Salzburg is an Austrian city on the border of Germany, with views of the Eastern Alps. The city is divided by the Salzach River, with medieval and baroque buildings of the pedestrian Altstadt (Old City) on its left bank, facing the 19th-century Neustadt (New City) on its right. The Altstadt birthplace of famed composer Mozart is preserved as a museum displaying his childhood instruments.
Similar with Vienna, Salzburg is a very popular tourist destination and famous for Its Baroque architecture and general prettiness (the old town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site); as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the world-class Salzburg Festival, a series of opera, concerts and theatre performances, and of course the Sound of Music Tour. But the main reason for us to visit Salzburg is the Sound of Music Tour. Sari and I grew up watching the movie and we both had in our bucket list to one day do the tour.
How to get to Salzburg and around
Train from Vienna to Salzburg usually takes 2hour 32min, but can take just 2hour 15min on the fastest services. If you are coming from Hallstat by train like us, the journey is around 2hour 16min.
The central train station of Salzburg (Hauptbahnhof in German) is located in the northern part of the city. Many of the main bus lines stop there, both city busses and busses to the surroundings of Salzburg. City busses depart right in front of the station, several lines go via the city center. You will find a taxi stand right in front of the train station main building, as well as the other essential facilities: A cash machine, an office of the tourist information center, lockers (ground floor, just follow the signs) and fast food restaurants. Not to mention the toilets – but try to use those on the trains before your arrival, the ones at the station charge a fee.
The train station is about 15 to 20 minutes walking distance to the city center (Old Town) of Salzburg. This is probably a tad too far to carry heavy luggage, in which case you can choose between bus or taxi. Bus to the surroundings of the city and to Bavaria depart from a separate platform array.
Salzburg is best explored on foot. If you start from the old town, it is 10 to 15 minutes walking to reach the fortress of Salzburg on the other end of the old town. Salzburg old town is a pedestrian area. They allow only residents with a special permit and taxis to drive into the old town. Bollards, that can only be lowered with a remote control, block the entrances after 11 am. Before 11 am they are down for deliveries.
Bus is the only public transport in Salzburg apart from Taxi. There is no tram or metro. But by bus, you reach every hotel, hostel and every place of interest in the surroundings and the buses run every 10 to 20 minutes. You will take a bus when you go on an excursion to the surroundings of Salzburg or on a day trip into nature. All buses leave from Mirabellplatz. Most of them would also depart from the train station, and for the Ice Caves, you take a train.
Where to Stay in Salzburg
- Altstadt or Old Town – For first-time visitors this is generally the best place to stay in Salzburg. The majority of tourists sites are located in Old Town, on the left bank of the Salzach River. If you’ve come to Salzburg to explore the Mozart history, you’ll be spending a lot of time in Altstadt. Narrow, winding streets open up into historic squares, so beyond the usual tourist attractions, Altstadt is great for just wandering around.
- Salzburg New Town – New Town is the area across the Salzach River from Old Town. Keep in mind that in Europe “new” still means centuries old, so New Town also has quaint streets, historic buildings and many shops and restaurants to peruse. The famous Mirabell Palace and Gardens from Sound of Music movie are located in new town. You can also take the pleasant stroll across the river to visit the Old Town. For close proximity to Old Town, but a slightly calmer, less touristic atmosphere, New Town is a good choice.
- Nonnberg district – Sitting on a hill overlooking Old Town, this is where you’ll find Salzburg Fortress, or Hohensalzburg, as well as the Nonnberg Benedictine nunnery. The 11th century castle is open for tours, and offers some of the best views of Salzburg. The nunnery, while not open to the public, is where the real-life Maria Von Trapp lived prior to marrying George Von Trapp.
What to do in Salzburg
Mirabelle Palace and Garden
Several important scenes in the world-famous movie “The Sound of Music” were shot in the Mirabell Gardens. Maria – played by Julie Andrews – and the seven children danced around the Pegasus Fountain while singing the song “Do Re Mi”. Besides the Mirabell Gardens, the Summer Riding School and Nonnberg Abbey also served as film sets. Today Mirabell Palace houses the city’s administration and the mayor’s offices and it is also one of the most popular wedding location.
From Mirabelle Garden I walked to the direction of the old town and passed by Mozart house on my way to Makarsteg bridge which is full of love lockets.
Makarsteg is a bridge over the Salzach river in Salzburg city center. It was named after the 19th century Historic painter Hans makart who was born and raised in Salzburg. Makart became famous as a painter of the Viennese history, providing artwork for many of the pompous building of the Ringstrasse. These days Makarsteg is only open for pedestrian and cyclists.
Salzburg Old Town
Crossing Makarsteg brought me to the shopping center of the old town
From the shopping center we walked further to the Rathaus (city hall), University of Salzburg and Salzburg fortress at the end of the road.
Salzburg Fortress or Hohensalzburg is a real eye-catcher, high above the Baroque towers of the city. The castle remains a visible landmark to this day and is an unmistakable feature of Salzburg’s world-famous skyline It is also one of the largest existing castles in Europe from the 11th century, towers over Mozart’s city of Salzburg. The impressive structure is a remarkable demonstration of the Prince Archbishops’ desire for recognition and of their political authority and power.
May – Sept.: 8.30 – 20.00
Oct. – Dec.: 9.30 – 17.00
Basic ticket with funicular start from €13.3 for adult and €7.6 for children
Take the Sound of Music Tour
You can explore original shooting locations on the Sound of Music Tour in all kinds of different ways: by bus, on foot or by bicycle.
The life of the von Trapp family is intertwined with that of Salzburg itself. Every year, some 300,000 people visit important landmarks in the life of the von Trapp family and the story told by the movie. The fascinating life of former novice Maria von Trapp and her singing family became a world-wide success when the film was released in 1965, with Julie Andrews starring as Maria. The songs from “The Sound of Music” are famous around the globe.
Original shooting locations from the Sound of Music movie include:
– Mirabell Gardens and the Pegasus Fountain (the dance scene with Maria and the children)
– Schloss Leopoldskron (in the film, the house where the family lived)
– Hellbrunn palace (singing scenes)
– Nonnberg Convent (where the young Maria was a novice)
– St. Gilgen / Wolfgangsee (opening scene of the movie)
– Mondsee Basilica (wedding scene)
We chose to do the original Sound of Music Tour with Panorama Tour here. Our experience with the tour is in our next post.