A day in Salzburg, Austria

It’s been almost two months since we spent a day in Salzburg and I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to write about it. In all honesty, it was the second best day of our 4 week trip. (The winner was our day in Berchtesgaden.) Salzburg was interesting for me. Weirdly, it felt like home. If you knew me, you would know that doesn’t make sense. My “home” would never be a busy city with all those people… Home is somewhere with trees, mountains and nature. Of course, I also love old architecture, castles, blending of time periods, old musicals, old musicians… I guess Salzburg ended up perfect as it had a few of my favorite things…

We missed a lot of sightseeing I had wanted to cram in, but we managed to see quite a bit. First off, my best tip of this blog is to purchase a Salzburg Card. Totally worth it for a day or two in the city. It covers all your city buses, Fortress Hohensalzburg tour and funicular, Untersberg Cable Car, Zoo, City Cruise, Mozart Residence and more, plus discounts for other activities. A 24hr adult pass is €25 and child is €13. The Untersburgbahn is €25 per adult so if that is something you want to do, the Salzburg Card just paid for itself and you’ve got free buses to get there.

Speaking of the Untersburgbahn, that is how we started our day. Buses to get there was easy enough. Google maps set to bus routes is your best friend and we didn’t find any errors with Salzburg’s bus routes lining up, just maybe some time delays, to be expected. You do need to be aware of the direction you are traveling so you get on the bus headed the right way and not the correct bus number on it’s return trip in the opposite direction… We certainly made that error a time or three.

Riley on top of the world, Untersburg, Salzburg Austria.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Untersburgbahn. We had ridden a smaller ski lift at that point but not a large cable car. This one they cram you in like sardines. For someone scared of heights, this was somewhat a blessing for me as I ended up smashed in the center with a pretty obstructed view of the windows and couldn’t see how high we were. I would say it was not stroller friendly. You do have stairs and once at the top the snow can be pretty deep. The 4,000+ foot climb has a gut dropping dip 3/4s of the way up that got to me a bit, but knowing it was there on the way down, I didn’t mind. At the top is an observation building. This could be your destination, if it’s cold and windy the windows still give great views and there is a small cafe. For the adventurous, go hiking! As an American used to a sue happy nation full of safety signs and hand rails, walking out of that observation building took me off guard. I had to practically hug the side of the mountain as beyond that 10’ wide path is a cliff with a sheer drop down 4,000 feet… while my child ran to the edge and kept saying look mom! I had images in my head of him tumbling over his awkward feet and plummeting to his death while I was helpless to save him, paralyzed by my fear of heights… I had to beg him to be cautious and understand that I was fighting my fears to push past and see what we came to see. Which was met with an 11yr old rolling his eyes so loud you could probably hear them back home in AL… But we lived. And kept walking. Up and down the mountain ridge, some places the snow was a foot deep and rather difficult to get a foot hold in others as the snow had been packed down by hikers/skiers to an icy finish. The wind was strong, but the weather was clear and bundled up in our down jackets we were fine with the sunshine and kept going. There is a point that you can look to the alps further beyond and feel like you could continue walking days out there without seeing a town or another human being. Kind of awe inspiring. Of course, look in the other direction and you get a great view of Salzburg from the sky.

I did it. I can even smile about it. I may be terrified of heights, but I refuse to let myself miss out on life because of it. Behind me lies Salzburg.
See that little speck up there? Miraculously caught a photo of the Untersburgbahn cable car heading up to the top of the mountain.

After our morning mountain adventure we were pretty hungry and headed to the old town area of Salzburg. Less adventurous at this point, fast food was the goal and McDonalds was quickly found. Gotta love some fancy golden arches…

We aren’t much for expensive shopping, but the old town area would certainly fulfill your desires if that is what you are looking for. We wandered through admiring the architecture and the amazing doors.

Loved that the original bell pulls are still here for the apartments above.
The old horsewoman/carriage driver in me couldn’t help but love all the carriage horses about the city.

Our next destination was Fortress Hohensalzburg. We rode the funicular up which was a quick blast of fun. Didn’t realize how fast it would go up and missed photos of the quick trip. The Fortress does not disappoint. Stunning views of the city and the Alps beyond. This one hit me with a weird familiarity, like I had walked along those cobblestones in a former life. I could almost hear and feel the people that lived and worked there. A brief moment of time traveling deja vu. It felt alive to me and I couldn’t help but think of all the stories the walls could tell. I could have stayed in the castle for hours, and if I lived nearby you would probably find me sitting with a good book looking out over the alps on a quiet morning. The fortress grounds are free, but there is a tour of the inside rooms, which we declined as the line was pretty long. There was a free puppet museum showing the marionette history of the area, from historical plays to the odd and fantastical. There are a couple cafes to pick up a warm beverage on a chilly day while you relax and take in the sights. We chose to walk down the hill instead of ride the funicular down. It is rather steep so be aware if you might have knee problems, I had to take it pretty slow as my bad knee was complaining after all the rigorous hiking we had been doing.

Our day wrapped up with finding the “Best chocolate cake in the world” at Hotel Sacher. To clarify, I wouldn’t call this a “cake” as it’s actually a torte… Except I consider a Torte to not have flour and this one does. So I’ll just say it’s a confused piece of chocolate desert. There is an inside cafe, but it’s a fancy place. We would have felt really out of place in our snow boots, sweatshirts and leggings… Thankfully there is a little side shop where you can buy a cake of whatever size you desire and they also have some other candies available. We saved our cake to eat upon returning to my sisters house to share with my brother in law. I’ll write more about our famous cake experience later.

We visited on New Year’s Day and I wish I had researched in advance as we missed the cannons/guns firing at 4pm, right when we were boarding the bus to return to our hotel. The sound echoing through the town was amazing and I wish we had gotten to watch. I am positive there is a pretty active night life in Salzburg as we had seen a bit of it passing through the night before, but we were exhausted and ready to relax at the hotel restaurant and call it an early night before our 6hrs of travel the next day. I dearly hope I get to return to Salzburg again. I would love to see Mozart’s house, take a Sound of Music tour, take a boat ride along the Salzach river, visit the zoo and Mirabell Palace. So much to see and so little time.

Have you been to Salzburg? What was your favorite spot to visit?

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