of a city is usually a good strategy, but with Salzburg I’m sure it wouldn’t have mattered. When I look back, this is what I remember the most.
The view from Salzburg Fort
What you define as the best view is highly subjective to your own personal preferences. I usually like views that are a bit closer to the city, not at too much height. Rather than a top view where most of the architecture is reduced to menial spots of barely recognizable color, I like a lateral view that allows you to look at spires, and sometimes even throngs of people roaming around. And the winner for that among the free views in Salzburg is the fort! Or more accurately, the view just before the entrance to the fort, just at the right height. You can climb to the top for free, it is the entrance to the fort that requires a fees. There is also a funicular that runs to the top with a fee of euro 2. But really, the climb is not very difficult.
Another interesting hike is Kapuzinerberg. The deal with the hike is that there are a number of paths through the hill and all of them have a different view, so you’ll be taking on some risk in the degree of picturesque your pick is. Just don’t take the white path shown on google maps by default, as it has the least views with a very steep climb. I would advise going on the trek only if you have a lot of time in Salzburg. It takes at most 3 hours and there is a restaurant at top which is open till 5 pm and feels very relaxing after the hike.
A Day Trip to St. Wolfgang
Hands down the best day trip from Salzburg. The town is absolutely charming and peaceful. You don’t really need to take the guided tours. I’m not a huge fan of these as they do not give you time to explore the town at your own pace. There is a bus that goes directly to St Gilgen (bus 150). It leaves every half an hour.
If you go during summers, you can take a ferry ride from St Gilgen to St. Wolfgang. It costs euro 20 for a day trip and euro 13.5 for a return trip between St. Wolfgang and St Gilgen. The benefit of the day trip is that it allows access to another town Strobl from St. Wolfgang. St. Wolfgang, from where Mozart’s mother hails, is a quaint little town with beautiful views of the lake, a market with shops selling handmade marmalade, punch and soaps, and scenic restaurants and cafes.
The last ferry from Strobl leaves at 16:20. So you need to leave Salzburg early. Infact if you’re early enough, you can go to both St. Wolfgang and Hallstatt in the same day. To get to Hallstatt, you need to get to Bad Ischl through bus 150 and then take a train to Hallstatt. The total journey from Salzburg to Hallstatt takes 2.5 hours. So you need to leave Salzburg really early (say at 7) to do both. I thought it would be too hectic, so just went till St Gilgen and Wolfsgang to have a leisurely day.
If you go in the winter months, you might find the entire lake frozen and being used for ice skating!
You can’t go wrong with music in Salzburg. Concerts are in abundance and of good quality. I really liked the Mirabell Concert. It is held in the Mirabell Palace which gives a unique touch to the concert. The capacity of the hall being around 100 people, it doesn’t feel very crowded either. The tickets can be bought at any tourist information center. On a weekend, they may get sold out early so it’s good to book in advance.
The concert aside, if you grab a bench in Mozartplatz in the evening, and you’re lucky, you might be the audience of an occasional street performer. Not an authentic experience, but immensely enjoyable, and costing as much as you think it is worth.
When I think of Salzburg, I remember the greens and the grays of the paths and the river. Among all these the pedestrian bridge laden with locks would shine like stars suspended in sunlight. There I was, in the old town market eating a frozen yogurt or buying vegan candies or looking at weird sculptures, or lounging beside the river on a clear day, or gazing at the breathtaking architecture of Salzburg Cathedral. And it was green and pretty and relaxing till the end.
If you’re going to Austria or anywhere near, Salzburg is a must.