Just over a 2 hour train ride away from Vienna or Munich makes Salzburg a picturesque and easily accessible city to pair up with these destinations. Birthplace of the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the setting for the musical of all musicals, the iconic Sound of Music and the inspiration behind the song, ‘Silent Night’, we just had to squeeze time into our Christmas market break to see what is so special about this place. The first thing that hit me about Salzburg after coming from Vienna was just how cold it was. The city is high up in the mountains so you feel an instant chill when stepping off the train and even my tights-under-leggings-under-jeans display failed in sheltering me from the chill.
The Size of Salzburg
The pace of life is slower here. If Vienna is a brisk walk, then Salzburg is most certainly an amble. The demographic seems to include a higher proportion of elderly people and it’s a really small city in comparison to the capital, making it quite easy to do all the touristy things on foot. Even if you’re not staying right in the heart of the old town, you’ll most probably only be a 10-15 minute walk away so consider this before paying premiums for more “central” hotels.
The Sounds of Salzburg – Mozart Recitals and Sound of Music Tours
The presence of Mozart and Maria are everywhere. There are countless companies advertising Mozart recitals and Sound of Music Tours, where you are taken to many of the locations shown in the film, given opportunities for singing and participating with costume-clad guides and the like. I’ve loved the Sound of Music ever since I was a child and my Mum first showed it to me so I’ll admit I was tempted. Pumpkin, however, is a dis-liker of musicals in any form (can’t sing, won’t sing?) so trying to persuade him to Edelweiss his way around the Salzburg hills would have been a near impossible task. So we compromised (you learn to pick your battles) and walked around the Mirabelle gardens ourselves but not without my rendition of ‘These are a few of my favourite things’ providing the soundtrack for the afternoon.
If classical music is more your passion, then try and watch a concert in one of the grand music halls here in Salzburg. There is a venue at the top of the Festung fortress, which is a stunning location to see some live music. For either the Sound of Music Tours or the Mozart recitals, you’re looking at ticket prices of approximately 40-50 Euros per person.
The Sights of Salzburg
If you only have a day in Salzburg, don’t miss out on the Mirabelle Gardens and the funicular ride to the top of the Festung Fortress, where bizarrely, you get excellent free wi-fi if you want to sacrifice the tips of your digits to de-glove and get online. I speak from experience – mine went purple and I’m not sure it was worth it just to try and get in that real-time tweet.
The ride itself takes just about 2 minutes and there are no seats but once you reach the top, you are afforded beautiful views of the Salzburg architecture. Try to go up about an hour or so before anticipated dusk to see the peachy sunset glazing the whitewash buildings.Ticket price includes an audio tour with individual audio guides in different languages. The tour takes about half an hour and provides a bitesize chunk of history to take home upon your descent. The funicular ride, if you are going at Christmas time, boards right by the site of the main Salzburg Christmas Market.
The Senses of Salzburg – cake, coffee and lovelocks
In the vicinity here, you will also find one of Salzburg’s most famous and frequented cafes, Cafe Tomaselli. We shied away from this after one glimpse at the crowds and instead headed across the bridge towards to see if Cafe Sacher or Cafe Bazaar were looking any roomier.
With the buzz of the small Christmas market and the elegant horse-drawn carriages, you feel as if you have been transported back in time but for me, the most picturesque moment was not the panoramic viewpoint or the Sound of Music locations; it wasn’t even the view of the perfectly formed and seriously chocolatey Sachertorte. For me, the most beautiful moment in Salzburg was the view of the Marketstag lovelock bridge in Salzburg at sunset, with the mountains in the background, padlocks showering the Danube with ripples of emotion and the night lights casting their colours onto the water.If you are pushed for time, you could get away with just spending a day or two in Salzburg to see its main attractions but it has a quiet charm that you may find difficult to resist.