Nestled just between the Bavarian border of Germany and the Eastern Alps is the idyllic city of Salzburg, Austria. Much of the world knows Salzburg as the birthplace of Mozart or as the backdrop for the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic, The Sound of Music, but my two days in this charming little city proved that it should be known for so much more. From the baroque and Italian Renaissance influences in architecture, all of which were practically untouched during WWII, to the perfectly manicured parks, friendly locals and delicious food, there’s really so much to love about this city. Not to mention, the clifftop fortress that sits formidably above Salzburg only adds to the already stunning scenery.
My friend Whitney and I added Salzburg to our Eastern & Central European Road Trip. It was our second stop after starting in Budapest. Neither of us had ever been to Salzburg so we were really excited to check out what Salzburg has to offer for ourselves. If you ever find yourself planning a trip to Salzburg, here is where we stayed, where we ate and what we did along with some tips to keep in mind about the area!
Whitney and I stayed in two hotels during our time in Salzburg. Both were equally as charming and had their own unique appeal. I’m not sure I’d recommend one over the other. I’d say read through the following and decide what would make your trip to Salzburg easier or more enjoyable based on the interests you have in being there.
HOTEL SACHER SALZBURG
Hotel Sacher Salzburg is a family owned hotel with only one other location, in Vienna, and prides themselves in offering a traditional experience for their guests. Upon our arrival, we were warmly welcomed by our new friend Sandra, from the marketing department, with a glass of prosecco and an informative run-down of the hotels’ history.
My favorite part of this history lesson was that the hotel was the birthplace of the most famous cake in the world, the Sacher-Torte. This chocolate cake is fluffy and delicious, refined with apricot jam. The frosting could not sit more perfectly along the top and the side. It was definitely delicious so, even if you don’t stay at Hotel Sacher Salzburg, you definitely need to stop in to satisfy your sweet tooth craving.
Although it is deemed the most famous cake in the world, I hadn’t heard of it the way I had heard about Mozart but I am taking Sandra’s word on this. Once we wrapped up our time together, we were taken up to our room, which is probably the most beautifully elegant rooms I’ve ever stayed in.
It was rainy and gloomy when we arrived so we turned on the fire and recouped in these chairs for a little while. We had just come off of our 5 hour drive from Budapest so a little rest and relaxation was much needed. We literally rolled into Salzburg with no plan and no expectations so we got to work on figuring out what we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss during our two full days here. More on that later in the post 🙂
One of my favorite things about our stay at Hotel Sacher Salzburg was the view from our room. The hotel is situated on the opposite side of the Salzach River from bustling and the well-known Old Town area, which gives you an incredible look at the Baroque and Italian Renaissance influences you see throughout the city’s architecture. Often deemed the ‘German Rome’, these influences have given Salzburg the reputation of one of the worlds’ most beautiful cities.
Check out the view on our first morning in Salzburg:
What made it even better was the bells that were clanging all at the same time. It was absolutely magical!
HOTEL SCHLOSS LEOPOLDSKRON
For our final night, we decided to head out of the main city center for an opportunity to stay at Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron. It was commissioned as a family home in 1736 by the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, Leopold Anton Freiherr von Firmian but later fell into severe disrepair. It was purchased by Max Reinhardt in 1918, who was Europe’s most famous theater director at the time. He had a knack for the creative arts and, together with the talent of the artisans of Salzburg, renovated and added to the estate and, most literally, brought it back to life by holding live theater productions there. He made use of the entire Schloss, which is German for the word ‘castle’ or ‘palace’, moving his audience from room to room, which were made to be sets in and of themselves. Unfortunately, World War II brought an end to the Reinhardt Era. It was confiscated by the Nazi government as “Jewish property”. Reinhardt was working in Hollywood at the time and never returned to his beloved Schloss Leopoldskron.
How sad, right?
He died in New York City in 1943 and described this property and his days there as “the harvest of my life’s work”.
It truly is a beautiful. I’d be heartbroken, too, if that happened to me.
If you’re a Sound of Music fan, like myself, these two horses and this gate MIGHT look familiar to you. And, yes, it’s true … this is one of the many Sound of Music film locations throughout the city of Salzburg, where production of the movie took place in 1964.
This is where they shot the rowboat scene:
As you can see, it looks a bit aged now but maybe they cleaned it up that way just for production purposes. Who knows. But, Schloss Leopoldskron wasn’t the actual Von Trapp family home in the movie. In the movie, you see a yellow home, which is actually down the road at Schloss Frohnburg, as you learn in the Sound of Music Tour, which I’ll get to in the ‘What We Did’ section. If you do stay here, be sure to check out the Venetian Room [on the second floor of the Schloss; the website says the first floor because, in Europe, the first floor of buildings is actually the second floor here in America], which was the inspiration behind the ball room scene in the movie. Those scenes were filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood but this room was what they based the design of the set on.Today, Schloss Leopoldskron serves as the home of the international non-profit organization Salzburg Global Seminar and the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron.
In terms of accommodations, the hotel at Schloss Leopoldskron is very unique. The Schloss itself has 12 individually designed suites decorated with antique furniture. These rooms were under renovation while we were there. We stayed in one of the rooms in the Meierhof, formerly the administration building for the palace. In 2014, this building was renovated to provide guests single and double room accommodations.Whitney and I had a wonderful experience. Our room was quaint and cozy, equipped with two small double beds and a strong Wi-Fi connection. What more could two bloggers need? We slept well and felt like a couple of princesses in the morning while eating breakfast in the palace.
One of the loveliest perks of staying here is that no matter where your room is, whether it’s in Meierhof or the Schloss, you have the property available to you. The price is also pretty scalable so no matter what your budget is, you’re likely to find a room that fits the bill!
Overall, this was a wonderful place to stay. It is a little bit on the outskirts of the city but they do provide guests bikes to use free of charge. It’s also worth mentioning that the Schloss Leopoldskron is only available to guests of the hotel so, if you’re a fan of the Sound of Music and want to visit this location up close & personal, as we did, you will have to make a reservation to stay here.
ST. PETER STIFTSKULINARIUM
One of the most highly recommended places to dine that we received was St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, which is the oldest documented restaurant in Europe. Located in the St. Peter Abbey, there are multiple rooms that you could be seated. Whitney and I enjoy a corner table in the Richard Stube, which felt much like a cave, but actually used to be wine cellar.
Whitney and I both ordered wiener-schnitzel, a traditional Austrian dish, which is a fried filet of veal. It’s served with a lemon wedge, potatoes seasoned with parsley and a cranberry dipping sauce. I found it be quite delicious, although I know veal is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think it helped that I didn’t know it was veal at the time 😉 but it really was good!
This spot was recommended to us by one of the receptionists at Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron. It is located inside the Elefant Hotel in Old Town and we went solely to experience another iconic dish, this one specific to Salzburg, called Salzburger Nockerl. Our friends at Visit Salzburg told us it’s an absolute must! It is a sweet and fluffy soufflé whose peaked presentation is meant to remind you of Salzburgs’ snow-capped mountains.
But, don’t worry, this wasn’t the only thing we ate here, hah! We did have dinner before indulging in the Salzburger Nockerl but, I figured we’d start with dessert first since it was the main reason why we came to this restaurant, ha! I had the salmon and potatoes, which was delicious.
Honestly, these are the only two restaurants I remember dining at. I think we had picked up sandwiches and quick bites for lunch and then we had breakfast at our hotels each morning. We were there for only a couple short days so I’m sorry I don’t have any other recommendations aside from these.
SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR
Laugh if you like, but Whitney and I had way too much fun on the Sound of Music Tour and hold on to absolutely no shame over it! This movie was one of my Mom’s absolute favorites, aside from Steel Magnolias and Gone With The Wind, so I grew up watching it and singing the songs but I had no idea up until last year that a good majority of the film was shot in Salzburg, Austria. So, when this trip started shaping up and we realized that Salzburg was a realistic option to add to our itinerary, I definitely thought this might be fun way to spend part of our time there.
This film has garnered worldwide fame and certainly made Julie Andrews as household name in her role of Maria Von Trapp, who was actually from Austria and was a postulant at Nonneburg Abbey in Salzburg. There are multiple tours that you can take but we were told that the most popular one was the 4-hour bus tour that we took. As soon as you get on the bus, they start sharing facts and stories about the film and the real Maria Von Trapp and Captain Von Trapp as well as playing snippets from the film to refresh your memory if you haven’t seen the movie in awhile. They even encourage everyone to sing! It’s pretty amazing and super fun, especially if the group on your bus let’s their guard down and just get’s into it!
Here are the stops you make:
STOP 1: SCHLOSS LEOPOLDSKRON
This stop should already be familiar to you! Whitney and I stayed here on our last night in Salzburg. The rear of this palace is the backyard of the Von Trapp family home.
Here’s a closer look at the horses and the gate that might make it a little easier to distinguish:
When you watch the movie, you see that the exterior of the home is yellow and obviously the outside of this palace is a light neutral color. They explain that actually the exterior scenes were filmed at a nearby home called Schloss Frohnburg, which was one location that Whitney and I did not have time to squeeze in.
STOP 2: HELLBRUNN PALACE, GAZEBO
You may remember the song “16 Going on 17” and “Something Good” in the film. These were both sung in and around the gazebo. The original gazebo was located at the rear of Leopoldskron Palace, although it was only used for background shots. The scenes IN the gazebo were actually filmed on a soundstage in Hollywood as to give the actors more room to do their dances. Due to the success of the film and to offer this piece of Hollywood history a bit of security, the gazebo was given to the city of Salzburg and now resides behind the gates of Hellbrunn Palace.
STOP 3: NONNEBURG ABBEY
Once you have checked these two stops off of your tour, you will begin your journey outside of the city of Salzburg to the Lake District. On your way out of the city, you will pass Nonneburg Abbey, which is the abbey that the real Maria Von Trapp was a postulant and later married Baron Von Trapp. They filmed multiple scenes from the movie here, as well. On the tour, you simply do a pass by and the abbey is simply pointed out but you can venture up there independently to see the gate for yourself and the church’s services are always open to the public.
STOP 4: SALZBURG LAKE DISTRICT AREA – ST. GILGEN
Next, you will drive out to the Lake District, passing Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang, where panorama shots and scenes of the picnic were filmed. They stop the bus to give everyone a chance to hop out for a few minutes to get their photos of the beautiful St. Gilgen and Lake Wolfgang. You see this at the very beginning of the movie.
STOP 5: MONDSEE WEDDING CHAPEL
After a bit of a ride, you’ll finally stop in the town of Mondsee, where Basilika St. Michael is located. This is where Maria Von Trapp and Captain Von Trapp get married in the movie. The tour guide gives you the freedom to walk through and spend as much time as you want inside with enough time left to meander around Mondsee. Whitney and I opted for a little Apple Streusel, or Apfelstrudel as they say in Austria.
NOTE: If you pop into a cafe, be aware that they charge you a sitting fee. I say this as a head’s up because Whitney and I thought we would take our’s to go but then changed our mind after we paid. I knew about sitting fee’s in Italy but didn’t assume it was all throughout Europe but, when the lady behind the counter said “I thought you two were taking yours to go”, I quickly realized why she made the statement. Austrians aren’t rude but they aren’t overly friendly so they’ll certainly make their distaste known. We made our apologies and walked down the street and took a seat on a bench instead. 🙂
Okay, back to this beautiful cathedral! Here are some of the photos I took from this part of the tour:
I’m pretty sure if anyone ever commissioned me to choose paint colors for the interior of a beautiful cathedral, this pink and white color combination is exactly what I would choose. I’m keeping this beauty in my back pocket for my wedding location one day 😉
STOP 6: MIRABELL GARDENS
The last stop might have been my favorite. You end your tour at Mirabell Gardens where they shoot a large majority of ‘Do-Re-Mi’. The last piece of this number is shot at this staircase in the garden.
Here’s a video to refresh your memory if it’s been a minute since you’d watched the movie:
[Fast forward to 0:59 – 1:53 for quick reference]
The day we were there, the gates were closed but Whitney and I definitely got a photo and filmed a fun boomerang.
You can find the large Pegasus Fountain, the little gnome statues and the two body builder men statues that you see in the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ number in this garden, as well!
Overall, the tour is a blast! Lighten up, sing along and enjoy it! It’s not everyday that you get to see where Hollywood history was made! Don’t forget to tip your tour guide!
WALKED AROUND OLD TOWN
The Old Town area of Salzburg is known as the historical city center of the city, or simply ‘altstadt’. This area has earned the designation of an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and all events and activities are strictly regulated in order to preserve the ancient buildings. As with any other city, I always encourage you meander as much as you can get lost, talk to locals, get their recommendations, treat them to a pint, shop around, etc.
CATCH THE SUNRISE ABOVE THE CITY
I dragged Whitney out of bed at some unGodly hour [after a night of one too many beers with some new Irish and Australian friends we made on the Sound of Music tour] to somehow find an elevator that would somehow get us up to this lookout point in front of the Salzburg Museum of Modern Art at sunrise. We were totally rushing but, thankfully, it was a Sunday so no one was on the road and there were parking spots available for free everywhere so we lucked out! We had to pay 6 Euro to access the elevator … unbeknownst to us … so we scrounged all of our change together and made it happen by the skin of our teeth!
Thank goodness because … I mean … look at this:
If only you could hear the bells! Oh wait … here, I have the video I took for you guys:
What do you think?
MAKE NEW FRIENDS
One of the things I enjoyed the most about our time in Salzburg was the fact that we made friends with some of the other Sound of Music tour goers. We stayed in touch after the tour and met up for drinks at a cute little pub in Old Town and shut the place down! There were two brothers from Melbourne, Australia and the other was a woman, the girlfriend of one of the guys, who lives in Melbourne but is from Ireland. Let’s just say that, due to the cultures that we were raised in, we were a loud and lively bunch and had a great time getting to know each other. Prior to their arrival, Whitney and I had been chatting and we started chatting with the couple just in front of us. The woman is a local tour guide, originally from Germany, and her boyfriend is a local to Salzburg. Since we were heading to Germany next, she gave us some recommendations of places to go and see in her native country and shared what she loves about living in Austria. We swapped social media information with all of our new friends and still keep up with each other. The world gets so much smaller when you make friends from all corners of the globe. Who knows … Whit and I could be planning a trip to Australia next year and we could have friends to meet up with who will gladly show us around their city! So, don’t be shy! Chat it up with the people you meet along your trip and follow each other! It’s not weird unless you make it weird! 🙂
This was the little pub we met up in! 🙂 It was so quaint and cozy inside!
TOUR MOZART’S BIRTHPLACE
This was something that Whitney and I wanted to do but didn’t have time. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest composers of classical music, was born in Salzburg and spent a good majority of his childhood and early adult life there. You can tour his birthplace and his residence in Salzburg, both of which are located in Old Town.
Part of this post was brought to you by some of Mozart’s classical pieces. I listened to a playlist today and it was actually extremely motivating. Some of the more upbeat piano pieces got my fingers typing so much faster! I may start listening to classical music a lot more during the week!
• LANGUAGE: German, although just about everyone speaks English. However, I always encourage people to be able to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you in the native tongue out of respect for the culture.
• CURRENCY: Euro! Bank cards are accepted most everywhere. Check with your particular card to inquire about international transaction fees. Always make sure to have cash on hand for taxi’s. Usually, a taxi driver is open to finding an ATM for you to get money out, if need be.
• TRANSPORTATION: One of the things I love about Salzburg is that it’s an extremely walkable city! Most hotels have free bikes to check out during the day and / or coordinate a taxi for you, if needed.
• TIPPING: Many restaurants include tax and a service charge in their bills, and it is customary to round up the total when paying. So, if you’re bill is €18.50. Round up to €20.00 and pay that to the waiter.
• WHO SHOULD VISIT SALZBURG: Anyone who loves the Sound of Music, Mozart, performing arts, captivating architecture and stunning mountainous views!
• GOOD TO KNOW: Our friends at Visit Salzburg provided us with a 72 hour Salzburg Card, which you can purchase to save money as you see the city sights. With a choice between a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass, you’ll get free admission to over 30 attractions and museums in the ‘City of Mozart’, free use of the public transport network and discounts at numerous other sights. NOTE: the Sound of Music tour is not part of this, but nevertheless it will cover a lot of other sights so look into it depending on the sights you’re hoping to see!
• BEST TIME TO VISIT: September and October is typically deemed the best time to visit as it is when the summer crowds have tapered off and you can still enjoy the stunning mountain views and beautiful pruned gardens in comfortable temperatures!
• DID YOU KNOW? The Red Bull Headquarters are located just outside of Salzburg, in a town called Fuschl am See, and Austria is actually the drinks home market. It was sold there for the first time on April 1, 1987. If you go on the Sound of Music Tour, you will pass it as you head up to Mondsee. Also, the coveted composer Mozart was born in Salzburg. He is one of the biggest draws of tourism to the city. One of his local haunts, that I wish we had time to pop into, is the Café Tomaselli. Their baked items look divine.
Well, that about does it for Salzburg! I enjoyed my time in this beautiful city and very much hope that you are able to visit one day! If you have any questions about this destination or my road trip, please feel free to leave your question in the comment section below!
Thanks for stopping by today, loves! I really appreciate it! xo.
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