Salzburg: Salt, Music, and Happy Austrians!

We visited Salzburg this past October with the entire family. As far as times to visit, fall is one of the best. I last visited Salzburg six years ago, also in the fall, and again, the weather did not disappoint. Blue skies and sun (gasp!) all week long!

But the city center of Salzburg is a mere taste of what the region has to offer. The Salzkammergut region is one of the most scenic and one of the most breathtaking areas that Austria has to offer. Visit. Often.

The People

I must begin with the number one reason to leave Vienna for Salzburg. The people are so nice that you will forget that you are in Austria. Really, folks. You won’t find shinier, happier people than those in “the hills.” This was further confirmed by our fiaker (carriage) driver who upon hearing where we were currently living said “Vienna? I did not make it to 12 months in Vienna. I lasted 9 months and then moved here. The people are much nicer.” It must be the beauty of the city and the area that makes people seem genuinely happy here.

Where to Stay

Hotel Hölle

On our last trip, my husband made the reservations. Upon arriving at our hotel, my youngest asked whether her Dad picked the hotel. “Yes,” I replied.  “Mom you can’t let dad pick hotels anymore.” This was my youngest child’s reaction to the exterior of Hotel Hölle which literally translates to Hotel Hell.  Did I mention that the Communal Friedhof (cemetery) was right next to the hotel? And that we stayed there around Halloween? That said, our first impression could not have been further from the truth. Even my youngest had to backtrack on her comments when she went inside.

First, as far as the word “hotel” goes, this looks like more of a guesthouse from the outside.  I think this is why my daughter was surprised – she was expecting the American version of a hotel.  But, once inside, Hölle became more appealing. Inside there was a small front desk and two large dining rooms as well as a garden.  The garden was not in its best shape which affected the outdoor appearance we witnessed upon arriving. But it was almost November so I can’t blame them for not sprucing it up.

The rooms and bathroom were spacious for European standards. They had air conditioning and although we did not use it, but it is good to know if traveling in the summer. One of the reasons my husband chose this hotel is because they accept pets and it is across the street from a bus stop whose routes goes by all the places you wish to visit. Being next to a cemetery has its perks – it was quiet at night.

The hotel restaurant was fantastic. It was quite pricey – I don’t think we ate there without spending at least 90 Euros. But, the food was amazing and every night there was a different menu. The restaurant was full every night with locals so apparently it is popular. Every morning a substantial breakfast spread was provided to guests with some items (eggs/omelettes) made to order.

I really enjoyed our stay in Hotel Hölle to the point that I bought their bathrobe (good quality) with a little devil on it and the hotel logo. I would definitely stay here again. And as an extra perk – if you stay there, you can also say you’ve been to hell and back!

Another wonderful hotel recommendation is this little secret treasure: Farm Rauchenbichlgut. Nicole’s family stays there every time they visit Salzburg (they just returned from their 3rd visit in a little over a year – we did mention how beautiful the city is, right?). The farm is a small family-run bed and breakfast that is at the bottom of the mountains and about a 5-minute walk away from a huge playground. The rooms are spacious (there are family room options) and the breakfast is simply amazing. Christine and her family have been running the farm (real cows!) for many years and they have to be the kindest and nicest people we have ever met. They speak English fluently and will readily accommodate guests’ wishes and requests! It’s a perfect stay for families. Christine and her family also operate a cozy, traditional “Mostschenke” restaurant which is not to be missed!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

HohenSalzburg Fortress

Festung HohenSalzburg is the city fortress dating to the Middle Ages. It was built in the 11th century around the same time as Burg HohenWerfen (more on that  later) for the same purpose: to protect the city’s salt wealth and the Prince Bishop. It is the focal point of Salzburg and can be used to orient yourself to the city. You can access the fortress by foot (don’t do this with small children or a stroller!) or head to the funicular which is located right down the street from Peters Friedhof (St. Peter’s Cemetery).

HohenSalzburg from below

HohenSalzburg from below

You can walk about the expansive grounds of this structure and see why Salzburg was not attacked for almost 1000 years. The view is simply amazing as well as the exhibits inside – they give you a real impression of what life was like back then.

Concerts are also held within one of the chambers and they had a special Halloween program while we visited in October. During advent, a Christmas Market is underway on the castle grounds.

The Old Town

Getreidegasse is a quaint shopping street in Salzburg with a variety of shops and restaurants.  You will see large crowds congregating in front the a yellow row house (No.9), looking up and taking pictures.  This is Mozart’s birthplace.  You can’t miss it as there is a large sign that says “Mozart’s Geburtshaus.”  There is  a museum about Mozart located in this house.

Getreidegasse with St. Blasius in the background

Getreidegasse with St. Blasius in the background

Strolling along Salzburg’s streets provides a good way to orient yourself to the old town as well as a plethora of shopping and dining options.  Judengasse and Goldgasse are two other charming streets in the old town. As you walk through the streets, pay attention to the historical markers.  They are everywhere and most are related to Mozart or Haydn.

Dom zu Salzburg (Salzburg’s Cathedral)

Dom zu Salzburg

Dom zu Salzburg

Not as impressive as some of the other European cathedrals, but a church has stood here since 774 A.D.  Admission is free but donations are requested.  The baptismal font at the left upon entering was used to baptize Mozart.

Peters Kirche und Friedhof (St. Peter’s Church and Cemetery)

I have never been inside the Abbey Church (this is also a monastery), but I have strolled through the cemetery on All Saints Day which is certainly different from other cemeteries we have visited.  Mozart’s sister and Joseph Haydn’s brother, Michael, are buried here.  People are still being buried here as there were freshly dug graves.  While waiting for a headstone, the picture of the grave’s inhabitant is placed on a cross.

Salzburger Freilicht Museum is a large outdoor museum where farm houses representative of each region of Austria are open for visitors to explore. There are also lots of pieces of farm equipment to check out, and there are a couple playgrounds as well. There is also a really good restaurant that serves hearty Austrian food in large quantities. Mary and her family spent an entire day here and could have stayed longer.

Salzburg tour/river cruise. Mary doesn’t remember the name of the company that offers this combo package, but the ticket office is directly across the street from the entrance to Mirabell Gardens. And next to a pretzel stand. 🙂 The cost included a tour guide driving my family and an elderly Australian couple around the city and its outskirts, showing us the sites and telling stories about the city and its former residents. The cruise up and down the river was the highlight, though. There were two mini-steering wheels and several periscopes directly next to the captain’s actual wheels so that the kids could “steer the ship” with the captain.

Where to eat

There are plenty of restaurants and cafes spread out around Salzburg but when you go, make sure you stop at one (or all!) of these!

Augustinerbräu – Freshly brewed beer (by monks!) plus endless food options in a noisy atmosphere (beer garden weather permitting; beer hall is always open) makes this a perfect outing for parents with kids.

Stieglkeller – another brewery located right next to the funicular to the old fortress. Stiegl is another great option for eating out with kids and in the summer, make sure to sip some beer in the beautiful beer garden overlooking the dome.

Die Weisse – another great beer restaurant, this one specializing in white beer.

Stiegl Brauwelt – located in Salzburg proper but outside the main old city where  tourists congregate. Brauwelt offers brewery tours and also has a full-service restaurant featuring fresh Stiegl beer straight from the proverbial teat. The food was good, and  kids can enjoy the beer-making equipment that is on display in the restaurant. There is also a large outside beer garden, which is a good place for the kids to run around.

Cafe Sacher – Mary felt the need to visit the one in Salzburg so I could say we’d eaten a slice of Sacher torte at both the cafes (Vienna and Salzburg!) 🙂  We had a full meal there, which was delicious, and the staff were very tolerant of our children, who were not behaving in a manner conducive to the pictures staying on the wall.

Zipfer Bierhaus – located in the old city and serves a great  meal. The large selection of locally-brewed beer (and not just Zipfer) is a bonus. There is a spot in the floor where the floor boards are cut out and covered in glass so that guests can look down into a very deep well, or cavern (not sure which).

Cafe Mozart – promises and delivers on excellent and authentic Salzburger Nockerl.

Around Salzburg

The above is only a sample of what Salzburg has to offer.  A great resource with many more sights can be found here. There are plenty of museums in and around Salzburg. But when traveling with school age children, there are only so many museums one can visit before one sibling decides that they are bored and begin to pick fights with the other as an antidote to their boredom.  So we ventured out of Salzburg daily. Click here to see a separate post about Salzburg area attractions including the Sound of Music Tour which takes you to various sights in Salzburg before venturing out.

Contributed by Milena, Nicole, and Mary!

Interested in submitting additional content for this post?  Please send us an email with your tips, sights, restaurant and hotel recommendations!


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