I’m going to level with you, a long held love of The Sound of Music is the sole reason I found myself in Salzburg this summer, having had many a drunken chat with my dad about how “we should totally go and do the tour!” and pretend to be one of the Von Trapp family singers. Whilst Salzburg is a big tourist destination for fans of the movie these days, with its snow capped mountains and pretty streets serving as the backdrop for the legendary film, all things Von Trapp is not all it’s got to offer. The birthplace of Mozart, the best schnitzel you’ll ever eat and stunning mountains that beg you to take a train out to explore, Salzburg is a fantastic city break destination in summer or winter.
Golden, tender schnitzel served with waxy yellow potatoes and ruby red cranberry sauce; crisp apple strudel swimming in hot vanilla custard; warming goulash with giant dumplings the size of your fist. Austrian food is heavy but delicious, and we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time we were there.
Pfeifergasse 14, 5020 Salzburg
Zum Zirklewirt was the location of our first meal in Salzburg and we enjoyed it so much we went back again before our holiday was out. It’s also the location of the best schnitzel I’ve ever had – absolutely perfectly fried veal served with the obligatory cranberry sauce and potato rosti, as they had run out of the regular waxy potatoes that tradition dictates – shows how much schnitzel they must get through! The spaetzle was explemplary, the tuna salad absolutely huge and the perfect light lunch, whilst my Dad claimed the roast pork he had was among the best of his life. They also have a lovely outdoor terrace area so it’s perfect in the summer yet cozy inside during the cold winter months.
Restaurant S’Nockerl im Elefant
Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse 4, 5020 Salzburg
The restaurant of Hotel Elefant in the old town is a lovely place to stop for a long lunch or dinner, with some space outside to sit in the laneway during the summer. The schnitzel here was on par with the incredible one I’d previously had at Zum Zirklewirt, and I later found out they are sister restaurants, so that figures. If you’re after the famous Salzburg Nockerl, a peaked soufflé dessert served with raspberries and always made for two people, try it here where it was invented.
Linzer Gasse, 47-49, 5020 Salzburg
We had some – you guessed it! – great schnitzel here and tried Austrian wine for the first time too; it was so good we drank exclusively Austrian wines for the remainder of our trip! A deceptively big restaurant with a courtyard at the back, the service was a little slow but in fairness the place was packed out, and rightly so.
Hotel Stadtkrug Restaurant
Linzer Gasse, 20, 5020 Salzburg
After the owner of our hotel telling us that he also owns a farm where they rear the beef used in the hotel restaurant, we decided to book a table out on the terrace one evening to try it for ourselves. It didn’t disappoint, my steak was delicious and my dad’s goulash excellent. The menu here isn’t solely all the usual Austrian suspects either which was a good change. Not that I wouldn’t be happy to live on schnitzel for the rest of my days, but variety is the spice of life, I guess.
Linzer Gasse, 35, 5020 Salzburg
The owners of Eis Greissler run an organic dairy farm in the hills of Austria, where they used to sell yoghurt and milk locally before turning their hand to ice cream and subsequently opening up a store in Vienna back in 2011. Now their sustainable ice cream shops can be found all over the country and they stock creative flavours such as Sachertorte alongside more traditional ones. Not only is their ice cream excellent, it’s also extremely reasonably priced.
Alter Markt 9, 5020 Salzburg
At approximately 300 years old, Cafe Tomaselli is one of Austria’s most famous coffee houses, and has been run by the same family for half the time it’s existed. The perfect spot for a coffee and cake pit stop whilst walking around and exploring Salzburg’s old town.
Griesgasse 13, 5020 Salzburg
For strudel served with ice cream, vanilla sauce and cream.
Hotel Sacher, Schwarzstraße 5-7, 5020 Salzburg
Home of the original sachertorte, served in a grand room or outdoors on the terrace looking out onto the river. Hotel Sacher also served as the home of Julie Andrews whilst she lived in Salzburg to film The Sound Of Music.
Hotel Stein, Giselakai, 5020 Salzburg
The Seven Senses restaurant and rooftop bar at the top of the Hotel Stein on the Salzach river is the perfect spot to while away a few hours with some of their great Austrian wine. We didn’t eat here but can imagine it would be a lovely spot for lunch, or dinner as the sun sets over Salzburg.
IMLAUER Rooftop bar
IMLAUER Hotel, Rainerstraße 6, 5020 Salzburg
Another rooftop bar with sprawling views of the old town and the mountains beyond, the IMLAUER Skybar is a bit further out from the centre but is open until 1.30am, making it a good spot for a late night drink looking over the city.
Bergstraße 10, 5020 Salzburg
Over 150 different beers are served at Alchimiste Belge so if that sounds like it’s up your strasse you should probably allocate a wedge of time to get through some of them.
Bergstraße 9, 5020 Salzburg
Unfortunately we didn’t do our research well enough for this one and it was only open the first day of our trip, so we missed out on this cosy wine bar serving charcuterie and tapas. It’s on the list for next time.
We stayed at Hotel Stadtkrug on Linzer Gasse in a building that dated back over 700 years. Linzer Gasse is a pedestrianised street which was excellent to wonder around, with bars and restaurants spilling out onto the street, just a few minutes walk from the river and bridge to cross over into the old town. A great location to stay and a lovely hotel which did a cracking breakfast, with staff who couldn’t do enough for you.
THINGS TO DO
The Sound of Music Tour
Obviously the best thing to do in Salzburg in my esteemed opinion is of course The Sound of Music bus tour. There are two tours a day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and there are multiple buses that go out every day – this is pretty much the bulk of Salzburg’s tourist industry. It’s a fantastic tour; the guides are knowledgable about all the lesser known trivia, they play the soundtrack on the bus and encourage everyone to sing along and you are taken around to view multiple locations made famous in iconic scenes such as Sixteen Going On Seventeen and I Have Confidence. You also get to go out to Mondsee outside of Salzburg and explore the town there; the cathedral here served as the location for Maria and Captain Von Trapp’s wedding in the film. Whilst you’re there get yourself to Cafe-Konditorei Braun for some expemplary apple strudel.
Take a wander around the perfectly manicured gardens of the Mirabell Palace, listed as a part of the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg UNESCO World Heritage Site. You may recognise the steps, fountain and archway from The Sound of Music’s most famous song sequence: Do Re Mi. Hell, go with other fans and re-enact it. You’ll swing by here at the end of The Sound of Music Tour should you be in town to do that, but the grounds are beautiful and well worth a vsiit if you’re a fan of the movie or not.
An interesting museum chronicling Mozart’s life in the building he was born in. The museum takes you through the very rooms of the apartment Mozart’s family lived in when he was born, detailing the lives of him and his family through the decades. You can purchase combined entry to Mozart’s Birthplace and the smaller, less visited Mozart Residence on the other side of the river, where Mozart later lived. You can enter both under the same ticket within 48 hours of purchase if you buy the combined.
Towering high above Salzburg old town and looking down over the river Salzach and mountains beyond sits the Hohensalzburg Fortress, the bones of which dates back to medieval times. Take the short ride on the funicular up to the top to take in the stunning views and wander around the Fortress, or walk up if you’re feeling brave.
If you go to a European city and don’t visit the local cathedral, did you even city break? I don’t know what it is about visiting churches in Europe but some are well worth the visit (I’m looking at you, Notre Dame). Salzburg’s is very beautiful too, restored to its former glory after the dome of the cathedral was bombed out during the war.
Built in the early 1600s, Schloss Hellbrun is a beautiful baroque palace with stunning gardens, just outside of Salzburg city. Oddly, it was only ever intended for day use in the summer and therefore has no bedrooms! Not open in the winter months, but the gardens are very popular in the summer.
Walk with view
There is a archway on Linzer Gasse that leads up to Kapuzinerberg, a hill that overlooks the whole of Salzburg. It’s a steep but short walk and the views are rewarding – if you time your walk at dusk the hill gives you wonderful views of the sun setting over the city.
That’s right, Salzburg has a marionette theatre, just like the Von Trapp children have in the film. The programme includes operas and, you guessed it, The Sound of Music.
Salzburg Music Festival
The famous Salzburg Music Festival of music and drama takes place for a few weeks in the summer every year, so bear this in mind if you’re looking to book around that time – great if that’s your purpose for going, but if it’s not your thing it’s best to avoid those weeks as the city will be very busy and accommodation is likely to be more expensive.
Another Salzburg sight made famous by the Do Re Mi sequence in the Sound of Music, this is an art deco pedestrian bridge over the River Salzach.
Market by the River Salzach
On summer weekends market stalls selling local arts and crafts line the River Salzach, making for a nice wander for an hour or so.
Leave Salzburg – take a train to Zell am See
Salzburg is a small city so can easily be done in a weekend, but I can’t recommend catching a train and visiting the mountains surrounding Salzburg enough. I’m a big Band of Brothers fan so have dreamt of seeing Zell am See which features in the last couple of episodes of the show for a very long time, so on planning our trip I insisted we stay an extra day and head out to the lake. Popular in the winter for skiers, the summer months are much quieter but a no less beautiful time to explore lake Zell and the Schmittenhöhe mountain that overlooks it. We took the cable car up 2000m, wondered over to a restaurant at the top of the mountain, shared a plate of fries and drank wine in deckchairs overlooking the lake and mountains below and it is one of my favourite things I have ever done in my life.